“Monday Night Football” had its strongest season in two years, wrapping up its 2018 campaign with an average viewership of 11.6 million over 17 games.
That represented an eight percent lift from last year (10.8 million) as well as a two percent increase from 2016 (11.4 million). For the second straight year, “Monday Night Football” was the most-watched series on cable in 2018, and made up nine of the top 20 most-watched cable telecasts this year. The most-watched game of the season was the Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams shootout on Nov. 19 — which the Rams won 54-51 in the highest scoring contest in “MNF” history — that averaged 16.7 million viewers, the most for “MNF” in two years.
The improved ratings for “Monday Night Football” continue the NFL’s bounce-back season, following a couple years of declining viewership as the league weathered multiple controversies, including criticism from President Donald Trump over player protests during the national anthem. But, that has largely faded from the public discourse, even as Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the movement in 2016, remains unsigned.
“Thursday Night Football” also saw a small viewership lift in its debut season on Fox, with its expanded 11-game slate averaging 14.3 million viewers, an increase of 3 percent from 2017, which was split between NBC and CBS.
The top 10 MNF metered markets this season were, in order: New Orleans (14.4), Norfolk (Va.) (11.6), Richmond (Va.) (10.9), Kansas City (10.6), Denver (10.5), Washington D.C. (10.1), Seattle-Tacoma (9.9), San Diego, Albuquerque (N.M.) and Phoenix (9.6).
ESPN debuted a new “MNF” announce team this season — Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland — following the departure of longtime analyst Jon Gruden, who returned to coach the Oakland Raiders this season. The rookie team was subject to heavy criticism, with Witten, in particular, drawing the most ire. But the group is expected to return in 2019.