TV Ratings: NFL Opener Slips vs. 2021

Early figures have the season's first game down about 20 percent year to year.

The NFL kicked off its 2022 season with a big TV audience — no surprise there — but not as big as a year ago.

The Buffalo Bills’ 31-10 victory over the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams drew 21.7 million viewers across NBC, Peacock, the NBC Sports app and NFL digital properties. That’s down about 18 percent from last year’s opener, which hit a six-year high of 26.4 million viewers across platforms.

Final Nielsen ratings for the NBC portion of the audience put the game at 19.94 million viewers, off by just under 20 percent from 24.81 million viewers on the broadcast network for last year’s opener.

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The one-sided score (the most lopsided kickoff game in nine years) and news coverage of the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on many other networks Thursday may have helped push the NFL audience down some compared to last year. The 2021 game also featured two of the league’s bigger draws in the Dallas Cowboys and the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Among cable news outlets, Fox News had the biggest audience (2.28 million viewers) for the 2 p.m. ET hour, when the queen’s death was announced. CNN averaged 1.8 million viewers and MSNBC 1.19 million in that hour. The combined 5.27 million viewers for the three outlets was 53 percent higher than the same time period on Wednesday.

ABC devoted its full primetime slate to coverage of the queen, averaging 3.27 million viewers.

Sept. 12, 9 a.m. Updated with final ratings figures.