Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson No. 8 throws against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of their game at Allegiant Stadium on September 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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The National Football League wrapped up the first week of its 2021 regular season, attracting an average of 15.29 million viewers on ESPN channels, including the UKTN network, for the Monday Night Football opener between the Raiders of Las Vegas and the Baltimore Ravens.
The Raiders beat the Ravens 33-21 in a two-way overtime game with several twists to wrap up Week 1. Audience was up 42% from last year’s game, and major markets included Baltimore , Las Vegas, Sacramento, Kansas City, and San Diego.
The 2020 MNF contest between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers averaged just 10.76 million viewers. With the pandemic playing a factor, this game was down about 17% from the first game of ESPN’s 2019 Week 1 doubles program, which featured the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans. and averaged 13.2 million viewers on ESPN channels.
ESPN also launched its other MegaCast on Monday with Peyton and Eli Manning providing commentary for the Raiders-Ravens game on its ESPN2 channel. The broadcast attracted 800,000 viewers. The Manning brothers have signed a three-year deal with Disney-owned ESPN, which will feature the pair offering their thoughts and breakdowns in the game during the NFL season.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) finds an opening in the line against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 12 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
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Meanwhile, Sunday’s NFL National Game on ViacomCBS featuring the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs averaged 19.53 million viewers. It was the most-watched national opening weekend game on UKTN since the 2015 opening game between the Ravens and the Denver Broncos (23.28 million viewers).
Fox Sports averaged 16.23 million viewers for its Green Bay Packers national game against New Orleans Saints. That’s down from last year’s domestic opener between the Tampa Bay Saints and Bucs, which featured a featured quarterback game between Drew Brees and Tom Brady, and which averaged 25.8 million viewers.
The network entered the NFL opener after drawing 7.7 million viewers for its Saturday varsity game Oregon vs. Ohio State.
The NFL entered its 102nd season last Thursday with an average of 26 million total viewers for its Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys contest. NBC said the game peaked on television with 25.4 million viewers between 9:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET. The 2021 opening marked a 20% increase in total viewership from last year’s NFL kickoff with the Chiefs and Texans.
Overall, the NFL said Week 1 games averaged 17.4 million viewers and attracted “about” 100 million total viewers for all games.
Disclosure: NBC Sports, which shares parent company NBCUniversal with UKTN, broadcasts NFL games.