Despite Decline, NFL Opener a Success For NBC

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Over 27 million viewers tuned into Thursday’s NFL season opener, still down slightly from last year’s comparable game.

The Saints/Packers 2011 NFL Kickoff Game earned a 16.0 final rating and 27.2 million viewers on NBC Thursday night, down 3% in ratings and 1% in viewership from last year’s opener (MIN/NO: 16.5, 27.485M), but up 25% and 30%, respectively, from 2009 (TEN/PIT: 12.8, 20.909M).

Despite the decline, the Packers’ win ranks as the second-highest rated, second-most viewed primetime, regular season NFL game since the 1990s.

This marks just the fifth time since resuming coverage in 2006 that NBC has earned at least 25 million viewers for an NFL game. All five occurrences have taken place over the past year.

Saints/Packers ranks as the 13th-most viewed sporting event of the calendar year, behind every game of the 2010-11 NFL playoffs and January’s BCS National Championship Game (AUB/ORE: 27.316M, ESPN).

Among adults 18-49, Thursday’s game drew a 10.9 rating — up 2% from last year (10.7), up 27% from 2009 (8.6), and the highest rating in the demo for a primetime NFL regular season game since December 1997.

Overall, NBC averaged a 9.9 adults 18-49 rating in primetime Thursday night, the network’s best Thursday (excludes Olympics) since the series finale of the situation comedy Friends.

Ratings and Viewership For NFL Kickoff Game Since 2002 Debut
With Adults 18-49 ratings since 2003

Year
Date
Game
Net
Rating
Viewers (000)
A18-49
2011
Thu., 9/8/11 NO 34, GB 42 NBC
16.0
27,170
10.9
2010
Thu., 9/9/10 MIN 9, NO 14 NBC
16.5
27,485
10.7
2009
Thu., 9/10/09 TEN 10, PIT 13 NBC
12.8
20,909
8.6
2008
Thu., 9/4/08 WSH 7, NYG 16 NBC
8.6
13,531
5.4
2007
Thu., 9/6/07 NO 10, IND 41 NBC
11.5
17,791
7.4
2006
Thu., 9/7/06 MIA 17, PIT 28 NBC
12.6
19,196
7.8
2005
Thu., 9/8/05 OAK 20, NE 30 ABC
11.7
18,006
7.7
2004
Thu., 9/9/04 IND 24, NE 27 ABC
11.4
16,879
7.2
2003
Thu., 9/4/03 NYJ 13, WSH 16 ABC
12.9
19,150
7.7
2002
Thu., 9/5/02 SF 16, NYG 13 ESPN
7.6
10,799

(This year’s numbers from NBC Sports Group via Fang’s Bites; additional information from TV By the Numbers)

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