‘Thursday Night Football’ Opens With Record Ratings on CBS, NFL Network

UPDATE: CBS and NFL Network did indeed combine for the largest-ever “Thursday Night Football” audience, with the 21.117 million for Denver-Kansas City edging past last year’s 21.117 million for the Pittsburgh-Baltimore opener (20.777 million), according to final national estimates from Nielsen. In adults 18-49, this year’s 7.5 rating matches the franchise high set with the opener of last season.

In Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, the Broncos’ 31-24 victory averaged a 14.3 household rating/25 share, up 4% from last year’s opening “TNF” game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh (13.7/23), which had held the franchise’s ratings record. Thursday’s numbers come on the heels of a record-setting opening weekend of the NFL season, with the first 16 games of the season averaging nearly 20 million viewers.

In preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the NFL game dominating the night’s action with a 5.3 rating/18 share in adults 18-49 and 16 million viewers overall on the CBS stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with these numbers expect to shoot up when all West Coast viewing and NFL Network totals are added. Last year’s game ended up averaging a 7.5/24 in 18-49 and 20.77 million viewers overall in the nationals. As was the case a year ago, Nielsen is treating NFL Network as an affiliate of CBS’ on “Thursday Night Football,” and the cable network’s ratings will be included as part of the overall average credited to the Eye.

There were no firstrun series on the broadcast networks opposite football, though NBC generated decent ratings for a pair of specials: “Jeff Dunham: Unhinged in Hollywood” (1.2/5 in 18-49, 6.4 million viewers overall) and “Matt Franco’s Got Magic” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall). They were the top non-sports broadcasts of the night.

ABC did little with encores of last season’s finales of “Grey’s Anatomy” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 3.3 million viewers overall), “Scandal” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 3.0 million viewers overall) and “How to Get Away With Murder” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 2.3 million viewers overall). The shows return with new episodes next week.

Fox aired a repeat of theatrical “Scream 3” (0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.4 million viewers overall). And CW went with special off-night encores of “The Flash” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 1.1 million viewers overall) and “Arrow” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall).

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