NBC is ecstatic that football is back. Sunday Night Football's season opener set a record as the series' highest-rated game ever, and scored the best ratings for a Week 1 tilt on a Sunday or Monday night in 15 years, preliminary Nielsen data showed.
The game posted a 16.9 overnight rating and 27 share — the biggest overnight numbers for a comparably scheduled game since Sept. 2, 1996. The record rating for the NFL's premier prime-time package — which became NBC's Sunday night game in 2006 — was up 3 percent compared with last year, 26 percent vs. 2009, and gave the network this year's biggest Sunday night since ABC broadcast the Oscars Feb. 27.
While the Dallas Cowboys coughed up the game to the New York Jets, 27-24, the game went down to the final minute and averaged some 22.57 million viewers. It also earned a 9.5 rating among 18-to-49-year-olds.
The next biggest audience-getter on the broadcast networks: CBS' 9/11: 10 Years Later, which garnered 12.23 million from 8 to 10 p.m.
The boffo numbers for the Sunday night contest came on the heels of Thursday night's kickoff that attracted 27.2 million fans — all in all, an augury devoutly to be wished by NBC. SNF was No. 1 in the first half of the 2010-11 season and likely will be this season. To boot, the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 will be covered by NBC — which just may help the network climb out of fourth place.