Cowboys-Raiders was NFL’s most watched game in over 30 years



On a day where Americans have a voracious appetite for food, it was matched by a desire to watch football.

CBS Sports announced Thanksgiving’s Cowboys-Raiders game had an estimated average viewership of 38.5 million, which would make it the most-watched regular season NFL game since 1990.

This number is “estimated” because it includes a combination of Nielsen’s Fast Nationals ratings plus an estimate from CBS of total out-of-home viewers “based on historical trends.”

The final number will be out Tuesday.

Out-of-home audience was not computed in quickly-available Nielsen metrics until last season – previously these numbers were not released until a good time later – but any way you slice it this is looking like it was a massive audience for CBS. Last year’s comparable game, Cowboys-Washington, averaged 30.3 million viewers on Fox.

The most-watched NBA game of the last 20 years, Cavs-Warriors Game 7 in 2016, averaged 31.02 million viewers. The Cubs winning the 2016 World Series in a tight Game 7 narrowly edged out Cowboys-Raiders, averaging 40.1 million viewers.

Cowboys-Raiders on Thanksgiving got enormous TV ratings.
Cowboys-Raiders on Thanksgiving got enormous TV ratings.
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Contributing factors to this number include the fact that the Cowboys are historically the league’s biggest draw, the game was close throughout and went into overtime, and sports numbers in general have been pretty robust this fall as fans have returned to the stands and less people are watching the news than during last year’s heated election season.


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