The National Football League is simply a stunning, dominant ratings force in American culture. Now that American Idol has faded away, there is no show on U.S. television that draws anything close to the universal appeal that football has. It just keeps growing and growing.
Every week, we're going to look at the ratings for Sunday's NFL broadcasts and try to put them into perspective. Since you can't compare the NFL to anything else, why not just compare it to itself? Let's start with a look at Week 1.
Fox NFL Sunday has traditionally beaten CBS' The NFL Today, and that trend continues into 2013. Fox's show, which traveled to New York for a special 90-minute edition, hit a 4.0 overnight. That was not only noticeably better than last year's season premiere (3.7), but the best Week 1 rating for Fox since 2003. CBS didn't do too badly, as the 3.3 for The NFL Today was also up from last year's debut episode (2.9).
The numbers have been consistently going up the last three seasons, at least for the opening week of the season. Fox's 2011 opening day pregame drew a 3.5, while CBS had a 2.8. It shows you that fans crave football talk more than ever, especially on Sundays. There's good reason both Fox Sports 1 and CBS Sports Network launched pregame shows this season.
Meanwhile, Football Night in America hit a 5.4 rating, up from the 4.9 for last season's premiere.
CBS (1 p.m. ET regional window)
CBS didn't have the greatest slate of games to launch the season, but it did have a couple of big markets in Chicago and Boston, which led the network to an 11.2 rating, the highest for that opening weekend single window since 1999. CBS had the rare opportunity of being able to broadcast at 1 p.m. ET to the entire country and took advantage of it.
Top local markets for CBS 1 p.m. ET window
|1. Indianapolis||Oakland vs. Indianapolis||36.7/61|
|2. Pittsburgh||Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh||33.7/61|
|3. Buffalo||New England vs. Buffalo||33.6/62|
|4. Kansas City||Kansas City vs. Jacksonville||31.8/55|
|5. Boston||New England vs. Buffalo||29.7/61|
|6. Chicago||Cincinnati vs. Chicago||29.1/57|
|7. Cincinnati||Cincinnati vs. Chicago||28.0/49|
|8. Cleveland||Miami vs. Cleveland||27.3/53|
|9. Nashville||Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh||24.2/42|
|10. Providence||New England vs. Buffalo||23.2/44|
Fox (1 p.m. ET window)
Fox's doubleheader started off with a 10.2 rating, even with last year's number. The window was led by Atlanta-New Orleans in most markets, though it also had a wacky Jets matchup and two other regional matchups. Usually, games based out of the NFL's southern divisions can be a bit of a lag nationally, but the Falcons and Saints have certainly had enough national exposure to move the needle at this point.
Reminder that markets with home games in the CBS 1 p.m. ET window couldn't get Fox at 1 p.m., so Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cleveland don't factor into local numbers.
Top local markets for Fox 1 p.m. ET window
|1. New Orleans||Atlanta vs. New Orleans||48.1/73|
|2. Minneapolis||Minnesota vs. Detroit||35.5/68|
|3. Seattle||Seattle vs. Carolina||30.1/63|
|4. Detroit||Minnesota vs. Detroit||25.4/52|
|5. Atlanta||Atlanta vs. New Orleans||24.4/47|
|6. Charlotte||Seattle vs. Carolina||22.4/42|
|7. Tampa Bay||Tampa Bay vs. NY Jets||20.5/39|
|8. Milwaukee||Minnesota vs. Detroit||20.4/41|
|9. Greensboro||Seattle vs. Carolina||17.8/33|
|10. Washington||Atlanta vs. New Orleans||13.9/29|
Fox (4 p.m. ET "Game of the Week" window)
Fox had the late afternoon national window as per usual in Week 1, and the network programmed it with the same game it did last year: Green Bay vs. San Francisco (Arizona vs. St. Louis aired in a few markets). This year's window drew a 17.8 rating, up a little over three percent from last year's game. Three percent is pretty much nothing in NFL terms, but Packers-49ers has clearly become an elite rivalry now that it's a playoff rematch. Let's see how well the much-hyped 49ers-Seahawks "rivalry" does next week on NBC with no playoff history between the clubs.
Top local markets for Fox 4 p.m. ET window
|1. Milwaukee||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||51.1/76|
|2. New Orleans||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||30.8/47|
|3. St. Louis||Arizona vs. St. Louis||27.8/46|
|4. Sacramento||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||26.3/52|
|5. Minneapolis||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||25.2/48|
|6. Phoenix||Arizona vs. St. Louis||24.6/44|
|7. Las Vegas||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||22.1/39|
|8. Bay Area (SF/SJ/OAK)||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||21.6/50|
|9. Washington||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||20.0/37|
|10. Kansas City||Green Bay vs. San Francisco||20.0/34|
NBC (Sunday Night Football)
Last year's Sunday night opener was a competitive matchup that featured the return of a modern-day NFL legend in Peyton Manning. This year, his little brother and Tony Romo basically spent three hours trying to hand the game to each other. The poorly played Giants-Cowboys showdown drew a 16.6 overnight, down seven percent from Peyton's return to the NFL against the Steelers last year.
With the Giants looking to be headed for a mediocre season and the Cowboys still hard to pin down, we may have seen the last of New York and Dallas dominating the Sunday night schedule for a little while.
Local ratings for Sunday Night Football
|2. San Antonio||25.4/40|
|6. New Orleans||22.4/30|
|9. Oklahoma City||20.8/29|
|10. Las Vegas||20.5/32|