Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Did ratings for Oprah’s Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview measure up against the NFL postseason?

More than 17 million viewers tuned in yesterday to watch a conversation between three extraordinarily wealthy people.
More than 17 million viewers tuned in yesterday to watch a conversation between three extraordinarily wealthy people.
Photo: Getty Images

For years, I felt like the only person who didn’t watch Game of Thrones. On Monday mornings in the spring and summer, I would leave my friends and social media to talk about who got killed, who got screwed, or which dragon appeared.

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The HBO hit followed the same reaction schedule as pro football; Sunday night event, Monday morning conversation, end-of-week hype/anticipation. Rinse and repeat.

This morning, I found myself in a similar situation to years past. It felt like I was the only one who didn’t tune in to Oprah’s Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview. The CBS program drew a staggering 17.1 million viewers.

When Game of Thrones wrapped up in 2019, I was sure we saw the end of traditional TV viewership. We don’t watch shows together anymore, we stream them or subscribe to an on-demand service. Sport events, it seemed, were the last vestige of live TV.

Apparently not. At least, not yet.

Like live presidential debates and some top-tier award shows, celebrity interviews can still score big ratings, I guess. How big? Well, for some context, Oprah’s interview grabbed more eyeballs than the average NFL regular-season game in 2020 — which was 15.4 million, according to Nielsen.

Last year, seven of the 10 most-watched broadcasts were NFL games. If anyone can give the NFL a run for its money in this digital age, that’s impressive.

Last night’s interview, however, still does not touch 2021 NFL postseason viewership. The six games of wild-card Weekend drew an average of 24.3 million viewers, the four divisional games averaged 30.6 million, and both matchups on championship Sunday drew over 41 million each. Super Bowl viewership in 2021 dropped to 96.4 million, but it will still be the most watched TV show of the year, as it is pretty much every year.

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As for the other sports, Oprah’s interview beat pretty much everything else. But if you want another comparison, last night’s viewership numbers are similar to a few NBA finals games (excluding 2020, of course) and the 2017 World Series, which went seven games.

The Game of Thrones finale drew 13.6 million live viewers, but reached a grand total of 19.3 million with streaming. Although the show dominated Monday morning conversations, GOT could never beat NFL postseason numbers. No one, not even Oprah, can.