Ratings Roundup: NFL Kickoff Bests 105M Viewers Three Years in a Row; US Open Finals Up on CBS

Compiled by Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, SVG

A total of 105.9 million fans tuned into Kickoff Weekend games (Sept. 5-10) on CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC, marking the third consecutive Kickoff Weekend with a total reach exceeding 105 million viewers. Also for the third consecutive season, three Kickoff Weekend game telecasts topped 23 million average viewers — NBC Sunday night game (Steelers-Broncos, 27.6 million), FOX national game telecast (mostly 49ers-Packers, 26.4 million) and the NBC Wednesday Kickoff game (Cowboys-Giants, 23.9 million).

NBC’s Sunday Night Football opener (Steelers-Broncos) posted the highest rating ever for a Sunday night game (16.5). The average of 27.57 million viewers for Steelers-Broncos ranks second in NBC Sunday night history (27.62 million viewers for Cowboys-Giants on Jan. 1, 2012).

With 26.4 million average viewers, the FOX national telecast (mostly 49ers-Packers) posted its second-best Kickoff Sunday ever (28.0 million for Packers-Eagles in 2010).

CBS’s NFL single-header, which featured Patriots-Titans, earned a 10.4 overnight rating on CBS Sunday afternoon — down 2% from both last year (10.6) and 2010 (10.6). The CBS telecast barely finished ahead of coverage on FOX airing at the same time (10.2).

The return of Monday Night Football proved to be a mixed bag for ESPN. The early game, featuring a Ravens blowout, drew an 8.1 overnight score for a 21% drop off from last year’s Patriots/Dolphins matchup. The later game notched a 7.9 for a 3% rise over the comparable game in 2011…

…CBS Sports live coverage of Monday’s epic five-set US Open Men’s Singles Final featuring Andy Murray’s victory over Novak Djokovic was seen in all-or-part by 16.2 million viewers, up 37% from 11.8 million last year (Djokovic def. Nadal) and up 175% from 5.9 million viewers in 2010 (Nadal def. Djokovic). That is the largest audience to watch all-or-part of the men’s championship in five years (16.6 million; Federer def. Djokovic; 9/9/07).

Meanwhile, CBS Women’s Singles Championship coverage, which saw Serena Williams defeat Victoria Azarenka in three sets, was viewed in all-or-part by 17.7 million viewers (P2+), up 35% from last year’s 13.1 million (Stosur def. Serena) and up 160% from 6.8 million viewers in 2010 (Clijsters def. Zvonareva; 9/11/10). That is the largest audience to watch all-or-part of the women’s championship in 10 years (20.1 million; Serena def. Venus; 9/7/02)…

..At last weekend’s BMW Championship, NBC set playoff ratings records for the third consecutive week. Overnight ratings for Sunday’s final round on NBC (2.5 household rating) was the best since the inception of the PGA TOUR Playoffs in 2007 and up 150% over last year. In addition, Saturday’s coverage of round three on NBC (1.8 overnight rating) was up 125% over 2011 and continuation coverage on Golf Channel (2.0/2,104,000) was the highest-rated and most-watched Saturday golf telecast on Golf Channel this year.

Round one on Golf Channel (1.0/979,000) was the highest-rated and most-watched round one of the BMW Championship as a PGA TOUR Playoff event (since 2007). Viewership for round two on Golf Channel (1.7/1,660,000) was up 200% over last year…

…Saturday’s Nebraska/UCLA college football game drew a 2.4 overnight rating on FOX, up 71% from Hawaii/USC on the network a week earlier (1.4). The increase can at least be partially attributed to the lack of competition Saturday night. ABC did not air “Saturday Night Football,” and the network’s NASCAR coverage was delayed due to rain.

The Florida/Texas A&M college football game drew a 2.9 U.S. rating and 4.531 million viewers on ESPN Saturday afternoon, up 21% in ratings and 15% in viewership from South Carolina/Georgia in a later timeslot last year (2.4, 3.949M). The telecast attracted the second-largest college football audience of the weekend, trailing only regional action on ABC airing at the same time (3.3, 4.709M). Also Saturday, Georgia/Missouri earned a 2.4 U.S. rating and 4.119 million viewers on ESPN2 — up 85% in ratings and 97% in viewership from BYU/Texas last year (1.3, 2.096M), and up 50% and 52%, respectively, from Oregon/Tennessee in 2010 (1.6, 2.709M).

The 2.4 rating is the third-highest ever for a college football game on ESPN2, trailing only Pittsburgh/West Virginia on a Friday night in 2009 and Tennessee/LSU on a Monday night in 2005 (2.5 for both games). The latter game was rescheduled due to Hurricane Rita. In addition, the game earned the second-largest audience ever for a college football game on ESPN2, again trailing Pittsburgh/West Virginia (4.137M).

On the College Football landscape, NBC posted the second-lowest overnight ever for a Notre Dame home opener since 1997, as Purdue/Notre Dame drew a 2.1 overnight Saturday afternoon. That is down 13% from the network’s first Notre Dame telecast last year (USF/ND: 2.4). Only Nevada/Notre Dame in 2009 (1.3) earned lower numbers. Purdue/Notre Dame was the weekend’s lowest rated college football game on broadcast in the metered markets.

Regional college football action featuring either USC/Syracuse or Air Force/Michigan posted a 2.8 overnight rating on ABC Saturday afternoon, down 28% from Alabama/Penn State last year (3.9). Despite the lower numbers, the telecast earned the top college football overnight of the weekend on broadcast. Earlier Saturday, the Penn State/Virginia game drew a 2.2 overnight…

…As the Houston Astros continue to trudge through their horrendous farewell season to the National League, fans have tuned out – almost entirely. The Astros’ win over the Reds on Sunday generated the lowest rating, as far as can be determined, in the history of the team’s presence on Fox Sports Houston and its predecessor networks. It generated a 0.05 rating, which means it was viewed by an average audience of 1,092 households. It only generated a measurable rating in four quarter-hour periods, and it was never viewed during any 15-minute period by more than 0.18 percent of the area’s 2.1 million TV households.

Regional Major League Baseball action featuring Dodgers/Giants in 44% of markets drew a 1.4 overnight rating on FOX Saturday afternoon, down 18% from coverage featuring Rangers/Red Sox in the comparable week last season (1.7), and down 26% from coverage featuring Cardinals/Braves in 2010 (1.9). The 1.4 does mark a slight improvement over a 1.3 overnight for regional action the previous week. (

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