Dec 16, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Detroit Lions fans dressed in Christmas attire react in the first half against the Denver Broncos at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Big bidding expected for NFL Christmas games

There will be a hot commodity on the market ahead of next holiday season: a pair of NFL games on Christmas Day.

The league plans to auction off the TV rights to those two games to the highest bidder, with the price starting at $50 million per game, Front Office Sports reported Thursday.

In an unexpected move, the NFL decided to schedule a doubleheader on Christmas Day, which falls on a Wednesday in 2024. NFL executives pointed to the ratings the three Christmas games got in 2023; each were among the top 10 in ratings in the regular season, per the Wall Street Journal.

Because games on a Wednesday would not fall under any preexisting contract, the league will allow all its TV and streaming partners — CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN-ABC and Amazon Prime — to duke it out for the rights.

There have been only two NFL games played on a Wednesday since 1949. One was when the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants were moved off a Thursday to avoid conflicting with the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The other was when the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were scheduled to play on Thanksgiving but the game was pushed back three times due to COVID-19.

This will be the fifth straight season the NFL has played on Christmas, encroaching on a sports day typically dominated by the NBA.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) runs on to the field at MetLife Stadium before the game against the Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jets-Bills sets “Monday Night Football” viewership mark

The “Monday Night Football” game between the visiting Buffalo Bills and New York Jets drew more than 22.6 million viewers, the most since ESPN began airing the NFL broadcast in 2006.

The game featured the much-anticipated Jets debut of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who exited after tearing his left Achilles tendon on his fourth snap.

Despite Rodgers’ early departure, the Jets beat the Bills 22-16 in overtime on Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Jets announced on Tuesday that Rodgers would miss the rest of the season.

The game, which aired on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes, broke the network’s record that was set in 2009, when the Green Bay Packers faced their former quarterback Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. That game drew 21.8 million viewers.

The viewership total for this year’s season opener of “Monday Night Football” was up 14 percent from last year’s opener (Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks) that drew a then-record 19.8 million viewers for a Week 1 Monday night contest.

The breakdown for the Monday viewership included 11.7 million watching on ABC, 9.4 million on ESPN and 1.52 million on ESPN2, which aired the “ManningCast” alternate feed featuring Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.

Sports Business Journal noted that the total MNF viewership this week topped the most recent totals for the College Football Playoff final, the men’s NCAA Tournament final, the Kentucky Derby, the Oscars and the Grammy Awards.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

YouTubeTV wins Sunday Ticket rights starting in ’23

Sunday Ticket is moving to YouTube TV subscription streaming service starting with the 2023 season.

Reports from multiple outlets pegged the exclusive, multi-year agreement at nearly $2 billion per year.

NFL Sunday Ticket carries each out-of-market regular-season game every week and launched in 1994, distributed on DirecTV’s satellite service since its inception.

In a joint release Thursday, the NFL said Sunday Ticket would be available as an add-on package on YouTube TV or standalone a-la-carte offering on YouTube Primetime Channels.

The NFL said in a statement on Thursday that carriage agreements with commercial establishments, such as bars and restaurants, are under discussion and driven by Google, which owns YouTube TV. Updated NFL Sunday Ticket product features and functionality will be announced ahead of the 2023 NFL season, the league said.

“We’re excited to bring NFL Sunday Ticket to YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels and usher in a new era of how fans across the United States watch and follow the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “For a number of years, we have been focused on increased digital distribution of our games and this partnership is yet another example of us looking towards the future and building the next generation of NFL fans.”

The NFL isn’t new to YouTube. The league has channels for all 32 NFL clubs, 10 official League channels including NFL Films, NFL Network, and the NFL’s Hispanic channel, Mundo NFL.

“As the ways fans enjoy NFL football evolve in a changing media landscape, partnerships with innovators like YouTube will ensure that more games are available to more fans,” said Robert Kraft, Owner of the New England Patriots and Chairman of the NFL’s Media Committee. “This partnership will grow our game for future generations and allow them to follow their favorite sport.”

YouTube TV subscription streaming service offers live and on-demand TV from over 100 channels through a simple and award-winning experience. Viewers have access to local and national live sports, breaking news, shows, movies, and more, and can tune in on any screen (phone, tablet, TV, computer).

