Love ‘em or loathe ‘em—and according to a recent poll, most of us fall into the latter camp—the Dallas Cowboys always draw a crowd. So much so that five of the top 10 most-watched regular season NFL games featured Jerry Jones’ minions.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Dallas suited up for the biggest showcase of the 2013 campaign, drawing 31.7 million viewers on Thanksgiving Day with its 31-24 win over Oakland. While that was the regular season’s biggest TV turnout, with a 14.3 household rating, it was not the highest-rated game. That honor went to CBS’ late national game on Dec. 1, a Broncos-Chiefs air war that delivered a massive 16.7 rating.
Dallas also put up big numbers with an assist from the NFL’s two other top draws. On Oct. 6, in another CBS late game, the Cowboys hosted the Broncos in front of a national TV audience of 28.3 million viewers. The broadcast, which was available in every market but Phoenix, was the fourth most-watched NFL game of the season and delivered a 16.6 rating.
As was the case with Denver, Green Bay appeared in three of the top NFL broadcasts, including the No. 2 (Packers-49ers, 28.5 million viewers) and No. 3 game (Packers-Lions, 28.3 million). Both contests aired on Fox.
Dallas, Denver and Green Bay appeared in nine of the top 10 most-watched NFL regular season games, with the outlier being Seahawks-49ers on Fox (27.7 million viewers, 16.2 rating).
Denver was clearly the belle of the ball this season, appearing in a dozen nationally televised games, including six prime-time games. Peyton Manning and the Broncos played in four Sunday Night Football games and made appearances on Monday Night Football and in NFL Net’s Thursday night showcase. Denver also garnered national TV exposure via four CBS late games and two 4 p.m. Fox contests.
Dallas and San Francisco both appeared in nine nationally televised games, while New England and New Orleans tied with seven coast-to-coast contests. Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and Washington all showed up in a half-dozen national games.
On the other side of the ledger, the following small market teams (and underperformers) were granted the NFL minimum of one national TV appearance: Buffalo, Arizona, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Tennessee.
Of the 12 franchises to advance to the playoffs, four were featured in fewer than five nationally televised games. Carolina, Kansas City and Cincinnati popped up in just three national games, while San Diego appeared in four. (Having earned a bye, Carolina actively joins the postseason fray on Sunday afternoon, when it hosts San Francisco on Fox.)
Across the board, Fox’s late national games remain the most-watched, highest-rated NFL package—and the biggest draw on TV in general. The network’s suite of eight NFC contests and a Thanksgiving game averaged 27.4 million viewers and a 15.7 household rating, edging CBS’ AFC package (26.4 million/15.2 rating). NBC’s 19-game prime time showcase delivered 21.8 million viewers and a 12.6 rating.
Fox accounted for six of the top 10 most-watched regular-season national broadcasts, while CBS delivered three and NBC hosted one.
|1.||CBS||Raiders-Cowboys||31.7 million viewers||14.3 HH rating||(Thanksgiving Day)|
|2.||Fox||Packers-49ers||(94% coverage): 28.5 million viewers||16.6||(Sept. 8)|
|3.||CBS||Broncos-Cowboys||(98% coverage): 28.3 million viewers||16.6||(Oct. 6)|
|4.||Fox||Packers-Lions||28.3 million viewers||13.4||(Thanksgiving Day)|
|5.||CBS||Broncos-Chiefs||(86% coverage): 28.1 million viewers||16.7||(Dec. 1)|
|6.||Fox||Cowboys-Giants||(94% coverage): 27.9 million viewers||16.4||(Nov. 24)|
|7.||Fox||Packers-Cowboys||(83% coverage): 27.8 million viewers||16.3||(Dec. 15)|
|8.||Fox||Seahawks-49ers||(78% coverage): 27.7 million viewers||16.2||(Dec. 8)|
|9.||NBC||Eagles-Cowboys||27.4 million viewers||15.5 rating||(Dec. 29)|
|10.||Fox||Eagles-Broncos||(69% coverage): 27.0 million viewers||16.1||(Sept. 29)|