ESPN's coverage of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins delivered over 17 million viewers to stand as the worldwide leader's top telecast of the 2011 NFL season to date.
The telecast -- America's Team topped their NFC East rivals from the nation's capital 18-16 -- tackled a 10.6 U.S. household rating, a 12.3 cable mark, nearly 12.1 million households and 17.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.
With MNF, ESPN won the night among all networks in broadcast and cable with viewers and among all key male and adult demos, including persons 18 to 34, according to officials at the sports programmer.
The Sept. 26 telecast ranks as the fourth-largest audience on cable television in Nielsen year 2011 among both households and viewers behind ESPN's coverage of the BCS championship game won by Auburn over Oregon (27.3 million viewers); the Rose Bowl that saw TCU take down Wisconsin (20.6 million); and the final 2010 MNF telecast in which the New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 27, 2010 (19.1 million viewers).
Despite the impressive performance -- Dallas-Washington rates as the 12th- largest audience in cable history -- ESPN's 2011 MNF schedule has fallen short when measured against each of its first four telecasts of the 2010 NFL campaign. The corresponding game a year ago -- Chicago's 20-17 win over Green Bay -- played before an average of 17.45 million watchers to rank as the ninth-biggest audience in the medium's history, attracting 2% more viewers than the Sept. 26 telecast.
Through its first four games, MNF has averaged an 8.7 U.S. rating, 10.1 cable rating, 9.96 million households and 13.7 million viewers. During the 2010 pro football campaign, ESPN's fifth with MNF, it established new Nielsen benchmarks of a 9.1 national rating, 10.5 cable mark, 10.49 million households and 14.66 million watchers on average.