TNF: Broncos-Chargers Deliver 20.2M Viewers

The CBS/NFL Network simulcasts of Thursday Night Football went out on a strong Nielsen note.

The networks' telecast of the Denver Broncos' 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers averaged a combined 20.2 milion watchers, according to Nielsen fast nationals data. That was the second-biggest audience for TNF in its rookie season under this game plan, trailing only the 20.8 million watchers for the Sept. 11 opener between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens during the height of the Ray Rice frenzy.

The Oct. 23 delivery  -- Peyton Manning threw a trio of touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders (pictured) to top Philip Rivers and company -- pushed the simulcast average from 16.1 million watchers to 16.5 million after the seven-game run.  That was almost double the 8.5 million for the corresponding stage of the 2013 campaign, when NFL Network aired the games in conjunction with over-the-stations in the participating clubs' DMAs.

CBS, which reported the ratings as a gross average across the two networks since that’s how it was sold to advertisers, easily racked up primetime audience and demo wins against all television competition during its TNF schedule, while also surpassing its 2013 performance in the daypart.  Next week, it will roll out its Thursday scripted lineup showcasting the return of The Big Bang Theory to its regular time slot and the bow of The McCarthys.

Black Rock has one telecast remaining on its one-year $275 million deal with the NFL, a Saturday doubleheader with NFL Network that features the Philadelphia Eagles vs Washington Redskins and the Chargers vs San Francisco 49ers.

The NFL's simulcast experiments -- in which the league believes the game airings and promotions on CBS will boost its in-house network's Nielsen fortunes -- will be put to the test next week. On Oct. 30, NFL Network will begin televising Thursday Night Football for the balance of the season, albeit with CBS's production and lead-announce team of Jim Nance and Phil Simms. The New Orleans Saints will visit the Carolina Panthers next Thursday.