The most anticipated NFL regular-season game of all time was Tom Brady’s return to New England to play the Patriots on Sunday night. The evaluations support that theory even more.
More than one-third of American televisions tuned in Monday to watch Brady’s new team, the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots 19-17 at Gillette Stadium, according to NBC. The Buccaneers-Patriots game set a new record for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” package with a 34 share, or a proportion of televisions in use tuned to the game.
According to preliminary data, the game was the most-watched Sunday night game in nearly nine years, and the broadcast had its second-best ratings since the network began airing “SNF” in 2006. Nielsen will complete the official data on Tuesday.
NBC TV, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms delivered a total audience of about 28.5 million viewers for the event. Only the regular-season finale between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins in 2012, a de facto playoff game with the NFC East championship on the line — which Washington won 28-18 – did better for “SNF.”
It should come as no surprise that the local markets with the highest viewership numbers are also the most popular. Providence, R.I., came in first with a 73 percent share, followed by Boston (70 percent), Tampa (51 percent), and Hartford, Conn. (44).