Nielsen: NFL & College football start seasons more popular on TV than ever

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via Nielsen Wire:

Is football more popular than ever?  If last weekend was an indication then it very well may be. FOX’s 4pm NFL telecast drew 25.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched opening Sunday NFL telecast since at least 1987. In addition, every national game in NFL Week 1 on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights was up compared to the same games last year:

TELECAST 2009 P2+ VIEWERS 2008 P2+ VIEWERS % CHANGE
NBC Thurs Kickoff (TEN-PIT) 20,909,000 13,478,000 55%
FOX National (NY-WAS; STL-SEA; SF-ARI) 25,109,000 20,921,000 20%
NBC SNF (CHI-GB) 21,102,000 18,352,000 15%
ESPN MNF (NE-BUF) 14,001,000 12,501,000 12%
ESPN MNF (SD-OAK) 11,945,000 9,665,000 24%
Source: The Nielsen Company

The pros aren’t the only ones enjoying the spoils of America’s pigskin passion. Among college football’s marquee games this past weekend, USC-OHIO St. delivered ESPN 10.6 million viewers on Saturday, the largest cable audience for a regular or post-season college football game ever.  And Notre Dame-Michigan was seen by 8.4 million viewers, up 58% from the two schools’ match up last year.

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