High FIVE: Steelers-Bengals Drives ESPN’s Monday Night Football to 15% Year-Over-Year Audience Growth, Fifth Consecutive Week of MNF Viewership Gains


High FIVE: Steelers-Bengals Drives ESPN’s Monday Night Football to 15% Year-Over-Year Audience Growth, Fifth Consecutive Week of MNF Viewership Gains

  • Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Draws More than 12.7 Million Viewers; Final Full Quarter Hour Draws 13.9 Million
  • Monday Night Football Has Now Delivered Weekly Audience Gains for Majority of 2020 Season

ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecast of the Cincinnati Bengals’ upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers (8 p.m. ET) scored 15% year-over-year weekly audience gains continuing the franchise’s streak of weekly viewership growth. Based on next day reporting, 12,721,000 viewers watched Cincinnati’s 27-17 victory, which in addition to being up from last season’s Week 15 matchup (Indianapolis at New Orleans), was the franchise’s second highest audience in the previous 12 weeks (since Oct. 5), trailing only Buffalo and San Francisco which aired on ESPN and ABC nationally.

Monday Night Football Up Year-Over-Year the Majority of Weeks During 2020 Season
With the Week 15 viewership increase, ESPN has now delivered five consecutive weeks of year-over-year growth (November 23 and 30, December 7, 14 and 21), and has experienced year-over-year growth in the majority of weeks during the 2020 season (eight of 15 weeks). The network’s next day audience is now 11,605,000 viewers per game (through 16 games), which is just 451,000 viewers per game shy of last year’s average at the same point of the season.

Audience Strong as Upset Brewed
ESPN’s audience was very strong during the second half as the Bengals continued to hold onto the lead. Each full quarter hour beginning at 10:15 p.m. averaged 13.4 million viewers or more, with the last full quarter hour topping out at 13.9 million viewers.

Time (ET) Audience
10:15-10:30 p.m. 13,438,000 viewers
10:30-10:45 p.m. 13,352,000 viewers
10:45-11 p.m. 13,410,000 viewers
11-11:15 p.m. 13,878,000 viewers

Monday Night Football Tops All Television
Monday Night Football was Monday’s most-watched program on television (broadcast and cable) and also drove ESPN to be the most-watched network in primetime (8-11p.m.) among all key demos M18-34, M18-49, M25-54, P18-34, P18-49, P25-54, and P55+

Most-Watched Bengals Monday Night Football Game in Five Years
With more than 12.7 million viewers, last night’s game is the most-watched Cincinnati Bengals Monday Night Football game since 2015, surpassing their 2019 (at Pittsburgh), 2017 (hosting Pittsburgh), and 2016 (at NY Giants) games. Locally, Cincinnati delivered a 27.5 rating, the second best for the night behind Pittsburgh (39.8) and topping last season’s aforementioned MNF game local rating of 25.1.

The  top available markets.

Rank Market Local Rating
1 Pittsburgh 39.8
2 Cincinnati 27.5
3 Cleveland 16.1
4 Columbus 15.7
5 Baltimore 12.1
6 Kansas City 11.0
7 San Diego 10.8
8 Washington D.C. 9.9
9 Nashville 9.7
10 Seattle 9.5
Philadelphia 9.5

*Includes ESPN and OTA affiliate 

Monday Night Football Concludes Regular Season with AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
ESPN’s Monday Night Football will conclude its regular season with the AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills at the New England Patriots on December 28 (8 p.m. ET). The game will be televised on ESPN and simulcast nationally on ABC. Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters and John Parry have the call from Gillette Stadium.

Following the regular season, ESPN will air a NFL Wild Card game, which will be carried across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and Freeform as the network activates its MegaCast production. More information on those telecasts will be announced in the coming days.

Please note: 2020 Nielsen numbers now include out-of-home reporting and all comparisons are day after to day after, which includes a portion of the overall streaming audience. More metrics are available in the subsequent days following an event. Currently, full streaming audience not available for Week 15.


Derek Volner

I work in college sports, which includes football and basketball, with an emphasis on Olympic Sports. Additionally, I handle ESPN’s coverage of high school athletics and recruiting.
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