NFL opening games dominate TV ratings for Sept. 7-13

"Sunday Night Football's" Rams-Cowboys game with Cooper Kupps, left, and Anthony Brown.
“Sunday Night Football’s” Rams-Cowboys game was one of the top-rated programs for the week. With Cooper Kupps, left, and Anthony Brown.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

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’s NFL’s opener.

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 on 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 Oscars telecast averaged a record-low 23.569 million viewers.

The “Sunday Night Football” telecast of the 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 largest audience for a prime-time entertainment program between Sept. 7 and Sunday, with 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 top-ranked prime-time programs were NFL-related, the most-watched non-NFL-related program was the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes,” which 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 after 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 season premiere of “The Masked Singer” 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 top-ranked 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 biggest audience was for 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 highest-ranked cable program was the Sept. 8 edition of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,”which averaged 5.008 million viewers, 11th overall, and featured an interview with disbarred lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney.