Football is back, if it ever was gone.
The game got dragged into some political huff-and-puffery a few years back, and it prompted some to turn away from the game. But many of those who swore off the NFL for good have now returned. The numbers prove it.
The NFL has announced, for example, that the Thursday Night Football “tri-cast” (FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video) for 2021 generated an average viewership of 16.4 million. That’s the highest number since 2015, when CBS and NFL Network combined for 17.7 million.
The number also became the highest for the three-year, three-platform excursion, a 16-percent bump over 2020 and a six-percent increase over 2019.
Included in the “Thursday” numbers is last Saturday’s game between the Browns and Packers. For that late-afternoon contest, 28.6 million viewers tuned in. That’s 40 percent higher than last year’s Christmas Day game between the Vikings and Saints.
The momentum won’t continue in 2022. With Amazon taking over the entire Thursday night package, with no NFLN simulcast and no three-letter presence, the league will be very hard pressed to generate an audience even remotely close to 16.4 million. Indeed, there’s a chance that the numbers will be so low that they don’t even get released — like that Ravens-Jaguars Yahoo-only game from London in 2017.
In time, that may change. The goal is to get viewers to shift long-term viewing habits. To buy Amazon Prime and to use Amazon Prime. If anything will drive that pivot to streaming, it will be the NFL.