The Jets' Xavier Gipson celebrates a punt return TD against the Bills. Sep 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Xavier Gipson (82) scores a touchdown in overtime on a punt return against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of questions about how good of a draw the New York Jets will be in their six remaining primetime games (only two of which can be flexed) now that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. That injury happened on just Rodgers’ fourth snap of the Jets’ home Monday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills. But that game, which New York won 22-16 in overtime, wound up being an incredible draw for ESPN:

Here’s more from that release:

ESPN’s 2023 Monday Night Football season debut was a record breaker, as more than 22.6 million viewers watched the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, NFL+, ESPN Deportes). The viewership of 22,644,000 million surpasses the 2009 Green Bay at Minnesota Vikings game, which featured Brett Favre vs his former team, as the most-watched ESPN Monday Night Football game (21.8 million viewers).

The record audience peaked at 25.2 million viewers in the first half (9-9:15 p.m. ET), when Buffalo took a 10-3 lead late in the second quarter.

The Bills-Jets is up 14% from the 2022 Monday Night Football opener (19.8 million, Denver at Seattle) – an audience which was a record-setting MNF Week 1 game at the time.

The peak in the second quarter shows that viewers didn’t tune out after Rodgers’ injury, and more even tuned in. That may have been out of a desire to see updates on Rodgers, a desire to see what would happen in the game, or both.

ESPN has been broadcasting Monday Night Football since 2006, so that’s the time period in question here. (Broadcast network ABC broadcast the series from 1970-2005, and brought in higher numbers than this at points, including 41.5 million viewers for a San Francisco 49ers-New York Giants game in 1990.) Most of those since-2005 broadcasts have solely aired on cable on ESPN. But since 2020, selected games have been simulcast on ABC, and since 2022, ABC has had selected MNF games to itself.

ESPN has also been broadcasting the ManningCast alternate feed (which they call Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli) on ESPN2 since 2021. And those numbers (it averaged 1.52 million viewers, up from Week 1 last year) are included here. So are the streaming numbers on over-the-top services ESPN+ and NFL+, and the Spanish-language numbers on ESPN Deportes (30,000).

Overall, Week 1 for the NFL was slightly up from 2022 across all broadcast windows. But, as Anthony Crupi of Sportico noted, there were significant swings in many of those windows:

We’ll see how Monday Night Football performs in Week 2, where there’s both an ESPN game (New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers, 7:15 p.m. ET) and an ABC/ESPN+ game (Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m. ET). And we’ll see how the Jets draw in their remaining primetime games.

[ESPN Press Room]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.