The first week of the National Football League 2022 season kicked off on Sept. 8 with a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Buffalo Bills and defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
The games broadcast on Thursday, Sunday and Monday posted strong viewership figures. Here’s a look at the numbers and the companies behind the big figures.
What Happened: Viewership for the first week of NFL games was up compared to the first week of 2021, which could be a good sign for the companies spending billions of dollars on streaming rights.
NFL games in the first week averaged 18.5 million viewers, up 3% from last season’s first week. This marked the best start to an NFL season since 2016, according to Front Office Sports.
More than 121 million people watched NFL games in the first week, a figure that was up 5% from the previous year. On Sunday, around 83 million people watched NFL games.
“As the viewership numbers would indicate, our fans are obviously excited to have the NFL back,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
NBC, owned by Comcast Corporation CMCSA, aired the first week’s Sunday Night Football contest with a matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys. The game had more than 21 million viewers according to the company, marking the best Sunday Night Football opener since 2015.
NBC also aired the first week’s Thursday Night Football game, which saw the Buffalo Bills beat the Los Angeles Rams. The contest was watched by more than 25 million people and was the most streamed NBC NFL game of all time, excluding Super Bowl LVI. The first week’s Sunday Night Football contest saw viewership up 35% to last year’s first Sunday Night Football matchup and was the most watched Sunday Night Football week 1 contest since 2015.
CBS, owned by Paramount Global PARAPARAA, had two games on Sunday and averaged over 17 million viewers, which was its best first week since 2018.
Fox Corp FOXFOXA also aired two games on Sunday and averaged 15.4 million viewers, a figure up 11% from the previous year.
Monday Night Football was watched by nearly 20 million people and was its strongest viewership since 2009. The contest between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks was the third most-watched contest behind the Thursday night and Sunday night contests from NBC. Monday Night Football airs on ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co DIS.
The fourth and fifth most-watched NFL games in the first week were the Green Bay Packers versus Minnesota Vikings on Fox (18.5 million) and Pittsburgh Steelers versus Cincinnati Bengals on CBS (17.5 million), respectively.
Why It’s Important: NFL games remain among the top-viewed programs each year across all networks and time slots.
Sunday Night Football has been the number one primetime show for 11 consecutive years.
Strong viewership figures for the first week of the NFL season could provide a boost to Comcast’s streaming platform Peacock, which is also hosting a special promotional offer during the month of September.
Front Office Sports put the NFL figures into perspective by showing that the World Series in 2021 for Major League Baseball averaged 11.7 million viewers. The NFL’s Sunday Night matchup also saw viewership significantly ahead of the Emmy Awards, which hit an all-time low of 5.92 million viewers.
Sports rights continue to be worth billions of dollars for leagues and media companies as they post huge viewership figures and are able to command premium advertising rates.
A new report showed that Disney is seeing strong demand for its college football coverage as well with 36 new sponsors signed for this year. The company could see $700 million in ad sales for its college football games on ESPN this year. Around 90% of its ads for the season are already sold, according to Front Office Sports.
Disney has a piece of the NFL coverage with its Monday Night Football matchups and is one of the dominant players for college football. On the kickoff weekend of college football, Disney aired 17 games across its networks and saw an 82% market share of viewership for the sport.
The strong viewership comes as Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN signed a massive deal to become the new home of Thursday Night Football, which began with week two’s matchup of the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. As the official home of Thursday Night Football, Amazon could see additional subscribers to its Prime offering, which costs $14.99 per month or $139 per year. Amazon paid a reported $1 billion for the rights.
The NFL saw media rights increase 82% annually with new deals beginning in 2022. Disney, Fox, Comcast, Paramount and Amazon shelled out billions of dollars. Based on the first week’s viewership, the huge costs may be more than justified.
The NFL could also see a huge windfall with the future sale of the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket and an equity stake in NFL Media. Amazon and Apple Inc AAPL are among the companies interested in the deal. Goodell has hinted that a streaming company will take over the current rights owned by AT&T Inc T owned DirecTV.
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