NFL TV Numbers Strong, Except For Amazon. What Happened?

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Like Viserys Targaryen, the NFL is King.

Unlike his grace, that doesn’t appear to be in any jeopardy whatsoever. 

TV ratings for the NFL preseason came out Thursday, and, unsurprisingly, they were as massive (relatively speaking) as they were meaningless.

We’ll get to Amazon in a minute, because that needs some unpacking. In the meantime, while those are strong numbers for just about every other sport, they’re relatively tame in the world of the NFL.

For comparison, the 272 regular-season games last season averaged 17.1 million viewers over television and digital platforms, a 10% increase from 2020 and the league’s highest average since 2015.

According to Nielsen, NFL games during the season accounted for 91 of the top 100 telecasts on TV. 

Nothing like a little preseason NFL action on CBS. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

That CBS number was also helped massively by the Lions-Steelers preseason finale last Sunday. For some reason, that telecast peaked at over seven million and averaged over five million viewers.

To compare, that audience surpassed the average audience for each of the five Christmas Day NBA games last season.

Hey, they call Dan Campbell the #ContentKing for a reason!

What to make of low NFL Amazon TV viewership

Back to Amazon, which is taking over Thursday Night Football for the next decade for a cool $1.2 billion per year. 

The tech giant brought in Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit to man the booth, with guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick (speaking of content kings), Richard Sherman and Tony Gonzalez on the pregame show.

The streaming service got its one preseason rep last week with the 49ers-Texans game, and pulled in just over one million viewers … which is frightening. Somewhat shockingly, the median age of the viewer was 51.

The Sports Business Journal takes us in a little deeper.

Ourand later notes that his industry sources weren’t overly concerned with the number because the game wasn’t marketed very much and, well, it’s the preseason.

The median age of 51 is actually five years younger than the median age of TV viewers, so that’s a … win?

Now to the glass-half-empty stuff …

That number (51) is still higher than Amazon would like or what they were expecting, per Ourand.

There’s also this, and it’s a pretty big “uh-oh” stat …

Half of the viewers came from good, old fashioned local broadcast TV. That’s a bigger twist than the Red Wedding!

With the numbers now out, all eyes will turn to the Sept. 15 TNF opener between the Chargers and Chiefs. That game should draw massive numbers.

Al Michaels bolted for Amazon this season. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes? Division rivals? Two teams with Super Bowl aspirations? First real Thursday night game of the year? Al Michaels on the call?

That’s a slam dunk on any of the four major networks that carry NFL games. That’s the first true test for Amazon.




Written by Zach Dean

Zach grew up in Florida, lives in Florida, and will never leave Florida ... for obvious reasons. He's a reigning fantasy football league champion, knows everything there is to know about NASCAR, and once passed out (briefly!) during a lap around Daytona. He swears they were going 200 mph even though they clearly were not.

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