ESPN and Fox Off to Record-Setting NFL Ratings Starts

Intriguing Philadelphia-Washington matchup easily earns cabler's top Week 1 overnight score

Michael Vick
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The much-anticipated opening-week “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles gave ESPN its highest rating yet for its first game of the season. And that came one day after Fox’s late-afternoon national game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers set a network for that record.

Preliminary total-viewer estimates weren’t available early Tuesday, but the Eagles’ 33-27 victory over their division rival (pictured above) was watched in 11.6% of U.S. homes, according to Nielsen. This is up sharply from the 8.1 overnight rating for last year’s Cincinnati-Baltimore opener and is the top Week 1 overnight score in the eight years that ESPN has had the “MNF” package.

The previous high came in 2010, a 10.5 overnight rating for Baltimore and the New York Jets. The 11.6 matches the highest overnight score for any “MNF” game last season for ESPN, with the top rating in 2012 coming from an early October game between Dallas and Chicago.

In Philadelphia, last night’s game delivered an 11.0 rating on ESPN and a 24.1 rating on ABC station WPVI, for a combined 35.1 rating in the market. And in D.C., the game earned a 22.3 rating on ESPN and a 16.5 rating on independent station WDCA, for a combined 38.8 rating in the market.

The game marked the first time that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had played in any game since a nasty injury took him out of last year’s playoffs in his strong rookie season. And for the Eagles, the game was the first for former U. of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who unveiled his extreme up-tempo style of play-calling to good effect.

Over at Fox, its 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday window, with Green Bay-San Francisco going to 94% of the country, averaged a big 16.6 national household rating/31 share and 28.5 million viewers overall — up from last year, when the same matchup drew 26.4 million. This is the largest Week 1 doubleheader audience for Fox since it began broadcasting the NFL in 1994.

It was also the largest audience for any program since the Academy Awards on ABC in late February.

NBC had a very strong week in primetime too, with its Thursday opener between Baltimore and Denver averaging 25.1 million, and its premiere of “Sunday Night Football” drew 25.3 million.