Peacock Game Likely Cost NFL More Than 10 Million Viewers

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

In case you hadn't heard through the chorus of complaints, Saturday's Wild Card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins was broadcast exclusively on Peacock, NBC's streaming service. While the network has been crowing about the 23 million viewers it received for that game, a closer examination shows the NFL likely cost itself millions of viewers by not having the contest broadcast in a traditional format.

As Sports Illustrated's Jimmy Traina pointed out, the league likely left 10 to 12 million viewers on the table. The Green Bay Packers' win over the Dallas Cowboys was broadcast on FOX and landed 40 million viewers, while the Detroit Lions' win over the Los Angeles Rams was on NBC and garnered 36 million viewers. In the weekend's only other game we have numbers for, the Houston Texans' win over the Cleveland Browns was also on NBC and got 29 million viewers. So, of the four games we have numbers for, the Peacock game had the lowest viewership. By far.

There are some obvious caveats here. First, we don't know how well the Chiefs-Dolphins game would have done ratings-wise in a traditional format. But, it was an NFL playoff game broadcast in prime time. On top of that, it featured the defending Super Bowl champions, the already popular Chiefs. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is arguably the best player in the NFL, and Taylor Swift was in attendance watching boyfriend Travis Kelce play. It's probably safe to say that other than the Packers-Cowboys game, it was the most anticipated contest of the weekend.

Yes, the NFL left a loft of viewers on the table by going with a Peacock exclusive. That said, it was likely a long-term play. The league has shown that highly-anticipated streaming-only games can get viewership. That means Amazon and other streamers will potentially be interesting in bidding on future playoff games. That will only drive the price up and, in the end, make the NFL more money.