NBC scores with NFL kickoff; ‘60 Minutes’ premiere boosts CBS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates with tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Tom Brady, left, and Rob Gronkowski celebrate their victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9.
(Scott Audette / Associated Press)

The NFL kickoff 2021 game drew the largest official audience for a season opener since 2016, countering the trend of declining viewership for essentially all forms of television programming.

NBC’s coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9 averaged 24.81 million viewers, the most for any television program since the Super Bowl LV postgame show on CBS averaged 51.54 million viewers Feb. 7, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.

Viewership was up 21.6% from the 20.63 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 Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms is included, the most for an NFL opening day game since 2015 when the New England Patriots’ 28-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers 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 17.64 million viewers, 6.9% less than the 18.94-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 21.23 million, 7.3% more than the 19.79 million average for the first two prime-time games of 2020.

The week’s top-ranked non-NFL prime-time program was the 54th season premiere of “60 Minutes,” which averaged 9.98 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 highest rated entertainment program was Tuesday’s two-hour “America’s Got Talent” episode on NBC, which averaged 6.99 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).

Fox was fourth, averaging 2.42 million viewers. 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 5.78 million viewers, 12th for the week.

Fox’s top non-NFL program was “The Masked Singer & Alter Ego Sneak Peek,” which averaged 2.94 million viewers following “The OT,” 38th among the week’s broadcast and cable programs.

ABC’s biggest audience was for Saturday’s college football game between Michigan and Washington which averaged 4.75 million viewers, 14th for the week, trailing 10 NFL programs.


“Celebrity Family Feud,” 16th for the week and sixth among non-NFL programs, was the top-rated entertainment program on ABC, averaging 4.22 million viewers.

The Canadian crime drama “Coroner” and the superhero series “DC’s Stargirl” tied as the CW’s ratings leaders, both averaging 638,000 viewers, tying for 175th among broadcast programs.

The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 480,000 viewers.

The prime-time cable program at the top of the rankings was ESPN’s coverage of Saturday’s Arkansas-Texas college football game which averaged 3.36 million viewers, 20th for the week.

Fox News Channel finished first in prime time among cable networks for the 10th consecutive week, averaging 2.23 million viewers. ESPN was second, averaging 1.89 million viewers, HGTV third, averaging 1.07 million and MSNBC fourth, averaging 1.06 million.

CNN finished 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.”

The teen mystery “Outer Banks” and the CW high school football drama “All American,” finished 1-2 on the list of most-streamed programs for the second consecutive week.