In the ratings world, the NFL remains in a league of its own


Not just NFL games. Not just sporting events. Programs. NFL games are the most watched content on television.

Over six weeks, national NFL broadcasts averaged 16.6 million viewers, an 11% increase from the same time period as last season. In fact, I thought that number would be higher given how relatively unappealing live sports looked on television when fans weren’t allowed into stadiums during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that still counts as significant growth. And if anyone still insists on comparing it to playoff baseball, here’s a data point that should provide some context: ESPN and ESPN2’s broadcast of the Red Sox-Yankees Wild Card game drew the biggest audience for all. baseball games on the network since 1998 How many viewers did it attract? An average of 7.7 million – an exceptional number, yet less than half of the NFL’s average for its national regular-season broadcasts.

Local note: Two of the four most-watched NFL games this season involved the Patriots: their 19-17 loss to Tom brady and the Buccaneers in Week 4 on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”, which is number one with 26.7 million average viewers; and the 35-29 overtime loss last Sunday to the Cowboys on CBS, which is fourth (23.2 million).

Others in the top five: Cowboys-Buccaneers, NBC, Week 1 (second, 24.8 million); Cowboys-Chargers, CBS, Week 2 (third, 24.3 – Dallas remains the league’s biggest draw); and Buccaneers-Rams, week 3, Fox (fifth, 22.6).

New voices

While the Patriots can clearly still draw the audience when they have a compelling game, the days of Jim nantz (who called over 100 Patriots games in his career) and Tony romo being in Foxborough apparently every two weeks is gone, at least for now.

The Patriots-Jets game, which isn’t exactly the marquee game this Sunday, will be called up by the No.5 team in CBS’s play-by-play voice André Catalon and analyst James lofton.

They’re not unknown – they called the Patriots victory over the Texans three weeks ago – but the public may not know their voice right away, either.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Lofton said he appreciates the opportunity to call the Patriots games, in part because it gives him a chance to choose Bill Belichick brain on NFL history.

“I like spending time with him for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that he can give you an oral history of the sport,” said Lofton, who will be on a Patriots show for the third time since he’s been to CBS. “He’s able to delve into the story, he’s able to delve into the politics of the game, the players he’s studied, seen and coached, and the changes that have taken place, and he’s able to. do it transparently. It is a great resource for knowledge.

“When you have the production meeting with him, you almost go and go. “I know I have a lot of questions, but what are the right questions to try to ask her to maximize her time?” »Because the ideal would be to be there and for the whole week and to follow him everywhere. How awesome would that be? “

Technical difficulties

There have been some frustrating moments in recent weeks for Boston fans who have discovered that their teams’ game broadcasts are scattered across different providers in the age of streaming. First, Game 3 of the American League Red Sox Division Series with the Rays was broadcast exclusively on the MLB network, which is not available on some cable and streaming providers in Boston. Then, on Friday night, the Bruins’ game with the Sabers was broadcast exclusively on ESPN + and Hulu, with no availability on major ESPN networks, let alone NESN. It’s part of the NHL’s new rights deal with ESPN, which allows 75 regular-season games to be broadcast on ESPN +, the network’s subscription streaming service, and Hulu. Three other Bruins games will be hosted solely by ESPN + and Hulu this season: Capitals at Bruins, January 20; Bruins at the Blues, April 19; and Rangers vs. Bruins, April 23… The Celtics’ season opener against the Knicks was home to 4.0 in Boston and 3.5 in New York. It’s not a bad number here considering the Red Sox and Bruins were also playing. The show was ESPN’s most-watched season opener Wednesday in 18 years, according to Nielsen… NESN will launch a one-hour program on Monday called “David ortiz: Unstoppable ”, in which the former Red Sox slugger will sit with Tom caron to review and discuss moments from his performance at the 2013 World Series, when he broke a solid .688. The show airs at 9 p.m.

Chad Finn can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @GlobeChadFinn.