The NFL’s season-opening game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans was the most-watched show on network television on Thursday night, according to preliminary ratings.
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An average audience of 19.3 million viewers tuned in on NBC to watch the Chiefs’ 34-20 victory over the Texans. The NFL's 2020 season debut was the most-watched television event since the Academy Awards on ABC on Feb. 9, which had 23.64 million viewers. No other network program on Thursday night surpassed four million viewers.
The audience figure did not include out-of-home viewership, which will be available next week and added to the final audience number. Digital platforms drew an average per-minute audience of 970,000 viewers.
Ratings for the NFL's Thursday night debut were down 13 percent compared to last year’s debut game, which drew an average audience of 22.12 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The NFL’s television ratings have increased for each of the last two seasons. Regular-season viewership spiked five percent to 16.5 million per game in 2019.
The NFL pledged to raise awareness for social justice issues this season, committing $250 million over a 10-year period toward combating systemic racism. President Trump has argued that the NFL and other sports leagues will lose viewers if they allow national anthem protests and other demonstrations to proceed.
Members of the Chiefs and Texans linked arms on the field in a show of solidarity prior to Thursday night’s game.
This story has been updated.