The NFL has an extraordinary grip on America’s media diet

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The NFL has had a banner season in terms of ratings and engagement, thanks in large part to the return of fans to the stadium, several mysterious games and of course, some off-field drama.

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Why this matters: The growth in 2021 viewership has stoked concerns about a COVID-related fall in 2020, as well as justifying the $100+ billion in media deals the league signed with its partners in March.

By numbers: The viewership for the 2021 regular season of the NFL was up 10% from 2020, its highest rated season average since 2015, per Nielsen.

  • According to Sportico, the NFL accounted for 41 of the 50 most-watched broadcasts of 2021 ,contribution,, and 75 out of the top 100.
  • Games per league averaged 17.1 million viewers (TV/digital), and a total of 370 billion minutes were consumed, up 18% from 2020 and the second-highest total since 2015.
  • was more interested in sports boon for pregame shows, per Sports Business Journal. For example, NBC’s “Football Night in America” ​​averaged 7.1 million viewers, an 18% increase from 2020.

Between the lines: A few close games and an extended season may have helped garner more viewership, and with fans back in the stands the TV product grew.

  • A record 34 games were decided on the final game, and 64% of games were within eight points (one point) in the fourth quarter.
  • 2021 was the first 17-game season in NFL history, with the league adding an additional 18th week to the schedule.

zoom out: Online, the NFL was the second most read news topic in November and December. It overtook the coronavirus but was ahead of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, sees Taboola’s data per page.

  • According to Tabula’s data, interest resumed in the first weekend of January – much ahead of previous months – as the Week 17 slate included seven teams with playoff spots, the fantasy football championship and the dramatic exit of Antonio Brown.
  • Google search interest in the league reached its season-long peak last Sunday, when the playoff ground was kicked out, culminating with a dramatic Raiders-Chargers tie, with millions vying for a tie.
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big picture: It’s a great time for the NFL, which looks to renegotiate its Sunday Ticket rights package this year, while also Finding Strategic Partners For some of its media networks, such as NFL Network and RedZone.

what to watch: Sports officials don’t expect NBC to experience the same decline in theatrical viewership for this year’s Super Bowl as last year, when viewership fell to a 10-year low on TV.

  • The Super Bowl is generally considered a TV ratings success if more than 100 million people watch it live.
  • Last year’s game was watched by 96.4 million viewers, although the broadcast broke the record as the most live-streamed NFL game ever.

Bottom-line: Although the pandemic still lingers, the NFL clearly benefited from a semi-return to normal in 2021. Packed stadiums showed more overall interest, and fans returned to their weekly routine of watching games on Sundays (and Mondays and Thursdays).

go in: Biggest Toss in TV


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