The NFL Kickoff game drew its largest official audience since 2016, countering the trend of declining viewership for essentially all forms of television programming, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.
NBC’s coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys averaged 24.813 million viewers, the most for a television program since the Super Bowl LV postgame show on CBS averaged 51.54 million viewers Feb. 7.
Viewership was up 21.6% from the 20.632 million viewers for the 2020 NFL Kickoff game, a 34-20 victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Houston Texans.
The total viewership for the game was 26.4 million when viewership on the Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms is included, the most for an NFL Kickoff game since 2015 when the New England Patriots’ 28-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday averaged 27.4 million viewers.
NBC has televised the NFL Kickoff game annually since 2006.
The Rams’ 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was second among prime-time programs airing between Sept. 6 and Sunday, averaging 17.639 million viewers, 6.9% less than the 18.943-million average for the 2020 “Sunday Night Football” opener, a 20-17 victory by the Rams over the Dallas Cowboys in the first event at SoFi Stadium.
The 2021 average for the first two prime-time NFL games was 21.226 million, 7.3% more than the 19.788 million average for the first two prime-time games of 2020.
Official viewership for nearly all forms of programming has decreased because of increased viewing of streaming programming, including the same programs shown on traditional television.
Figures since 2020 include out-of-home viewing.
The week’s most-watched non-NFL prime-time program was the 54th season premiere of “60 Minutes,” which averaged 9.984 million viewers, sixth for the week behind the two NFL games and three pregame shows.
The CBS News magazine followed a 34-minute runover of CBS’ afternoon NFL coverage which went into prime time and averaged 24.63 million viewers. The runover is not considered a separate program but is included in the weekly average.
The most-watched entertainment program was Tuesday’s two-hour “America’s Got Talent” episode on NBC, which averaged 6.985 million viewers, eighth for the week and second among non-NFL programs.
The two NFL games enabled NBC to average 7.75 million viewers, more than the combined total for second-place CBS (3.49 million) and third-place ABC (3.03 million).
NBC, CBS and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
Fox was fourth, averaging 2.42 million viewers for its 16 hours of prime-time programming. Its average was boosted by the 24-minute runover of its afternoon NFL coverage into prime-time which averaged 13.66 million viewers and its 36-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT” which followed and averaged 5.778 million viewers, 12th for the week.
Fox’s most-watched non-NFL program was “The Masked Singer & Alter Ego Sneak Peek,” which averaged 2.941 million viewers following “The OT,” 38th among the week’s broadcast and cable programs.
ABC’s most-watched program was Saturday’s college football game between Michigan and Washington which averaged 4.748 million viewers, 14th for the week, trailing 10 NFL programs.
ABC’s most-watched entertainment program was “Celebrity Family Feud,” 16th for the week and sixth among non-NFL programs, averaging 4.218 million viewers.
The Canadian crime drama “Coroner” and the superhero series “DC’s Stargirl” tied as The CW’s most-watched program, both averaging 638,000 viewers, tying for 175th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 480,000 viewers for its 12 hours of programming.
The most-watched prime-time cable program was ESPN’s coverage of Saturday’s Arkansas-Texas college football game which averaged 3.356 million viewers, 20th for the week.
Fox News Channel finished first in prime time among cable networks for the 10th consecutive week, averaging 2.229 million viewers. ESPN was second, averaging 1.891 million viewers, HGTV third, averaging 1.073 million and MSNBC fourth, averaging 1.064 million.
CNN was seventh, averaging 705,000 viewers, also trailing fifth-place TLC (910,000) and sixth-place Hallmark Channel (906,000).
The top 20 cable programs consisted of 13 Fox News Channel programs — five broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and four each of “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle”; four broadcasts of the MSNBC news and opinion program “The Rachel Maddow Show”; two college football games on ESPN; and the Hallmark Channel movie “Roadhouse Romance.”
For the second consecutive week, an episode of the Univision telenovela “La Desalmada” was the most-watched prime-time Spanish language program, with the Thursday episode averaging 1.888 million viewers, 55th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 93rd consecutive week and 95th time in 96 weeks, averaging 1.41 million viewers. Telemundo was second, averaging 1.06 million viewers, followed by UniMas (480,000), Estrella TV (120,000) and Azteca America (50,000).
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 93rd consecutive week, the 144th time in 145 weeks and the 196th time in 198 weeks, averaging 7.765 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.446 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 4.639 million viewers.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s coverage of the NFL Kickoff game and “Sunday Night Football”; NBC’s 12-minute NFL Kickoff game pre-kickoff show; the 10-minute “Sunday Night Football” pre-kickoff show and 17-minute NFL opening kickoff show; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; the 20-minute third segment of NFL’s “Football Night in America”; the Tuesday edition of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”; the 23-minute third segment of NFL’s “Football Night in America”; and a 25-minute NFL kickoff show preceding Thursday’s 17-minute NFL opening kickoff show.