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‘Thursday Night Football’ Ratings Tumble, But NFL Net Telecast Tops Busy Sports Night

Viewership predictably fell off sharply for “Thursday Night Football” in its first week without an assist from CBS, but the New Orleans-Carolina matchup on NFL Network was still the biggest sports draw on a busy night.

According to Nielsen estimates, “Thursday Night Football” averaged a 2.3 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.88 million viewers overall — about one-third the numbers achieved one week earlier for the Denver-San Diego matchup that aired as a simulcast both on CBS and NFL Network (6.7, 20.22 million).

The NFL experimented this year by having CBS open the season by jointly airing seven “TNF” games with NFL Network before turning the package over to the league-owned cabler exclusively for the back half of the season. But there wasn’t any immediate bump in popularity for Thursday night NFL action on the cabler.

One year ago (on Halloween), the “Thursday Night Football” game between Cincinnati and Miami did a 2.5 rating in 18-49 and 6.48 million viewers overall.

“Thursday Night Football” certainly had tougher-than-usual college football competition, as ESPN’s game between Louisville and Florida State — the sport’s defending champion and currently the country’s No. 2-ranked team — did an impressive 1.6 rating in 18-49 and 4.97 million viewers overall. This is the most competitive finish in memory for a college game opposite the NFL.

And on TNT, LeBron James’ return to Cleveland as a Cavalier against the New York Knicks earned a 1.7 demo rating and 4.02 million total viewers.

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