NFL Network Tackles 10.1 Million Viewers

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NFL Network’s high-profile Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers match-up produced marquee results last Thursday night, grabbing more than 10 million viewers and tackling what officials said was the highest-rated cable program in 14 years.

The Nov.29 Thursday Night Football contest, featuring a pair of 10-1 teams in a tilt won by America’s Team by a 37-27 count, recorded a 14.6 coverage area rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Network officials said that was the highest-rated cable show since CNN’s Larry King Live presented a free trade debate by then Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot in November 1993, which scored an 18.1 rating.  

All told, NFL Network’s coverage of the ‘Boys-Pack attracted 10.1 million viewers, 100,000 more than the second through fourth most-watched cable shows – USA Network’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent on USA, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Disney Channel Hannah Montana on Disney –combined that night, according to network officials. During the week of Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, the game trailed only ESPN's Monday Night Football Nov. 26 match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers-Miami Dolphins, which delivered 13.1 million watchers on average.  

Last season, NFL Network’s eight primetime games averaged 4.1 million viewers, while its 2007 opener, the Thanksgiving night game between the Indianapolis Colts-Atlanta Falcons, scored with 4.21 million watchers.

With its total viewer tally, the Nov. 29 Thursday Night Football ranks as the 11th most-watched show in cable this year, behind the medium’s all-time best, Disney Channel’s High School Musical 2, which attracted 17.2 million for its Aug. 17 premiere, eight MNF games and the June 10 series finale of HBO’s The Sopranos, which hit with 11.9 million viewers.

Moreover, the Dallas-Green Bay game posted a 5.9 mark among men 18 to 49,the highest that night in all of broadcast, including fresh episodes of CBS’s Survivor and NBC’s My Name is Earl, 30 Rock and ER, and cable.

The NFL Network counts 35 million homes through deals with DirecTV, Dish, Verizon’ FiOS TV, Cox Communications and some 240 others distributors. However, it remains on the distribution sidelines with Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp. and Suddenlink, among other operators that won’t cede to the service’s wont for a 70 cents monthly subscriber fee and digital-basic positioning. Moreover, Comcast, after winning a court ruling in May, has migrated the network to a sports tier, sacking some 8 million subscribers in the process.

On the Web, NFL.com Live Thursday Night Football, which offered live game look-ins at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour and select “red zone” visits, produced nearly 2 million live streams and 250,000 users during peak periods. Those results were comparable to March Madness on Demand, streamed coverage of The Masters and recent Space Shuttle landing among live Internet events, according to league officials who pegged the average length of site visit that night at 40 minutes.

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