TV Ratings: NFL Opening Game Hits 3-Year High

Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears Soldier Field - Getty - H 2019
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The kickoff of the NFL season on NBC Thursday night scored the best ratings for the opening game since 2016.

Despite an ugly, penalty-filled game, the Green Bay Packers' 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears averaged 22 million viewers in the finals, a 16 percent boost over the 18.98 million who tuned in last year. Streaming on NBC and NFL digital properties averaged 627,000 viewers, an all-time high for NBC's primetime NFL package.

The 22 million viewers for Thursday's game are the most for any sporting event in the United States since the Super Bowl in February (at least until Sunday).

NBC's telecast scored a preliminary 15.3 household rating in overnight metered markets. That's up 14 percent from a 13.4 in the overnights for the 2018 season opener, and also bests the 14.6 for the first game of the 2017 season.

The game also gave a big boost to NBC's late-night franchises, with both The Tonight Show (1.0 rating in adults 18-49) and Late Night (0.5) recording their best numbers since Thanksgiving 2018, when the also had an NFL primetime lead-in.

The NFL's regular-season TV ratings (across all its broadcast outlets) improved by 5 percent last season after two years of declines. 

Elsewhere Thursday, CBS' Big Brother led the non-NFL offerings on the broadcast networks with a 1.0 rating in adults 18-49 and 4.16 million viewers. Both figures are up a little from last week. Two episodes of Spin the Wheel averaged 0.5 in the 18-49 demo on Fox. ABC's Reef Break was on its season average at 0.3 following an airing of The Lego Movie (0.4), and The CW's The Outpost and Two Sentence Horror Stories each drew 0.1s.

NBC averaged a 6.2 rating among adults 18-49 in primetime, pending updates for its live NFL broadcast. CBS was the best of the rest at 0.6, followed by Fox at 0.5. Telemundo and Univision tied at 0.4, ABC averaged 0.3 and The CW 0.1.

Bookmark for more ratings news and numbers.

Sept. 6, 1:15 p.m. Updated with final NFL viewership.