The 2020 NFL season may have been full of empty stadiums and silent touchdown celebrations, but the start of the 2021 season has been an audience success according to the NFL and network executives.
The first four weeks were a televised success for the NFL
It appears that the post-pandemic consequences have increased the number of fans and interest in the league as a TV audiences increased 17% thinking of the first four weeks of the season.
There are an average of 17.3 million viewers 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, Was there a presidential race in the middle of the regular season last year, which historically affects league ratings. But it’s curious that the NFL stadiums were empty last year and that the audience has declined compared to the 2019 season.
Brady and the Bucs are the big draw
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the biggest audience magnet this year, draw the two most watched shows at the start of the season. Brady’s return to New England was the most-watched game in the first four weeks of the regular season, averaging 26.7 million viewers last Sunday. The opening of the season on Thursday evening between the Bucs and Dallas Cowboys were the second most watched game at 24.8 million.
NBC broadcast the Bucs-Patriots game, and the Brady vs. Belichick game was the second most-watched game since the network secured the rights to “Sunday Night Football” in 2006.
Strong viewership continues through quarter 2021 @NFL season!
* 17.3 million TV + digital viewers on average – up + 17% over one year
* The 21 best shows on TV are @NFL matches since the start of the season
* Week 4 digital AMA avg. 764K – exceeds week 1 to become highest on record pic.twitter.com/LJveeIRaDQ
– NFL Media (@NFLMedia) October 6, 2021
“I think the league is in full swing right now”, said Pete Bevacqua, president of NBC Sports Group. “As much as last year was a great success to start the season on time, you see what the packed stadiums have added, as well as the power and passion that the fans bring.”
Big games and fantastic finishes to start the season
The opening weeks of the regular season were filled with spotlight clashes and second finals, which sparked great interest. Of the 64 games played in the first four weeks of the season, 15 of them were decided in the last minute or in overtime.
Of the five networks that broadcast the NFL, four have seen growth of 20% or more from last year to this year. NBC is the best dog this year with an average of 23.1 million viewers, which is a 24% increase from last year. NFL Networks’ percentage has grown 29% from last year, and CBS and ESPN’s Monday Night Football ratings have jumped 22%.