Americans Love Them Some NFL: League Dominates TV Again in 2012

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 06, 2013

The following information comes from the NFL:

Football fans tuned into the 2012 NFL season in big numbers.  According to The Nielsen Company, the 2012 regular season reached 200 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 69 percent of potential viewers in the U.S.

NFL games accounted for 31 of the 32 most-watched TV shows among all programming last fall (chart below).

For the first time ever, an NFL game was the week’s most-watched TV show in all 17 weeks of the season.  NFL games ranked 1-2 in viewership in 15 of the 17 weeks.

NFL games continued to more than double broadcast primetime viewership. NFL games on CBS, FOX and NBC averaged 19.3 million viewers – 154 percent higher than the average primetime viewership among the four major over-the-air networks (7.6 million average on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC). That NFL advantage is nearly triple the 52 percent edge of a decade ago (chart below). 

Locally, an NFL game was the highest-rated show in NFL markets a record 93 percent of the time – marking the third consecutive season topping 90 percent. In addition, NFL games were the highest rated show in all 30 markets for the week a record five times this season. Previously there were four “30 for 30” weeks in the full 2010 and 2011 seasons.


More 2012 NFL TV highlights:

NBC Sunday Night Football ranked as the most-watched primetime program for the third consecutive fall season averaging 21.4 million viewers. The Week 17 SNF game (Cowboys-Redskins) was the most-watched Sunday primetime game in NFL regular-season history with an average of 30.3 million viewers. Last year (2011-12), Sunday Night Football became the first sports series to rank as the most watched television show for the full fall-spring TV season.

Sunday late afternoon NFL games continue to draw more viewers than anything on TV. FOX  averaged 24.8 million viewers for its Sunday national telecasts and CBS averaged 23.0 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 games accounted for the 45 most-watched programs on television (since Sept. 5) among adults aged 18-49 – with CBS, FOX, ESPN and NBC each represented on that list.

ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the most-watched series on cable for the seventh consecutive year with an average of 12.8 million viewers. 

With an expanded 13-game package, NFL Network wrapped up its seventh season of Thursday Night Football with a record average of 7.3 million viewers (including the audience from over-the-air stations in local markets) and ranked as the most-watched Thursday program on cable last fall.

NFL Network’s average weekday primetime viewership jumped 45 percent from 2011.

Fans visited the NFL’s digital media platforms including, NFL Mobile from Verizon and other NFL mobile products in record numbers with 1.4 billion visits via multiple access points – up 35 percent from last year.



NFL on






% Advantage

2002 Avg. Viewers

15.8 million

10.3 million


2003 Avg. Viewers

15.5 million

9.9 million


2004 Avg. Viewers

15.4 million

9.8 million


2005 Avg. Viewers

15.6 million

9.7 million


2006 Avg. Viewers

16.3 million

9.8 million


2007 Avg. Viewers

16.6 million

8.7 million


2008 Avg. Viewers

16.6 million

8.8 million


2009 Avg. Viewers

18.4 million

8.5 million


2010 Avg. Viewers

20.0 million

8.2 million


2011 Avg. Viewers

19.8 million

8.1 million


2012 Avg. Viewers

19.3 million

7.6 million


Source: NFL & The Nielsen Company. NFL regular season on Broadcast television

(CBS, FOX & NBC…ABC prior to 2006).  Broadcast primetime on BIG 4 networks (ABC, CBS, NBC & FOX) all programs, NFL regular season dates used.


For the season, NFL games rank as 31 of the 32 most-watched TV shows since Labor Day. Following are the most-watched programs this fall:



1. NBC Sunday Night Football (Cowboys-Redskins), 12/30

30.3 million

2. FOX Thanksgiving Game (Redskins-Cowboys), 11/22

28.7 million

3. NBC Sunday Night Football (Steelers-Broncos), 9/9

27.6 million

4. CBS Thanksgiving Game (Texans-Lions), 11/22

27.3 million

5. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-Cowboys), 10/28

26.9 million

6. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Cowboys), 12/16

26.9 million

7. FOX Sunday National (mostly Packers-Vikings), 12/30

26.4 million

8.FOX Sunday National (mostly 49ers-Packers), 9/9

26.4 million

9. FOX Sunday National (mostly 49ers-Saints), 11/25

24.9 million

10. CBS Sunday National (mostly Broncos-Patriots), 10/7

24.5 million

11. FOX Sunday National (mostly Saints-Giants), 12/9

24.5 million

12. FOX Sunday National (mostly Cowboys-Eagles), 11/11

24.3 million

13. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-Ravens),12/23

24.2 million

14. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Giants), 11/4

24.2 million

15. CBS Sunday National (mostly Texans-Broncos), 9/23

24.0 million

16. NBC Wed. Night Kickoff Game (Cowboys-Giants), 9/5

23.9 million

17. CBS Sunday National (Indy-NE & SD-Den), 11/18

23.6 million

18. NBC Sunday Night Football (49ers-Patriots), 12/16

23.2 million

19. CBS Sunday National (mostly Steelers-Ravens), 12/2

23.0 million

20. CBS Sunday National (mostly Jets-Patriots), 10/21

23.0 million

21. FOX Sunday National (mostly Giants-49ers), 10/14

22.8 million

22. NBC Sunday Night Football (Giants-Eagles), 9/30

22.8 million

23. NBC Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, 11/22

22.4 million

24. FOX Sunday National (mostly Saints-Packers), 9/30

22.3 million

25. NBC Sunday Night Football (Cowboys-Falcons), 11/4

21.8 million

26. FOX Sunday Single (mostly NYG-ATL & GB-Chi), 12/16

21.4 million

27. NBC Sunday Night Football (Lions-Packers), 12/9

21.4 million

28. NBC Sunday Night Football (Lions-49ers), 9/16

21.3 million

29. NBC Sunday Night Football (Patriots-Ravens), 9/23

21.3 million

30. FOX Sunday Single (mostly Minn-GB & TB-Den), 12/2

20.9 million

31. NBC Sunday Night Football (Texans-Bears), 11/11

20.9 million

32. NBC Sunday Night Football (Packers-Giants), 11/25

20.9 million

Source: NFL & The Nielsen Company


From our partners

Team Pages

Connect With Us
Sign up for our newsletter to recieve all the latest news and updates...

The Football Nation Network

© Copyright 2015 Football Nation LLC. Privacy Policy & Terms of Use   Logout
Some images property of Getty Images or Icon/SMI