In what figures to be his Monday Night Football swan song (maybe), Brett Favre helped lift ESPN to its fourth biggest audience of the year and the ninth-largest in cable history.
Favre, a week after a shoulder injury tackled his record NFL consecutive game streak at 297, made a surprise appearance, which coupled with snow, the first outdoor pro football game in Minneapolis in 30 years and the popular Chicago Bears, generated an 11.6 cable rating, (9.9 national), 11.6 million households and nearly 17.1 million watchers, according to Nielsen data. The telecast improved 35.6% and 50.7%, respectively, from a 7.3 national rating and 11.3 million viewers for Giants-Redskins during week 15 of last season
MNF's coverage of Chicago's 40-14 rout, which saw Favre leave in the second quarter after sustaining a concussion, gave ESPN the night among all programs -- broadcast or cable -- in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos for the fifth time this season. Moreover, MNF has now won the night among men 18 to 34 and 18 to 49, as well as persons 18 to 34 and 18 to 49 for 15 consecutive weeks.
With the audience, the ninth-largest in cable history, ESPN was able to push its season average for 15 weeks and 16 games past its marks from last season with a 10.4 cable rating, (8.9 U.S), 10.3 million households and 14.4 million watchers, according to network officials.
For his part, Favre and the Vikings have appeared in three games (all losses) during 2010, all of which have vastly exceeded ESPN's MNF averages - the Oct. 11 game against the Jets scored with 17.3 million viewers, while the 2009 MNF season finale, also against the Bears, garnered 17.0 million (that Dec. 28, 2009 contest is part of Nielsen's 2010).
ESPN concludes its 2010 MNF campaign on Dec. 27 with the defending champion New Orleans Saints visiting the Georgia Dome, home to the team with the best record in the National Football Conference, the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons.