NFL Ratings Roundup: Cowboys-Buccaneers Breaks 31.2 Million Viewers for Most Watched Playoff Game in Walt Disney Company's History
Ratings Roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the Walt Disney Company delivers the most watched playoff game since 1999, ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown is the most-watched season since 2019, and more.
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Delivers Most-Watched Season Since 2019, as ESPN’s NFL Studio Shows Achieve 2022-23 Regular Season Viewership Successes
The 2022 NFL regular season saw ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown deliver its most-watched season since 2019, one of several shows of strengths across ESPN’s NFL studio programming. Monday Night Countdown, NFL Live, NFL Rewind and NFL Matchup all increased or maintained their audience pace from the 2021 regular season, and NFL Primetime remained a leader on ESPN+, an impressive feat for a portfolio of shows which also had documented viewership success last season. ESPN’s regular season success was evident throughout the 18 weeks, as documented at the halfway point of the year.
Sunday NFL Countdown Up 7% Year-Over-Year and Up Double-Digits in Young Adults
Sunday NFL Countdown (Sundays, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET) averaged 1,240,000 viewers this season, the weekly pre-game show’s best viewership since 2019. Year-over-year, the Sunday three-hour studio programming increased its viewership by a healthy 7% (1,160,000 viewers in 2021). Examining demos, viewership among adults 18-24 was up 13% and female viewership was up 8%.
Monday Night Countdown Delivers Most-Watched Episode Since 2018
Monday Night Countdown (Mondays, 6 – 8 p.m.) delivered the show’s most-watched Monday episode since 2018 when the December 26 edition averaged 2,000,000 viewers. For the entire season, the pre-game show maintained a strong audience from last year, averaging 1.5 million viewers, in line with last year’s audience. Looking at specific demos, the show was up 4% in adults 18-24.
NFL Live Matches Best Viewership Since 2016, Continues Multiple Year Momentum
NFL Live (weekdays, 4-5 p.m.) continued its breakneck viewership accolades this season, as the daily news and information show averaged 423,000 viewers per episode. The viewership matches the show’s best season audience in five years (2016) and continues the show’s viewership successes from 2021 and 2020. In November, NFL Live averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, marking the show’s third best monthly audience since December 2018.
NFL Rewind, NFL Matchup Both Grow Audiences
NFL Rewind (Mondays, 3-4 p.m.) raised its own bar again, delivering the highlight and recap show’s best regular season audience in its three full seasons. The weekly show averaged 373,000 viewers, up from the 2021 season (370,000 viewers).
NFL Matchup earned its best audience since 2019, as the weekly show averaged 267,000 viewers. The audience was up 4% year over year. The most-viewed episode was Nov. 19 with 474,000 viewers.
NFL Primetime Leads the Way on ESPN+
NFL Primetime (Sundays, 7:30 p.m. ET and on-demand) was the top original studio program on ESPN+ during the season.
The Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Wild Card Finale is a Record Breaker for The Walt Disney Company and ESPN
ESPN’s presentation of Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, Jan. 16 (8:15 p.m. ET) is a record breaker for The Walt Disney Company and ESPN. The viewership was elevated to 31.2 million with final Nielsen viewership reporting (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes), driving the Super Wild Card finale to become the most-watched NFL Playoff game in Disney’s history and easily surpassing any NFL Playoff game that has aired, in part, on ESPN. Disney’s first NFL Playoff game followed the 1996 season.
This final viewership further elevates the status of the game, which previously was Disney’s second most-watched NFL Playoff game since 1999 based on Nielsen fast nationals – as reported on January 17.
The viewership of over 31 million viewers bested all 22 Disney NFL Playoff games in the previous 27 years, including 14 exclusively on ABC (1996-2005), seven available on ABC and ESPN (2016-22) and one solely on ESPN (2015). The viewership is up 35 percent from Disney’s Super Wild Card game concluding the 2021-22 season (Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams), the first Monday night Super Wild Card game. This weekend, across all networks, Cowboys-Buccaneers was most-watched primetime NFL Playoff game.
