by david bauder ap television writer
The season has begun in earnest for NBC — and we're not talking about the fall television season.
It's football, and the week's TV ratings from the Nielsen company illustrate how important the game is to broadcast television. Peyton Manning's seven-touchdown attack on Thursday brought 25.1 million viewers to the season-opening Baltimore-Denver game, while 25.4 million people watched Sunday's game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Viewership was similar for the opening games last year: Sunday night's game was down slightly from 2012 while the Thursday kickoff was up this year.
Seven of the 10 most-watched programs last week were either the two football games, highlights packages from opening week games or pregame shows, Nielsen said.
It's not just the NFL, either. Two college football games — Notre Dame vs. Michigan and South Carolina vs. Georgia — landed among Nielsen's top 20 shows last week.
The summer's most popular show, CBS' "Under the Dome," dropped to No. 7 for the week.
Thanks to the games, NBC's average of 10 million viewers in prime time led all other networks and was the largest broadcast average since last April. CBS averaged 5.7 million viewers, Fox had 4.9 million, ABC had 4.2 million, Univision had 3.1 million, ION Television had 1.3 million, Telemundo had 1 million and the CW had 910,000.
ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.7 million viewers in prime time. The Disney Channel had 2.59 million, USA had 2.57 million, History had 1.8 million and TNT was at 1.7 million.
Brian Williams' welcome back to the NBC "Nightly News" wasn't necessarily hearty: ABC's "World News" had the closest showing to its rival in viewers since September 2012. NBC's show averaged 7.8 million, ABC had 7.6 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 6.1 million.
For the week of Sept. 2-8, the top shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL football: New York Giants at Dallas, NBC, 25.4 million; NFL football: Baltimore at Denver, NBC, 25.13 million; "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC, 19.32 million; "NFL Pre-Kick" (Thursday), NBC, 18.03 million; "The OT," Fox, 17.64 million; "Football Night in America," NBC, 14.09 million; "Under the Dome," CBS, 11.15 million; "Duck Dynasty," A&E, 10.46 million; "NFL Opening Kick-Off Show" (Thursday), NBC, 10.13 million; "America's Got Talent" (Wednesday), NBC, 10.03 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is a unit of News Corp. A&E is owned by the A&E Television Networks. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.
Nielsen Co.: http://www.nielsen.com