Now that the 2018 NFL regular season has come to a close, the final figures on stadium attendance for all 32 teams have come out. This year, according to ESPN, the average number of people who attended a Browns game was 65,765, good enough for 19th in the league and just behind the New England Patriots, who registered an average of 66,764 per game. 19th place may not sound very good, but that number is deceptive.
Places like The Meadowlands and Lambeau Field that hold 81,000 or 82,000 fans skew the average for the rest of the organizations with smaller stadiums. Following the renovations that were done a few years ago, FirstEnergy Stadium now holds only 67,895. The Dallas Cowboys, who averaged a staggering 91,619 spectators per game this season, unsurprisingly came in at number one in the league in this category. How in the world can the Browns be expected to compete with the numbers put up by a team like Dallas, whose AT&T Stadium quite literally has a capacity of 100,000 people?
The Browns have plenty of loyal and diehard fans, and whether they take in the game from the cheap seats at FirstEnergy Stadium or on their couches at home, the fans are paying attention to the team more than they have in the past. Last year, the Browns’ average attendance was only 63,882, nearly 2,000 less than it was in 2018 and five spots lower in the league-wide rankings (due to the game played in London, the Browns only played seven home games in 2017 as opposed to the regular eight in 2018, so the average was calculated using a slightly smaller sample size). What’s more encouraging about this year’s statistics for the Browns is the average percentage of the stadium that was filled last season compared to this one. In 2017, the Browns only filled an average of 87.3% of FirstEnergy Stadium on game days, which was 29th in the NFL. This season, that figure jumped up considerably, with Cleveland coming in at 97.5% and 17th in the league.
As far as television ratings are concerned, although the viewership numbers for each individual team are not released, Kevin Seifert of ESPN reported that the NFL as a whole saw an average of 15.8 million viewers per game in 2018, up from 14.9 million last season (a 5% increase). This season’s final viewership data, which was originally tweeted by NFL Media, also includes a mind-boggling fact: digital streaming viewership of games has improved by a gargantuan 86% from 2017. Also, all media outlets that broadcast NFL games saw their viewership numbers rise in 2018. FOX’s Sunday afternoon games averaged 18 million viewers, which is an increase from last year, but only of 2%. Fascinatingly, the viewership of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, which was criticized early in the season for its use of Jason Witten as a color analyst and employing a crane on the sideline that blocked the line of sight for those sitting behind it, improved the most of any of the broadcasting entities, going up by 8% from last year.
Unlike other teams in the City of Cleveland, even when they’ve played poorly, the Browns have never had a severe attendance problem. People have always wanted to take in a Browns game, whether that be in person, on the radio or on television (those two Browns games against the Jets and Broncos probably helped out the Thursday Night Football ratings, even the Broncos game was technically played on a Saturday).
And as the Browns continue to improve their on-field product, expect the consumption statistics in all of these categories to only increase moving forward.