Ratings Roundup: NFL Totals 172 Million Viewers at Season Mid-Point; NBC’s SNF, ESPN’s MNF Top Broadcast, Cable Ratings

Compiled by Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, SVG

The NFL released its viewership numbers for the first half of the season this week and, not surprisingly, they are awfully impressive. At the halfway point of the 2012 NFL season, more than 172 million fans have tuned in to NFL games. The league gave a nod to the fact that nearly one quarter of NFL games (31 of 132) have had the winning score in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime – the highest rate ever through Week 9 since at least 1970.

NFL games account for the 14 most-watched programs on television since the NFL season kicked off on Sept. 5 (chart below). In addition, the average NFL game telecast (including broadcast and cable) has drawn 16.0 million viewers – more than double the average primetime viewership (7.7 million) for the big four broadcast networks in the new television season. An NFL game telecast has been television’s most-watched program in each of the season’s first nine weeks (up from seven of the first nine weeks in 2011).

NBC’s Sunday Night Football is averaging 21.2 million viewers through Week 9 and ranks as the No. 1 show in primetime this television season. NBC’s nine-week (10 games) household rating of 12.9/20 is the best start in the seven-year history of Sunday Night Football, and the highest-rated start to a season for an NFL primetime package in 13 years (13.9/23 household rating for ABC in 1999). The nine-week viewership for 10 games (21.2 million) is on pace with 2011 (21.4 million) and 2010 (21.3 million), and are the first three primetime NFL seasons to average more than 21 million through the first nine weeks of the season since 1994-1996 on ABC. In addition, NBC’s SNF opener (Steelers-Broncos) posted the highest rating ever for a Sunday night game (16.5).

ESPN Monday Night Football games rank as the five most-watched shows on cable this fall. MNF is the most watched show on cable this fall averaging 13.1 million viewers.

Sunday late afternoon NFL games continue to draw more viewers than anything on TV. FOX is averaging 24.6 million viewers for its Sunday national telecasts and CBS is averaging 23.1 million viewers.  The FOX and CBS national telecasts and NBC Sunday Night Football are the only programs on TV averaging more than 20 million viewers.

NFL Network – with an expanded 13-game primetime schedule – is on record pace averaging more than 7.6 million viewers (including over-the-air telecasts) in its first year with Thursday Night Football games in the first half of the season.  Last season, Thursday Night Football posted a record average 7.3 million viewers (including OTAs). NFL Network viewership is up 90 percent in primetime through Week 9.

Visits to NFL Digital media properties are up 34 percent over last year at this time, with a 78 percent jump for NFL mobile platforms, including NFL Mobile Only From Verizon and other apps…

NBC earned a 2.2 overnight rating for its telecast of Fort Larned’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday from 8:00-9:00pm ET, the first time the race has been held in primetime. That figure is almost doubles a 1.2 overnight last year on ESPN…

…CBS Sports’ coverage of No. 1-ranked Alabama defeat No. 5-ranked LSU earned an average overnight household rating/share of 7.0/13, the highest rating on any network-to-date for a college football game in the 2012 season. The previous high-to-date in 2012 was a 5.9/11 (Notre Dame-Oklahoma; 10/27; ABC). However, the overnight is down 41% from the same matchup last year when the SEC rivals were the top two ranked teams in the nation (11.9)…

…NBC notched a season-high for Notre Dame football, when Pittsburgh’s near triple-OT defeat of the Irish drew a 4.3 overnight rating on NBC Saturday afternoon, up 207% from the network’s sixth Notre Dame telecast last year, against Maryland in primetime (1.4). The 4.3 overnight is the highest for a Notre Dame telecast on NBC since Michigan/Notre Dame in September 2010 (4.5), surpassing this year’s Michigan game, which aired in primetime (4.0)…

…Fox’s coverage of the Southern Cal/Oregon college football game drew a 3.5 overnight rating on FOX Saturday night, up 106% from Kansas State/West Virginia two weeks ago (1.7), and marking the highest overnight of the year for the network (surpassing the previous mark of 3.2 for West Virginia/Texas in week six)…

…While CBS, FOX and NBC each hit season-highs on Saturday, ABC stumbled to a record low for “Saturday Night Football.” The Oklahoma State/Kansas State “Saturday Night Football” game earned a 1.9 overnight rating on ABC, down 10% from regional action featuring the same matchup last year (2.1). The 1.9 overnight is the lowest ever for “Saturday Night Football” (dates back to 2006). The previous record low was set by last year’s previously mentioned game…

…NBA TV’s Lakers-Trail Blazers telecast on Oct. 31 generated an average of 868,000 total viewers to become the network’s most-viewed telecast ever.  The prior mark was set by NBA TV’s premiere of the Dream Team documentary with an average of 847,000 total viewers. Previously, the most-viewed NBA game airing on the network was an NBA Playoff Game 5 between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs on April 27, 2011, with an average of 835,000 total viewers…

…The Toronto Raptors’ opening game against the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 31 on TSN was watched by an average audience of 346,000 viewers – making it the most-watched Toronto Raptors game on Canadian television since the 2009-10 season.