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NFL TV Ratings Fell This Season as ESPN Posted 9.6% Decline

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Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League’s audience on major television networks shrank in the just-concluded regular season after the sport signed new nine-year broadcast agreements that will raise fees by 60 percent.

The overall audience for U.S. professional football fell 2.1 percent from a year earlier, according to Nielsen Co. data supplied today by Horizon Media Inc. Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN averaged 13.3 million viewers, a 9.6 percent drop that’s the biggest among the networks.

Sunday prime-time NFL games on Comcast Corp.’s NBC drew the biggest audience with 21.5 million viewers, 1.5 percent fewer than the previous season, Horizon said. News Corp.’s Fox averaged 20.1 million viewers, little changed from last year’s broadcast of National Football Conference match-ups. CBS Corp., which airs smaller-market teams in the American Football Conference, dropped 1.5 percent to average 18.4 million viewers.

Fox, CBS and NBC each renewed broadcast contracts with the NFL through 2022, with fees rising 6 percent to 7 percent annually, three people said last month. The league received about $4 billion a year in TV rights fees from companies that also include ESPN and DirecTV.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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