NFL Dominates Most-Watched TV Broadcasts of 2021: By the Numbers

by Jonathan Howard
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The numbers are in for last year’s most-watched TV broadcasts, and the results are staggering. The NFL dominated the entire year.

It used to be that baseball was “America’s favorite pastime.” However, football is America’s favorite sport to watch. The folks over at Sportico gathered the information, and the results are not surprising but still shocking. Sports have collectively been very popular over the years. Now, the NFL has set itself apart from the rest.

Out of the 100 most-watched TV broadcasts in 2021, 75 were NFL games. Just to put that into further context, the Super Bowl Lead-Out show last year is #36 on the list. That was the series premiere of The Equalizer. Of course, the big game itself took the top spot with 91.6 million viewers.

Other notable marks in the top-100 include 10 Olympics broadcasts on NBC, seven college football games, four news programs, two college basketball games, and just two other miscellaneous programs. It is clear that football, particularly the NFL, is America’s favorite sport. Check out the tweet below and see the nice graphic that Sportico put together, shared by Warren Sharp.

No NBA games. Nothing from NHL, MLB, NASCAR… NOTHING! It really is amazing. College basketball’s March Madness is always touted as a big rating draw. However, only two games were able to make it into the top-100.

Breaking Down the Top-12

The great thing is that Sportico broke things down even further. When you look at just the top-12 most-watched broadcasts of 2021, it paints a very clear picture. The Super Bowl had almost 100 million viewers. Then, from there, it was the NFC and AFC championship games that finished out the top-3.

However, according to the numbers, those games had less than half of the viewers that the Chiefs and Buccaneers game brought in. The 2021 Playoffs had six games make the top-10. Check out the numbers below and see for yourself.

It truly is wild to look at these numbers. Even President Biden’s inauguration and Congressional Address weren’t able to hold a candle to the late Thanksgiving Day game in the NFL this year. If that doesn’t tell you there’s more connecting us than dividing us, I don’t know what will.

NFL Games Are Worth Their Weight In Gold

What has become clear is that if a TV network doesn’t have access to the NFL live broadcasts, they are missing out. Big time. NBC did well with their Olympics scheduling, but not as well as they could have. And, in comparison, is it really a comparison at all?

The top-100 live programs of the year could be broken down into just nine little emoji categories. Another sporting event doesn’t even come up until #42 and #43. And #43 was a college football game.

The NFL has established itself as the juggernaut of TV ratings. Nothing seems able to stop the domination—not even events that occur once every four years like the Olympics and the inauguration. How do executives of other pro sports leagues tackle this? I’m not sure there is an answer.