2013 Ratings Wrap: NFL Dominates List of Most-Watched Sporting Events

Posted by | December 31, 2013 at 6:52 PM

In an Olympic off year, the NFL dominated the list of the most-watched sporting events in the United States. If you want to jump straight to the lists, click on: the overall top 50, the top 50 non-NFL sporting events, or the top telecasts in each sport.

The 26 most-watched sporting events of 2013 were all NFL games, including sixteen in the regular season alone. The Ravens/49ers Super Bowl topped the charts (46.4, 108.7M), followed by the Ravens/Patriots AFC Championship Game (25.5, 47.7M) and the 49ers/Falcons NFC title game (24.2, 42.0M). The most-watched regular season game on the list was Raiders/Cowboys on Thanksgiving, which earned 31.7 million viewers and a 14.3 rating.

Overall, 46 of the top 50 sporting events were NFL games — and that does not include the Super Bowl power outage, which earned 106.6 million viewers.

The only non-NFL events to crack the top 50 were Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals and the national championship games of college football and college basketball. Overall, those four events were the only non-NFL sports telecasts to earn at least 20 million viewers in 2013.

Game 6 of the World Series finished just shy of 20 million viewers (19.2M), good enough to rank as the fifth-most watched non-NFL sporting event of the year. NASCAR’s Daytona 500 ranked 8th on the non-NFL list (16.7M), the Kentucky Derby ranked 11th (16.2M), and the final round of The Masters ranked #14 (14.7M).

Of note, four regular season college football games ranked among the top 25 non-NFL events: the Auburn/Missouri SEC Championship Game (14.4M, #19), the Michigan State/Ohio State Big Ten title game (13.9M, #22), the Alabama/Auburn “Iron Bowl” (13.8M, #23) and the Alabama/Texas A&M game (13.6M, #24).

