The National Football League had strong viewership figures for the 2021-2022 season. This could set up several media companies for strong quarterly earnings reports and lead to higher advertising rates for the upcoming NFL Playoffs.
What Happened: NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp (NASDAQ: CMCSA), saw a major win with “Sunday Night Football.” An average of 18.5 million people tuned in for the Sunday night games this season, up 10.1% from the 2020-2021 season. The program leads the way as the most watched show for an 11th consecutive year.
Adding in viewership on Comcast’s Peacock streaming platform, the average number of viewers ballooned to 19.3 million, up 11% from last year’s average “Sunday Night Football” viewership.
The NFL season finished on a strong note for other broadcasters as well. Fox Corp (NASDAQ: FOX) had 19.3 million viewers for its late afternoon game Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) saw 19.1 million and 20.2 million viewers for two games that aired on ABC and ESPN on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
CBS, a unit of ViacomCBS Inc (NASDAQ: VIAC), shared that the company averaged 18 million viewers during the regular NFL season, including its most watched regular season game in 31 years. Average viewership was the highest in the company’s last six years and was up 9% compared to last year’s total. Viacom’s streaming platform Paramount+ had double-digit growth for total NFL streams, streaming minutes and unique viewers, the company reported.
“Monday Night Football” on ESPN averaged 14.2 million viewers, the highest figure for the network in 11 seasons and up 16% year-over-year. Two of the season’s games were among the five most watched “Monday Night Football” games in the ESPN era, dating back to 2006. Average viewership was the third-highest figure for ESPN since 2006.
Sports Business Journal Managing Editor Austin Karp said that for the 2021 calendar year, 95 of the top 100 most viewed programs were sports, including 75 NFL games. The Super Bowl led the way, followed by the NFC Championship Game (44.8 million on Fox), the AFC Championship Game (41.8 million on CBS) and a Thanksgiving Day matchup on CBS (37.8 million). The inauguration of President Joe Biden ranked seventh on the list, the only non-NFL top 10 program for 2021.
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) January 7, 2022
What’s Next: ESPN follows up its strong season with the debut of a Monday night Wild Card game on Jan. 17, the final game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, ABC and ESPN+ with popular hosts Peyton and Eli Manning leading the ESPN2 coverage.
NBC will air two games of the NFL Playoffs in their first weekend. CBS will also air two games, including one that will also be broadcast on its Nickelodeon network. Fox will broadcast one game on Sunday, Jan. 16. The networks for the Divisional Round games on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 have not been announced.
The AFC Championship Game and NFC Championship Game will air on CBS and FOX respectively on Jan. 30, 2022.
The 2021 Super Bowl had 91.6 million viewers, which was underwhelming to many in the sports world. Total viewership including streaming platforms was 96.4 million for CBS for the 2021 Super Bowl.
Broadcast television viewership for the Super Bowl hit a 13-year low and was down 9% year-over-year. This was only the second Super Bowl in 11 years to not have over 100 million viewers. Streaming viewership of 5.7 million hit a record for the 2021 Super Bowl.
Given the strong rebound in NFL viewership this year and a potential strong lineup of entertainers for the Halftime Show that include Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg.
In September, Comcast reported that it was getting a record rate of $5.8 million to $6.2 million for 30-second ads for the upcoming Super Bowl LVI. Some commercials sold for $6.5 million and at the time Comcast said it only had a few slots left.
Last year’s Super Bowl eclipsed a previous record of $5.5 million for 30-second commercials.
Comcast could be in for a strong start in 2022 for its advertising revenue with the huge demand for Super Bowl commercials, including the return of many movie companies and an increase of cryptocurrency related companies airing ads during the big game.
Comcast will air the Super Bowl LVI and the 2022 Winter Olympics in the same season, which could bring in a strong quarter of advertising revenue.
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