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Sports Still Dominate Live Viewing: 45 Years of Monday Night Football

by Bart Brassil
September 10, 2015

As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Monday Night Football, the program still reigns supreme as cable’s most-watched series for the ninth consecutive year. It’s no surprise why. Many of the most significant, captivating moments in NFL history have been captured in the Monday Night Football telecast over the years. From the 1985 Chicago Bears’ only loss to the Miami Dolphins to the New Orleans Saints’ emotional return to the Superdome post-Katrina to the infamous “Fail Mary” that ended the Packers-Seahawks 2012 matchup and consequently the tenure of replacement referees, Monday Night Football keeps producing classics that attract record audiences to tune in each week.

As television viewers shift to DVR and video-on-demand usage, football remains unharmed by the change as live sporting events, especially NFL games, are one of the few programs consumers continue to watch live. Monday Night Football ranks at the top of advertising prices for cable programming with each 30-second spot costing brands approximately $400,000. That price has increased exponentially from the $65,000 advertisers were charged per minute in the very first Monday Night Football telecast in 1970. Sunday Night Football is television’s most expensive show for advertisers where each 30-second spot averages $593,700 for NBC. CBS is entering the network’s biggest year of NFL programming in 2015 including Thursday games, Sunday games, and the heavily coveted Super Bowl. A 30-second spot in Super Bowl 50 will cost you $5 million, up 11% from last year’s telecast.

In 2014, the NFL grossed $7.24 billion in revenue most of which was generated through television contracts with CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN. Throughout the 2014 NFL season, Monday Night Football averaged over 13 million viewers each week. So, in a world where analysts are eager to claim TV is dead, the magic of Monday Night Football is still very much alive 45 years later.