With NFL TV ratings fluctuating through the first three weeks of pro football’s return, the Chiefs-Ravens marked a major highlight for the league. In Kansas City’s 34-20 victory over Baltimore, the game averaged 14 million viewers.
The ESPN broadcast’s viewership numbers peaked around 9:30 – 9:45 p.m. in the first half at 16.2 million viewers. Outside of Kansas City, the top five markets for ratings included Baltimore, Denver, San Diego, and Pittsburgh.
A major cause for the lift in ratings is largely due to two MVP quarterbacks in the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson going head-to-head. According to Dan Cohen, the senior vice president of Octagon’s Global Media Rights Consulting division, the game’s large viewership displays the effect of star power in the NFL.
“Much like other sports, especially the NBA as a comparison, this speaks to the growing trend that athletes are driving a greater share of tune-in and engagement over the individual team itself,” he tells CNBC.
Furthermore, Cohen compares how the impact of popular players affects NBA ratings. “I may not be a Chiefs or Ravens fan, but I want to watch Mahomes and Jackson because I am a fan of one or both. Some may call this the ‘LeBron effect,'” he said.
NFL ‘Monday Night Football’ Ratings Strong, Overall Viewership in Decline
In Week 1 of Monday Night Football, the NFL reported a 17% drop in ratings compared to the 2019 MNF debut. While Thursday Night Football and NFL Sunday games may report declining ratings, ESPN says its MNF viewership is up 4%.
Neal Pilson, the founder of Pilson Communications, further explains how hugely popular players like Jackson and Mahomes drive viewership.
“These guys are the new face of the NFL, the two of them,” Pilson said. Moreover, he refers to Mahomes and Jackson as “household names.”
“It’s more than just the one game,” Pilson added. “It feeds the entire season, and that’s a plus. That’s why the NFL is the NFL, and nobody else is the NFL. You get these opportunities for national games and personal rivalries. It is what the NFL is designed to be.”