So much for the prolonged lockout cutting into fans' loyal interest in the National Football League. The league just announced its final TV viewer ratings for 2011, and to say the season was a smashing success for America's favorite professional sports league would be an understatement. Here's a few of the key metrics and records broken:
- According to The Nielsen Company, the 2011 regular season reached more than 200 million unique viewers.
- NFL games were watched by an average of 17.5 million viewers -- the NFL's second highest viewership average since 1989 (17.9 million in 2010), before the explosion of viewer choice on television and online.
- NFL games accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched TV shows among all programming and the 16 most-watched shows on cable last fall. In addition, a record 37 NFL game telecasts averaged at least 20 million viewers - topping the previous mark set last year (35) and up from 16 in 2006.
- NFL games continue to more than double broadcast primetime viewership. NFL games on CBS, FOX and NBC averaged 19.8 million viewers – 144 percent higher than the average primetime viewership among the four major over-the-air networks (8.1 million average on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC). That NFL advantage is up from a 66 percent edge five years ago.
- FOX matched 2010 for its most-watched season ever while NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football posted its most-watched season ever. NBC Sunday Night Football was the most-watched show in primetime for the second consecutive fall TV season. ESPN’s Monday Night Football continued as cable’s most-watched program for the sixth season in a row. CBS had its second most-watched season since acquiring the AFC package.
- NBC Sunday Night Football ranked as the most-watched primetime program for the second consecutive fall season averaging 21.5 million viewers. The Week 17 SNF game (Cowboys-Giants) was the most-watched Sunday primetime game in NFL regular-season history with an average of 27.6 million viewers.
- For the season, NFL games were the highest rated program locally 91 percent of the time – the second consecutive season topping 90 percent.
Crazyness. Congratulations to the league and all its partners who enjoyed yet another staggeringly successful season broadcasting NFL games to the masses.