- Final Nielsen Reporting Elevates Viewership to 31.2 Million
- Most-Watched NFL Playoff Game in Disney and ESPN History
- ESPN/ABC’s Largest NFL Audience Since Super Bowl XL in February 2006
ESPN’s presentation of Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, Jan. 16 (8:15 p.m. ET) is a record breaker for The Walt Disney Company and ESPN. The viewership was elevated to 31.2 million with final Nielsen viewership reporting (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes), driving the Super Wild Card finale to become the most-watched NFL Playoff game in Disney’s history and easily surpassing any NFL Playoff game that has aired, in part, on ESPN. Disney’s first NFL Playoff game followed the 1996 season.
This final viewership further elevates the status of the game, which previously was Disney’s second most-watched NFL Playoff game since 1999 based on Nielsen fast nationals – as reported on January 17.
The viewership of over 31 million viewers bested all 22 Disney NFL Playoff games in the previous 27 years, including 14 exclusively on ABC (1996-2005), seven available on ABC and ESPN (2016-22) and one solely on ESPN (2015). The viewership is up 35 percent from Disney’s Super Wild Card game concluding the 2021-22 season (Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams), the first Monday night Super Wild Card game. This weekend, across all networks, Cowboys-Buccaneers was most-watched primetime NFL Playoff game.
The Cowboys-Buccaneers audience peaked at 36.4 million viewers late in the first half (9-9:15 p.m. ET).
“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”
The Super Wild Card finale represented Disney’s first playoff game with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call. Lisa Salters was the sideline reporter, calling her ninth playoff game for Disney.
Cowboys-Buccaneers Among Disney’s Most-Watched NFL Games Ever
The Cowboys-Buccaneers matchup is also the most-watched NFL game presented by The Walt Disney Company since Super Bowl XL in February 2006. Excluding TWDC’s three Super Bowls, Cowboys-Buccaneers represents the second most-watched NFL game in Disney’s history.
Please note: Disney’s ownership of ABC/ESPN began February 1996
Disney has aired Super Bowl XXXIV, Super Bowl XXXVI, and Super Bowl XL.
Monday Night Countdown and NFL Live See Significant Growth
ESPN’s studio shows from Raymond James Stadium leading into the Super Wild Card Finale all saw significant growth year-over-year. Monday Night Countdown (6-8 p.m.) averaged 2,455,000 viewers and NFL Live in its traditional time (4-5 p.m.) averaged 801,000 viewers, up 27% and 35%, respectively, from the episodes leading into the 2022 Super Wild Card game.
ESPN Delivers Most-Watched NFL Season Including Playoffs
ESPN concludes its 2022-23 NFL game viewership averaging 14.8 million viewers per game (17 regular season games + Wild Card game), ESPN’s most-viewed NFL season since it began airing a Wild Card game (2014-15 season).
In Week 2, which is not included in the above season-to-date viewership, Monday Night Football featured two games with staggered kickoffs (7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.). During that special presentation, which will become a staple of Monday Night Football beginning next season, Disney platforms averaged 20.6 million viewers when Tennessee-Buffalo and Minnesota-Philadelphia were shown simultaneously during a two-hour period (8:30 – 10:30 p.m.). Additionally, Monday Night Football’s Week 17 game (Buffalo at Cincinnati) was also not counted in the 2022-23 season viewership.
ESPN’s Top 2022-23 NFL Season Superlatives:
- This season, ESPN has aired four of its top 13 most-watched games – out of more than 275 games – in the current rights era (2006 – present).
- Weeks 1 and 3 set new viewership records, delivering the best MNF audience in the ESPN era for each of those individual weeks, with audiences of 19.8 million and 19.4 million, respectively.
- Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli: Heading into the season, all 10 alternate telecasts had filled the list of ESPN’s 10 most-watched alternate telecasts. Adding in the 10 episodes this season, Peyton and Eli now hold the 20 most-watched alternate offerings in ESPN’s history, as all 10 of their telecasts this season added to their record-breaking ways.
- Week 8 when ESPN+ aired its most-viewed event ever when it presented Denver vs. Jacksonville from London