NFL Network closed out its 2010 slate with the third-highest game on its watch, helping the pro football league's in-house network to record its best audience average ever during its fifth season televising primetime contests.
The Christmas night thriller in which the Arizona Cardinals nipped the Dallas Cowboys 27-26 averaged 7.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen data, excluding over-the-air viewers in the participants home markets. The contest peaked with 10.2 million cable watchers between 10:45 p.m from 10:55 p.m. (ET) as America's Team took the lead before Jay Feely kicked the game-winning field goal for Arizona.
With its penultimate contest, the Pittsburgh Steelers' thrashing of the Carolina Panthers, drawing 4.4 million watchers on Dec. 23, NFL Network averaged 5.7 million cable viewers for its Thursday Night Football slate (all but the finale were on Thursdays), topping its previous mark of 5.5 million recorded in 2009, and ahead 54% from the 3.7 million in the 2008 campaign.
Cowboys-Cardinals ranks as the third-most watched game in the five years of Thursday Night Football on NFL Network behind Dallas-New Orleans on Dec. 19, 2009 (10.5 million viewers) and Green Bay-Dallas on Nov. 29, 2007 (10.1 million viewers). NFL Network scored two of its four most-watched games this season with the Thanksgiving night Bengals-Jets game placing fourth with 7.1 million cable viewers.
The battle between non-playoff contenders outperformed ESPN's three NBA games on Christmas Day, which scored 7.7 million viewers for New York Knicks-Chicago Bulls (4 million), Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder (2 million) and Portland-Golden State (1.7 million), NFL officials pointed out.