Despite all of the off-the-field machinations between the New England Patriots and the NFL, people were ready to watch football last Thursday. The 2015 NFL regular season opener that saw the Patriots defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers garnered the second-largest audience for the NFL Kickoff game in its brief 14-year history.

The game averaged 27.4 million viewers and is just below the 27.5 million for the 2010 Kickoff between New Orleans and Minnesota. And this year’s contest was 1% better than last year’s season opener between Seattle and Green Bay which averaged 27.1 million viewers.

NBC says the rating/share for the game was 16.2/28 and that was up 3% from last year’s 15.7/27. The game peaked with an average viewership of 30.2 million and a 17.5/30 in the 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET quarter-hour.

Online, the game on NBC Sports Live Extra saw a record 530,000 unique viewers making it the most-trafficked event on the service other than the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Here’s how the other Kickoff Games rank in viewership over the years:

(All Games on Thursday Night except 2012)

2015 NBC 27.4 million (New England 28 – Pittsburgh 21)
2014 NBC 27.1 million (Seattle 36 – Green Bay 16)
2013 NBC 25.1 million (Denver 49 – Baltimore 27)
2012 NBC 23.9 million (Dallas 24 – NY Giants 17)**
2011 NBC 27.1 million (Green Bay 42 – New Orleans 34)
2010 NBC 27.5 million (New Orleans 14 – Minnesota 9)
2009 NBC 20.9 million (Pittsburgh 13 – Tennessee 10)
2008 NBC 13.5 million (NY Giants 16 – Washington 7)*
2007 NBC 17.8 million (Indianapolis 41 – New Orleans 10)
2006 NBC 19.2 million (Pittsburgh 28 – Miami 17)
2005 ABC 18.0 million (New England 30 – Oakland 20)
2004 ABC 16.9 million (New England 27 – Indianapolis 24)
2003 ABC 19.1 million (Washington 16 – NY Jets 13)
2002 ESPN 10.8 million (San Francisco 16 – NY Giants 13)

** Wednesday Night Game (First Wednesday NFL game since 1948)
* Early start due to Republican National Convention

Boston was the highest-metered local market with a 39.5/62 followed by Pittsburgh at 34.5/51 then Providence with 34.1/51. Baltimore, Richmond, Norfolk, Buffalo, West Palm Beach, Cleveland and Denver round out the Top 10.

One other note, the NFL season opener is the most-watched television show this year since the NCAA Men’s National Championship Game on CBS in April which averaged 28.3 million viewers proving once again that sports can bring eyeballs to the screen unlike any other program.

This certainly sets the pace for the opening weekend.

[NBC Sports]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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