On Christmas, the NFL’s average audience was five times larger than the NBA’s

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The NFL vs. NBA on XMA(s) was a TKO.

In the biggest test yet of pro football’s muscle on December 25, the league for the first time ever put three games up against a five-game, all-day slate of NBA action. The audience gravitated to the game played with the oblong ball.

The widely-circulated numbers paint a very stark picture.

Packers-Dolphins: 25.92 million viewers. (This was the only game of the day between a pair of playoff contenders.)

Broncos-Rams: 22.57 million viewers. (Both teams had been eliminated from the postseason, with the Rams winning 51-14.)

Buccaneers-Cardinals: 17.15 million viewers. (The Cardinals were starting a third-string quarterback in a game between two teams under .500.)

76ers-Knicks: 4.04 million viewers.

Lakers-Mavericks: 4.33 million viewers.

Bucks-Celtics: 6.03 million viewers.

Grizzlies-Warriors: 4.70 million viewers.

Suns-Nuggets: 2.49 million viewers.

That’s an average viewership of 21.88 million for the NFL, and 4.318 million for the NBA. The NFL drew an audience more than five times bigger than the NBA’s.

And remember — the NBA games weren’t televised only on ESPN. ABC simulcast each and every one of them, in an obvious effort to boost the ratings.

What does this mean for the NFL and the Nielsen ratings of Christmas future? Look for the NFL to constantly find a way to fill the day, regardless of the day of the week on which it lands.

In 2023, it will be easy. Play a full slate of games on Sunday, December 24, and play three on Monday, December 25.

In 2024, it gets a little more complicated. Thanks to the leap year, Christmas nudges to Wednesday. How will the NFL manage the schedule to put games on a Wednesday? The best (and perhaps only) option would be to give the six Christmas teams the prior Sunday off, giving them a very late bye week — but giving them basically two half-byes, with a 10-day break and then an 11-day break.

In 2025, Christmas lands on Thursday, just like Thanksgiving. In 2026, Friday. In 2027, Saturday. In 2028, Monday.

Given the performance of the NFL with the captive audience of Christmas, look for the NFL to find a way to keep stealing Christmas away from the NBA.

And imagine how big the NFL’s numbers will be if/when the games are more entertaining than this year’s trio was.

On Christmas, the NFL’s average audience was five times larger than the NBA’s originally appeared on Pro Football Talk