9:03am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Sunday Night Football' Makes Record Return on NBC
"Sunday Night Football" staged an especially strong return for NBC. Fast affiliate numbers give the Pittsburgh Steelers-Denver Broncos game the network's best-ever overnight rating (18.0) for a primetime regular season game.
Metered Markets also give the game a 9.8 rating among adults 18-49, 3 percent higher than the fast national for last year's opener and on track to eclipse its final 10.7 rating. Following an hour and a half of Football Night in America (4.6 adults rating), the network currently averages a dominant 7.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 20.1 million viewers for the night.
The game featured the return of four-time NFL MVP -- and one-time Saturday Night Live host -- Peyton Manning, playing his first game as Broncos quarterback after sitting out the 2011 season due to neck surgery.
Fox had some NFL overrun of its own, inflating the network's average -- currently a 3.9 rating among adults 18-49 and 9.6 million viewers -- for its block of animation reruns.
Fast affiliate ratings for CBS' primetime lineup also are slightly skewed thanks to slightly more than a half-hour's worth of overrun for tennis' U.S. Open. As it stands, Big Brother, the night's only original broadcast, was up 11 percent with a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49. The network averaged a 1.5 rating in the demo and 7.2 million viewers.
ABC, prepping for the fall season, aired four back-to-back encores of Once Upon a Time, averaging a 0.7 rating with adults 18-49 and 2.8 million viewers for the night.
Univision scored a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49.
Just for grins, watch Manning's classic United Way spoof on SNL in 2007 below.