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NFL ratings skyrocket over the first four weeks of the NFL season

The NFL has bounced back after a tough last year in which stadiums were empty and television ratings dipped due to COVID-19 and a presidential race.

The NFL has bounced back after a tough last year in which stadiums were empty and television ratings dipped due to the COVID-19 and a presidential race.
Maddie MeyerAFP

The 2020 NFL season may have been full of empty stadiums and silent touchdown celebrations, but the start of the 2021 season has been a ratings hit according to NFL and network executives.

First four weeks have been a TV hit for NFL

It seems like the the post pandemic consequences have raised fan fare, and interest in the league as the television audiences have raised 17% thought the first four weeks of the season.

There are an average of 17.3 million viewer tuning in to NFL games this season, which is a giant spike from last year, and a 3% increase from two seasons ago.

One thing to take into account, is there was a presidential race right in the midst of the regular season last year, which historically affects television ratings for the league. But it is curious that the NFL stadiums were empty last year and viewership dipped from the 2019 season.

Brady and the Bucs are the big draw

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been the biggest ratings magnet this year, drawing the top two most watched spectacles in the early season. Brady’s return to New England was the most watched game through the first four weeks of the regular season with an average of 26.7 million viewers last Sunday. The Thursday night season opener between the Bucs and the Dallas Cowboys was the second most viewed game with 24.8 million.

NBC broadcasted the Bucs-Patriots game, and the Brady vs Belichick matchup was the second most watched game since the network got the rights to “Sunday Night Football” in 2006.

"I think the league right now is firing on all cylinders," said NBC Sports Group chairman Pete Bevacqua. "As much as last year was a wonderful achievement getting the season in with no delays, you see what the full stadiums have added, along with the power and passion that fans bring.”

Big matchups and fantastic finishes to start season

The first few weeks of the regular season have been packed with spotlight matchups and final second finishes, which has led to peaked interest. Of the 64 games played in the first four weeks of the season, 15 of them have been decided in the final minute or in overtime.

Of the five networks that broadcast the NFL, four of them have reported growth of 20% or more from last year to this year. NBC is top dog this year with an average of 23.1 million viewers, which is an increase of 24% from last year. NFL Networks percentage has risen 29% since last year, and both CBS and ESPN’s Monday Night Football audiences have jumped 22%.


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