The Indianapolis Colts kept their unbeaten season alive with yet another come-from-behind win Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars, vaulting NFL Network Nielsens in the process.
Indy's 35-31 win, which raised its 2009 mark to 14-0, while extending Peyton Manning's men's regular-season winning streak to a league record 23, scored an 8.0 cable rating for NFL Network and 6.2 cable viewers. That was not only the NFL's in-house service's best performance of the 2009 season, but its second most-watched cable contest all time.
The Jags-Colts contest topped the Denver Broncos-New York Giants game on Thanksgiving night, which delivered a 6.5 rating and 6.1 million cable viewers and 8 million watchers overall, when the over-the-air stations in the game participants' DMAs were factored in. The over-the-air tally for the Dec. 17 game was 800,000, lifting Indy-Jax's total to 7 million viewers overall.
However, the 8.0 cable rating stands as NFL Network's third highest to date, trailing only the 14.6 for Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers on Nov. 29, 2007 and the 9.2 for the Dec. 20, 2008 contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the ‘Boys at the last game at Texas Stadium.
The Green Bay-Dallas game in 2007 drew an NFL Network record 10.1 million cable viewers and 12.1 million in total, when calculating the over-the-air additions. Many believe that mark could fall this Saturday Dec. 19, when the 13-0 New Orleans Saints host America's Team at the Superdome. NFL Network has been extensively promoting the two games featuring the unbeaten squads.
Through the first six contests of its eight-game slate this campaign, NFL Network, which has increased its sub base to almost 55 million homes, averaged a 5.6 cable rating, matching last season's mark at that stage, but improved its viewership 32% to 4.4 million from 3.4 million in 2008.
For its full eight-game complement last year, NFL Network averaged a 6.2 cable rating, 3.7 million cable watchers and 5 million total viewers.