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) catches a pass for a first down as New York Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes (30) defends during the second half of the game between the Cowboys and the Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Giants-Cowboys most watched regular-season game in NFL history

The NFL said Friday that the Thanksgiving Day game between the host Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants set a regular-season viewership record.

The FOX broadcast averaged 42 million viewers, according to the league.

Dallas has played on Thanksgiving for 45 straight seasons and 55 times overall. This year was the first time since 1992 that it played its division rival from New York, the largest media market in the country, on the holiday. Both teams entered the game 7-3, adding to the interest.

The Cowboys beat the Giants 28-20.

The league said it also set a record for its Thanksgiving Day “total unduplicated audience” of 138 million.

The Buffalo Bills, one of the AFC’s best teams, beat the host Detroit Lions 28-25 on a late field goal in the early game. The host Minnesota Vikings topped the New England Patriots 33-26 in the nightcap.

The average viewership across the tripleheader was 33.5 million viewers per game.

The news comes as the NFL and Amazon plan to begin staging a single Black Friday game beginning in 2023.

–Field Level Media

Quarterback C.J. Stroud is preparing for a potentially historic redshirt sophomore season at Ohio State.

REDO Ohio State QB CJ Stroud

Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud: Share TV windfall with players

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would gladly celebrate the billions fetched by the Big Ten conference in a landmark broadcast rights agreement.

Stroud is among student-athlete leaders who have discussed sharing in profits for the conference with commissioner Kevin Warren, though nothing is imminent in terms of disbursements to athletes as part of the deal with FOX, CBS and NBC that begins in July 2023.

The 20-year-old was a Heisman finalist in 2021 with 44 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also has more than $2.5 million in Name, Image and Likeness agreements with Value City Furniture, Designer Shoe Warehouse, Express and a car dealership.

Warren said in July at Big Ten Media Days that dialogue is taking place among students and conference administrators.

“I want to be a great listener to figure out what is important to them. It’s so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does that really mean?” Warren said. “I want to make sure that I listen and learn to be able to have big ears and a small mouth to truly understand what’s important to them.”

Stroud told USA Today the time to share is now.

The Big Ten announced their new rights agreement one week after ESPN announced it was out of the talks. In addition to three high-profile networks, more streaming options — such as NBC’s Peacock — will be employed to maximize carriage and all-important advertising opportunities.

“I definitely think it should be shared,” Stroud said. “But if not, at the end of the day, we have the NIL space. We can do it that way. The new college world is turning around, and I’m here for it.”

The Big Ten also plans to add at least two schools, UCLA and USC, in 2024 and shares profits equally among member institutions. Warren said in July he didn’t know if future profits would add a layer to include players or if members would be responsible for determining how and when to share the wealth.

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the eleventh overall pick to the New Orleans Saints during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: First round is least-watched since 2017

The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night brought in the fewest TV viewers since 2017, according to Sports Business Journal.

ABC, ESPN and NFL Network combined to draw 10.03 million viewers, roughly 2.5 million fewer than last year’s first round and the lowest mark since the network simulcast window was introduced in 2018.

The viewership number still cleared eight digits. The last time it was lower, a combined 9.23 million viewers tuned in for the 2017 first round on ESPN and NFL Network.

The first round, in particular the top 10, was dominated by defensive players and offensive linemen with few big names among the so-called skill players. The only quarterback drafted in the first round, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, went No. 20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The viewership number has tumbled since the record of 15.27 million was set in 2020, though that was boosted by more people staying indoors during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft continues Friday with the second and third round before concluding Saturday afternoon with rounds 4-7.

–Field Level Media

Jan 30, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) smiles while being interviewed by CBS personality Jim Nantz after winning the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. The Cincinnati Bengals won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

NFL championship games attracted huge TV audiences

The Los Angeles Rams’ dramatic win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday was one of the most-watched television shows of the century.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game was a ratings winner, too.

The NFC Championship Game drew 50.2 million viewers, making it one of just 11 non-Super Bowls to hit the 50 million mark since the last episode of “Seinfeld” attracted 76.3 million in 1998. Of those 11, only the final episode of “Friends” in 2004 (52.5 million) wasn’t an NFL conference championship game.

