Nearly 27 million people on average tuned into NBC’s NFL Kickoff game between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs. That number marked the second-highest ratings for a NFL Kickoff Game since 2015, narrowly missing 2021’s Cowboys-Bucs matchup.
Austin Karp of the Sports Business Journal noted that the 26.8 million mark for Lions-Chiefs was up 24 percent over last year’s bout between the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams.
BREAKING: NFL got off to a strong viewership start on Thursday, as Lions-Chiefs (26.8 million) was +24% over Bills-Rams in Kickoff game last year (21.7 million)
Also 2nd-best Kickoff game since 2015 (27.4 million for Steelers-Patriots). 2 years ago, 26.9 million for Cowboys-Bucs
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) September 8, 2023
While Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are a consistent draw for NFL fans, the league’s choice to schedule the Lions in the game was questioned all offseason. But Detroit delivered on hype dating back to last year’s preseason Hard Knocks, scoring an upset win over the defending champs.
The game delivered plenty of intrigue heading in as Kansas City stars Travis Kelce and Chris Jones were both questionable all week. Neither played. That led to several viral moments featuring fill-in Chiefs receiver Kadarius Toney as well as the always-unique Cris Collinsworth.
In the aftermath of Detroit’s win, NBC play-by-play man Mike Tirico put an “asterisk” on the game.
If 2023 is anything like 2022, get ready for massive numbers across the NFL. All three of Fox, CBS and NBC had their best pro football seasons in at least four years.
The league decided to make a gradual entrance into streaming with new deals with Amazon and YouTube, but traditional broadcasters continue to rake in viewers. Despite a peculiar matchup with the reigning champions hosting a sub-.500 Lions team, the trajectory continued.
We likely won’t have to wait long for another big-time NFL audience from NBC, as their Sunday Night Football premieres for 2023 this weekend with the Cowboys-Giants AFC East rivalry.
[Austin Karp on Twitter]