The 50 Most-Watched Sporting Events of 2013

* Note: List does not include the early afternoon Week 17 NFL games. The CBS national window, featuring Ravens/Bengals, earned a 12.0 overnight and may rank among the top 50 when the final numbers are released.
For regionalized windows, featured game and percentage of markets listed [ex.: Jaguars/Rams (88%)]
# Date League Event Net
Rating
Viewers
1 Sun., 2/3/13 NFL: Super Bowl Ravens/49ers CBS
46.4
108.69M
Sun., 2/3/13 NFL: Super Bowl Power outage CBS
44.4
106.56M
2 Sun., 1/20/13 NFL: AFC Champ. Ravens/Patriots CBS
25.5
47.71M
3 Sun., 1/20/13 NFL: NFC Champ. 49ers/Falcons FOX
24.2
42.00M
4 Sun., 1/6/13 NFL: NFC Wild Card Seahawks/Washington FOX
21.5
38.09M
5 Sun., 1/13/13 NFL: AFC Divisional Texans/Patriots CBS
21.7
37.66M
6 Sat., 1/12/13 NFL: AFC Divisional Ravens/Broncos CBS
20.1
35.28M
7 Sun., 1/13/13 NFL: NFC Divisional Seahawks/Falcons FOX
19.3
32.10M
8 Thu., 11/28/13 NFL: Regular Season Raiders/Cowboys CBS
14.3
31.68M
9 Sat., 1/12/13 NFL: NFC Divisional Packers/49ers FOX
16.9
30.89M
10 Sat., 1/5/13 NFL: NFC Wild Card Vikings/Packers NBC
17.3
30.28M
11 Sun., 1/6/13 NFL: AFC Wild Card Colts/Ravens CBS
18.1
29.60M
12 Sun., 9/8/13 NFL: Regular Season Packers/49ers (94%) FOX
16.6
28.48M
13 Thu., 11/28/13 NFL: Regular Season Packers/Lions FOX
13.4
28.34M
14 Sun., 10/6/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Cowboys CBS
16.6
28.32M
15 Sun., 12/1/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Chiefs (86%) CBS
16.7
28.11M
16 Sun., 11/24/13 NFL: Regular Season Cowboys/Giants FOX
16.4
27.94M
17 Sun., 12/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Packers/Cowboys (83%) FOX
16.3
27.77M
18 Sun., 12/8/13 NFL: Regular Season Seahawks/49ers (78%) FOX
16.2
27.65M
19 Sun., 12/29/13 NFL: Regular Season Eagles/Cowboys NBC
15.5
27.36M
20 Sun., 9/29/13 NFL: Regular Season Eagles/Broncos (69%) FOX
16.1
27.00M
21 Sun., 11/17/13 NFL: Regular Season Chiefs/Broncos NBC
15.5
26.95M
22 Sun., 10/20/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Colts NBC
15.9
26.94M
23 Sun., 11/17/13 NFL: Regular Season 49ers/Saints (66%) FOX
15.5
26.94M
24 Sun., 10/13/13 NFL: Regular Season Saints/Patriots (86%) FOX
15.8
26.70M
25 Sun., 11/24/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Patriots NBC
15.6
26.48M
26 Sun., 9/15/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Giants (89%) CBS
15.8
26.42M
27 Mon., 1/7/13 NCAAF: BCS Champ. Alabama/Notre Dame ESPN
15.1
26.38M
28 Sun., 12/29/13 NFL: Regular Season Packers/Bears (63%) FOX
14.6
26.35M
29 Thu., 6/20/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 7 ABC
15.3
26.32M
30 Sun., 9/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Colts/49ers (81%) CBS
15.4
25.58M
31 Sun., 10/27/13 NFL: Regular Season WSH/Broncos (88%) FOX
15.3
25.50M
32 Sun., 9/8/13 NFL: Regular Season Giants/Cowboys NBC
15.0
25.40M
33 Sun., 10/20/13 NFL: Regular Season Ravens/Steelers (43%) CBS
14.8
25.32M
34 Thu., 9/5/13 NFL: Regular Season Ravens/Broncos NBC
14.9
25.13M
35 Sun., 12/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Patriots/Ravens (65%) CBS
14.2
24.20M
36 Sun., 11/10/13 NFL: Regular Season Broncos/Chargers (91%) CBS
14.3
24.07M
37 Sun., 11/3/13 NFL: Regular Season Steelers/Patriots (88%) CBS
14.3
23.99M
38 Sat., 1/5/13 NFL: AFC Wild Card Bengals/Texans NBC
14.4
23.60M
39 Mon., 4/8/13 NCAAMB: Final Four Louisville/Michigan CBS
14.0
23.43M
40 Sun., 10/13/13 NFL: Regular Season Washington/Cowboys NBC
12.7
22.07M
41 Sun., 12/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Panthers/Saints or Giants/Lions (23%) FOX
13.0
21.91M
42 Sun., 9/15/13 NFL: Regular Season Washington/Packers (58%) FOX
12.8
21.88M
43 Sun., 11/10/13 NFL: Regular Season Cowboys/Saints NBC
12.3
21.09M
44 Thu., 11/28/13 NFL: Regular Season Steelers/Ravens NBC
11.0
21.07M
45 Sun., 9/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Packers/Bengals (33%) FOX
12.5
20.90M
46 Tue., 6/18/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 6 ABC
12.3
20.64M
47 Sun., 9/15/13 NFL: Regular Season 49ers/Seahawks NBC
12.2
20.54M
48 Sun., 9/22/13 NFL: Regular Season Bears/Steelers NBC
12.2
20.51M
49 Sun., 9/29/13 NFL: Regular Season Patriots/Falcons NBC
12.5
20.49M
50 Sun., 12/8/13 NFL: Regular Season Singleheader CBS
12.0
20.24M

The 50 Most-Watched Sporting Events of 2013

# Date League Event Net
Rating
Viewers
1 Mon., 1/7/13 CFB: BCS Champ. Alabama/Notre Dame ESPN
15.1
26.38M
2 Thu., 6/20/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 7 ABC
15.3
26.32M
3 Mon., 4/8/13 CBB: Final Four Louisville/Michigan CBS
14.0
23.43M
4 Tue., 6/18/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 6 ABC
12.3
20.64M
5 Wed., 10/30/13 MLB: World Series Cardinals/Red Sox Game 6 FOX
11.3
19.18M
6 Sat., 4/6/13 CBB: Final Four Michigan/Syracuse CBS
10.2
17.10M
7 Tue., 1/1/13 CFB: Rose Bowl Stanford/Wisconsin ESPN
9.4
17.02M
8 Sun., 2/24/13 NASCAR: Sprint Cup Daytona 500 FOX
9.9
16.65M
9 Sun., 6/16/13 NBA: NBA Finals Heat/Spurs Game 5 ABC
9.5
16.27M
10 Thu., 6/13/13 NBA: NBA Finals Heat/Spurs Game 4 ABC
10.0
16.23M
11 Sat., 5/4/13 Horse: Triple Crown Kentucky Derby NBC
9.7
16.20M
12 Sun., 10/27/13 MLB: World Series Red Sox/Cardinals Game 4 FOX
9.4
15.98M
13 Sun., 3/31/13 CBB: Elite Eight Louisville/Duke CBS
8.8
15.65M
14 Sun., 4/14/13 Golf: The Masters Final Round CBS
9.4
14.70M
15 Sun., 6/9/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 2 ABC
8.5
14.57M
16 Sat., 4/6/13 CBB: Final Four Louisville/Wichita State CBS
8.7
14.47M
17 Mon., 10/28/13 MLB: World Series Red Sox/Cardinals Game 5 FOX
8.9
14.45M
18 Wed., 10/23/13 MLB: World Series Cardinals/Red Sox Game 1 FOX
8.6
14.40M
19 Sat., 12/7/13 CFB: Regular Season Auburn/Missouri CBS
8.6
14.35M
20 Thu., 6/6/13 NBA: NBA Finals Spurs/Heat Game 1 ABC
8.8
14.24M
21 Tue., 6/11/13 NBA: NBA Finals Heat/Spurs Game 3 ABC
8.5
14.05M
22 Sat., 12/7/13 CFB: Regular Season Michigan St./Ohio St. FOX
7.9
13.90M
23 Sat., 11/30/13 CFB: Regular Season Alabama/Auburn CBS
8.2
13.78M
24 Sat., 9/14/13 CFB: Regular Season Alabama/Texas A&M CBS
8.5
13.59M
25 Thu., 10/24/13 MLB: World Series Cardinals/Red Sox Game 2 FOX
8.3
13.43M
26 Sat., 10/26/13 MLB: World Series Red Sox/Cardinals Game 3 FOX
7.4
12.47M
27 Thu., 1/3/13 CFB: Fiesta Bowl Oregon/Kansas State ESPN
7.4
12.31M
28 Fri., 1/4/13 CFB: Cotton Bowl Texas A&M/Oklahoma FOX
7.2
11.94M
29 Sat., 11/9/13 CFB: Regular Season LSU/Alabama CBS
6.9
11.90M
30 Mon., 6/3/13 NBA: East Finals Pacers/Heat Game 7 TNT
7.1
11.57M
31 Sat., 3/30/13 CBB: Elite Eight Wichita St./Ohio St. CBS
6.8
11.29M
32 Sun., 3/24/13 CBB: Third Round Kansas/North Carolina CBS
7.0
11.24M
33 Tue., 7/16/13 MLB: All-Star All-Star Game FOX
6.9
10.96M
34 Tue., 1/1/13 CFB: Cap. One Bowl Georgia/Nebraska ABC
6.6
10.95M
35 Tue., 1/1/13 CFB: Orange Bowl FSU/Northern Illinois ESPN
6.1
10.56M
36 Sun., 3/24/13 CBB: Third Round Indiana/Temple CBS
6.8
10.55M
37 Wed., 1/2/13 CFB: Sugar Bowl Louisville/Florida ESPN
6.2
10.13M
38 Sat., 5/18/13 Horse: Triple Crown The Preakness Stakes NBC
5.9
9.70M
39 Sat., 11/30/13 CFB: Regular Season Ohio State/Michigan ABC
5.8
9.50M
40 Sun., 3/31/13 CBB: Elite Eight Florida/Michigan CBS
5.7
9.36M
41 Sun., 3/3/13 NASCAR: Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 (Phoenix) FOX
5.6
9.12M
42 Tue., 12/31/13 CFB: Peach Bowl Texas A&M/Duke ESPN
5.0
8.69M
43 Sat., 9/7/13 CFB: Regular Season Notre Dame/Michigan ESPN
5.3
8.65M
44 Thu., 5/30/13 NBA: East Finals Pacers/Heat Game 5 TNT
5.4
8.54M
45 Sat., 4/13/13 Golf: The Masters Third Round CBS
5.8
8.50M
46 Sun., 6/16/13 Golf: U.S. Open Final Round NBC
5.4
8.39M
47 Sat., 11/2/13 CFB: Regular Season Miami/Florida State ABC
5.1
8.35M
48 Wed., 5/22/13 NBA: East Finals Pacers/Heat Game 1 TNT
5.4
8.25M
49 Sat., 6/1/13 NBA: East Finals Heat/Pacers Game 6 TNT
4.9
8.24M
50 Mon., 6/24/13 NHL: Stanley Cup Final Blackhawks/Bruins Game 6 NBC
4.7
8.16M

