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MNF: Doubleheader Kicks Off Season with 12.6M Viewers

ESPN kicked off its 2014 Monday Night Football slate by averaging 12.6 million viewers for its opening night doubleheader.

The worldwide leader scored with 13.7 million viewers with its Detroit-New York Giants opener, according to Nielsen data. The Sept. 8 telecast – the Lions devoured the Gmen 35-14 – was down 17% from its first game of the 2013 MNF schedule, when 16.5 million saw Chip Kelly lead the Philadelphia Eagles past NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins, by a 33-27 count, in his coaching debut.

That record audience for a MNF opener, combined with 10.9 million for Houston-San Diego in the nightcap, to give ESPN an average audience of 13.7 million, the top performance since it began airing the doubleheader format in 2006, when it acquired the franchise from ABC.

Last night’s second game – an 18-17 win by the Arizona Cardinals over the Chargers – averaged 11.5 million viewers, up 5.5% from 10.9 million a year ago.

The doubleheader averaged 12.6 million, down 8% from the 2013 twinbill.

The MNF games finished as the two highest-rated telecasts of the night on any network, averaging a 7.8 U.S. rating. During the traditional MNF timeslot -- 8:15-11:30 p.m. -- ESPN averaged a 9.6 rating and 15.5 million watchers. The performances gave ESPN the win for the night among all networks – broadcast or cable – in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos. The MNF games ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 telecasts of the night across cable and broadcast in those same categories.

On Sept. 15, ESPN’s MNF returns with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts hosting LeSean McCoy and the Eagles. The MNF telecast will begin at its new earlier time – 8:15 p.m. (ET), with kickoff scheduled for 8:30 p.m.