‘Thursday Night Football’ Sees Small Uptick in Viewers in First Fox Season

11-game slate was up 3 percent vs CBS and NBC in 2017

Chargers Chiefs TNF
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“Thursday Night Football” was good to Fox in its first season on the network.

The broadcasting company wrapped up its first year airing the “TNF” franchise this week, and ended up averaging 14.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That represented a slight 3 percent improvement over last year’s “Thursday Night Football” games that aired on broadcast, which were split evenly between CBS and NBC. It should be noted that the 14.3 million was across 11 games for Fox, while CBS and NBC collectively aired 10 games.

The stakes were arguably higher for Fox compared to CBS and NBC, who shared the “TNF” franchise the past two years. Not only did the network make the biggest financial bet — a five-year deal totaling more than $3 billion — the Murdoch-owned channel will soon be on an island after the 21st Century Fox sell-off to Disney.

But with a schedule that many on-lookers considered to be the strongest in the franchise’s brief history, Fox was able to post strong results.

The Nov. 29 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints drew 22.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched game in the history of “TNF.” This week’s game, an AFC West thriller between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs — which the Chargers won with four seconds left when they went for a two-point conversation to win, rather than tie the game and go into overtime — drew 17.4 million viewers.

“Thursday Night Football” has always been a strange beast when it comes to TV rights, not tied to a single network due to the NFL Network’s carriage deals with cable and satellite operators that require a certain amount of games to be exclusive to the channel. This means that the league-owned NFL Network has always had the rights to eight games exclusively, as well as a simulcast of the games that aired on broadcast TV.

Amazon Prime Video and Twitch delivered an average minute audience of 500,000 viewers, up 61 percent vs the Amazon-only stream in 2017.