The National Football League continues to prove itself as perhaps TV's most reliably strong programming. The Thursday season opener on NBC delivered the highest rating in the 18-49 demo for a regular-season, prime-time game in 14 years.
The high-scoring Green Bay Packers' win over New Orleans drew a 10.9 rating in the demo, the highest number in prime time for any program since February's Oscars.
The game also drew 27.2 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched prime-time game in the regular season since 1996. That was just behind last year's season opener on NBC, with 27.5 million.
The soaring rating came after the NFL suffered a lockout during the off-season, but the ability of the owners and players to reach a deal with no missed games may have encouraged fans.
The Thursday game, which ended at 11:49 p.m., topped all Sunday- and Monday-night telecasts going back to 1998. The only one to top it was last year's Minnesota-New Orleans season opener on NBC with a 17.7.
The Thursday game drew some huge numbers in home-team markets, New Orleans (57.7) and Milwaukee (53.1), while Minneapolis topped the others among the 55 metered ones with a 23.8, followed by Kansas City at a 23.
As NBC looks to rebuild its prime-time schedule this fall, Sunday night should continue to be a winner and solid promotional platform with weekly NFL games.
Green Bay-New Orleans gave NBC its highest rating for a Thursday night in the 18-49 demo since the night of the "Friends" finale in 2004, excluding the Olympics.