NFL TV Ratings Grow for 2nd Straight Year

49ers Seahawks Deebo Samuel 2019 - Getty - H 2020
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Ratings for the NFL rose again in 2019, further locking in the league's status as the top draw on all of ad-supported television.

Across all its broadcast partners — CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and the league-run NFL Network — the NFL's regular-season games averaged 16.5 million viewers, up 5 percent from 15.76 million in 2018. It was the most-watched regular season since 2016, when NFL games also averaged 16.5 million viewers.

The high mark for the past decade remains the 2015 season, when the NFL averaged 18.7 million viewers during the regular season. Since bottoming out (relatively speaking) in 2017, when the regular season averaged just under 15 million viewers, the NFL's audience has grown by 10 percent and pulled even with its 2016 mark.

Fox had the biggest gains, with its Thursday and Sunday games rising by 7 percent over last year to an average of 19.24 million viewers. The network's late Sunday afternoon national telecast drew 24.36 million viewers, up 10 percent year to year. It would rank as the No. 1 series on all of Nielsen-measured TV by a wide margin.

NBC's Sunday Night Football was up 4 percent year to year with an average of 19.86 million viewers (from 19.05 million in 2018) and is poised to be the No. 1 primetime show (in same-day ratings) in both total viewers and adults 18-49 for the ninth consecutive season. SNF also averaged 459,000 streaming viewers for each game, a 44 percent jump over 2018. 

CBS grew by 4 percent with an average audience of 17.22 million viewers — and like Fox, had its best showing since 2016. The Eye also had the top individual telecast of the regular season, drawing 32.64 million viewers for the Thanksgiving game between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys.

ESPN's Monday Night Football improved year to year for 11 of its 16 telecasts, finishing 6 percent ahead of last season with an average of 12.06 million viewers. It was the best mark for the cabler since 2015.