The NFL is returning to normal in all the right ways on television. The league reported this week that its games are averaging 17.3 million viewers on streaming and TV. That mark represents its highest average viewership through four weeks since the 2015 season.
The minutiae in the numbers make the bounce back from the pandemic-shifted 2020 season even more impressive. NFL viewership is up 17% compared to last year. The amount of People using TVs has decreased by 8%, while the NFL’s share of TVs watching its games is up 26% compared to 2020.
Of the 21 most-watched telecasts in the country this year, every single one has been an NFL game. Award shows and a sprinkling of other events used to scatter on the list alongside the NFL matchups, but not anymore.
It all came to a head in Massachusetts on Sunday night as the league capped off their stellar month. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 19-17 victory over Bill Belichick and the Patriots was the biggest hit of the season so far.
The game’s final viewing numbers checked in at 28 million people with streaming and TV combined. That represented the largest TV audience since Super Bowl LV this past February. The game outrated five of the six wild-card games and two divisional round games from this past postseason.
Tom Brady is no stranger to this many eyeballs watching him. The total paled when compared to the record viewership of an NFL game, which a Giants-49ers Monday Night Football game set with 41.3 million viewers on Dec. 3, 1990. Yet, Brady teams hold the top three spots in terms of viewership for Sunday-only games.
Brady sells, and NBC was buying the storylines all night long before kick-off. The anticipation for Brady v. Belichick helped Football Night In America post the second-highest rating in its history (12 million viewers).
The death of football was always an overreaction, and the numbers coming out of this NFL bear that out.
Jim Nantz Believes Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Future In TV
“I’ve always said that is a guy that will be, if he wants to be, a great piece of television talent down the road.”
Every network is usually out there looking to find the former athlete who can have success in a second career as a broadcaster or a TV analyst. For Jim Nantz, he believes there is one quarterback out there that, if he wants a job in the business, would be the perfect guy for it.
During an appearance on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina, the name that Nantz mentioned was Ryan Fitzpatrick. He said his favorite thing about Super Wild Card Weekend was seeing Fitzpatrick with fans at the game for Buffalo’s playoff win over New England:
“My favorite thing I saw all weekend was Ryan Fitzpatrick,” Nantz told Traina. “What he did was one of the great validations for us fans that these guys actually care. We always want them to be one of us and we know they are getting paid a lot of money to play these games and play for our team, but do they really care? What does it mean to them?
“His [Fitzpatrick’s] journey has taken him to a lot of stops around the league. There he is, sub-zero wind chill factor, shirtless, man of the people, sitting in the stands cheering full-throated lustily for the Bills. That felt good. The fan side of me loved it. I just thought it said so much about him.”
While Nantz isn’t sure what Fitzpatrick has planned for his future after football, he thinks whatever the Harvard alum with the notable beard wants to do, it will be great.
“I don’t know what his second act is going to be, but I am going to predict it’s going to be huge,” Nantz said.
“There’s something about him. I’ve gotten to know him virtually every stop along the way in his NFL career and maybe he’s not even finished playing, but he wasn’t doing that to try to generate attention. He probably didn’t know the guy who shot that was going to post it. That’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has always had a way with a sense of humor and a way with phrasing things.”
One of the qualities that Nantz likes about Fitzpatrick is how real of a person he is and he would vouch for him if somebody asked:
“I’ve always said that is a guy that will be, if he wants to be, a great piece of television talent down the road,” said Nantz. “That’s there if he wants it. I would definitely make a run at him if somebody ever asked me. Maybe there’s something else he wants to do, but the thing is he is very real and that is a quality that’s worth a lot.”
Former Fox Sports Exec David Hill: ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ Is ‘Unlistenable’
“I think ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ is a disgrace. The broadcast feed is almost unlistenable.”
Former Fox Sports president David Hill is not a fan of ESPN’s current Monday Night Football broadcast crew, which he expressed bluntly in a conversation with the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand.
In the latest edition of his premium “Sports Clicker” newsletter (subscribe here), Marchand talked to the former Fox executive about his newest endeavor. Hill was contacted by Greg Norman about working on a new golf league. The challenge is to innovate the way golf is covered on television and attract an audience much younger than the average 65-year-old who watches the sport.
The only sport that isn’t struggling with how to present itself on TV and streaming these days is the NFL in Hill’s view. Having overseen Fox Sports when the network got into the NFL business, he has some clear thoughts on the current product. And he’s not a fan of what ESPN is doing with Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick on its showcase NFL broadcast.
“I think ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ is a disgrace,” Hill told Marchand. “The broadcast feed is almost unlistenable. I think that’s why they decided to use the Mannings.”
Though he didn’t go into specifics, Hill is a fan of the “ManningCast.” It’s likely that he believes the alternate broadcast does a better job of attracting viewers more interested in video games and consuming their sports digitally.
Hill also praised CBS analyst Tony Romo, NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, and Fox announcer Troy Aikman. His thoughts on Aikman probably shouldn’t be a surprise, though the Hall of Fame quarterback joined Fox Sports’ NFL coverage after Hill had moved on to an executive role for 21st Century Fox.
There’s no way of knowing if ESPN executives hold the same opinion toward the current Monday Night Football team. But that will surely be revealed by whether or not the network decides to bring the crew back for a third season.
Marchand reports that Griese’s contract is nearing its end, so a decision will obviously have to be made if the MNF trio is to return. So that could create an opening for Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, and Sean McVay, the three coaches reportedly attracting interest from TV networks.
ESPN previously talked to McVay about the MNF position in 2020. Of course, he has a chance to reach the pinnacle of the coaching profession if the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl. But maybe he’d want to go out on a high note.
Curiously, Riddick has not interviewed for either the Bears, Giants, or Vikings general manager openings after talking to the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars last year. But if that changes and Riddick moves to a team’s front office, ESPN would have to replace two broadcasters in its three-man booth.
Maybe ESPN will consult Hill on its future direction for the MNF booth. OK, probably not. But Hill certainly appears willing to consult.
Tony Stewart Joins Fox Sports Booth For Busch Clash, Daytona 500
“Tony brings Hall-of-Fame credentials and one of the most informative and entertaining voices in motor sports,”
NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart will hop in the FOX Sports booth as a guest analyst next month for the Busch Light Clash and the season-opening Daytona 500 alongside Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer.
“To call the very first Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum AND the Daytona 500 is an opportunity you don’t pass up,” Stewart said in a FOX Sports release. “The size and scope of both these races is massive, and it’s an honor to be a part of them with FOX. Anytime you get to talk racing with Clint and Mike, you’re going to have a good time.”
Stewart, the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, won three championships as a driver and last competed in the Cup Series in 2016. He also helped form the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) last summer, in which he ran all six races.
Former NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon had been in the booth since 2016, but was named Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports last summer. So Stewart will take his spot for the time being.
FOX has not yet announced a full-time replacement for Gordon.
Stewart is not totally green to the booth as he and Bowyer did get some reps together last season when they joined Adam Alexander for the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona.
“Tony brings Hall-of-Fame credentials and one of the most informative and entertaining voices in motor sports,” said Brad Zager, FOX Sports President of Production & Operations and Executive Producer.
“There is an obvious chemistry between Smoke and Clint, and there is no one better than Mike at bringing a broadcast all together.”
The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will air Sunday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. ET on Fox. The 64th annual Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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