Tom Brady after the 2021 NFL Kickoff Game.

Putting the Dallas Cowboys (generally the most-watched NFL team in national games) up against Tom Brady (seen above post-game) and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers made for excellent NFL Kickoff Game ratings for NBC. As per a NBC release, they drew a total audience delivery (counting streaming on Peacock, the NBC Sports app, and NFL digital platforms) average of 26.0 million viewers, the best such number for an opening game since 2015. Here’s more on that from that release:

Cowboys-Bucs registered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average of approximately 26.0 million viewers across NBC TV, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms, based on preliminary data – marking the largest NFL Kickoff Game audience since Steelers-Patriots in 2015 (27.4 million viewers) and up 20% from last year’s NFL Kickoff Game (21.6 million TAD for Texans-Chiefs, 9/10/20).

With an average of approximately 24.4 million viewers on NBC, the NFL Kickoff Game is television’s most-watched show since Super Bowl LV in February.

…The Average Minute Audience (AMA) for last night’s live stream via Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms, NFL Digital platforms, Cowboys and Buccaneers mobile properties, and Yahoo Sports mobile properties was approximately 1.6 million viewers – the highest ever for an NBC NFL game, excluding Super Bowls – and up 64% from last year’s NFL Kickoff Game (970,000).

Viewership figures are based upon preliminary data from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. Official national data for NBC will be available on Monday.

One game does not necessarily indicate a year-long trend, especially when it’s a primetime game with this kind of a matchup, and especially when it’s a game that goes down to the wire (the Bucs won 31-29). It’s way too soon to say that we’ll see this kind of a rebound from 2020 (which had the NFL’s lowest regular-season viewership since 2017 even without counting pandemic-rescheduled games, and got even worse with those rescheduled games) for the entire 2021 season. (And it’s worth noting that even the NFL’s viewership losses in 2020 were less significant than those faced by many other sports.) But it is absolutely notable that the NFL’s season opener brought in these kinds of viewership numbers, especially with that coming off the heels of the league’s third-most-watched draft ever. We’ll see where NFL viewership goes from here.

[NBC Sports Group Pressbox; photo from Jeremy Reper/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.