TV Ratings: 'Monday Night Football' Soars With ABC Simulcast

Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith of the New Orleans Saints avoids a tackle by safety Johnathan Abram of the Las Vegas Raiders.
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New Orleans Saints v. Las Vegas Raiders in the Sept. 21 'Monday Night Football' game.

Monday Night Football celebrated its 50th anniversary on the network where it began, ABC — and got a big ratings bump in the process. A trio of drama premieres on other networks, however, turned in soft showings on the opening night of the 2020-21 TV season.

A simulcast of the game between the Las Vegas Raiders — the first in their new home — and New Orleans Saints on ABC and ESPN dominated primetime Monday. The game drew a combined 15.44 million viewers and a 4.7 rating among adults 18-49 in the final same-day numbers, way up from both last week (when the first game of a doubleheader averaged 10.76 million viewers) and the same week of the NFL season in 2019 (11.8 million). The 15.44 million viewers was the biggest audience for Monday Night Football since 15.98 million people watched the Nov. 11, 2019, game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

The audience was fairly evenly split between the two channels: ABC had 7.98 million viewers to 7.45 million for ESPN. The latter, however, had a younger-skewing crowd, posting a 2.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 2.1 among adults 18-34, vs. 2.0 and 1.2 for ABC.

The opening returns for three series premieres — all of them placeholders as production on broadcast network shows is still in the early stages — weren't very promising. Fox's Filthy Rich, originally slated for a summer debut, scored a 0.5 among adults 18-49 and 3.03 million viewers. So did the broadcast debut of Spectrum Originals' L.A.'s Finest, which had nearly identical numbers (0.5 in 18-49, 3.05 million viewers).

Another Spectrum show making the leap to an over-the-air network, Manhunt: Deadly Games, put up soft numbers for CBS: just a 0.3 in the demo 1.58 million viewers. Broadcast and cable TV usage was down by 21 percent compared to last season's opening night.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight (4.75 million viewers) and Hannity (4.26 million) ranked second and third in total viewers on cable behind Monday Night Football. Bravo's Below Deck Mediterranean was the top non-sports performer on cable in adults 18-49, earning a 0.55 rating.

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