‘Yellowstone’ TV Numbers Are NFL Sunday Night Football Big

by Suzanne Halliburton

So many fans flipped on Yellowstone and its season five premiere last week. Folks had gone months since seeing John Dutton and company, so it was safe to assume this episode was highly anticipated.

Now we have the numbers (and the context) to let all you Outsiders know how big of an audience Yellowstone drew.

The first rule of TV is that NFL primetime games bring millions of viewers. You can have your scripted dramas about specialized police or your singing reality shows. Nothing compares to football, especially Sunday Night Football.

Then the season five premiere on Nov. 13 proved that adage all wrong. Football can take a respectful knee because the Duttons were that quality opponent. More than 12 million viewers watched as John Dutton was sworn in as the governor of Montana. The demos spiked across the board.

Meanwhile, NBC’s weekly broadcast of Sunday Night Football averaged 11.1 million, So if you’re keeping score, it’s Rip and Beth 1, NFL 0. (But the NFL isn’t headed to the train station). As Yellowstone brought in the fans, the NFL shed them.

The football game featured an all-California affair. The Los Angeles Chargers faced off against the San Francisco 49ers. The home-team 49ers won 22-16. But the game wasn’t that dramatic in the second half. San Francisco’s defense held the Chargers scoreless for the final two quarters. Meanwhile, the 49ers used an old-school strategy. They ran the ball 41 times. Fans cheering on the 49ers or Chargers didn’t mind the specific action. They’d watch anyway. But it probably did not appeal to a broader audience.

Morgers. e people tuned into see the season five premiere of Yellowstone than the NFL Sunday game between the 49ers and Chargers.(Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The audience numbers dropped 25 percent from the Sunday before. Other network offerings suffered as well. CBS’ 60 Minutes was the highest-rated major network offering last Sunday at 6.7 million. Other CBS dramas also saw shrinking audiences, with The Equalizer and East New York dipping to season lows. NCIS: Los Angeles held steady.

We also need to add these significant details for better context. The NFL had only one outlet for Sunday Night Football. That was NBC. But the Yellowstone premiere was simulcast across a number of channels. Its usual home is Paramount.

Fans could watch the premiere on CMT, TV Land, VH1 and Pop. Add the numbers together and you get 12 million. The show also showed big gains in the demos.

We’re not sure, as yet, how Yellowstone compared with Sunday Night Football last night. For Yellowstone, there wasn’t the novelty of a premiere. Meanwhile, Sunday Night Football boasted a terrific quarterback matchup. Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs won the game in dramatic fashion. With the clock dipping below 1 minute, Mahomes tossed to Travis Kelce across the middle. Then Kelce blew up the Chargers zone with the go-ahead touchdown. It was Kelce’s second TD of the quarter and third of the game leading to a 30-27 win.