NFL regular-season games averaged 17.9 million viewers in 2023, tied for the second highest since averages were first tracked in 1995.

Buoyed by increases of at least 24% in two of the five packages, the first year of the league's new television contracts saw a total increase of 7% from last season.

The highest average on record is 18.1 million from the 2015 season.

Hans Schroeder, the league's executive vice president of media distribution, pointed to the number of teams still alive for the postseason going into the final two weeks along with close games throughout the 18-week regular season. Of the 272 games, 113 were decided by six or fewer points, the second-most in league history.

1 Related

Over the past two seasons, 55.8% of games have been within one score (eight points).

"It starts on the field. You look at the number of close games as well as the number of young stars like CJ Stroud and old stars like Matthew Stafford that probably didn't get enough coverage," Schroeder said. "If you look at that as well as combine with the first year of these new TV packages and some of the flexibility they had, I think that is why the numbers are where they are this year."

Four of the five broadcast and streaming networks saw increases in their overall packages.

'Monday Night' milestone

"Monday Night Football," the NFL's original prime-time package, had its best season since 2000, averaging 17.36 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC for a whopping 29% increase.

With no new original fall programming due to the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, ABC broadcast games all 18 weeks of the regular season -- 11 more compared to 2022 -- instead of just nine over eight weeks as originally set when the schedule was announced in early May.

Next season, ABC is expected to go back to at least two Monday night simulcasts with ESPN, three exclusive MNF games when there are doubleheaders and the two Saturday Week 18 contests.

Overall, it was the best season since the package moved to ESPN in 2006 and the most-watched season in 23 years.

The four most-watched games since 2000 all happened this season. The Nov. 20 game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, a Super Bowl LVII rematch, averaged 29.03 million, followed by Ravens at 49ers on Dec. 25 (27.65 million), Lions at Cowboys on Dec. 30 (26.11 million) and Bills at Jets (22.67 million).

Huge gains on Thursday night

According to Nielsen figures, the 16-game "Thursday Night Football" package on Amazon Prime Video averaged 11.86 million viewers, a 24% increase over last year's inaugural season. All but three of the weeks saw double-digit increases over 2022.

The median age of Prime Video's audience was 48.5 years old, 6.9 years younger than the average median age of viewers watching the NFL on Sunday (55.4).

Two games saw more than 15 million viewers: the Nov. 30 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Cowboys (15.3 million) and Prime Video's first game on Sept. 14 when the Eagles hosted the Minnesota Vikings (15.1 million). The most-watched game in 2022 was the opener between the Los Angeles Chargers and Chiefs (13.0 million).

Overall, 12 games averaged more than 10 million, doubling 2022.

Momentum for CBS

CBS averaged 19.35 million, its most-watched regular season since pro football returned to the network in 1998 and an increase of 5% over 2022.

The 10 Sunday national game windows at 4:25 p.m. ET averaged 24.64 million, an increase of 4.7% from the 23.50 million of last year.

The Thanksgiving Day game between the Washington Commanders and the Cowboys was the most-watched regular-season game on any network, averaging 41.76 million.

CBS will air Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Feb. 11.

'Sunday Night' lights

NBC's "Sunday Night Football" package had a 21.4 million average, its best viewership since 2015 and an 8% increase over last year.

The package had six games average at least 25 million, tying the mark set in 2013. The top game was the Sept. 7 opener between the Lions and Chiefs, which drew 27.5 million.

Fox's 30th season

Fox saw a 2% drop in its overall number (19.42 million), but the late window was up 2% (24.62 million). That is the best performance for the 4:25 p.m. ET games since 2015 despite blowouts on seven of the 10 dates.

The Thanksgiving Day game between the Green Bay Packers and Lions was its most-watched, averaging 33.7 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.