NFL opener tops 25 million despite weather delay

Dustin Bradford

NBC saw gains of five percent from last year's Cowboys-Giants opener.

A 33-minute delay due to lightning couldn't stop the domineering juggernaut that is the National Football League.

Thursday night's Ravens-Broncos opener, which didn't kick off until after 9 p.m. ET, drew 25.1 million viewers on NBC. That's an increase of five percent from last year's opening night tilt, a Cowboys-Giants game that was forced to Wednesday night due to a conflict with the Democratic National Convention. That game drew 23.9 million viewers.

Only two games have scored bigger audiences since the NFL started playing their opening game on Thursday nights: in 2010, when Saints-Vikings hit the high-water mark of 27.5 million, and 2011, when Green Bay's blowout of New Orleans was seen by 27.1 million. Every NFL opener since 2009 has topped at least 20 million viewers.

The game proved most popular in, naturally, Denver. The game scored a 43.9/70 in the market, meaning seven of every 10 TVs turned on at the time were watching the game. Second was Baltimore, which likely saw a drop as the game fell out of the Ravens' reach. New Orleans, Indianapolis, Nashville, Albuquerque, Washington, Richmond, Sacramento and Las Vegas followed.

The most clear evidence of football's dominance? Game 7 of the NBA Finals (26.3 million) was the only game of the most recent NBA Finals, World Series or Stanley Cup Final to draw more viewers than Ravens-Broncos. The BCS Championship Game (26.4 million) outdrew it, though the NCAA Tournament Final (23.4 million) did not.

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