TV Ratings: NFL Opener Declines vs. 2019

Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs-SEPTEMBER 10, 2020
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The opening game of the NFL season brought in a smaller audience Thursday than it did last year — but still dominated ratings for the day.

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs' 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans averaged about 19.3 million viewers on NBC, according to preliminary ratings. In the finals, however, NBC's telecast stands at 20.54 million viewers, with the additional 1.2 million coming from out of home viewing and other adjustments. That's down about 7 percent from the 22.12 million who watched last year's kickoff and ahead of the 19 million who tuned in for the 2018 kickoff.

The game averaged a 6.7 rating in the key ad demographic of adults 18-49, the highest for any show since the post-Super Bowl episode of The Masked Singer in early February.

Despite the declines, NBC's telecast delivered the biggest single-network audience since the Oscars (23.64 million viewers) in February. Three nights of political convention coverage in August also topped Thursday's game, but that was spread across as much as 11 different outlets.

Per NBC, streaming of Thursday's game on NBC and NFL digital platforms and Verizon mobile properties averaged 970,000 viewers — the highest ever for an NFL game (excluding Super Bowls) on NBC. It was up 55 percent from the 627,000 average viewers for last year's season opener and accounted for a little under 5 percent of the game's total audience (excluding out of home viewing).

The game also eclipsed everything else on TV Thursday. In early ratings no other show on the broadcast networks got above 4 million viewers; the most watched show on cable, Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, had an audience of 4.4 million.

Following the game and local news, NBC's late-night shows had their best outings of 2020. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon had a 0.7 rating in adults 18-49 and 2.58 million viewers, and Late Night With Seth Meyers (which featured Michael Cohen as a guest) drew a 0.4 in the demo and 1.38 million viewers. Both shows hit highs since their last post-NFL airings on Dec. 1 and Nov. 28, 2019.

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Sept. 14, 8:15 a.m. Updated with final NFL numbers, including out of home viewing.