Green Bay-Chicago: Top 'TNF' Debut

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Moving to an early start agreed with NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.

The pro football league’s in-house service averaged 8.6 million viewers with its coverage of the Green Bay Packers’ 23-10 win over the Chicago Bears on Sept. 13, according to Nielsen data. Now in its seventh season of televising primetime game action, NFL Network scored its most-watched season opener. In the past, Thursday Night Football debuted in the second half of the season. This time around, NFL Network kicked off in the second week as part of its expanded slate of 13 games, up from eight.

The telecast of the 185th meeting between the storied teams – the most-played rivalry in NFL history – represented a 62% advance over the 5.3 million viewers who watched the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers (5.3 million viewers) open the network's 2011 primetime game lineup.

All told, Bears-Packers, which excludes the audience on the broadcast stations in the participating teams’ home DMAs, was Thursday’s most-watched program on cable doubling the viewership of the second-ranked show, Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, which drew 3.4 million watchers.