What Peacock’s Record-Breaking NFL Streaming Ratings Don’t Tell You


Is Peacock doing its touchdown dance too soon?

Over the weekend, NBCUniversal’s streamer delivered the most-streamed live event in U.S. history, with its exclusive NFL Wild Card matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins averaging 23 million viewers. Immediately, the accolades poured in, with headlines championing Peacock’s success, but experts say those audience numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“It was also the least watched playoff game of the weekend,” Ross Benes, Insider Intelligence analyst, said. “The Cowboys game broke 40 million.”

The matchup had all the makings of a ratings blockbuster, according to Benes, who pointed out the Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champs and the Dolphins had one of the top offenses in the league. In addition, the game had a Taylor Swift bump going for it, with the camera often cutting to the singer sporting her Travis Kelce-themed jacket.

Of course, when the numbers came in, the game’s viewership fell far behind the other five Wild Card matchups, coming closest to the Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles games, which both averaged 29.2 million viewers across streaming and linear.

“They probably lost at least 10 million viewers by making it streaming exclusive,” Benes said, noting viewership also came in from local television. “I do want to throw a little cold water on the NBC press release and say it was the most streamed event, but it was also the least watched game because it was streaming only.”

Thus far, the dropoff to streaming-only games continues to be significant.

For example, Prime Video’s exclusive Thursday Night Football streams averaged 11.86 million viewers per game, which was up 24% year over year, according to data from Nielsen. However, this season, NFL games have averaged 17.9 million viewers overall.

But as the industry continues its shift to streaming, Benes says there’s a precedent for success.

“Back when NFL games started going to cable, mostly on ESPN, there was a big dropoff. When ESPN got Monday Night Football, the ratings were down compared to when they were on broadcast networks,” Benes said. “But people got accustomed to that.”

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