NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The first week of the fall television season is gone, but the warning signs are already appearing.
The broadcast networks only debuted one new series -- with Fox (FOXA) airing its three-part, one-off alternate-society reality show Utopia -- but this was the week that the regulars started returning. Fox's Hell's Kitchen brought Gordon Ramsey back on Wednesday for a 13th season while both HBO and FX began the final seasons of Boardwalk Empire and Sons Of Anarchy, respectively. Unfortunately, if it wasn't football, few viewers cared.
Though the nearly 2.4 million viewers that Steve Buscemi and Boardwalk Empire drew to HBO tied it for the largest cable ratings share of Sunday night (1.0) with a Cartoon Network rerun of Family Guy, there were plenty of other shows drawing more eyeballs during its 9 p.m. Eastern time slot. Disney's (DIS) Disney Channel showing of Tangled drew 3.34 million around the same time, while the History Channel's Mountain Men drew 3 million viewers of its own.
All of that was crushed by NBC's Sunday Night Football, which rode an National Football League kickoff weekend matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos to a 9.0 share and a whopping 23.7 million viewers. By comparison, the next most-watched show of the night, CBS' (CBS) Big Brother, lured just 7.1 million viewers. Fox's two-hour Utopia, meanwhile, managed just 4.3 million viewers and was pummeled by both football and CBS' Unforgettable (6.97 million).
Monday night, meanwhile, saw ESPN bludgeon both networks and cable competitors alike with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. Not only did the first installment at 7 p.m. Eastern draw nearly 14 million viewers and more than triple the nearly 4 million viewers per hour that the WWE brought to USA Network, but it more than doubled the viewership of the networks' most-watched show: ABC's Bachelor In Paradise at 6.7 million. It didn't get much easier at 10 p.m., as ESPN's second Monday Night Football game drew 11.5 million viewers to nearly double the 6.5 million who watched Under The Dome on CBS.
That isn't even the worst of the damage. Nearly 1.6 million viewers tuned in to ESPN at 5 p.m. EST to watch the Monday Night Football pregame show. MTV, by comparison, managed just 1.5 million for the season finale of it's passionately followed, heavily tweeted Teen Wolf.
This is why ESPN pays $1.9 billion a year for the rights to Monday Night Football and why NBC, Fox and CBS pay roughly $1 billion a year each for Sunday games.