The NFL Kickoff Game and the “Sunday Night Football” season opener on NBC drew prime-time television’s largest audiences since the Oscars, despite a drop in viewership from last year.
The Kansas City Chiefs 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans in the NFL Kickoff game averaged 20.632 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.
Viewership was 7.2% less than the 22.242 million average for the 2019 NFL Kickoff Game, a 10-3 victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Chicago Bears, the most-watched NFL Kickoff Game since 2016.
Viewership for Thursday’s game was diminished by the defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs taking a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter, the largest fourth-quarter lead in an NFL Kickoff Game in seven years. It also faced unprecedented sports competition, airing opposite NBA and NHL playoff games.
The NFL Kickoff Game was the most-watched prime-time program since Feb. 9 when ABC’s Oscar telecast averaged a record-low 23.569 million viewers.
The “Sunday Night Football” telecast of the Los Angeles Rams 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the first event at SoFi Stadium averaged 18.943 million viewers, 14.7% less than the 22.207 million average for the 2019 “Sunday Night Football” opener, a 33-3 victory by the New England Patriots over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Official viewership for nearly all forms of programming has decreased because of increased viewing of streaming programming, including the same program shown on traditional television.
The 2020 figures include out-of-home viewing while the 2019 figures do not.
The two NFL telecasts enabled NBC to average the largest weekly prime-time audience for any network since the Oscars, 7.3 million.
NBC also had the most-watched prime-time entertainment program between Sept. 7 and Sunday, the Tuesday edition of “America’s Got Talent,” which averaged 6.009 million viewers, eighth for the week and second among non-NFL programming.
In a week when the six most-watched prime-time programs were NFL-related, the most-watched non-NFL-related program was the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes,” averaged 8.016 million viewers for two-time Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward’s first interview about the revelations in his new book about President Trump and two previously broadcast segments that were updated.
Fox also benefited from the start of the NFL season. It averaged 3.14 million viewers for its 16 hours of programming to finish second among the major broadcast networks after being mired in fourth place following its telecast of Super Bowl LIV Feb. 2.
Fox was third overall, also trailing Fox News Channel, which averaged 3.234 million viewers. Both networks that finished ahead of Fox aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
The 47-minute runover of Fox’s afternoon NFL coverage into prime time, mainly quarterback Tom Brady’s debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, averaged 25.764 million viewers. The runover is not considered a separate program, but is included in the weekly average.
Fox’s nine-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT” that followed averaged 11.99 million viewers, fifth for the week.
The season premiere of “The Masked Singer” following “The OT” averaged 5.574 million viewers, ninth for the week, third among non-NFL programming and second among entertainment programs.
Outside of its Sunday programming, Fox’s most-watched program was Fox’s most-watched program was “WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown” professional wrestling program, which averaged 2.329 million viewers, 32nd among broadcast programs and fifth among Friday broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
CBS was third among the broadcast networks and fourth overall, averaging 2.73 million viewers, one spot ahead of ABC, which averaged 2.38 million.
ABC’s most-watched program was Friday’s two-hour edition of ABC News magazine “20/20” on the killing of U.S. Army soldier Vanessa Guillen which averaged 3.665 million viewers, 31st for the week, 25th among non-NFL programs and fourth among Friday programs.
The week’s most-watched cable program was the Sept. 8 edition of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” which featured an interview with disbarred attorney, who was Trump’s personal counsel and averaged 5.008 million viewers, 11th overall.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for the 33rd time in 34 weeks, averaging 3.234 million viewers.
NBA playoff coverage lifted TNT into second, one spot higher than the previous week, averaging 2.11 million. MSNBC was third, averaging 2.047 million.
The most-watched Spanish-language program was Univision’s version of “The Masked Singer,” “?Quien es la mascara?” which averaged 1.657 million viewers, 54th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 41st consecutive week and 43rd time in 44 weeks, averaging 1.3 million viewers, followed by Telemundo (1.09 million viewers), UniMas (370,000), Estrella TV (130,000) and Azteca America (50,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 41st consecutive week, the 92nd time in 93 weeks and the 144th time in 146 weeks, averaging 8.972 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 7.031 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 5.128 million viewers.
The averages for all three newscasts omitted Labor Day.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s coverage of the NFL Kickoff Game and the “Sunday Night Football”; its 17-minute NFL Kickoff Game pre-kickoff show and 10-minute “Sunday Night Football” pre-kickoff show; Fox’s nine-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT”; NBC’s 21-minute third segment of “Football Night in America”; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; the Tuesday edition of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”; Fox’s “The Masked Singer”; and the Wednesday edition of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
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