ESPN’s Monday Night Football Off to its Best Start since 2014; Franchise’s Audience is Up Double Digits from Each of Last Five Seasons


ESPN’s Monday Night Football Off to its Best Start since 2014; Franchise’s Audience is Up Double Digits from Each of Last Five Seasons

  • Through Eight Weeks, 78 Million Fans Have Watched, Up from 2020 and 2019
  • Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli have Set Multiple New Viewership Records
  • Year-Over-Year Growth Seven of Eight Weeks
  • 2021 Season Debut Was Most-Watched MNF Game Since 2016, Jump Starting a Season of Superlatives
  • ESPN’s NFL Studio Shows Showing Strong Audiences; Monday Night Countdown Up 36% and NFL Live Up 24%
  • Regular Season Continues with Multiple Top Teams and MVP Candidates, Five Division Games, and Concludes with a Saturday, Playoff Implications Doubleheader in Week 18

ESPN’s Monday Night Football is achieving its highest viewership since 2014 and is up double-digits from every season since 2015, while also delivering multi-year highs on a week-to-week basis, setting new records for ESPN alternative telecasts through Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, and reaching more fans this season than in the previous two. Through the first eight weeks, the historic television franchise is also experiencing growth in all demos, including in the key young adults 18-24, 25-34, and 35-54.

The game success is the foundation for ESPN’s NFL portfolio, as multiple ESPN studio shows have experienced year-over-year growth as well, including 36% for Monday Night Countdown and 24% for NFL Live.

ESPN’s Monday Night Football and studio show success follows the Disney/ESPN-NFL landmark long-term rights agreement, which has resulted in immediate regular season expanded coverage and, coming, more postseason games and Super Bowls. The enhanced regular season concludes with the inaugural Week 18 Saturday doubleheader featuring games with playoff implications.

Monday Night Football Achieving Viewership Successes on Multiple Fronts, with Unprecedented Momentum
Monday Night Football is averaging 13.7 million viewers a game, its best average through eight weeks since the 2014 season. The season’s MNF viewership is also up double digits from each year since 2015 including up 17% from both the 2020 and 2019 seasons and as high as 29% from the 2016 season. Examining further, MNF is experiencing growth in all demos, including 16% in people 35-54, 12% in people 18-49%, 8% in people 25-34, and 5% in people 18-24. Females are up 17% for the season.

In totality, through the first half of the season, 78 million fans have watched Monday Night Football, up from both the 2020 and 2019 seasons, which had seen 76.2 million fans watch to this point.

The overall viewership is the result of weekly year-over-year gains, as MNF has been up in seven of eight weeks this season, with the outlier being week 2 when MNF also aired on ABC in 2020. Additional superlatives include:

Note: ESPN Deportes is included in individual game audiences, with the exception of Week 1; however, the network is not included in the season-to-date averages.

The 2021 season has also seen the debut of Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli deliver the four most-watched alternate telecast for ESPN since the concept was largely adopted in 2014. The alternate presentation has delivered a high of 1.96 million viewers, a 145% growth than its debut (800,000 viewers), and has averaged 1.83 million viewers in the most recent four episodes.

ESPN’s Most-Watched Alternate Telecasts (2014-Present)

Rank Alternate Telecast Date Viewership
1 Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli November 1, 2021 (Week 8) 1.96 million viewers
2 Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli September 27, 2021 (Week 3) 1.89 million viewers
3 Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli September 20, 2021 (Week 2) 1.86 million viewers
4 Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli October 25, 2021 (Week 7) 1.61 million viewers

Viewership reported by Nielsen for ESPN and ESPN2 includes streaming audience across ESPN and NFL.

Big Viewership Increases Continue with Studio Shows
ESPN’s NFL studio shows are also continuing great success this season, as documented through the first six weeks.  Now, season to date: Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1,577,000 viewers, up 36% this season and 21% from 2019, with NFL Live up 24% from 2020 and 17% from 2019, now averaging 394,000 viewers for the season. In October, those year-over-year gains for NFL Live ballooned to 26% and 19%, respectively.

Monday Night Football Has Featured Dramatic Games; Signature Matchups, MVP Candidates, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford and Tim Brady Decorate Remaining Schedule; Schedule Concludes with New Week 18 Doubleheader with Playoff Implications
Monday Night Football’s schedule has featured dynamic games, including multiple overtimes and three different games decided by three points. ESPN’s remaining MNF schedule features five division games, including Patriots-Bills (Dec. 6) and Rams-Cardinals (Dec. 13) in back-to-back weeks, and Browns-Steelers in Week 17 (Jan 3).  Additionally, the Rams are at the 49ers (Nov. 15), while Buccaneers host the Giants too (Nov. 22).  The Saturday Week 18 Playoff implications doubleheader (Jan. 8) matchups are to be announced.

The remaining MNF matchups will feature many stars, including front runners for MVP in Matthew Stafford (twice), Kyler Murray and Tom Brady.

Notes: All averages, including Monday Night Football and studio shows, are through Monday, Nov. 1. Data for this season begins the day of the NFL Regular Season, Thursday, Sept. 9. For comparisons, the 2020 time periods are the same time frame.

Monday Night Football has aired eight games through eight weeks. In all previous seasons, MNF aired nine games in the first eight weeks due to a Week 1 doubleheader.

Contact: Derek Volner ([email protected]



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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