The Cowboys-Buccaneers audience peaked at 36.4 million viewers late in the first half (9-9:15 p.m. ET).
“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”
The Super Wild Card finale represented Disney’s first playoff game with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call. Lisa Salters was the sideline reporter, calling her ninth playoff game for Disney.
Cowboys-Buccaneers Among Disney’s Most-Watched NFL Games Ever
The Cowboys-Buccaneers matchup is also the most-watched NFL game presented by The Walt Disney Company since Super Bowl XL in February 2006. Excluding TWDC’s three Super Bowls, Cowboys-Buccaneers represents the second most-watched NFL game in Disney’s history.
Please note: Disney’s ownership of ABC/ESPN began February 1996
Disney has aired Super Bowl XXXIV, Super Bowl XXXVI, and Super Bowl XL.
Monday Night Countdown and NFL Live See Significant Growth
ESPN’s studio shows from Raymond James Stadium leading into the Super Wild Card Finale all saw significant growth year-over-year. Monday Night Countdown (6-8 p.m.) averaged 2,455,000 viewers and NFL Live in its traditional time (4-5 p.m.) averaged 801,000 viewers, up 27% and 35%, respectively, from the episodes leading into the 2022 Super Wild Card game.
ESPN Delivers Most-Watched NFL Season Including Playoffs
ESPN concludes its 2022-23 NFL game viewership averaging 14.8 million viewers per game (17 regular season games + Wild Card game), ESPN’s most-viewed NFL season since it began airing a Wild Card game (2014-15 season).
In Week 2, which is not included in the above season-to-date viewership, Monday Night Football featured two games with staggered kickoffs (7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.). During that special presentation, which will become a staple of Monday Night Football beginning next season, Disney platforms averaged 20.6 million viewers when Tennessee-Buffalo and Minnesota-Philadelphia were shown simultaneously during a two-hour period (8:30 – 10:30 p.m.). Additionally, Monday Night Football’s Week 17 game (Buffalo at Cincinnati) was also not counted in the 2022-23 season viewership.
ESPN’s Top 2022-23 NFL Season Superlatives:
- ESPN aired four of the platform’s top 13 games in the ESPN Monday Night Football era this season (2006 – present).
- This season, ESPN has aired four of its top 13 most-watched games – out of more than 275 games – in the current rights era (2006 – present).
- Weeks 1 and 3 set new viewership records, delivering the best MNF audience in the ESPN era for each of those individual weeks, with audiences of 19.8 million and 19.4 million, respectively.
- Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli: Heading into the season, all 10 alternate telecasts had filled the list of ESPN’s 10 most-watched alternate telecasts. Adding in the 10 episodes this season, Peyton and Eli now hold the 20 most-watched alternate offerings in ESPN’s history, as all 10 of their telecasts this season added to their record-breaking ways.
- Week 8 when ESPN+ aired its most-viewed event ever when it presented Denver vs. Jacksonville from London
FOX NFL Delivers Most-Watched Hames Across Super Wild Card Weekend
FOX NFL Super Wild Card Weekend featured the most-watched game on Saturday and the most-watched game of the weekend on Sunday.
Giants vs Vikings – 33,210,000 Viewers
- Most-watched telecast of the week on any network
- Viewership peaked with 40,057,000 viewers from 7:30-7:45 PM ET
49ers vs. Seahawks – 27,460,000 Viewers
- Viewership peaked with 30,723,000 viewers from 6:45-7:00 PM ET
Super Wild Card Finale Excitement Drives ESPN’s Studio Shows’ Viewership Success
- Most-watched January episode since 2015
- Averaged 801,000 viewers
- Up 35% year-over-year
- Averaged 734,000 viewers
- Averaged 1,720,000 viewers
- Up 11% year-over-year
Monday Night Countdown
- Most watched episode since 2016
- Averaged 2,455,000 viewers
- Up 27% year-over-year