Last night, ESPN’s Monday Night Football – the Minnesota Vikings’ 30-23 home victory over the Green Bay Packers in Brett Favre’s first game against his former team – delivered the biggest audience in the history of cable television and the highest rating in ESPN’s 30-year history. The game earned a 15.3 rating, representing 15,136,000 homes (21,839,000 P2+), surpassing the previous cable viewership record, ESPN’s Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys Monday Night Football telecast of September 15, 2008 (12,953,000 homes, based on a 13.3 rating, 18,608,000 P2+).
The game eclipsed ESPN’s previous best 14.4 rating (8,400,000 homes) for the Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on December 6, 1987, ESPN’s first season of NFL games. ESPN’s 90-minute Monday Night Countdown pre-game (7-8:30 p.m. ET) also recorded its best rating (3.5) and most-viewed show ever (3,476,000 households and 4,540,000 viewers). The previous best was a 3.3 rating (3,075,000 households, 4,056,000 P2+) on September 25, 2006.
The MNF game ranks as the No. 1 prime-time program (for cable or broadcast) among households, viewers and all key male and adult demos of the past two weeks, helping ESPN “win the night” Monday in all demographic audience categories among all networks, broadcast or cable. The game delivered a combined 58.3 rating in Minneapolis (17.5 on ESPN, 40.8 on KTSP-ABC) and a combined 49.7 rating in Milwaukee (13.6 on ESPN, 36.0 on WISN-ABC).
“Last night’s record-setting performance clearly demonstrates that big events on ESPN deliver big audiences with content across all our platforms,” said ESPN President George Bodenheimer. “In its 40th season, Monday Night Football remains a special place to showcase the NFL’s best.”
ESPN has now set the cable household viewership record four times in as many years since acquiring the rights to MNF. In all, cable’s five biggest household audiences ever — and eight of the top 10 – (excluding breaking news) are ESPN Monday Night Football games.
For 2009, the five MNF telecasts represent cable’s five biggest audiences in terms of both household impressions and total viewers. Through four weeks (five games) of the NFL season, ESPN’s MNF is averaging a 11.4 rating and 11,292,000 households (15,684,000 P2+), up 19%, 21% and 24%, respectively from last season.