The Top Events By Sport

Sport Date Event Net Rating Viewers
NFL Sun., 2/3/13 Ravens/49ers CBS
46.4
108.69M
CFB Mon., 1/7/13 Alabama/Notre Dame ESPN
15.1
26.38M
NBA Thu., 6/20/13 Spurs/Heat Gm. 7 ABC
15.3
26.32M
CBB Mon., 4/8/13 Louisville/Michigan CBS
14.0
23.43M
MLB Wed., 10/30/13 Cardinals/Red Sox Gm. 6 FOX
11.3
19.18M
NSCS Sun., 2/24/13 Daytona 500 FOX
9.9
16.65M
Horse Sat., 5/4/13 Kentucky Derby NBC
9.7
16.20M
Golf Sun., 4/14/13 The Masters, Final Round CBS
9.4
14.70M
NHL Mon., 6/24/13 Blackhawks/Bruins Gm. 6 NBC
4.7
8.16M
Soccer Tue., 3/26/13 United States/Mexico ESPN, UNI
1.4
6.96M
2.0
Tennis (W) Sun., 9/8/12 U.S. Open Final (Serena/Azarenka) CBS
4.0
6.17M
IndyCar Sun., 5/27/12 Indianapolis 500 ABC
3.7
5.70M
MMA Sat., 1/28/12 UFC on FOX 2 FOX
2.4
4.22M
Tennis (M) Mon., 9/9/12 U.S. Open Final (Nadal/Djokovic) CBS
2.4
3.43M
NNS Sat., 2/25/12 Drive4COPD 300 (Daytona) ESPN
2.2
3.36M
WCBB Tue., 4/3/12 UConn/Louisville ESPN
2.0
3.21M
WNBA Sat., 7/27/13 WNBA All-Star Game ESPN
0.6
791K

Ratings info from numerous sources, including: Nielsen, Sports Business Daily, ESPN, MLBPR, The Futon Critic, Son of the Bronx, TV By the Numbers; Sunday’s Packers/Bears viewership from TV By the Numbers.

  • bignasty96

    I bet Johnny Football helps the Peach Bowl crack the list. The Alamo Bowl came very close.

  • JR

    great article, happy holidays!