NFL TV ratings rise in 2018 after two-year slide

The NFL’s television audience rebounded in 2018, offsetting two straight seasons of declines that had raised questions about the league’s on-field product.

The average NFL game drew 15.8 million viewers during the regular season, marking an increase of 5 percent compared to one year ago. Last season, games drew an average audience of 14.9 million viewers.

NFL games accounted for 46 of the top 50 telecasts in terms audience since the start of the season, the league said. Viewership of the NFL’s digital streams of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime rose 86 percent compared to 2017.

The most-viewed game of the season occurred in Week 12, when more than 30 million viewers watched the Dallas Cowboys defeat the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. Viewership of “Sunday Night Football” on NBC rose 6 percent and viewership of “Monday Night Football” on ESPN rose 8 percent.

The viewership spike occurred alongside a record offensive season. The NFL’s 32 teams set a new single-season record with 1,371 touchdowns.

NFL executives emphasized streamlined broadcasts and a faster pace of play this season in an effort to address the ratings decline. The league’s critics had attributed audience declines in 2016 and 2017 to several issues, including player national anthem protests and slow-moving games.