Start of football season draws viewers back to their TVs

Two football players clash as they run on the field.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) stiff-arms Los Angeles Rams safety Nick Scott during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Official viewership for the NFL Kickoff game was down 19.6% from last year, while “Sunday Night Football” drew its largest audience for a season opener since 2015, with the Dallas Cowboys factoring into both figures.

The Rams’ 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday, the most one-sided NFL Kickoff game since 2013, averaged 19.939 million viewers. The 31-29 loss by the Cowboys, long one of the NFL’s most popular teams, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year’s NFL Kickoff game, which was decided by Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal with two seconds to play, averaged 24.813 million viewers, the Kickoff’s largest audience since 2016.

The total audience for Thursday’s game, which includes streaming viewership on Peacock, NBC Sports and NFL digital platforms, was 21.7 million viewers, according to figures provided by NBC. NBC has televised the NFL Kickoff game annually since 2006.

Dallas’ 19-3 loss to the Buccaneers on “Sunday Night Football” averaged 23.296 million viewers, a 32.1% increase over the 17.639 million average for last year’s “Sunday Night Football” opener, the Rams’ 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.


The total audience was 25 million, the most for a “Sunday Night Football” opener since 2015, when the Cowboys’ 27-26 victory over the New York Giants drew 26.9 million viewers. The broadcast audience was the largest for a “Sunday Night Football” opener since 2017, when Dallas’ 19-3 victory over the Giants averaged 24.366 million.

Both the NFL Kickoff game and the “Sunday Night Football” opener drew the largest prime-time audiences since NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage on Feb. 13 averaged 21.277 million viewers following the Super Bowl LVI postgame show.

Sunday’s premiere of Fox’s country music drama “Monarch” following its NFL coverage averaged 4.034 million viewers, 17th among the prime-time broadcast and cable programs airing between Sept. 5 and Sunday, sixth among non-sports programs.

“Monarch’s” 0.9 rating among viewers ages 18-49, the group Fox targets, was the highest for the premiere of any scripted series since April 1, 2021, when NBC’s “Law & Order: Organized Crime” drew a 1.6 rating.

The most popular non-sports prime-time program was “60 Minutes,” which averaged 7.853 million viewers for a previously broadcast report on New York City firefighters sent to rescue victims of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.

“60 Minutes” was eighth for the week behind the two NFL games, four NFL pregame shows and Fox’s 13-minute NFL postgame show.


The two NFL games gave NBC the weekly largest audience for any network since Feb. 14-20, its final week of coverage of the Winter Olympics. NBC’s top-ranked non-sports program was the 121-minute edition of “America’s Got Talent” on Sept. 6, which averaged 6.115 million viewers, 11th for the week and second among non-sports programs.

CBS finished second, averaging 3.1 million viewers, which includes the 22-minute runover of its afternoon NFL coverage into prime time in the Eastern and Central time zones, where the bulk of the nation’s population lives. The runover averaged 15.83 million viewers.

ABC was third, averaging 2.79 million viewers. “Celebrity Family Feud” was ABC’s highest-rated program for the 10th time in the 11 weeks since the conclusion of the network’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Final, averaging 4.161 million viewers, 15th for the week and fourth among non-sports programs.

Fox averaged 2.67 million viewers, including a 20.496-million average for its 32-minute NFL runover. Fox’s top draw was its 13-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT,” which averaged 10.044 million viewers, sixth for the week.

The CW averaged 330,000 viewers for its 14 hours of programming, led for the second consecutive week by the 8:30 p.m. Sunday rerun of “World’s Funniest Animals,” which averaged 549,000 viewers, 166th among broadcast programs. Its overall ranking was not available.

The top 20 prime-time programs consisted of the two NFL games; five NFL pregame shows; two NFL postgame shows; two ESPN college football games; “60 Minutes”; two episodes of “America’s Got Talent”; the Sunday and Wednesday episodes of the CBS alternative series “Big Brother”; the ABC alternative programs “Celebrity Family Feud” and “The $100,000 Pyramid”; “Monarch”; and a rerun of CBS’ “FBI.”

The top-rated cable program was ESPN’s coverage of Clemson’s 41-10 victory over Georgia Tech on Sept. 5, which averaged 4.859 million viewers, 13th for the week.

The combination of the U.S. Open tennis tournament and college football put ESPN at the top of the cable network heap for the second consecutive week, averaging 2.675 million viewers. Fox News Channel averaged 1.983 million viewers to finish second for the second consecutive week following 12 consecutive first-place finishes.

MSNBC averaged 995,000 for its second consecutive third-place finish after seven consecutive second-place finishes.

The cable top 20 consisted of three college football games on ESPN and one on ESPN2; ESPN’s coverage of Friday’s U.S. Open semifinals; 11 Fox News Channel weeknight political talk shows — five broadcasts of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” four of “Hannity” and two of “The Ingraham Angle”; the three hourlong segments of USA Network’s professional wrestling program, “WWE Raw”; and the HBO fantasy drama “House of the Dragon.”

The fifth season of “Cobra Kai” was Netflix’s most-streamed program, with viewers spending 106.7 million hours watching the 10 episodes of the martial arts comedy-drama the first three days they were available, according to figures released Tuesday by the streaming service.

Netflix’s most popular movie was “End of the Road,” with viewers watching the Queen Latifah-starring road-trip movie for 30.21 million hours in its first three days of release.