Ratings Roundup: NFL’s 100th Season Kickoffs With Most-Watched Game Since Super Bowl LIII

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the 100th NFL season began with a flourish, other major networks digest the numbers from the NFL’s Week 1 and college football’s Week 2, and ESPN enjoys their most-watched US Open tournament ever.

Week 1 in the NFL Features Hot Start by NBC
The Green Bay Packers’ 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears in the opening game of the NFL’s 100th season averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 22.7 million viewers across NBC TV, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms – making it the most-watched sporting event since Super Bowl LIII in February, according to Fast National data released today by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

With 22.7 million viewers, the Packers-Bears matchup registered a 16% increase from last year’s opener (19.6 million TAD for Falcons-Eagles) and is the most-watched NFL Kickoff Game since 2016.

NBC’s TV coverage peaked at 23.9 million viewers between 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET, and topped 20 million viewers in every quarter hour from 8:30 p.m. ET through the game’s conclusion at 11:30 p.m. ET. The broadcast averaged 22.0 million viewers on NBC.

The Average Minute Audience (AMA) for Thursday night’s live stream via NBC Sports and NFL Digital platforms was 627,000 viewers – the highest ever for a game in the SNF package – and up 10% from last year’s NFL Kickoff Game (570,000).

NBC Sports Digital’s live stream of last night’s NFL Kickoff game ranks as its most streamed NFL regular-season game ever. Fans consumed 127 million live streaming minutes across 2.7 million unique devices, up 17% and 38%, respectively, from last year’s NFL Kickoff Game.

The game (8:23 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET) registered a national TV household rating of 12.8/26 – up 13% from last year (11.3/23).

The top metered markets included Milwaukee (48.1/69), Chicago (35.3/56), Minneapolis (23.9/43), New Orleans (23.1/33), Kansas City (21.9/36), Denver (21.1/39), Buffalo (19.7/34), Jacksonville (19.0/31), Norfolk (18.1/28), and Cincinnati (17.8/31)

Moving to Sunday, NBC continued the momentum. The New England Patriots’ 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers delivered NBC’s second viewership increase in four days over last year’s corresponding NFL Kickoff Weekend game – marking the first time both of NBC’s NFL opening weekend games posted year-over-year increases since 2015.

The Patriots’ win, highlighted by Tom Brady’s 341 passing yards and three touchdowns, averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 22.7 million viewers across NBC TV, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms, according to fast national data released by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

Sunday night’s viewership topped last year’s down-to-the-wire SNF opener (22.6 million viewers for Bears-Packers) featuring Aaron Rodgers’ second-half return from injury to lead the Packers to a come-from-behind 24-23 victory after trailing by 17 points at halftime.

Coupled with Thursday night’s Packers-Bears NFL Kickoff Game, NBC’s two-game NFL Kickoff Weekend viewership average of 22.7 million viewers is up 8% from last year’s first two NBC games (21.1 million TAD).

The Average Minute Audience (AMA) for Sunday night’s live stream via NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms was 523,000 viewers – NBC Sports Digital’s highest for a regular-season Sunday night game, and up 30% from last year’s opening Sunday night game (403,000 for Bears-Packers).

NBC Sports Digital’s live stream of Steelers-Patriots ranks as its most streamed Sunday regular-season game ever. Fans consumed 90.4 million live streaming minutes across 3.0 million unique devices, up 3% and 66%, respectively, from last year’s SNF opener.

Sunday night’s game (8:23 p.m.-11 p.m. ET) registered a national TV household rating of 12.6/24 and averaged 22.2 million viewers on NBC. Steelers-Patriots peaked at 25.1 million TV viewers from 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET, as the Patriots built a 20-0 halftime lead.

Top metered market ratings included Pittsburgh (42.3/60), Providence (37.4/57), Boston (36.3/58), New Orleans (22.7/31), Denver (19.6/33), Baltimore (19.1/30), Norfolk (18.8/31), Kansas City (18.3/30), Dayton (18.2/29), and Buffalo (18.0/29)…

…On Fox, AMERICA’S Game of The Week between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants delivered 23,904,000 viewers to become Sunday’s most-watched NFL telecast. It was also the best Week 1 performance for the network since 2016. Fox NFL Kickoff started off with tremendous numbers as well with 1,426,000 viewers, which is up +22% over last year (1,170,000 viewers). In addition, Fox NFL Sunday posted its best start to the season since 2016 with 5,202,000 viewers, up +7% over last year (4,843,000 viewers)

In the early doubleheader between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, the contest delivered a 7.4 rating which is similar to last years. As for viewers, the game brought in 12.6 million which is a 1% increase…

…On CBS, the singleheader featuring the Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs took a hit due to two blowouts. The pairing combined for a 9.0 rating with 15.4 million viewers, which accounted for a 7% and 10% decrease, respectively…

…The 2019 season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader averaged 12 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. This is an increase of 18% year-over-year and ranks as the most-viewed doubleheader on ESPN since 2015.

