The National Football League continued to reach absurd ratings heights during its opening weekend.
NBC set a new primetime record for an NFL regular season game in the overnight ratings, which tracks the numbers from the top markets in the country. The peacock drew an 18.0 for Peyton Manning's return to football against the Steelers. In addition to being a record, that was up 7 percent from last years Dallas-Jets opener.
The previous record was 2010 opening night when the Saints, coming off their Super Bowl victory, hosted the Vikings. The combination of Manning's return and the nationally popular Pittsburgh team got diehards and casual fans to tune in. Locally, the game drew a 44.2 rating in Denver -- the highest overnight for a regular season game in that market since September of 2003 -- and a 51.5 in Pittsburgh.
Fox also had a very good opening Sunday. Despite being blacked out in big markets like New York and Chicago. (Whenever CBS has the home game of an NFL team, Fox cannot show a game at the same time in that market.) Their 1 p.m. ET window -- which largely featured RGIII and the Redskins beating the Saints -- drew a 10.2 overnight, up 14 percent from last year's window, which showed Eagles-Rams to most of the country. It was the highest number Fox has drawn in that timeslot during Week 1 in 11 years.
At 4:25 p.m. ET (the new late game window, or as Fox controversially likes to call it, "America's Game of the Week") 49ers-Packers drew big numbers. The Niners win -- which was seen in 87 percent of the country -- scored a 17.2 overnight rating, up slightly from the 17.1 drawn by Giants-Redskins to open up last year's season in that window. That number is a Week 1 record for Fox.
The only network to see a drop in their NFL ratings this weekend was CBS, which drew a 10.4 rating for their singleheader regional window. The window featured Patriots-Titans in most of the country, which -- while showing the ever-popular Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Patriots -- is far from a marquee game. The network was down 2 percent from last year, which featured Ravens-Steelers in most of the country. CBS has been hamstrung for many years on Week 1 of the NFL season, dating well back to their years as the rightsholder for the NFC package, by their commitment to airing the U.S. Open.
In the battle of the pre-game shows, Fox NFL Sunday easily topped CBS' The NFL Today by a score of 3.7 to 2.9. Fox's 3.7 is the best rating for a pre-game show in nine years, and a surprisingly dominant opening for Fox, given that CBS has been neck and neck ever since they hired James Brown away from Fox.
Regardless, it was a prosperous opening weekend for all involved, which makes our corporate overlords at the NFL very happy! Huzzah for the rich people!
NFL Week 1 Overnights
12:00 Fox NFL Sunday (Fox) 3.7
12:00 The NFL Today (CBS) 2.9
1:00 The NFL On CBS (Patriots-Titans, Colts-Bears, Dolphins-Texans, Bills-Jets, Jaguars-Vikings) 10.4
1:00 The NFL On Fox (Redskins-Saints, Falcons-Chiefs, Eagles-Browns, Rams-Lions) 10.2
4:25 The NFL On Fox (49ers-Packers, Panthers-Buccaneers, Seahawks-Cardinals) 17.2
7:00 Football Night in America (NBC) 4.7
8:15 Sunday Night Football (Steelers-Broncos) 18.0