The NFL had its highest Thanksgiving ratings since 1998

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  • The NFL’s 2021 Thanksgiving Day Games drew an average of 29.7 million spectators and highlighted the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. That game attracted an average of 38.3 million viewers.

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America loves football on Thanksgiving, and the National Football League remains the beneficiary.

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The NFL said it had the most spectators at its Thanksgiving games since 1998, highlighted by the Dallas Cowboys playing the Las Vegas Raiders.

CBS aired a late afternoon game that featured the Cowboys falling to the Raiders in overtime, 36–33. The NFL said the competition had an average of 38.3 million viewers on TV and streaming.

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It was the most-watched NFL regular-season game since December 1990, when the New York Giants played the San Francisco 49ers. That game featured star quarterbacks Phil Sims and Joe Montana and averaged 41.5 million spectators.

Fox Sports broadcast the opening Thanksgiving Day game in which the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions 16–14. The contest averaged 26.7 million viewers. And NBC, which shares a parent company with CNBC, aired the evening game between the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans, which averaged 19.9 million viewers.

In total, the NFL’s three Thanksgiving Day games averaged 29.7 million viewers on CBS, Fox, and NBCUniversal. The NFL noted that the trio of games was the most watched since the 1998 season, and viewers consumed a record-high 17.1 billion live minutes of 2021 Thanksgiving Day games.

The 2021 audience average is also up 9% from last year’s Thanksgiving Games, which averaged 27.1 million spectators between the two competitions. The third scheduled game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed last year due to Covid.

The 2019 Thanksgiving Day Games were watched by an average of 27.4 million viewers.

The NFL said the 2021 games had an average of 16.4 million viewers through Week 10 on TV and streaming platforms.

The Cowboys are now included in the four most-watched sports of the league. These include the season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which averaged 24.8 million viewers; The team’s Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, averaging 24.3 million viewers; and a Week 6 win over the New England Patriots, which drew an average of 23.2 million viewers.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are both owned by NBCUniversal.


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