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The NFL returned to television in a big way on Thursday.
The opening game of the 2021 season scored its biggest total audience — including TV and streaming — in six years. NBC Sports says 26.4 million people watched the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Dallas Cowboys 31-29, a 22 percent jump over last year’s kickoff (21.6 million across all platforms) and the best opener since 27.4 million watched in 2015.
NBC’s on-air coverage averaged 24.81 million viewers in the final Nielsen ratings, its biggest audience for a primetime regular season game since late in the 2016 season. Thursday’s telecast is also the most watched program on TV since the Super Bowl in February.
The game also scored a 7.57 rating among adults 18-49 for NBC, a 13 percent improvement on last year’s opener and the best for a regular-season game on the network since September 2019.
The streaming audience for the game averaged 1.6 million viewers across Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms, Yahoo Sports and the teams’ mobile properties. Outside of Super Bowls, that’s the largest streaming viewership ever for an NFL game, and it’s up 64 percent from last year’s opening game (970,000). Streaming accounted for about 6 percent of the total audience, pending updates.
Bookmark THR.com/Ratings for more ratings news and numbers.
Sept. 13, 7:55 a.m. Updated with final Nielsen ratings.
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