With many Americans spending more time at home and precious few live entertainment options to pass the time, sports ratings have climbed since games returned mid-summer. The NFL tends to always up the ante in terms of viewership, and NBC’s opening Thursday Night Football broadcast between the Texans and Chiefs blew away all its competition, peaking at 22 million viewers across linear and digital platforms.
The broadcast did, however, finish just below last year’s opener between the Packers and Bears.
From the NFL:
Despite the largest fourth-quarter deficit (24 points) in an NFL Kickoff Game in seven years, the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans in the opening game of the NFL season last night averaged a preliminary* Total Audience Delivery of 20.3 million viewers across NBC TV, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms – making it the most-watched sporting event since Super Bowl LIV in February, according to Fast National data released today by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics.
With 20.3 million viewers, the NFL Kickoff Game is only the second show since the Super Bowl Sunday to average at least 20 million viewers (Academy Awards, 23.6 million on Feb. 9). Last night’s game faced unprecedented sports competition, as both NBA and NHL playoff games were contested at the same time.
In a follow-up report, Dominic Patten of Deadline noted the broadcast was down 12.3 percent from Packers-Bears in 2019 and nearly hit a nine-year low for opening games in terms of linear viewership. However, digital viewership was up 55 percent over 2019 and represented a non-Super Bowl high.
This came on an unprecedented night in which every major American sport as well as golf and soccer were being played as a result of the pandemic’s effect on the sports calendar. Not only did the NFL retain its spot at the top of the sports world, it generated more attention across all platforms than even a typical football game would.