Opening week of the 2023 NFL season breaks record streaming numbers

USC students respond with how they watch NFL games

Photo of a Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

More than 22 million viewers tuned in last week to the first Monday Night Football game of the 2023 NFL season between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, making it the most-watched Monday Night Football game in history.

The game reached a peak of 25.2 million viewers and the overall viewership surpassed the previous record of 21.8 million from the 2009 Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game.

With the decline of broadcast and cable television, which currently account for less than 50% of all TV viewing, football fans across the nation are largely turning to streaming services. Amazon Prime Video, Peacock Premium, YouTube TV and NFL+ are just a few of the streaming services airing NFL games.

“I don’t get [NFL games] on my own TV, because I don’t have cable,” said Keely Roy, a graduate journalism student. “So I usually watch them at other places, like a sports bar, or at the athletic center. They’ll have them playing on the TVs, or if Amazon Prime has it, I’ll watch it on there.”

“I watched [Sunday’s] Cowboys vs. Giants game at my house on YouTube TV,” said Avi Kapadia, a junior business major.

Kapadia said he prefers streaming services, even though he finds them “slightly more difficult” to use than cable.

Pirating and illegal streaming websites have also become increasingly popular for sports game viewing.

“The [illegal] stream is honestly A1,” said Garret Harcourt, a graduate journalism student. “I just can’t check Twitter, because it’s like 10 seconds behind, so on Twitter, everyone will be like, ‘touchdown,’ and I didn’t see that yet.”

“I know you’re not supposed to, but I don’t think it’s morally bad because it’s expensive to have every TV service and in college, you can’t afford 10 TV services,” said Roy about illegal streaming.

For those who do use cable television, however, the dispute between Disney and Spectrum that left millions without access to ESPN and other Disney-owned networks was resolved just hours before the highly anticipated Monday night game. Charter, the company that owns Spectrum, and Disney settled their dispute and relaunched ESPN channels on Spectrum network, contributing to the high viewership numbers.

With the current media landscape, only time will tell if viewership will remain this high for the rest of the season.