One for the Record Books: Texans at Ravens Delivers Nearly 32 Million Viewers, Becoming ESPN’s Most-Watched NFL Game Ever

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One for the Record Books: Texans at Ravens Delivers Nearly 32 Million Viewers, Becoming ESPN’s Most-Watched NFL Game Ever

Please Note: This is the original press release that was issued on Monday, Jan. 22,  based on Nielsen’s Fast Nationals. Final numbers indicated an audience of 32.4 million. A new release, which is now the release of record, was issued on Tuesday, Jan 23, and can be found here https://bit.ly/48JXO74

  • Audience Surpasses Every NFL Game – Regular Season or Playoffs – on ESPN Dating Back to 1987
  • ESPN has Aired Its Five Most-Watched NFL Games Ever in Previous 13 Months
  • Record-Breaking Viewership Caps Landmark Year for ESPN and Monday Night Football

ESPN’s NFL Divisional Playoff presentation was a record-shattering showdown for ESPN, marking consecutive years in which the final game of the season was its most-watched NFL game ever, playoffs or regular season, dating back to 1987 when ESPN acquired NFL rights. The record viewership joins Monday Night Football in cementing a landmark season for the NFL on ESPN.

With an audience of 31.8 million – based on Nielsen fast nationals – Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (ESPN, ABC, ESPN+ on Saturday, Jan. 20) surpasses the 2023 Super Wild Card Monday night game featuring the Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (January 16, 2023) for ESPN’s top spot. Please note: ESPN’s audience is expected to elevate to more than 32 million when Nielsen reports final numbers this week.

The Texans-Ravens audience peaked at 36.2 million viewers in the third quarter (6:30 – 6:45 p.m. ET).

ESPN’s Five Most-Watched Games Ever Have Aired in Previous 13 Months; Multiple Monday Night Football Games Amongst the Records
With the addition of this season’s ESPN’s Super Wild Card Monday night game (Eagles at Buccaneers), ESPN’s three most-recent playoff games are also its three most-watched NFL games ever.

Inclusive of all NFL games, regular season and playoffs, ESPN has aired its five most-watched NFL games ever in the past 13 months (January 2023 to January 2024) and six of the seven highest-viewed games, buoyed by a record-setting 2023 Monday Night Football season.

ESPN’s Most-Watched NFL Games Ever, Dating Back to 1987

Rank NFL Season Date Game Viewership Monday Night Football or Playoff Game
1 2023-24 January 20, 2024 Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens 31,767,000 Playoff
2 2022-23 January 16, 2023 Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31,201,000 Playoff
3 2023-24 January 15, 2024 Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29,132,000 Playoff
4 2023-24 November 20, 2023 Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs 28,962,000 Monday Night Football
5 2023-24 December 25, 2023 Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers 27,616,000 Monday Night Football
6 2019-20 January 4, 2020 Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans 26,972,000 Playoff
7 2023-24 December 30, 2023 Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys 26,061,000 Monday Night Football

All ESPN produced Games. All games aired on, at least, ESPN and ABC, except Christmas Day game which was only on ABC.

The streak of most-watched games coincides with the implementation of the newest rights agreements between ESPN and the NFL, as well as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman joining Monday Night Football.

Texans-Ravens is Disney’s Most-Watched NFL Game Outside of Super Bowls
The Texans-Ravens’ 31.8 million viewers also marks Disney’s most-watched NFL game, excluding Super Bowls. The audience of 31,767,000 viewers bested all 24 Disney NFL Playoff games in the previous 28 years, including 14 exclusively on ABC (1996-2005), nine available on ABC and ESPN (2016-23) and one solely on ESPN (2015).  The game also surpassed every regular season game exclusively on ABC since 1996.

Please note: Disney’s ownership of ABC/ESPN began February 1996
Disney has aired Super Bowl XXXIV, Super Bowl XXXVI, and Super Bowl XL.

Texans-Ravens to Potentially Best All Early Divisional Playoff Games Dating Back to 2015
Looking across all networks, with its current viewership (31.8 million), ESPN’s game already surpasses every Divisional Saturday early game window (4:30 p.m.) dating back to 2015, except last season’s (Jaguars-Chiefs, 32.3 million). ESPN could surpass that viewership as well, needing only to boost its audience by 2% (500,000 viewers).

Playoff Success Cements Record Year for ESPN
ESPN’s record-breaking playoff viewership follows a history-making fall for Monday Night Football viewership. The 2023 Monday Night Football season is the franchise’s most watched since the 2000 NFL season, with viewership surpassing each of the previous 18 seasons in the ESPN era (2006 – present) and the five seasons leading into that era when MNF aired singularly on ABC. The franchise was up 29% year-over-year.

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Media Contacts:
Derek Volner: [email protected]
Lily Blum: [email protected]

 

Derek Volner

I currently lead ESPN’s NFL Communications, including Monday Night Football, NFL Draft and studio programming. Previously, I did the same for ESPN’s vast college football portfolio. I have been with ESPN since 2013.
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