World Cup final draws record ratings but NFL coverage still wins the week

Two soccer players on the field, one kicking the ball and his leg up high
France’s Eduardo Camavinga, left, and Argentina’s Lionel Messi in the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022.
(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)

Fox drew a record audience for its coverage of Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final but the game had fewer viewers than its NFL coverage that followed.

Argentina’s victory on penalty kicks over France after overtime ended in a 3-3 tie averaged 16.783 million viewers on Fox and Fox Sports streaming services, the most for a men’s English-language World Cup telecast in U.S. television history, according to figures released Tuesday by Nielsen. The previous record was 15.491 million for the 0-0 U.S.-England group stage game Nov. 25, also on Fox.

The Spanish-language coverage on Telemundo and Peacock averaged 9 million viewers, a 65% increase from the 5.5 million average for the 2018 final between France and Croatia.


Fox’s NFL coverage averaged 18.658 million viewers, 41% more than last season’s comparable window.

“Wednesday” moved into second on Netflix’s all-time list for viewership for an English-language television series in its first 28 days of release, with another 173.96 million hours watched from Dec. 12-18, increasing its total to 1.196 billion hours in its 26 days of release through Sunday, according to figures released by the streaming service. The fourth season of “Stranger Things” holds the record with 1.352 billion hours streamed.

“Harry & Meghan” was second on Netflix for the week, with 97.71 million hours watched of its six episodes, including its final three, which were released Thursday. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” was Netflix’s most-streamed movie, with 39.38 million hours in its first full week of release.

“60 Minutes” was the week’s top non-NFL program, averaging 9.594 million viewers, fourth for the week behind “Sunday Night Football,” the NFL Network’s telecast of Saturday’s Buffalo Bills-Dolphins game and the “Sunday Night Football” pre-kickoff show.

“Yellowstone” led all entertainment programs for the sixth time in the six weeks of its fifth season, averaging a combined 9.064 million viewers on Paramount Network and CMT, sixth for the week.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” drew its smallest audience of the season’s 15 games but still was the top-ranked prime-time program for the week of Dec. 12-18, with the New York Giants’ 20-12 victory over the Washington Commanders averaging 15.376 million viewers. The previous low was 15.534 million viewers for the Miami Dolphins’ 16-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Oct. 23.

An NFL program has led the ratings each week of the 13-week-old 2022-23 prime-time television season.

A special hourlong Christmas-themed episode of “Ghosts” averaged 6.999 million viewers, the most among the CBS comedy’s 27 episodes and tops among the week’s comedies. “Ghosts” was 10th overall and fourth among non-NFL programs.

The CBS crime drama “FBI: Most Wanted” led the ratings for programs beginning at 10 p.m., averaging 4.997 million viewers, 15th for the week and ninth among non-NFL programs.


The CBS legal drama “So Help Me Todd” was the highest-rated new series, averaging 4.696 million viewers, 17th for the week and 11th among non-NFL programs.

The combination of “Sunday Night Football” and five hours of “The Voice” put NBC at the top of the network rankings for the 11th time in the season, averaging 5.57 million viewers. The only weeks NBC did not win this season came when Fox aired coverage of the World Series.

NBC’s top non-NFL programs were the two-hour season finale episodes of “The Voice” on Tuesday and its Monday edition, which respectively averaged 6.948 million and 6.897 million viewers, fifth and sixth among non-NFL programs and 11th and 12th overall. An additional hour of “The Voice” that ran before the season finale was 14th for the week, averaging 5.3 million viewers.

CBS was second for the week, averaging 4.51 million, and ABC third, 2.66 million.

ABC’s ratings leader was “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration,” 20th for the week, averaging 4.26 million viewers.

Fox averaged 1.25 million viewers, with its top-rated program “WWE Friday Night Smackdown,” 48th for the week averaging 2.191 million viewers.

The CW averaged 460,000 viewers. Its biggest draw was the 90th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, which averaged 750,000 viewers, 124th among broadcast programming.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of three NFL games; five NFL pregame shows; “60 Minutes”; “Yellowstone”; five CBS scripted programs and its alternative series “Survivor”; all three episodes of the NBC singing competition “The Voice”; and “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration.”

Saturday’s Buffalo-Miami game on NFL Network led all cable programming, averaging 11.058 million viewers, second for the week.

ESPN returned to the top of the cable network ratings after a one-week absence, averaging 1.975 million viewers for its sixth first-place finish in eight weeks. Fox News Channel dropped one spot to second, averaging 1.941 million viewers.

Hallmark Channel rose one spot to third, averaging 1.194 million viewers. MSNBC dropped one spot to fourth, averaging 1.067 million viewers. Paramount Network was the only other cable network to average more than 1 million viewers for its prime-time programming, averaging 1.019 million viewers.

The cable top 20 consisted of two NFL games and two NFL pregame shows; “Yellowstone” and the premiere of its prequel “1923,” which followed it on Paramount Network and CMT; 12 Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows (five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” and two of “The Ingraham Angle”); History’s long-running chronicle of a search for treasure on a Canadian island, “The Curse of Oak Island”; and the Hallmark Channel movie “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”