Wednesday October 27th, 2021 7:30PM

Ratings surge: NFL is up 17%, averaging 17.3 million viewers

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NFL and network executives expected ratings to increase this season. But the rate through the first four weeks has still taken many by surprise.

Games are averaging 17.3 million viewers on television and digital, a whopping 17% increase over last season and 3% compared to two years ago.

Whether the league can maintain that level of growth remains to be seen. Last season was played during the pandemic, mostly in empty stadiums. Also, many people’s viewing habits changed in a presidential election year.

The league has had the top 21 rated shows since the start of the season. The top two games have featured Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady’s return to New England last Sunday was the biggest draw, averaging 26.7 million viewers, with the season opener against Dallas second at 24.8 million.

The Bucs-Patriots game was NBC’s second-most watched match since it started airing the “Sunday Night Football” package in 2006.

“I think the league right now is firing on all cylinders,” NBC Sports Group chairman Pete Bevacqua said. “As much as last year was a wonderful achievement getting the season in with no delays, you see what the full stadiums have added, along with the power and passion that fans bring.

“Not only have we had great matchups on paper, but they have been unbelievable on the field.”

Four of the five league broadcasters have growth above 20%. The three NFL Network Thursday night games averaged 8.1 million, which is up 29% from last season and the highest average since 2018. Last Thursday’s Jacksonville-Cincinnati game averaged 8.5 million, the best showing for a non-Fox or CBS-shared game since the Cleveland Browns-New York Jets contest in 2018.

NBC’s package is at 23.1 million, an increase of 24% and its best average at this point of the season since 2015. CBS (17.87 million) and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” (14.2 million) are both up 22%,

Fox has the highest Sunday afternoon average at 18 million, but that is an increase of 2% from last season. Fox did not have an exclusive doubleheader in Week 1, which could be one reason for not as big a ratings bump.

Close games are also a factor in the increases. At this point, a league-record 15 of the 64 games have been decided by a winning score in the final minute of regulation or overtime. Also, all but 23 of the games have been within one score in the fourth quarter.


