Skip to main content

‘MNF’ Sacks Cable's Live Audience Mark: 18.6 Million Viewers

How ‘bout them Cowboys -- and Eagles?

ESPN’s coverage of the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles National Football League last night tackled the biggest live audience in cable history, attracting more than 18.6 million subscribers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The Monday Night Football game drew a 13.3 rating and over 12.9 million homes.

The high-scoring affair in which 'America’s Team' prevailed 41-37 with two sacks of Eagles’ signal-caller Donovan McNabb on Philly’s final possession surpassed the 13.0 rating,12.5 million homes and 17.5 million viewers who tuned in the Dec. 3, 2007 game in which the New England Patriots kept their then-undefeated season intact with a last-minute come from behind win against the Baltimore Ravens.

However, the distinction for the biggest audience in cable history remains -- at least for now -- with fellow Walt Disney Co. network Disney Channel, which amassed 18.639 million viewers for High School Musical 2, when gauged on a live + seven-day basis. Disney Channel's Aug. 17, 2007 premiere of the telefilm delivered 17.2 million viewers. By way of comparison, Nielsen data shows that the Patriots-Ravens last year averaged 17.522 million viewers in its live window, a tally that grew to 17.543 million, after factoring in the live+ seven-day measurement. Hence, 'Boys-Eagles would have to add more than 31,000 viewers to topple HSM2 as the medium's all-time telecast.

The Sept. 15 contest from Texas Stadium was ESPN’s third highest rating ever, trailing two other NFL contests: Chicago at Minnesota on Dec. 6, 1987, which delivered a 14.4 rating and 8.4 million homes; and Detroit at Miami on Christmas 1994, which produced a 14.2 rating and 8.9 million homes.

The ‘Boys-Eagles contest, in which the lead changed hand eight times, marked the second straight Monday, ESPN won the night among all networks, broadcast or cable.

Moreover, the Nielsen numbers represented gains of 46%, 48% and 60% relative to ratings, household impressions and viewers, respectively, compared with the corresponding MNF match-up in the 2007 

season, when Philadelphia-Washington earned a 9.1, 8.7 million homes and 11.6 million viewers.

Through its first three games, MNF averaged a 10.1 rating, 9.8 million households and 13.8 million viewers, gains of 23%. 25% and 32%, respectively, compared with the same stage of last season.

The Dallas-Philly contest and the MNF-opening doubleheader combo of Green Bay-Minnesota and Denver-Oakland rank as the three largest audiences on cable this year.