NFL kicks off season with strong numbers on NBC

Fox’s new Thursday comedy block didn’t make much noise in its debut last week opposite nifty numbers for pro football’s season opener.

NBC scored big with its return to the National Football League, as its coverage of Thursday’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Miami Dolphins matchup dominated the night and performed slightly better than the prior two kickoff contests on ABC.

According to Nielsen nationals, Brad Garrett laffer “‘Til Death” got some decent sampling at 8, averaging a 3.1 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 and 8.82 million viewers overall. That left it on par in the demo with NBC’s pregame show and the first half-hour of CBS’ “Big Brother: All-Stars.”

News was worse for 8:30 newbie “Happy Hour” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 6.97m), which had the misfortune of facing the opening half-hour of the football game on NBC. It ran third in most categories.

Competish becomes much tougher for the Fox comedies in coming weeks, as they must face “Survivor” on CBS, “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” on NBC and “Ugly Betty” on ABC.

Also at Fox on Thursday, the timeslot debut of “Celebrity Duets” ran fourth in the 9 o’clock hour (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.85m). Show will be airing in the slot for a few weeks, with “The OC” set to have its season preem there Nov. 2.

As for football, the Steelers’ victory averaged a big 7.8 rating/23 share in adults 18-49 and 19.2 million viewers overall, up a bit in both demos and overall audience vs. the prior two seasons, when the opening game aired on ABC.

NBC also could anticipate huge Nielsens for its inaugural Sunday night game, which saw the Manning brothers (Peyton of the Indianapolis Colts and Eli of the New York Giants) square off for the first time.

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