NFL viewership increased 10% in 2021, averaging over 17 million viewers per game

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News


Earlier this week, sources revealed that the NFL’s television viewership spiked 10% from 2020 to 2021, achieving its highest ratings numbers since 2015. The league saw over 17 million average viewers per game.

The leading game of the regular season was the highly anticipated Thanksgiving night clash between two media magnets, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams have since earned a spot in the postseason and will take the field during Wildcard Weekend.

Experts are deducing that there were several reasons for this jump in viewership. The 2021 season was the first year with the NFL’s new 17-game schedule, and many games with high playoff implications came down to the wire.

One of these was a high-profile week 4 Sunday night matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. Over 27 million fans tuned-in to watch quarterback Tom Brady’s dramatic return to New England, where the Buccaneers squeaked by Brady’s former longtime franchise with a 17-16 win.

Additionally, fans were allowed to return to stadiums at full capacity, which made for a more “normal” watching experience for fans at home than during the 2020 season when stadiums were almost completely empty.

Streaming numbers were on the rise as well. More fans seem to be moving away from traditional cable television packages and opting to use streaming services as it can be more cost-effective and gives greater control to the consumer.

Another reason for the rise came in specific networks, such as ESPN, which has historically lagged behind the other networks in terms of popularity. The 2021 season had the highest ESPN viewership since 2010, as the network averaged 14.2 million viewers each week during Monday Night Football. Part of this was the birth of ESPN’s new alternate Monday Night Football telecast with former NFL stars Payton and Eli Manning, who offered witty commentary during the games, as well as live interviews with former players and celebrities.