TV Ratings: CBS and NFL's 'Thursday Night Football' Partnership Gets a Strong Start

The first game brings 20.8 million viewers across networks
AP Images

CBS and the NFL's $275 million deal to air eight Thursday Night Football games on both CBS and cable's NFL Network roared to a very auspicious start last night.

Though some of the interest in the game — the Steelers played the Ravens, which fired over Ray Rice in a heated domestic abuse scandal — it was still a huge boon to the NFL's younger Thursday offerings. On CBS alone, the game brought in 17.4 million viewers and an average 5.9 rating among adults 18-49.

The NFL Network took an expected hit in its own coverage, averaging 3.4 million viewers and a 1.6 rating in the key demo for its own coverage. Still, it was enough to easily win the night for cable. Together, that amounts to 20.8 million viewers and a 7.5 rating.

The game averaged an overnight household rating of 13.7. That's more than double the comparable game that aired on the NFL Network alone last summer, and 99 percent bigger than any Thursday game broadcast in the network's history. Those early rating is a combination of how the game was consumed on both CBS and the NFL Network.

For most appropriate football comparison, NBC's Sunday Night Football opener this year pulled a 15.1 overnight rating — roughly 10 percent better than Thursday's showing. Final numbers for that game gave it 23.7 million viewers and a 9.0 rating in the key demographic. (Last week's Thursday game on NFL, boosted by the fact of being the season kickoff, averaged 26.9 million viewers and a 10.2 rating in the key demo.

In non-football news, The Biggest Loser premiered to a new low in live-same-day returns — a 1.6 rating with adults 18-49. That's off 30 percent from the comparable launch last October. ABC's The Quest signed off with a steady 0.5 rating in the key demo, and both Fox and CW aired repeats.

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