The Bengals-Chiefs game had 47.9 million viewers, up from 41.85 million for the previous season’s AFC Championship Game. The prior NFC title game had 44.8 million viewers.

Overall, last week’s two games saw a 10 percent increase in viewership from the same weekend last year and a 16 percent jump from the conference championship games in January 2020.

The NFC Championship Game drew its highest rating in eight years, while the AFC Championship Game posted its best rating in four years.

Last year’s Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chiefs drew an average of 91.6 million viewers, the lowest figure for a Super Bowl since 2006. The record was set by Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015, when the New England Patriots’ win over the Seattle Seahawks attracted 114.4 million viewers.

–Field Level Media

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) celebrates after a game-winning field goal to defeat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 during their NFL divisional round football playoff game Saturday January 22, 2022, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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NFL divisional playoffs draw record TV ratings

The NFL’s divisional playoffs delivered great drama and record TV ratings last weekend.

The divisional-round games averaged 38.2 million viewers — the highest average for the round on record — the league announced on Tuesday. That viewership marked a 21 percent increase from last season.

Saturday night’s San Francisco-Green Bay Packers NFC game on Fox, a 13-10 49ers win decided by Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal on the game’s final play, drew 36.9 million viewers. The game was the most-watched TV show on a Saturday night in 28 years, dating to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ dramatic 42-36 overtime AFC win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night on CBS drew an average 42.7 million viewers. It was the most-watched divisional playoff game in five years, with viewership peaking at 51.7 million viewers at the thrilling finish.

The Los Angeles Rams’ 30-27 NFC victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday on NBC drew 38.1 million viewers. It was the network’s most-watched game since in 2006, excluding Super Bowls.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ 19-16 AFC win over the Tennessee Titans, decided by Evan McPherson’s 52-yard field goal as time expired, Saturday on CBS averaged 30.8 million viewers.

–Field Level Media

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) kisses the trophy Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, after defeating Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

CFP title-game ratings lag again despite slight uptick

Georgia staged a fourth-quarter rally to defeat Alabama in the College Football Playoff final on Monday night, but television viewers weren’t completely enthralled.

While TV ratings for the contest were up 19 percent from the CFP title game the prior year, the contest was still the second-least-watched college football championship game this century.

A total of 22.6 million viewers across numerous ESPN-branded networks watched Georgia top Alabama 33-18 in Indianapolis. Last year, when Alabama routed Ohio State 52-24 for the title, 18.7 million tuned in.

Since the Bowl Championship Series began pitting the nation’s top two teams in a title game in 1998-99, and then the current four-team CFP system began in 2014-15, last year’s game and this year’s game sit at the bottom of the ratings list.

The record rating during the CFP era was 34.6 million when Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20 to cap the 2014-15 season.

When Alabama beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime to determine the 2017-18 championship, 28.4 million people watched.

According to ESPN, the Monday game was the highest-rated event on cable television since LSU’s 42-25 win over Clemson in the 2019-20 CFP title game. The network also stated that the game’s 29 percent “share” (percentage of viewers watching television at the time who were watching that program) was a record for the BCS era.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) reacts after his touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NFL’s Bucs-Eagles matchup tops NLDS Game 5 in TV ratings

On Friday, the NFL received good news in the form of its Thursday Night Football regular-season matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles averaging 14.42 million viewers across all platforms, which easily outpaced Major League Baseball’s postseason game in a head-to-head comparison.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ nail-biting 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 drew 6.5 million viewers for TBS (an increase over Game 4’s 5.15 million watchers), and received the largest audience for an National League Division Series game since Game 5 between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals in 2017 (7.02 million).

Additionally for the NFL, Tampa Bay-Philadelphia reached the NFL’s second-largest digital audience ever, at 1.5 million.

Last season’s San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals matchup on Dec. 26 remains the high for digital audience at 4.8 million average viewers, though that mark was achieved without a traditional national broadcast — the game was only aired locally and digitally.

The 14.42 million total for Bucs-Eagles was up 14 percent from last season’s Week 6 game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs (12.7 million).

–Field Level Media