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R. Thomas Umstead

Thanksgiving Holiday Serves Up Ratings Boost to NFL, College Football Telecasts: The Week in Sports Ratings

Rico Dowdle #23 of the Dallas Cowboys catch a pass for a touchdown during the first quarter in the game against the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2023 .

Viewers feasted on live sports programming during the Thanksgiving week, with pro and college football games generating huge viewership numbers.

NFL football games led the ratings onslaught, generating the three most-watched games of the year led by CBS's Thanksgiving day Washington Commanders-Dallas Cowboys game, which drew 41.76 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings published by SportsMedia Watch. The telecast was the second most-watched NFL regular-season game on record behind only last Thanksgiving’s Giants-Cowboys game, which drew 42 million viewers.

Fox's November 23 Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions game drew 33 million viewers, while NBC’s San Francisco 49’ers-Seattle Seahawks Thanksgiving evening game drew 24.78 million viewers.

CBS’s November 26 late Sunday afternoon NFL window – mostly featuring the Buffalo Bills-Philadelphia Eagles matchup -- drew 30.90 million viewers for fourth place on the chart. Also, the November 20 Philadelphia Eagles-Kansas City Chiefs Monday Night Football telecast averaged more than 29 million combined viewers across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN Plus, and ESPN Deportes – the biggest Monday Night Football audience for the Walt Disney Company since 1996, according to ESPN. 

On the college football front, Fox’s November 25 Ohio State-Michigan game drew a season-high 19 million viewers and finished as the most-watched regular season college football game in 12 years. 

The biggest non-football audience was Fox’s Thanksgiving day college basketball game between Michigan State and Arizona, which drew 5.18 million viewers, the largest regular-season college football audience in 15 years, according to SportsMedia Watch

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