If there was any doubt about the power of professional football to exert substantial influence on network television, week No. 1 of the NFL season was a definitive statement.
Deflategate. Millionaires fighting with billionaires. Guns. Domestic Violence. Concussion crisis.
None of it matters.
NBC broadcast two primetime games last week, and on the strength of those two games -- about 54 million viewers combined -- the network beat CBS in primetime for the week. Actually, it wasn't just a win; it was a drubbing.
To be truthful, the two games were probably the two best-possible matchups. In the Thursday season opener, the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots took the field. But leading them through the gauntlet of cheerleaders was the man who made it must-see television. Tom Brady originally had been suspended for the game, but had just found out he could play.With all of the ridiculous media coverage of DeflateGate and Brady, it was a national news story. Then, the Sunday night game featured the world's most valuable sports franchise (Dallas Cowboys) and a high-profile rival in the New York Giants.
It doesn't get much better than that.
Even with the made-in-heaven games as a caveat, the numbers cannot be ignored. For the week, NBC averaged almost double CBS's daily average of 5.9 million viewers. That is a quality win, but it's also a quantifiable one.
According to AdAge, NBC received as much as $700,000 for 30-second spots on Sunday night. That is not only an increase over 2014, but also probably enough to make NBC's nearly $1 billion annual investment in the NFL worthwhile.
In fact, if NBC had Sunday night alone, it would be in position to win weekly primetime battles all fall, and when it comes to future up-front ad sales, these football numbers impact the non-football programming because if NBC boasts more primetime wins overall, it can command more money across the board.
CBS knows this, and for the second year, ironically enough, the network has a counter-punch. Starting on September 17th, CBS will air the Thursday game. Touche.
Move beyond primetime for a second though, and the story remains compelling both for CBS and for (FOX) .
In Week 1, FOX's broadcast on Sunday was up double digits from the same game a year ago, and according to FOX, it was the highest-rated single header of football on record.
CBS' double-header coverage wasn't as eye-popping, but both games were up on a year-over-year basis.
Having said all that, it's not something advertisers are jumping over each other to comment on. TheStreet.com reached out to several of the NFL's major advertisers and sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch ( (BUD) ), Visa ( (V) ) and Pepsico ( (PEP) ), and none wanted to comment on the ratings performances in the wake of the offseason scandals.
It seems no one wants to get in the way of the NFL TV juggernaut, even if a few wayward players and a New York federal judge brought a cascade of bad press on the league.