More AP NFL coverage: and

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP Entertainment, AP Online TV News, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ratings surge: NFL is up 17%, averaging 17.3 million viewers
NFL and network executives expected ratings to increase this season
3:30PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Melinda Gates forms nonfiction book imprint, Moment of Lift
Melinda French Gates, already one of the world’s most prominent philanthropists, will now take on the job of publisher
3:28PM ( 12 minutes ago )
With Irving away again, Nets unsure when team will be whole
The Brooklyn Nets no longer seem so sure they will have their whole team together for home games when the season opens
3:24PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
NFLPA asks league about search of Washington facility
The NFL Players Association says it has sent a formal request to the league for information about Washington's practice facility being searched by federal authorities last week
2:55PM ( 45 minutes ago )
Courage owner: Team believed Riley to be in 'good standing'
The owner of the National Women’s Soccer League's North Carolina Courage says the organization was not aware of allegations of sexual harassment against former coach Paul Riley until the report that led to his firing
2:54PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Falcons consider all options with CB Oliver lost for season
The Atlanta Falcons must reconfigure their secondary this week after losing nickel back Isaiah Oliver to a season-ending knee injury
2:49PM ( 51 minutes ago )
AP Sports
Pats releasing Gilmore after failing to agree on contract
The New England Patriots are releasing 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore after the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a new contract
10:24AM ( 5 hours ago )
Jaguars owner reprimands Meyer for 'inexcusable' behavior
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan has publicly reprimanded Urban Meyer for what he called the coach’s “inexcusable” behavior at an Ohio bar over the weekend
3:34AM ( 12 hours ago )
Iowa's ball-hawking defense primed to face Penn St pass duo
Iowa leads the nation in interceptions and Penn State features one of the most dynamic passing combinations in Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson
8:37PM ( 19 hours ago )
AP Online Football
As GOP blocks, Biden escalates warnings of US default
President Joe Biden is escalating his campaign to get Congress to lift the federal debt limit
12:36PM ( 3 hours ago )
Virginia GOP candidate tests school fight message for 2022
When Democrat Terry McAuliffe said during the Virginia governor’s debate last week that he doesn’t believe “parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” his opponent pounced
9:43AM ( 5 hours ago )
As GOP obstructs, Biden escalates warnings of default
President Joe Biden is escalating his campaign to get Congress to lift the federal debt limit
8:38AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Elections
Why Democrats’ climate goals may test their Latino appeal
Congressional Democrats are going bigger than ever on the environment, with a spending package they're trying to muscle through
7:46AM ( 3 days ago )
Thousands in Brazil protest Bolsonaro, seek his impeachment
With Brazil’s presidential election one year away, tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and dozens of other cities around the country to protest President Jair Bolsonaro and call for his impeachment over his government’s handling of the pandemic
5:34PM ( 3 days ago )
Georgia votes in election shadowed by ex-president's arrest
Georgians voted in municipal elections across the country that were seen as a test of strength for the ruling party and which opposition parties hope could lead to an early national election
3:01PM ( 4 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
Ruth Bader Ginsburg tribute required innovative donations
The upcoming world premiere at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra of a new classical music piece inspired by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would probably not have been possible if it wasn’t for a bunch of lawyers in the Chicago area, a Long Island fine arts foundation and an award-winning pianist and composer who put the whole deal together
2:49PM ( 51 minutes ago )
City seeks festival's return, Pharrell cites 'toxic energy'
Virginia Beach leaders want Pharrell Williams to reconsider bringing the Something in the Water festival back next year, but the musician responded that he wishes the city had taken a more proactive stance after a police officer fatally shot his cousin
1:30PM ( 2 hours ago )
Hundreds gather for PEN America gala, hosted by Awkwafina
PEN America held one of New York’s first major indoor literary gatherings since the pandemic began last year, as hundreds met Tuesday night for the organization’s annual gala to honor writers, community servants, political dissidents and such prominent public figures as Walt Disney executive chair Robert A
10:44PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Bear and Hare: Seth Meyers picture book is an animal tale
Seth Meyers has dreams beyond hosting his own talk show — like writing a story about a bear
8:02AM ( 2 days ago )
Rain pushes NASCAR playoff race at Talladega to Monday
NASCAR's playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway has been rained out and rescheduled for Monday afternoon
4:20PM ( 2 days ago )
Talladega race delayed by rain in NBC's tight NFL window
The start of Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway has been delayed by rain and NBC has a tight television window for the important NASCAR race because of the evening airing of Tom Brady’s return to New England
2:43PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Online TV News
Start of Raiders-Chargers game delayed by lightning
The kickoff of Monday night’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers was delayed 35 minutes because of lightning
8:57PM ( 1 day ago )
Jaguars' Meyer apologizes for 'just stupid' actions in video
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer has apologized to his family, his team and owner Shad Khan for actions he called “just stupid.”
7:39PM ( 1 day ago )
Falcons fizzle with Patterson on sideline late in game
All the Atlanta Falcons needed was a first down or two to put away Washington, but coach Arthur Smith was left to lament with what might have been
4:35PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - NFL
With Irving away again, Nets unsure when team will be whole
The Brooklyn Nets no longer seem so sure they will have their whole team together for home games when the season opens
3:24PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Some oil from California spill breaks up in ocean currents
Some of the oil that spilled from a pipeline into the waters off Southern California has been breaking up naturally in ocean currents
3:23PM ( 18 minutes ago )
White House restoring environmental reviews for big projects
President Joe Biden is restoring federal regulations guiding environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects such as highways and pipelines
3:21PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Nobel in chemistry honors 'greener' way to build molecules
Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize for chemistry for finding an “ingenious” and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make a variety of compounds, including medicines and pesticides
3:18PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Student taken into custody hours after Texas school shooting
Police have arrested a student suspected of opening fire during a fight at his Dallas-area high school, leaving four people injured
3:14PM ( 27 minutes ago )