2nd UPDATE, 12:17 PM: So, so very close. Now the final numbers are in, and let’s just say there was a big turnout for the New England Patriots’ seven-point victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last night. The NFL season-kickoff game just missed — by 0.36% — becoming the most-watched Thursday season opener since the practice started in 2002. Instead, last night’s 8:41-11: 29 PM ET game on NBC settled for No. 2, watched by 27.4 million fans. The 27.5 million who watched the 2010 kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Brett Favre’s Minnesota Vikings game still holds the record by a sliver. Last night was up 1% in viewership compared with 2014’s kickoff game, which was bumped to third place all-time viewership.
In the larger TV universe, the Patriots-Steelers game is the most-watched program since 28.3 million tuned in for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game on April 6. The most-watched program of the year — and in U.S. TV history — is the 114.5 million who tuned in for Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, in which the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in a nailbiting finish. While a six-year low, the 2015 Oscars on February 23 on ABC was the second-most-watched program of the year with an audience of 37.3 million.
With a 10.3 rating among adults 18-49, last night’s Patriots’ win essentially was even with the 2014 Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers season opener — with a 0.98% lead. Last night’s game matches the 2013 opener among the key demo. Next up: The Sunday Night Football season opener on NBC, with the Dallas Cowboys hosting the rival New York Giants.
UPDATE, 9:04 AM: We don’t have final numbers yet but the ratings for last night’s NFL kickoff game are starting to take a more solid form. In non-time zone adjusted results the New England Patriots 28-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers brought in a 9.6/30 rating among adults 18-49 for NBC and the NFL. With the game starting at 8:30 PM ET, those 9 – 11 PM fast nationals results are up 7% from last year’s kick0ff game between Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. In early numbers, that September 4, 2014 game pulled in 23.40 million viewers. That’s basically even with the 23.85 million who watched last night – though all those figures will be likely changed later. As a point of context, the 2014 NFL opener went up to 10/2/32 rating and 26.9 million viewers, the third most watched night season opener since the Thursday tradition started in 2002.
No surprise that NBC easily won the night in the demo with a 8.8/29 rating overall and in viewership. The Kick-Off Show (5.4/12) and the Pre-Kick (8.9/30) were steady with last year with a 5% dip and a 1% rise respectively compared to last year’s fast national results.
Over on CBS, Big Brother (1.9/6) fought hard and only slipped 5% from last week against the big game. Such a dip was not to be had for the series finale of the now cancelled Under The Dome (0.8/3). While even with its September 3 show, the Season 3 ender fell 56% among the demo from its Season 2 finale of September 22, 2014. That Monday night last September didn’t see UTD face the NFL but it did take on The Blacklist, which easily won the slot and was that night’s third highest rated show (3.4) after the 5.4 of The Big Bang Theory and the 3.9 of The Voice.
The CW’s Beauty and the Beast (0.2/1) season was even with last week but down 21% from its last cycle ender of July 7, 2014. Fox’s Boom! (0.5/2) ended its run down 29% from its last original of August 27. ABC was all encores on Thursday.
PREVIOUS, 6: 37 AM: In the end, Deflategate became a lot of hot air, a currently suspensionless Tom Brady did take the field at last night’s NFL Kickoff game at a packed Gillette Stadium and absent NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was mocked with chants of “Where Is Roger?” from the New England Patriots fans. Oh yeah, and reigning Super Bowls champions the Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28 -21, in a game that was not nearly as close as that looks, and NBC scored a true ratings touchdown with a 17.7/30 in metered market results. That’s a match with the 2010 New Orleans Saints-Minnesota Vikings game for the best NFL kickoff MM result since the Thursday game was introduced in 2002. Also, in a game that saw Brady hit a new NFL record with a 161 wins as the starting quarterback for the same team, that 30 share is the best ever for a NFL kickoff game.
With all the legal and jurisdictional skirmishes leading up to Thursday’s game we knew that a lot of people were going to be watching the official start to the pro football season. However, with 66,829 fans in the Foxborough, MA stadium, last night’s kickoff game was up 5% over the MM results of the 2014 match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.
We’ll have more ratings later, but by comparison, last year’s September 4 8:30 PM-11:38 PM ET kickoff game, which Seattle won 36-16, ended up getting a 10.2/32 rating among adults 18-49 and 26.9 million viewers overall. While down a touch from 2013’s kickoff rating that the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens got, the 2014 season opener was a solid third best in total viewers. The top is the 27.5 million who watched the 2010 New Orleans Saints-Minnesota Vikings matchup and then the 27.1 million who saw 2011’s Green Bay-New Orleans clash
Of course, the NFL being the NFL nowadays there had to be a controversy last night. This time, besides the very loud slagging of Goodell, it was interference on the coaches’ headsets. The Steelers crew didn’t come out and say New England, who have been hit with not just Deflategate but also the Spygate scandal too, were messing with them, but they did say it happened a lot when they played the team at home. For the record, Patriots’ Bill Belichick’s side said they were having headset problems as well last night.
We’ll update with more numbers as we get them, but for the time being chew on these Top 5 local markets for last night’s Patriots’ win. Boston was, of course, tops (39.5/62), followed by Pittsburgh (34.5/51), then Providence (34.1/51) Baltimore (24.4/39) and Richmond )23.9/36).
And then there’s Sunday when everything really gets going:
— SundayNight Football (@SNFonNBC) September 11, 2015
With such big big market teams, expect some impressive numbers then too – and we don’t just mean on the field.