“Thursday Night Football’s” shift to Amazon Prime Video is masking the fact that the sport’s audience is still growing, according to SVB MoffettNathanson, and that it remains a key part of network television. Analyst Michael Nathanson said that football’s average viewership fell 4% during the 2022-23 season, but the decline was due to a sharp drop in those watching the Thursday night game. Excluding Thursday night, ratings were actually up 1% from last season, driven by gains in the number of people watching Sunday games on CBS and Fox. And it came on top of a 9% bump in viewership during the 2021-22 football season, he said. “With the NFL making up 82 of the top 100 telecasts in 2022, it is clear that sports (and particularly the NFL) remain the glue to the linear bundle,” Nathanson wrote in a research note Friday. “For now, that glue remains as sticky as ever.” It’s the key reason why events like the Super Bowl still matter, and why the cost of a 30-second commercial continues to climb. This year some coveted 30-second time slots during the big game fetched more than $7 million. Nathanson said the NFL is the biggest single driver of network ratings — and ultimately advertising dollars — during the fall TV season. He looked at the NFL games and shoulder programming — before and after games — and found that it made up more than half (55%) of Fox’s aggregate live, same day audience. “Meanwhile, the NFL represented a significant yet relatively consistent share of CBS (32%), NBC (31%) and ESPN (28%) aggregate time viewed during the 2022 football season,” he said. “Thus, we remain in an era where NFL ratings really matter, especially as networks move higher profile entertainment content and tertiary sports rights to their affiliated sister streaming platforms.” CBS and Fox are the homes of the league’s Sunday afternoon games. “Sunday Night Football” is aired on NBC, while Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, has the rights to show “Monday Night Football.” Beginning next year, Google’s YouTube will be able to stream “Sunday Ticket,” which includes out-of-market games on Sunday. But Nathanson expects the future will be different, as streaming services gain more viewers. Amazon has the rights to “Thursday Night Football” through 2033 . About two-thirds of the evening’s audience in the 2021-2022 season made the jump from linear TV to streaming in 2022-2023 , Nathanson said. The vast majority — some 82% — of the fans who stopped watching were over 50 years old. More important to advertisers, was that there was only a 14% decline in the slice of the audience aged 18 to 49 years old. And, also noteworthy, Amazon said it tallied an 11% gain in viewers in the highly desirable 18-34 age group. All this is to say, that there is a reason why advertisers still care about putting their commercials on during football games. They deliver audiences and eyeballs. More than 100 million households for the Super Bowl, for example. This year’s game will be lighter on the crypto ads that dominated last year, but advertising stalwarts from General Motors , T-Mobile and Budweiser will be back. Nathanson has outperform ratings on Amazon, Comcast, Disney, Fox and Alphabet . He rates Paramount underperform. Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.