Sunday’s finale between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” delivered the net’s best-ever overnight rating for a regular-season contest. And overall, the league’s five TV windows logged the best final-week overnight score in at least six years.
According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the Redskins’ 28-18 victory over their division rivals averaged an 18.3 overnight rating/30 share — the highest-rated regular-season NFL game in 15 years (since Broncos-49ers on ABC in 1997). The game topped this year’s season opener of “SNF” between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos (18.0/29) as the Peacock’s best regular-season score since it took over the primetime broadcast package in 2006.
Total-viewer estimates weren’t available Monday, but Sunday’s game is expected to exceed 28 million viewers.
The Washington D.C. market had its best overnight rating (44.6/68) for a regular-season game in the history of the Nielsen People Meters in 1987, topping the previous best set by the same teams on ABC in 1993 (43.0/63). The game did a 36.9/55 in Dallas.
For the entire day, including a pair of afternoon doubleheaders on both CBS and Fox, the NFL averaged a collective rating of 12.9, the best since at least 2006 and up 5% from last year (12.3). The league has helped heighten interest in the 17th and final week of the season by scheduling only divisional games, and on Sunday there was still something at stake in 10 of 16 games.
Playoff action starts Saturday with a pair of games on NBC, followed by one apiece Sunday on both CBS and Fox.
There was very little else happening in primetime on Sunday, with the best scores among young adults coming for encores of Fox comedies “The Simpsons” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall) and “Family Guy” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.9 million viewers overall). The net did a huge number in the night’s opening half-hour, with an estimated tune-in of more than 25 million viewers for the end of the Packers-Vikings game.
CBS’ “60 Minutes” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 9.4 million viewers overall) drew the largest overall audience for any non-sports Sunday program.
Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: NBC, 7.3/20; Fox, 3.7/10; CBS, 1.1/3; ABC, 0.9/2; Univision, 0.7/2.
In total viewers: NBC, 21.4 million; Fox, 10.3 million; CBS, 7.5 million; ABC, 3.5 million; Univision, 1.9 million.