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Lions-Steelers preseason game draws huge audience (but 49ers-Texans ratings are still under review)

With the 2022 NFL season just around the corner, Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss teams that are giving off positive vibes.

The NFL continues to gather a live audience of humans to watch its product like nothing else. The latest evidence comes from Sunday’s viewership of the Lions-Sreelers preseason game.

Via CBS, the broadcast averaged 5.821 million viewers, a 65-percent increase over the 2022 CBS preseason game. The audience peaked at 7.597 million viewers.

It helped that the game featured a Steelers team that was resolving a quarterback competition and that played its starters for much of the first half. Adding to the intrigue was the presence of the Lions, this year’s Hard Knocks focal point and a club that is finally drawing from buzz.

Those numbers can be compared to all sorts of audience figures from other sports at other times. Here’s a fascinating nugget. The Sunday-afternoon-in-late-August audience surpassed the average audience for each of the five Christmas Day NBA games played in 2021.

Hawks-Knicks at noon ET? 2.924 million average viewers. Celtics-Bucks at 2:29 p.m. ET drew 4.933 million. Warriors-Suns, with a 5:13 p.m. ET tip, got 5.189 million. Nets-Lakers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, had 5.753 million. Finally, Mavs-Jazz did 1.519 million.

It’s amazing, really. The Lions-Steelers preseason game outperformed every captive-audience basketball contest on one of the biggest stay-at-home holidays of the year. (Of course, it didn’t help the NBA’s cause that the NFL had a couple of regular-season games on TV that day, too. This year, the NFL will stage three games.)

Potentially balancing out the Lions-Steelers rim-rocker will be the ratings from the Amazon Prime preseason game between the 49ers and Texans. Those streaming numbers, which were tracked by Nielsen for the first time, still haven’t been released.

As of Monday, the delay was attributed by Nielsen to “additional reviews prior to the initial external release” of the data. Whatever the final number, it’ll likely be much lower than 5.821 million.

The over-under? We’ll go with the audience from the NBA Christmas nightcap of 1.519 million. And we’d probably take the under, by a little bit.