/// Peyton Place: NBC Scores With Manning’s Return
The first week of the 2012-13 NFL season was something of a mixed bag, as record ratings in Sunday prime were offset somewhat by a blowout in the marquee Monday night game. The Sept. 9 Sunday Night Football showdown between Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers averaged 27.6 million fans, making it the second most-watched regular season NFL broadcast on NBC. Only the Cowboys-Giants contest on New Year’s Day 2012 put up bigger numbers; the game that determined the NFC East title out-delivered Sunday’s broadcast by a margin of around 50,000 viewers. Boasting an average 11.0 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, the Broncos-Steelers game now stands as the highest-rated prime-time regular season NFL broadcast in 15 years. Sunday night’s game marked the first start for Manning since Jan. 8, 2011, when the New York Jets eliminated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card game. Multiple neck surgeries kept the four-time MVP sidelined for the duration of the 2011-12 campaign, and after the Colts let Manning go, the Broncos snapped him up in March. Showing no signs of rust, Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Broncos to a decisive 31-19 victory over the visiting Steelers. As one might expect, Sunday night’s game drew the biggest crowds in the two home markets. Per Nielsen, 70 percent of TV households in Pittsburgh tuned in for the Steelers’ season opener, while 67 percent of Denver homes were glued to KUSA, the Mile High City’s NBC affiliate. If Sunday night was a triumph for NBC, Monday night’s two-fer on ESPN failed to live up to the hype. Bristol kicked off its first Monday Night Football broadcast of the season with a grudge match between AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati. While the Bengals seemed evenly matched with their hosts in the early going, the game had all the makings of a rout midway through the third quarter. By the time the final gun sounded, the Ravens had rung up 44 points to Cincy’s 13. As a result, ESPN delivered its all-time lowest ratings for an MNF opener, averaging 10.9 million viewers and a 4.7 in the dollar demo. By comparison, Bengals-Ravens deliveries were down 25 percent versus ESPN’s 2011 MNF kickoff, when the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins averaged 14.6 million viewers. (Along with the lopsided score, it’s worth noting that Cincinnati (No. 35) and Baltimore (No.