Apparently, fans are very happy that football is back.
According to ESPN and other high-profile outlets, the NFL's 16-game opening weekend drew in a very large number of viewers, showing a 7% spike since last season and "having the second-highest TV ratings for Week 1 over the past five seasons."
Games ranked as top broadcasts for the week, "making it the largest Week 1 minutes total since 2016."
Per the #NFL and Nielsen, Week 1 games averaged 17.4 million viewers, a 7% increase on TV and digital over last season and the 2nd-highest Week 1 viewership over the last five seasons (2019 was better).— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) September 14, 2021
ESPN reported specifically that Monday night's dramatic overtime battle between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens averaged 15.3 million viewers between ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, the highest number for a Week 1 Monday Night Football matchup since 2013.
ESPN speculates the jump in viewership over last season is due to the game dynamic going "back to normal" following the pandemic-plagued 2020 campaign, but also that fans are more tuned into streaming services carrying the games than they have been in past seasons.
With those factors in mind, it is already being speculated that ratings for this season will continue to be the highest they have been in years.
Already seems like a fair chance this NFL regular season will challenge the record for most-watched ever by minutes viewed as measured by Nielsen. Current mark is over 375 billion minutes viewed in 2015.— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) September 10, 2021