From the first airing of NFL Live over the Summer, the talk at ESPN has been the Cowboys and Brett Favre. Now it’s easy to bash on a network that seems to have an agenda, but after looking over this Nielsen article on Dallas, I’ve come to understand even more why ESPN shoves things down our collective throat.

The Dallas Cowboys bring viewers. Plain and simple. Whether it’s the soap opera nature of the team, or whether they’re winning or losing a lot, people just can’t get enough. So much so that both ESPN and NBC set record numbers for games that the Cowboys played in this season. Via Nielsen

NFL games airing in primetime are breaking records this season, and they share one common denominator: the Dallas Cowboys.

First it was the thrilling September 15th matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Cowboys prevailed in a 41-37 shootout watched by 18.6 million viewers, the most ever for a cable program.

Then on Sunday, the Cowboys scored another television record, defeating the New York Giants in front of 23 million viewers on NBC – the most-watched game in the network’s three year history broadcasting Sunday Night Football. And which team played in each of the next two most highly rated SNF games this season? The Cowboys, of course.

Love them or hate them, Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and their traveling football soap opera are delivering huge audiences for the networks this season. NBC’s SNF and ESPN’s MNF viewership are up 4.3% and 4.1 % respectively compared to the same time period last year, thanks in part to the power of the Cowboys’ national brand.

Even on this site, I probably rely on the Cowboys’ drawing power too much at times (much like Erin Andrews in the past), and while I understand ESPN’s need for ratings, it just seems like overkill most of the time. It’s a tough act to balance and don’t envy the people who try to pull it off.

Cowboys Star in Primetime Ratings, NFL Network Builds Its Audience (Nielsen)

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