Texans-Saints and Broncos-Raiders were the two highest-rated telecasts of the night across all broadcast and cable networks and helped ESPN win the night among all networks, broadcast or cable, in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54, 55+).

The early game (7:15-10:30 p.m. ET) in ESPN’s Week 1 doubleheader – the regular season debut for ESPN’s new Monday Night Football commentator team and a thrilling New Orleans Saints’ 30-28 victory over the Houston Texans – averaged 13.2 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. This is an increase of 25’% year-over-year and ranks as the most-viewed early game in ESPN’s opening doubleheader since 2015.

  • On ESPN, Texans-Saints averaged a 7.8 US household rating and 13,078,000 viewers. The telecast peaked from 10:15-10:30 p.m. ET with an 11.2 US household rating and 18,934,000 viewers.
  • On ESPN Deportes, Texans-Saints averaged an additional 137,000 viewers.

In Houston, the game delivered a combined 25.9 rating in the market (7.0 rating on ESPN). In New Orleans, the game delivered a combined 56.8 rating in the market (13.0 rating on ESPN).

The top metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): Denver (13.8), Kansas City (13.1), Jacksonville (12.8), Dallas-Ft. Worth (12.6), Buffalo and Richmond-Petersburg (12.4), San Diego (12.2), Las Vegas (12.1), Nashville (12.0), San Antonio, and Tampa-St. Pete (11.6).

The late game (10:30 p.m.-1:15 a.m. ET) in ESPN’s Week 1 doubleheader – an Oakland Raiders’ 24-16 victory over the Denver Broncos – averaged 10.7 million viewers across ESPN and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. This is an increase of 9% year-over-year and ranks as the most-viewed late game in ESPN’s opening doubleheader since 2015.

  • On ESPN, Broncos-Raiders averaged a 6.5 US household rating and 10,619,000 viewers. The telecast peaked from 10:15-10:30 p.m. ET with a 9.4 US household rating and 15,877,000 viewers.
  • On ESPN Deportes, Broncos-Raiders averaged an additional 113,000 viewers.

In Denver, the game delivered a combined 34.3 rating in the market (17.2 rating on ESPN). In San Francisco – this market includes Oakland and San Jose, the game delivered a combined 17.1 rating in the market (9.1 rating on ESPN).

The top metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): San Diego (17.1), Las Vegas (14.8), Sacramento (13.5), Albuquerque-Santa Fe (13.3), Los Angeles (12.7), New Orleans (11.8), Phoenix (11.7), Seattle-Tacoma (11.5), Salt Lake City (10.4), and Jacksonville (10.2).

College Football Roars With LSU Standout Win in Week 2
College football fans’ affinity for games on ABC and ESPN continued, as Week 2 resulted in ABC airing the two highest-rated games of the season (LSU at Texas and Texas A&M at Clemson) on any network while simultaneously delivering near record-ratings among early season games in their timeslots. The fan response buoyed ABC to deliver its highest-rated tripleheader in more than two years. On ESPN, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot increased its ratings year-over-year and the network aired its best Pac-12 finale game window in nearly two years.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring LSU at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET) delivered very strong 5.8 overnight, easily becoming the highest-rated game of the season on any network and earning a 190% year-over-year rating increase in the timeslot. The rating for the Tigers’ victory rewrites the premier franchise’s top list, as the SEC-Big 12 showdown represents SNF’s fourth-best September rating since 2011 and, excluding record-setting opening weekend Florida-State-Alabama and Notre Dame-Texas games in 2017 and 2016, respectively, the Tigers-Longhorns matchup rank second in that time period.

The other game, Texas A&M at Clemson (3:30 p.m.), generated a 4.7 overnight, up 124% year-over-year from the same timeslot last season. Among September games in the 3:30 p.m. window, the rating for the Tigers’ victory is the network’s best, excluding Kickoff Weekend. Overall, it is one of ABC’s top 10 late afternoon games in the past 15 seasons.

The results on Saturday drove ABC to air its best tripleheader since Kickoff Weekend in 2017, which include the aforementioned record-setting Florida State-Alabama game. This week, ABC averaged a 4.5 throughout its tripleheader, a 125% increase over last season’s week 2 tripleheader. Cincinnati at Ohio State (noon) began the day this year, earning a 2.6 overnight and delivering a 37% increase year-over-year despite the Buckeyes jumping up to a 28-0 first half lead, cruising to a 42-0 victory.

For the second week in a row, ESPN’s networks, cumulatively, were the highest-rated networks among any media company in the noon game window. In that window, ESPN’s networks combined to deliver a 4.3 overnight across its four games.

In the early part of the college football season, ESPN and ABC continues to televise the highest-rated game of the season, now having aired the top six: LSU-Texas (5.8), Texas A&M-Clemson (4.7), Oregon-Auburn (4.4), Miami-Florida (4.1), Notre Dame-Louisville (3.7), and Houston-Oklahoma (3.6).

Additional highlights include:

  • New Orleans delivered the market’s best rating for a game on ESPN/ABC since 2006, while Austin’s rating was the market’s best since 2009. The complete top 10 was New Orleans (33.6), Austin (28.3), Birmingham (17.7), Oklahoma City (15.0), Columbus (14.0), San Antonio (13.3), Tulsa (13.2), Dallas-Ft. Worth (12.7), and Greenville/Houston (10.9)
  • The Tigers-Longhorns game peaked at a 6.7 rating late in the fourth quarter (11-11:15 p.m.)…

…On Fox, the headliner and near-upset that saw No. 7 Michigan defeat Army in double overtime drew a 3.4 metered market rating, giving Fox the highest-rated college football game at Noon ET for the second consecutive week. The contest was also a whopping 48% increase from last season.

ESPN Witnesses Most-Watched US Open Ever on Its Airwaves
ESPN’s live, exclusive coverage of the US Open was seen by an average of 1,275,000 viewers (P2+), up 23% from last year (1,038,000), ESPN’s most ever for the event. The previous best was 2015, ESPN’s first year of exclusivity and airing the entire tournament (1,265,000). The increase includes all the key male, female and adult demos. Notably, there was a 32% increase among women 18-34 and a 10% increase among men in that age range.

Overall, 2019 was an extremely strong year for Grand Slam tennis on the ESPN networks. The US Open increase comes on the heels of Wimbledon’s 30% increase and the Australian Open viewership was up 27%.

While the excitement over 15-year-old American phenom Coco Gauff sparked US Open ratings during the first week, increases were experienced throughout the two-week event. Overall, 28 of 29 comparable telecast windows saw an increase in viewership over 2018.

Three of this year’s telecasts rank in the top 10 of ESPN’s all-time 256 US Open telecasts, starting in 2009:

  • The most-watched telecast this year was the Women’s Championship on September 7 – Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu surprising Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 – which earned a 2.0 rating and an average of 3,219,000 viewers, ranking second all-time (behind only the 2015 men’s final at 3,321,000).
  • At No.5, the Men’s Championship on September 8 – Rafael Nadal outlasting Daniil Madvedev in a five-set, five-hour marathon for his 19th Major title – posted a 1.6 rating with an average of 2,751,000 viewers. It is the most-watched US Open Men’s Championship since 2015.
  • Ranking seventh on ESPN’s list, the Tuesday, Sept. 3, telecast with quarterfinal matches including Serena Williams (defeating Qiang Wang) and Roger Federer (losing to Grigor Dimitrov) drew a 1.4 rating, averaging 1,737,000 viewers.

The 12 highest-rated markets for the US Open were Washington, DC (2.0), New York (1.9), Tampa-St Pete and West Palm Beach (1.7), Richmond and New Orleans (1.5), Las Vegas (1.4), and five cities tied for eighth: Ft. Myers, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, and Atlanta (1.3).

In Canada, the positive reception to Andreescu’s win can be seen in the numbers. With her unforgettable championship run at the 2019 US OPEN, she smashed audience records. Preliminary data from Numeris confirms that her straight sets victory over Serena Williams in Saturday’s Women’s Final attracted a record average audience of 3.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched tennis broadcast ever on TSN and RDS and attracting a higher average audience than that of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

More than 7.4 million unique Canadian viewers tuned in to TSN and RDS to watch some part of the match. Audiences peaked at 5.3 million viewers at 5:59 p.m. ET in the second set as Andreescu secured the title to become the first Canadian singles player to win a Grand Slam championship.

All eyes were on Andreescu on Saturday, as the Women’s Final ranked as the #1 program of the day, and TSN was the most-watched network in Canada, ahead of all conventional networks. The match ranks as Canada’s most-watched broadcast since the Toronto Raptors clinched the 2019 NBA championship live on TSN, CTV, and RDS.

In Toronto, the match had a share of 58% on TSN, meaning that more than half of all people watching television in Toronto on Saturday afternoon were tuned in to the Women’s Final.

The match attracted significant engagement across TSN’s digital platforms, with US OPEN video content on TSN.ca and the TSN app growing 145% compared to last year’s tournament, and more than 13 million impressions for US OPEN content on TSN’s social media platforms.

Andreescu’s unprecedented performance at the US OPEN broke audience records throughout the tournament, as she set multiple new records for TSN’s most-watched US OPEN broadcast with her wins in both the semifinals and quarter-finals.

Average audiences for TSN’s exclusive live coverage of the 2019 US OPEN grew 69% compared to last year, with nearly 10.7 million Canadians watching some part of the tournament.