While more TV content is available on demand than ever before, TV audiences are still eager to watch key programming live. And some of these big moments are getting viewers off the couch and out of the house. Whether they’re viewing in a bar with friends, on the road at an airport or working out at the gym, out-of-home (OOH) viewing can be significant for certain programming—something both publishers and advertisers need to understand these viewing behaviors to engage these sometimes sizable audiences.
Unsurprisingly, sports programming is a massive driver of viewership outside of the home, particularly as fans gather for big matchups, global competitions and historic team rivalries. And going forward, OOH viewing will become even more relevant for fans looking to watch games that are exclusive to streaming services they don’t have access to.
Compared with season-long rights deals, like Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video and Apple’s 10-year deal for MLS games on Apple TV+, individual game exclusives might not be enough of an incentive for fans to sign up for a full subscription. This year’s NFL Wild Card weekend games highlight the start of this trend, as one of the six games was exclusively televised on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service. This was the first playoff game that was a streaming-only exclusive, and it featured one of the weekend’s marquee contests: the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins.
3.3 million viewers watched the NFL Wildcard playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins away from home
Despite the negative sentiment from fans who didn’t have a Peacock subscription, the high-stakes playoff matchup did inspire a spurt of new subscriptions. In total, the game pulled in a live audience of 22.1 million viewers—a record for a live-streamed event. Yet with only 35% of U.S. households having a Peacock subscription, 3.3 million viewers watched the game away from home. Earlier in the NFL season, the Dec. 23, 2023, contest between the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills was also exclusive to Peacock. While not a playoff game, 1.3 million of the total 7.1 million viewers, or 18.3%, watched away from home.
While exclusivity may become more of a factor as streaming services compete for broadcast rights, we know that access isn’t the only reason people enjoy watching NFL games away from home. The league’s popularity is a factor as well, and there’s no denying its broadening appeal in recent years. In the U.S., the percentage of Americans who say they are somewhat or very interested in the NFL has grown more than 6% since 20211. And among women, interest has grown 6.8% during the same period.
The increasing popularity aligns with recent viewing trends, as ESPN reported a 7% increase in average viewership this season, tying for the second most-watched season since averages were first tracked in 1995. And while average OOH viewing was flat at 13% with the last two seasons2, select high-profile games have boasted percentages that are anything but flat—even when they’re nationally televised.
More than 41% of the live audience for the Washington-Dallas NFL game on Thanksgiving watched the game away from home
As this season progressed, for example, some games have garnered as much as 30%-40% of their viewership from people watching away from home—and on days you might not expect it. The three nationally televised games on Thanksgiving, for example, attracted an average OOH audience of 32.2 million live viewers2.
The appeal of sports notwithstanding, TV audiences remain engaged with an array of programming genres. In total, broadcast and cable programming attracted a total audience of 185.1 billion (61.2 billion for broadcast; 123.9 billion for cable) in the first 11 months of 2023. And while audiences watch a majority of TV at home, some of the biggest draws last year attracted sizable OOH audiences. The Oscars and the GRAMMY awards, each of which were in the top four broadcast programs of 2023 by viewership, attracted notable live OOH viewership: 1.3 million (8.7% of the total) and 627,000 (6%), respectively. This year’s Golden Globes, another popular award show, boasted a live OOH audience of 553,000 (6.7%).
From a percentage perspective, however, the season 15 finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race captured significantly more OOH viewers than any recent award show: 15.5%. The season 2 premiere of Next Level Chef, the third-most viewed broadcast program of 2023 (as it followed Super Bowl LVII), also captured a significant OOH audience: 2 million viewers (14.5% of the total). Both percentages were greater than the OOH viewership for the recent NCAA football championship (7.3%), the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final (8.4%) and the men’s final of last year’s U.S. Open (8.1%). It’s worth noting that the FIFA Women’s World Cup final aired at 6 am.
Given the increasingly fragmenting TV landscape, it goes without saying that audience measurement is critical for planning and validating marketing efforts. Sports has always been a big driver of TV engagement away from the home, and other genres are starting to attract OOH audiences as well—all of which become increasingly valuable as they grow. While 8.3% might not sound significant, that OOH viewership percentage for last year’s Academy Award ceremony amounted to 1.3 million viewers—a figure that can only be identified with the right measurement partner.
Learn more about our expanded National TV out-of-home (OOH) panel in 2024.
1Nielsen Scarborough USA+
2Nielsen National TV Panel