ESPN’s double dip of Monday Night Football once again turned in huge numbers for the network, and for the second straight year put the “Leader” in the top spot in terms of all cable programming for the year. Adding to that, MNF also won the night for ESPN beating out all cable and network shows across the board. Obviously most major network shows haven’t begun their fall programming, but the numbers still look pretty impressive. Especially if you compare them to last year’s double-header.

The Packers-Vikings game was sure to top last year’s Ravens-Bengals game, which it did, but actually pulled a 9.3 rating and (an average of just over 9 million households) was up a hefty 8% over the 2007 game in the 7pm spot. Add to that a surprising 7.3 (an average of 7.1 million HHs) for the Denver blow out of Oakland, which was up 7% over the close Cards-9ers game from 2007, and that’s a pretty shocking increase over last season’s openers. For a blowout game to improve on 2007 ratings by that much is impressive, and to put it into perspective for both games, the Home Run Derby on the network earlier this year pulled a little over 6 million viewers.

The first Monday nighter of the year is always going to bring ratings, but I certainly didn’t think the two games were going to do as well as they did. I know I’ve said this ad nauseum, but I still think ESPN deserves to be commended for at least attempting some changes with MNF. They destroyed shows like High School Musical and American Idol last year, but still spent the time to listen to fans when they didn’t have to. Obviously there are still problems with the programming on a whole, but it’s slowly improving. And with the Eagles-Cowboys coming next week they look to be on the road to setting even more records this year.

(Numbers via ESPN PR)

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