Ratings Roundup: NBC’s NFL Preseason Opener Crushes ESPN’s Red Sox-Yankees

NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage of the NFL’s preseason opener on Sunday between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals was the most watched preseason telecast in nine years and the most watched Hall of Fame game in 11 years. The Cowboys’ 16-7 victory attracted 11.4 million viewers and logged a final rating of 6.8, up 39% in ratings and 44% in viewership from the Buffalo Bills-Tennessee Titans outing last year (7.920 million, 4.9).

The previous high for a preseason contest was the Cowboys’ 21-6 trouncing of the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 American Bowl in Mexico City on ABC (11.5 million); the previous high for the Hall of Fame game was the last time the Cowboys participated, in 1999 against the Cleveland Browns.

In terms of ratings, Sunday night’s contest was the highest HOF Game since the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins put up a 7.3 and the highest preseason game since Dallas and the Tennessee Titans notched an 8.2 for ABC, both in 2004.

Sunday Night Football
was the No. 2 broadcast program of the week behind ABC’s The Bachelorette  (11.735 million, 7.5) and the top among adults 18-49 (5.498 million, 4.2).

The Hall of Fame Game more than doubled ESPN’s 2.7 rating for its Sunday Night Baseball coverage of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The rating was down 23% in ratings and total viewers (3.45 million) slipping 26% from the Sox-Yankees matchup on the comparable night last year (3.0, 4.698 million). Nonetheless, the game was ESPN’s highest-rated, most-viewed MLB telecast of the season.

As Tiger Woods goes, so go the PGA Tour’s sinking ratings. CBS’s Sunday coverage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, in which Woods finished a career-worst 18 over par, logged a 2.3 overnight rating. That is down 51% from 2009 (4.7) and 34% from 2007 (3.5), when Woods won the event. Saturday’s third-round coverage posted a 1.6, down 33% from last year’s tournament (2.4).

NASCAR’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen on Sunday drew a 3.2 U.S. rating and 4.932 million viewers on ESPN, up 7% in rating and 2% in viewers from 2008 (3.0, 4.828 million). Juan Pablo Montoya’s victory marks the fifth time this year that a regularly scheduled NASCAR race has attracted fewer than 5 million viewers compared with just two such occurrences all of last season.

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