Lions-Chiefs Opener Draws 26.8M as NBC Finds Eager NFL Audience

But for Kanas City’s receiving corps, which apparently wasn’t CC’ed on the invitation, the NFL’s all-you-can-eat buffet is back in business. And as the TV deliveries suggest, a whole bunch of fans were more than ready to tuck into the league’s first course.

NBC’s coverage of Thursday night’s Lions-Chiefs opener averaged 26.8 million viewers across the broadcast flagship and Peacock, good for a 24% lift versus last year’s Bills-Rams rout. Per Nielsen, Detroit’s 21-20 upset of the defending Super Bowl champs now stands as the sixth-biggest turnout for the NFL Kickoff since NBC rolled out its Sunday Night Football package in 2006.

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Twenty-four million viewers watched the game on NBC proper, while another 2.8 million elected to stream the action. Overall deliveries peaked at 29.1 million viewers during the second quarter.

Predictably enough, the home markets were more fired up for Thursday night’s game than any other cities, as 81% of all TVs in use in Kansas City were tuned to NBC, while the Motor City Kitties commanded the, er, lion’s share of Detroit’s screen time (62%).

In the last decade, only three Kickoff Games have put up bigger numbers for NBC. Two years ago, 26.9 million fans watched as Tom Brady steered the Bucs to a last-second win over Dallas, a performance matched by the 2014 Packers-Seahawks opener. NBC notched its 10-year high in  2015, as Brady and the Pats topped the Steelers in front of a couch-bound crowd of27.4 million viewers.

The hordes who tuned in to Thursday night’s opener were treated to the spectacle of Dan Campbell’s squad handing Patrick Mahomes his first-ever Week 1 loss in six years as a starter. The bend-but-don’t-break Lions were carried by a swarming defense that largely kept Mahomes in check and an O-line which cleared the way for 118 yards rushing.

While Detroit deserves all the credit in the world for bumping off the Chiefs in the decidedly unfriendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium, the home team did plenty to help the Lions carry off the upset. Mahomes’ receivers dropped eight passes, with Kadarius Toney leading all comers with four goofs. Toney’s most damaging drop occurred at the 11-minute mark of the third quarter, when a routine midfield pass toss ghosted its way through his mitts and into the waiting arms of defensive back Brian Branch. The rookie converted the glitch into a pick-six that tied the game at 14-all.

Toney’s night didn’t get any easier, as he would go on to lose the handle on a ball that should have set up the Chiefs for a shot at a go-ahead field goal in the game’s waning minutes. As the NBC booth never tired of reminding viewers, Mahomes on Thursday night had to do without the services of primary target Travis Kelce, who was out with a hyperextended knee.

NBC’s primetime NFL coverage continues Sunday night as the Cowboys square off against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. When these two teams last met, Fox averaged a record 42.1 million viewers on Thanksgiving Day 2022.

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