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Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys opener is TV’s most-watched show since Super Bowl

Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after a Buccaneers touchdown  against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after a Buccaneers touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL returned to television Thursday night, and the public tuned in.

The season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys attracted an audience that was the biggest for any TV show since the Super Bowl in February, NBC announced Friday.

Around 24.4 million viewers watched the Thursday game on NBC, with a peak of 25.4 million viewers between 9:45-10 p.m. ET.

The game also was available on Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms. When counting those sources, the Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average was around 26 million, per NBC.

The TAD for the Buccaneers’ 31-29 win was up 20 percent from last year’s NFL kickoff game, a 34-20 Kansas City Chiefs win over the Houston Texans. It also was the highest for an NFL Thursday opener since 27.4 million watched the New England Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 in 2015.

The 2015 game and Thursday’s game had a major similarity: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, two of the NFL’s most marketable players, connecting for multiple touchdown passes — six years ago for New England, this year for Tampa Bay.

The Average Minute Audience for Peacock and digital platforms of 1.6 million broke NBC’s record for an NFL game, not including Super Bowls, and increased 64 percent from last year.

The Buccaneers-Cowboys contest garnered a 13.4 rating (percent of all TV households watching) and a 32 share (percent of households watching TV at the time that tuned in), with those figures rising 20 percent from last year.

The Dallas market had the highest viewership Thursday with a 29.1 rating and 56 share. San Antonio (25.5/45) was next, followed by Tampa (24.6/50), Providence (23.1/44), Austin (22.9/46), Boston (21.4/43), Cleveland (20.3/40), Jacksonville (20.1/38), Norfolk (19.9/39) and Milwaukee (17.7/37).

–Field Level Media