The initial television ratings numbers on the opening week of the NFL season show a mixed performance, highlighted by a massive audience for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss against the New Orleans Saints.
Slotted into the afternoon, America's Game of the Week window for FOX Sports, the matchup of both NFC South opponents was likely bolstered by the quarterback matchup between new Bucs passer Tom Brady and Drew Brees of the Saints.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the telecast drew an average audience of 25.85 million, an increase of 7% from last season's game in the same slot, which had an average of 24.22 million viewers. FOX said it was the most-watched telecast of any kind, since Super Bowl LIV in February, between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. FOX also said it was the network's most-watched Week 1 NFL game since 2016.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws in the first quarter against the Saints. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports)
FOX said its regional broadcasts had their best-performing Week 1 since the 2016 season, drawing an average viewership of 13.53 million, up 6% from last year.
NBC's primetime Sunday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams inside the brand new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, however, significantly underperformed. According to Nielsen numbers, an average audience of 18.94 million million tuned in, which was a 15% drop from last season's same Week 1 slot between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.
According to the Sports Business Journal, the Cowboys-Rams viewership represents the lowest audience for a Sunday night opener since 2008, which was also an election year.
CBS also suffered a dip from last season, with its regional single header games drawing an average of 13.59 million viewers, a slide of 12%.
Despite the mixed performance compared to previous seasons, the NFL's Week 1 games still thoroughly outperformed the rest of television programming throughout Sunday.
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