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NFL finishes 2019 regular season up 5 per cent in US ratings

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen

The National Football League ended its 2019 regular season with an average US television audience of 16.5m, up 5 per cent from the year before and the second straight annual increase. 

The boost extends a TV upswing for the league after ratings drops in 2016-17, and once again asserts the league’s dominant power in American television. Among the most-watched US TV shows in 2019, regardless of genre, NFL games accounted for all of the top 10, and 47 out of the top 50. 

Among individual networks, the bullishness continues as Fox Sports said its 2019 regular season NFL games averaged 19.24m viewers, up 7 per cent from the year before, representing its best overall performance since 2016, and its late Sunday afternoon game window was the No. 1 show in US TV for the 11th straight year with an average of 24.36m viewers.

NBC, meanwhile, finished its 2019 coverage of “Sunday Night Football” with a Total Audience Delivery of 20.5 million across all platforms, up 5 per cent from 2018 and up 12 per cent from 2017, and once again positioning the slot to be the top-ranked primetime show in all of US TV for the ninth consecutive years. 

ESPN was up 8 per cent year-over-year for its “Monday Night Football” coverage, averaging 12.57m viewers, representing the most-watched series on US cable TV.

And CBS ended the 2019 regular season with an average of 17.2m viewers, up 4 per cent from the year before, and also its best performance since 2016.

The strong ratings performance across the board also occurred as the five teams representing the three largest US media markets – the New York Giants and Jets, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, and the Chicago Bears – collectively went 33-47 and none reached the playoffs. During 2018, the Rams, Chargers, and Bears all reached the postseason, and the Rams were in Super Bowl LIII.

The season-long increases were not a surprise after the NFL started the 2019 season with strong ratings out of the gate, and continued to draw viewers during key moments of the season such as US Thanksgiving.