What was the most watched NFL regular season game?

Turns out the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game was the most watched regular season NFL game in history. That is correct. History!

Counting streaming, because that is a growing area for how viewers consume content, 42 million people watched the game. When you consider Dallas pulled away in the second-half but the audience held, it is quite a statement as to how the most popular sports leagues in the USA holds an audience. Although some might add, with legalized betting, that is another reason the league holds sway over the country. And that is a subject for another day, as the Giants late-game TD proved costly to those who bet the Cowboys, a 10-point favorite.

To put the game’s ratings in perspective, the regular season contest blew out the sixth and final game of the World Series, won by the Houston Astros over the Philadelphia Phillies. That game attracted only 12.5 million viewers. In other words, baseball is as much America’s National Pastime as boxing and horse racing. It’s not. The NFL is king, followed by college football. Everyone else comes in a distant second. That is why, even in a tenuous economy, advertisers keep running to the NFL.

Don’t expect the blueprint to change anytime soon.

NFL ratings dip

NFL ratings for the first two rounds of the post-season are “down” but every other sports league would settle for the league’s numbers. To put it in perspective, the last time a non-NFL program came close to NFL ratings was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.

What is interesting is the Sunday NFL game between Tampa Bay and New Orleans was down 10%. That was the game featuring Tom Brady for the Bucs and Drew Brees – in his last game – for the Saints at quarterback. Still, attracting 35.46 million viewers for a second round playoff game is nothing to sneeze at.

A quarterback matchup between two heavyweights would seem to be a large attraction, but one needs to wonder how much the pandemic has impacted sports in general. In other words, with limited or no attendance permitted, out of sight might mean out of mind.

The big test will be this weekend, when the Bucs travel to Green Bay for the NFC Championship game. Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers, Bucs vs. one of the league’s signature franchises, should be enough to mobilize near, record ratings. Count me among those who will be watching.