Down From 2015, ‘Thursday Night Football’ Opener Scores 15.4M Viewers For CBS & NFL; Twitter Gets Over 2M Reach For Game – UPDATE


2nd UPDATE, 2:29 PM: The New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills 37-31 last night on the season kickoff of Thursday Night Football but there is no big win for CBS and the NFL Network. Twitter, on the other hand, had a good night with the live streaming of its first NFL full game.

With the final numbers in, the 8:27 – 11:37 PM ET simulcast game drew 15.4 million viewers on for the House of Moonves and the NFL. That’s a drop of 27% from the TNF viewership high of last year’s season opener on September 17. That 2015 game started off the second season CBS has had the franchise. This year’s game was the top show of the night on broadcast and cable.

This year, CBS has five TNF games but unlike past seasons the net found itself competing against a seamless NFL live streaming on Twitter- which was also as big a talking point as the game itself last night. With some watching just three seconds, the social media platform reached 2.1 million viewers with the Jets vs. Bills game. With easy access and without the barrier of cable authentication required, an audience of 243,000 on average were watching TNF on Twitter last night. According to Twitter, individual viewers averaged about 22 minutes of the game.

Twitter paid around $10 million for the right to live stream 10 games this season, well under market value.

Among the key 18-49 demo, the Jets vs. Bills game snared a 5.4/21rating. With adjustments, that’s a 42% rise from the fast affiliate demo numbers of early today. On the flipside, the CBS demo result of last night took a 29% hit in the ratings from the TNF season opener of last year. In fact, viewership of last night’s game is not just down from last year’s TNF opener but from the audience of 16.9 million that the second TNF on CBS of 2015 got.

UPDATE, 8:44 PM: The opener of the third season of Thursday Night Football on CBS was a win for the New York Jets as they beat the Buffalo Bills 37-31 but looks to be a loss for CBS.

On a night of virtual zero competition, TNF drew a 3.8/14 rating among adults 18-49 from 8:30 – 11 PM in fast affiliates. With adjustments expected later today, that’s down a hard 28% in the demo from the Denver Broncos win over the Kansas City Chiefs on September 17 last year.

Viewershipwise, the 11.44 million who watched last night’s Jets vs. Bills game was a drop of 29% from 2015 for CBS. Last year’s TNF opener on CBS and the NFL Network, who were showing the game last night too, went on to score a franchise high of 21.8 million viewers when the final numbers came in.

Last night’s 8PM NFL Thursday Night Kickoff (2.4/10) show declined 27% from last year. However, CBS still handily won the night with a 3.6/12 rating and 10.91 million viewers.

Of course, the wild card in all this is how many eyeballs and streams Twitter had last night for its debut live streaming of NFL games. Likely not near the number of those who watched the two Empire State teams face off on Thursday on TV, the social media platform’s step on to the football field still marks a distinction evolution of Twitter as a media company and the NFL into the future that is now here.

The rest of the Big 4 had all encores on last night but on the CW, the series finale of Beauty and The Beast (0.2/1) ended its run even with its September 8 show. The show also matched its Season 3 finale of September 10, 2015.

PREVIOUSLY, 7:16 AM: Maybe it was the glitch free live streaming of the game on Twitter for the first time or maybe it was the less than impressive starts the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills had last week, but last night’s Thursday Night Football took a tackle from the heights of 2015.

In what was a sometimes roller coaster of a game especially for their defense, the Jets 37-31 win over the Bills pulled in a 11.4/20 in metered markets results for CBS and the NFL Network. That first of five TNF games the House of Moonves has this season is down just over 20% from the September 17 opener last year. The Denver Broncos 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was the best any TNF game had ever done – and up 4% in MM numbers from the first year kickoff of the shared franchise on CBS and the NFL Network.

That 2015 Broncos vs. Chiefs match-up went on to score a total viewership of 21.8 million. With a 2% bop up, that was basically steady with the Baltimore Ravens’ 26-6 blowout of the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 11, 2014.


Last night’s TNF certainly stumbled in relation to last week’s NFL season kickoff on NBC on September 8. Metered-markets-to-metered-markets, the Jets vs. Bills game fell 31% from the Broncos 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers last week. That Broncos vs. Panthers game dipped 7% in MM numbers from the 2015 opener and went on to draw 25.2 million viewers, down 8% from the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Green Bay Packers Thursday opener of 2014.

Now yesterday, CBS boss Les Moonves told a well-heeled conference that ratings were basically irrelevant in today’s TV world – but being down double digits year-to-year can’t feel like a small thing, even with a new platform as a part of the NFL gang. With that in mind, Thursday Night Football was the only game on the Big 4 last night and CBS easily won the night with a 10.6/18 MM rating, nearly double the combined competition of encores on ABC, NBC and Fox.

We’ll update with more TNF numbers as we get them – including those Twitter viewership and streaming results. In the meantime, here’s a stat for you – last night’s TNF peaked at 9-9:30 and 9:30-10 PM with a 12.0/21 and 12.0/20 MM rating respectively.

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