The NFL is returning to normal in all the right ways on television. The league reported this week that its games are averaging 17.3 million viewers on streaming and TV. That mark represents its highest average viewership through four weeks since the 2015 season.
The minutiae in the numbers make the bounce back from the pandemic-shifted 2020 season even more impressive. NFL viewership is up 17% compared to last year. The amount of People using TVs has decreased by 8%, while the NFL’s share of TVs watching its games is up 26% compared to 2020.
Of the 21 most-watched telecasts in the country this year, every single one has been an NFL game. Award shows and a sprinkling of other events used to scatter on the list alongside the NFL matchups, but not anymore.
It all came to a head in Massachusetts on Sunday night as the league capped off their stellar month. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 19-17 victory over Bill Belichick and the Patriots was the biggest hit of the season so far.
The game’s final viewing numbers checked in at 28 million people with streaming and TV combined. That represented the largest TV audience since Super Bowl LV this past February. The game outrated five of the six wild-card games and two divisional round games from this past postseason.
Tom Brady is no stranger to this many eyeballs watching him. The total paled when compared to the record viewership of an NFL game, which a Giants-49ers Monday Night Football game set with 41.3 million viewers on Dec. 3, 1990. Yet, Brady teams hold the top three spots in terms of viewership for Sunday-only games.
Brady sells, and NBC was buying the storylines all night long before kick-off. The anticipation for Brady v. Belichick helped Football Night In America post the second-highest rating in its history (12 million viewers).
The death of football was always an overreaction, and the numbers coming out of this NFL bear that out.
SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama
“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”
Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.
While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.
On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.
It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.
Check out the full weekend schedule below:
Thursday, Dec. 2
- SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 3
- SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
- SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
Saturday, Dec. 4
- Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
- Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
- SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.
The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.
ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020
“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”
Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.
Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.
At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.
ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.
Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.
ESPN Carrying 7 Conference Title Games This Weekend
College football’s regular season across ABC and ESPN networks will conclude with seven conference championship games December 3-4.
ESPN has announced their schedule for the upcoming Conference Championship games happening this weekend.
College football’s regular season across ABC and ESPN networks will conclude with seven conference championship games December 3-4, including the ACC, American, Big 12, MAC, Pac-12, Sun Belt and SWAC.
Conference championship action kicks off Friday, Dec. 3, with the Pac-12 Championship Game from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for a matchup between Oregon and Utah. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Holly Rowe are on the TV call, and Roxy Bernstein and Max Starks are announcing the action on ESPN Radio.
Championship Saturday kicks off with a matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State at noon with Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge and Molly McGrath on ABC, and Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones and Ian Fitzsimmons commentating on ESPN Radio.
Also at noon is the Rocket Mortgage MAC Championship Game, live from Ford Field in Detroit. Jason Benetti, Andre Ware and Paul Carcaterra will call the action on ESPN featuring Kent State and Northern Illinois.
At 3:30 p.m., the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game will commence on ESPN with Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek and Tom Luginbill calling the Appalachian State/Louisiana contest.
At 4 p.m., the American Athletic Championship Game will kick off on ABC, featuring Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy and Katie George providing commentary on the Houston versus Cincinnati showdown.
On ESPN2 at 4 p.m., Tiffany Greene, Jay Walker and Tiffany Blackmon will call the SWAC Championship Game between Prairie View A&M facing Jackson State.
The primetime game for the network will take place for the ACC championship between Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III and Quint Kessenich will call the TV action, with Marc Kestecher, Ben Hartsock and Kelsey Riggs on the radio call.
Following Champ Week will be the College Football Playoff Selection Day, which will take place December 5th, with more details of the show coming later this week.
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