NFL Games Score Big With 5% Boost in Viewership

The National Football League had its most-watched season on TV since 2016, the league said citing statistics from Nielsen.

During the regular season, NFL games average 16.7 million viewers on TV and digital, up 5% from last year.

Nielsen-measured TV viewership was 16.5 million, up 5% from last year. Digital viewership on, Verizon and broadcast websites averaged 487,000 viewers, up 51%.

Related: NFL’s Packers Launch Streaming App for Connected TVs

To underscore the NFL’s media dominance at a time when ratings for nearly all other programming is eroding, the NFL games filled the entire top 10 of most-watched shows, 28 of the top 30 and 47 of the top 50, through Dec. 29.

The big numbers are sparking reports that the league is eager to start negotiations for the next round of rights deals with its TV and other video partners. Talks could start soon and be wrapped up by the end of the year. The current TV deals with Fox, ViacomCBS and Disney/ESPN expire after the 2022 season.

The top five most-watched NFL games this season were:

Buffalo at Dallas, Week 13 on CBS: 32.6 million viewers

Dallas at New England, Week 12 on Fox: 29.9M

Kansas City at New England, Week 14 on CBS: 28.3M

Chicago at Detroit, Week 13 on Fox: 27.1M

Dallas at Philadelphia, Week 16 on Fox: 25.7M 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.