NFL Games Cast a Wide Net on Turkey Day

Fox, CBS and NBC Broadcast Boast Huge Co-Viewing Numbers

By Published on .

Credit: Rhonda Wise_Bloomberg

Sozzled on tryptophan, carbohydrates and pills filched from mom's medicine cabinet, tens of millions of Americans this Thursday will celebrate our nation's second-greatest secular holiday with a 14-hour bacchanal of TV and turkey meat. And in an increasingly rare show of multigenerational TV viewing, much of that couch-locked interval will be an all-ages affair.

According to Nielsen, the annual Turkey Day NFL broadcasts on Fox, CBS and NBC account for more co-viewing than any other TV event outside of the Super Bowl. And while the data can be diced and sliced to accommodate any relevant demographic subsets, two that are of particular interest to advertisers are teens and adults 25-54.

For example, last year Fox broadcast the season's most-watched regular-season NFL game, as the Thanksgiving Day showdown between NFC East rivals Philadelphia and Dallas delivered 32 million total viewers. Mark Sanchez and the Eagles treated the Cowboys to a 33-10 drubbing in a late-afternoon game in which co-viewing between teens 12-17 and adults 25-54 reached 20%. In other words, one-fifth of all the households that tuned in to the game included at least one viewer from each demo.

CBS's year-ago Bears-Lions grudge match also scared up a big multigenerational crowd. All told, 29.4 million fans watched Detroit spoil Chicago's holiday by a 34-17 margin, and per Nielsen, co-viewing between teens and adults reached 18%. And while the primetime T-Day broadcast wasn't much fun to watch (22.9 million fans endured Seattle's methodical 19-3 vivisection of San Francisco), co-viewing remained amplified at 16%.

By way of comparison, some of last year's other high-level co-viewing events include CBS's coverage of the 57th Annual Grammy Awards (25.3 million viewers, 14% co-viewing), ABC's presentation of the 87th Academy Awards (37.3 million, 14%) and NBC's 72nd Golden Globe Awards broadcast (19.3 million, 10%).

That the Thanksgiving NFL slate puts up such outsized co-viewing numbers is of little surprise, given that the average holiday crowd features a mélange of rug rats, runny-nosed grade-school types, sullen teens, insufferable college students, weird uncles, your stepdad Terry and that gentleman friend of grandma's who smells of turpentine. But as it turns out, even in the absence of the turkey and all the trappings, the NFL is still TV's biggest driver of co-viewing.

Per Nielsen, 14% of all deliveries for Fox's Sunday afternoon games include teen-adult co-viewing, while CBS's Sunday NFL package boasts 13% co-viewing, up a tick from NBC's "Sunday Night Football" (12%). ESPN's "Monday Night Football" and the CBS/NFL Network simulcasts of "Thursday Night Football" tie the Big Four network primetime entertainment average at 10%.

As it happens, Fox this year looks to have been saddled with a particularly uninspired game, as it will broadcast the meeting between a 4-6 Eagles squad and the 3-7 Lions. CBS may have a more intriguing matchup on its hands as Cam Newton and the Panthers take on a 3-7 Cowboys team that's been revitalized by the return of star QB Tony Romo. NBC caps the festivities with a NFC North scrap between the 4-6 Bears and 7-3 Packers.

As Thanksgiving is quite literally the last stop before Black Friday, tomorrow's games are expected to feature a greater number of ads devoted to consumer tech/telco (Apple, Microsoft, Android), retail (Target, Walmart), and the inevitable barrage of "engagement season" messaging for the likes of Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared. And naturally, the endemic categories (auto, QSR, insurance, movies) also will be well represented.

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