Buccaneers vs. Saints Was Fox’s Most-Watched NFL Opener in 4 Years


Ever stalked your ex on social media? This would be the NFL equivalent.

Tom Brady may not play for the Patriots anymore, but apparently, he’s still a pretty big draw in Boston, at least where television ratings are concerned. Sunday’s Buccaneers/Saints showdown on Fox reportedly earned a 16.2 overnight rating, making it the network’s most-watched NFL opener in four years. Per executive VP of Fox Sports Michael Mulvihill, Brady’s Bucs debut scored a massive 28.3 in Tampa, a 33% ratings increase from last year’s Week 1.

The Boston audience was instrumental in Fox tallying its highest Week 1 ratings since 2016 with Pats fans quickly switching the dial from CBS—which aired New England’s 21-11 victory over Miami—to Fox for Sunday’s 4:25 PM ET kickoff. While a fair amount of New Englanders tuned in to watch the Buccaneers fall to New Orleans, Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s dual debuts were of even greater interest elsewhere with Milwaukee (36.7), Seattle (32.6), Minneapolis (30.4), Tampa (28.3) and Philadelphia (28.2) rounding out the top five Nielsen markets, according to sports media reporter Anthony Crupi of Sportico. Viewership of Sunday’s Bucs/Saints broadcast on Fox represented a slight improvement (two percent) on last year’s Cowboys/Giants opener, which drew a respectable 15.9.

While Brady vs. Brees was predictably a Nielsen juggernaut, opening week viewership was actually down four percent from 2019. Considering broadcast ratings as a whole have fallen 21 percent since last year, a four-percent drop-off isn’t that steep. Crupi adds that Bucs/Saints was the 13th-highest-rated broadcast of 2020, seeing numbers comparable to January’s Bills/Texans Wild Card game and the College Football National Championship between LSU and Clemson, both airing on ESPN. Thursday night’s Texans/Chiefs kickoff game on NBC stands a distant 21st on that list.

After a pedestrian performance in the loss to New Orleans, it will be interesting to see if the rapidly-declining Brady can still capture widespread interest when the Buccaneers return to the national stage for a Thursday night tilt with Chicago in Week 5. Just as they were Sunday, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be in the Fox broadcast booth for that one.

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