NBC, NFL Score Big In Primetime

The combination of NBC's Thursday night broadcast of the NFL season opener between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints and its Sunday Night Football (SNF) opener between the Redskins and Cowboys produced the biggest combined ratings average--a 17.1--for the two games since the Thursday/Sunday format was introduced in 2002, according to the network.

The Redskins nail-biter victory over the rival Cowboys at D.C.'s Fed Ex Field had the best overnight rating average--a 16.6--for a Sunday or Monday night game in 13 years, beaten only by Thursday's rematch of the Vikings/Saints NFC championship game last year (both of which ended in a Saints victory).

The Cowboys have been ratings gold for the network, featuring in five of the top 10-rated SNF games.

Sunday night belonged to NBC, with the game beating the combined primetime averages of CBS (3.7/6), Fox (3.0/4) and ABC (2.4/4) combined with plenty of room to spare.

Not surprisingly, Sunday night's game drew the biggest crowds in D.C. and Dallas, with the later topping the list at a 39.6 rating, followed by Washington with a 37.2. But surrounding areas also tuned in big time. San Antonio was number three at a 32.9, followed by Richmond, Va., at a 32.1, and Norfolk, Va., at a 30.5.

One veteran NBC ratings watcher said he could not remember when five markets averaged over a 30 rating for a game broadcast.

The game also drew a crowds in Philadelphia--a 19.1 for 14th place--a Skins NFC East rival (along with Dallas), and the team that traded its veteran quarterback to the skins, an unusual inter-division move for a quarterback of the stature and resume of Donovan McNabb.

Monday, it will be ESPN's turn to try for prime time ratings glory with its double-header Monday Night Football season debut.

Beyond the world of football, CBS' Big Brother was down 13% from last week to a summer low 2.1/5 among adults 18-49. The dip may be attributed to the fact that Sunday's airing was a recap episode.

ABC's The Gates fell flat, matching last week's series low at 0.7/2 in the key adults demo.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.