UPDATE: In national estimates released late Friday by Nielsen, the NFL opener on NBC (9:08 p.m. to 12:25 a.m. ET) ended up averaging a 10.3 rating/31 share in adults 18-49 and 25.1 million viewers overall — up about 5% in both categories from last year. Among all of the NFL Kickoff specials since the event began 12 years ago, only the season openers in 2010 and 2011 drew larger audiences than last night’s game.
The National Football League is back as big as ever, with Thursday’s season opener on NBC between the champion Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos nearly matching last year’s premiere overnight rating despite a weather delay that pushed back the game’s start time by more than 30 minutes.
In Nielsen’s metered market overnights, the Broncos’ 49-27 victory — in which Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes — averaged a 16.2 household rating/29 share, off just a smidge in rating and up in share from last year’s Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants opener (16.5/26), which was played on a Wednesday to avoid a conflict with the Democratic National Convention.
The preliminary affiliate-based nationals supplied by Nielsen typically understate numbers for football as they don’t include all viewing in the West. But in the early numbers, the game on NBC averaged a 10.0 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 24.8 million viewers overall — up 15% from last year’s early demo score for Giants-Cowboys (8.7/23).
The top-rated local markets on Thursday were Denver (43.9 household rating/70 share), Baltimore (37.6/61), New Orleans (25.1/37), Indianapolis (24.9/44) and Nashville (22.6/36).
Elsewhere, CBS was runner-up on the night thanks to “Big Brother” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 7.1 million viewers overall), which hit a four-week demo high and was the night’s No. 1 entertainment series.
ABC aired a two-hour “Wipeout” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) and drama “Rookie Blue” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 4.2 million viewers overall), which was up a smidge in the demo from last week.
Fox aired encores of “Glee” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 1.8 million viewers overall), “New Girl” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall) and “The Mindy Project” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall).
Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night; NBC, 9.2/26; CBS, 1.5/4; Univision, 1.4/4; ABC, 1.1/3; Fox, 0.5/2; Telemundo, 0.5/1; CW, 0.2/1.
In total viewers: NBC, 23.2 million; CBS, 5.9 million; ABC, 3.8 million; Univision, 3.5 million; Fox, 1.6 million; CW, 0.7 million.