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NFL exaggerated Sunday’s Bills-Jags Internet numbers

When the league first disclosed “33.6 million” in connection with Sunday’s worldwide live stream of the Bills-Jaguars game, the B.S. meter should have begun to blare.

Not long after that, the league reeled back its proclamation of 33.6 million streams to 15.2 million unique viewers for the Yahoo-only (except in Buffalo and Jacksonville) broadcast. But even that number is grossly exaggerated.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said on ESPN Radio that “over 15 million people were viewing the game.” The true number, however, is much lower. Apart from the fact that any calculation of unique visitors includes as multiple people those who dialed up the game from multiple devices (with a viewer who clicked on the game from a computer, a tablet, and a cell phone device counting as three visitors, not one), the apples-to-apples comparison to the way television ratings are determined reveals a much lower audience.

For TV, the key metric has become average viewers per minute. When, for example, a show has an announced audience of 15.2 million, it means that 15.2 million people, on average, were watching the game at any one time. There may have been a lot less, or a lot more, during specific moments of the show, but the show averaged 15 million for its full duration.

The Bills-Jaguars game on Yahoo averaged, according to SportsBusiness Journal, 1.64 million viewers. In contrast (and as noted by Peter King of, the Jets-Dolphins game from London, broadcast on CBS in the 9:30 a.m. ET window, had an average audience of 9.86 million. Of course, it’s unclear how Bills-Jaguars would have performed in comparison, especially since the home markets of the Jets-Dolphins game were much larger.

Regardless, the 15.2 million number that was pushed by the NFL doesn’t equate to the numbers publicized by the networks that televise NFL games. The real apples-to-apples comparison is that 1.64 million viewers tuned in for the game.

It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as great as the NFL and Yahoo would have everyone believe.

Meanwhile, Patriots fans are wearing their shocked faces.