TGIT: NFL Network Kicks Off 2011 Game Coverage With Best-Ever Opener

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NFL Network kicked off its best-ever season opener, averaging 5.3 million cable watchers for the AFC West battle between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, according to Nielsen data.

The Nov. 10 telecast (the tally doesn't include over-the-viewing in Oakland-San Francisco and San Diego) exceeded NFL Network's 2010 starter -- the Baltimore Ravens-Atlanta Falcons that drew 5 million viewers -- by 6% to become the best of the six season debuts for the pro football league's in-house service, said network officials.

Raiders beat Chargers on TNF

Oakland's 24-17 win, which marked the debut of the new Thursday Night Football announce team of Mike Mayock, Brad Nessler and Alex Flanagan, was also the top telecast in cable, outflanking the 3.1 million viewers for ESPN"s college football coverage of Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech and the second fall episode of USA Network's spy series,Burn Notice, which averaged 2.66 million watchers in the 10 p.m. hour.
Next up for NFL Network, which now counts some 57.4 million subs, the most since it started showing primetime games in 2006, the New York Jets at the Denver Bronocs on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. (ET). That contest won't provide much of a hometown bump in the nation's largest DMA, as the two primary distributors, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, do not have carriage deals with NFL Network.