NEW YORK (AP) – Professional football has probably never been more important to TV executives than this year, and its comeback has prepared them to do a happy dance in the end zone.
An opening week game schedule brought viewers back to their sets, led by a Hall of Fame-caliber match between new member Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Bucs, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
The game was seen by just under 26 million people on Fox Sunday afternoon. The network had its best audience for an opening football weekend since 2016, according to the Nielsen company.
Ratings for NBC’s Thursday and Sunday night games were down from opening week last year. CBS’s five-game average for Sunday afternoon games was 13.59 million viewers, down 12% from 2019. The games faced competition from the NBA Playoffs and the news networks, stuffed with news about the presidential race, the pandemic and the California wildfires.
ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” franchise was significantly down from last year. The opener of Monday’s doubles game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants reached 10.8 million viewers, compared to 13.5 million who watched last year’s opener. In Game 2, between Denver and Tennessee, 7.7 million people watched, up from 11 million last year.
Still, the games meant more viewers tuned in to broadcasters than at any time in months.
The value of football to TV advertisers is steadily increasing, as few events have the capacity to reach so many people at the same time with more entertainment options. It’s magnified this year with entertainment production largely halted due to COVID-19.
With its two games, NBC topped prime-time ratings, averaging 7.3 million viewers last week. Fox had 3.1 million, thanks to a preview of “The Masked Singer.” CBS had 2.7 million, ABC 2.4 million, Univision 1.3 million, ION Television 1.12 million, and Telemundo 1.09 million.
Fox News Channel led the cable networks, with an average of 3.23 million prime-time viewers. TNT had 2.11 million, MSNBC 2.05 million, ESPN 1.92 million, and HGTV 1.31 million.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” led the evening news audience, averaging 9 million viewers. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 7 million and “CBS Evening News” 5.1 million.
For the week of September 7 to 13, the 20 best prime-time programs, their networks and their audiences:
1. NFL Football: Houston to Kansas City, NBC, 20.63 million.
2. NFL Football: Dallas at LA Rams, NBC, $ 18.94 million.
3. “Thursday Night Pre-Game Game,” NBC, 14.32 million.
4. “Sunday Night Pre-Game,” NBC, 13.06 million.
5. “The OT”, Fox, 11.99 million.
6. “Football Night in America,” NBC, $ 8.75 million.
7. “60 minutes”, CBS, 8.02 million.
8. “America’s Got Talent” (Tuesday), NBC, $ 6.01 million.
9. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 5.57 million.
10. “America’s Got Talent” (Wednesday), NBC, 5.51 million.
11. “The Rachel Maddow Show” (Tuesday), MSNBC, 5.01 million.
12. “NCIS”, CBS, 4.96 million.
13. “Hannity” (Wednesday), Fox News, 4.81 million.
14. NBA playoffs: Houston vs. LA Lakers (Tuesday), TNT, 4.71 million.
15. NBA playoffs: Boston vs Toronto (Friday), TNT, 4.69 million.
16. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Wednesday), Fox News, 4.45 million.
17. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Thursday), Fox News, 4.41 million.
18. “Hannity” (Tuesday), Fox News, 4.4 million.
19. “Hannity” (Thursday), Fox News, 4.3 million.
20. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Tuesday), Fox News, 4.24 million.
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