The first game of the new NFL season -- featuring the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears on Thursday night -- posted a 14% hike in viewership, looking at Nielsen preliminary results versus those of a year ago.
The “NFL Kickoff” game posted a preliminary 22.0 million Nielsen viewers and a 6.4 rating/30 share among 18-49 viewers. Adding in NBC digital viewing, the game totaled 22.7 million -- a 16% increase over the 2018 season opener.
NBC says these were the best results for an NFL kickoff game since 2016. NBC also says the digital viewers, coming from NBC Sport Digital and NBC Digital platforms (estimated by some sources to be 700,000) were the highest ever for a regular-season NFL game -- up 10% versus a year before.
This is a good start for the league, building on last year's overall 4% gain in regular-season viewership, which averaged 15.6 million for all national TV networks, including regional game coverage. In 2017, the league witnessed a sharp decline with a near 10% fall in viewership.
One CNBC report says this season the league may seeing noticeable benefits from more states that have legalized sports gaming -- along with higher TV viewership.
Coming into this year, NFL could now see results from 13 states that have legalized sports gambling, up from five states a year ago. Six states have legal mobile/online gambling.