NFL ratings: Washington-Dallas delivers impressive numbers on Thanksgiving

Jay Busbee
·2 min read

We love our football. Even when it’s really bad football.

The Dallas Cowboys squared off against the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving afternoon, and a whole lot of people watched. Per Fox Sports PR, 30.3 million viewers tuned in to the game, such as it was.

How large is that number? So large that it’s the most-watched television event since the 2020 Super Bowl. And it wasn’t just family members on the couch, either; Washington-Dallas was also the most-streamed game in Fox Sports’ history, with an average per-minute viewership of 563,000.

On a larger scale, Washington-Dallas drew the most viewership of any non-NFL program since the 2017 Academy Awards (32.9 million) and every non-NFL sporting event since Game 7 of the Cubs-Indians World Series in 2016 (40.05 million).

What does this high-water mark mean? Well, for one thing, it halts — at least for one day — the idea that the NFL is losing viewership. Fans may not necessarily be engaged as much on a week-to-week basis, but given the opportunity to watch some ball, they will tune in.

The Washington-Dallas game surely benefited from the postponement of Baltimore-Pittsburgh scheduled for later in the evening. There’s also the anecdotal possibility that more viewers were at their own homes rather than gathering in larger groups, as in a normal year.

Worth noting: the NFL remains in the grips of a ratings slide, and as good as the numbers were for 2020, the mark was still down 7 percent from last year’s Bills-Cowboys game, which drew 32.64 million viewers. The 2018 mark, also Washington-Dallas, was 30.52 million.

The day’s prior game, another barnburner between the Texans and Lions, averaged 23.39 million viewers on CBS. Bad news for the NFL: it was the least-watched Thanksgiving afternoon game since 2009, but good news: it was the fourth-most watched game of the year up to that point.

Ratings data remains mostly bad news for the NFL, but the viewers are still out there ... they just need the right set of circumstances to bring them back to the game.

Alex Smith and the WFT drew big numbers as well as a win. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Alex Smith and the WFT drew big numbers as well as a win. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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