NFL Games Breaking Audience Ratings Records

More people have watched National Football League games on television through the first four weeks of the season than any time in history, according to Nielsen Co. ratings released by the NFL today.

More than 150 million viewers have tuned in for at least part of a game this season, up from 146 million viewers last year. And the average NFL game—including telecasts on CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN—has drawn 18.9 million viewers, more than twice the average viewership of 9.2 million per night on the Big Four broadcast networks during the first two weeks of the new prime-time television season.

The NFL reported that nine telecasts have drawn more than 20 million viewers, compared to only two for prime-time shows this fall.

Final week-four NFL season ratings numbers for CBS’ single game and the Fox Sunday afternoon regional games will be released on Thursday (Oct. 7). (The Fox national game this past Sunday between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles drew 23.1 million viewers).

Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecasts are averaging 22.9 million viewers, up 10 percent over 20.8 million last season.

Through the first three weeks, CBS is averaging 18.9 million viewers on its Sunday telecasts, a 21 percent increase over last year’s 15.5 million. That’s that highest number of average viewers for the AFC TV package for the first three weeks since 1987.

CBS’ Sunday pregame show, NFL Today, is averaging 5 million viewers for the first three weeks, up 33 percent over last season’s average 3.8 million viewers and the highest average at this point in the season since 1998.

ESPN on Monday nights through four weeks, is averaging 14.7 million viewers, making it the most watched start ever for an ESPN prime-time NFL package.

And locally, half of the NFL’s 32 teams have posted at least a 10 percent increase in local ratings compared to last season through the first four games. NFL games have topped the local ratings 93 percent of the time, which is a record through the first four weeks.

Advertising on NFL games for all of the networks sold out at higher levels and at a faster rate this year than in previous ones, and with viewership at record levels, advertisers are reaping the benefits of those upfront buys.