MNF Scores Big on ESPN

Coming off a near-record draw for last week’s Saints-Pats showdown, ESPN’s Dec. 7 installment of Monday Night Football delivered a solid 13.5 million viewers.

The Green Bay Packers’ 27-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens now stands as the seventh most-viewed cable telecast of 2009, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data. Last night’s delivery was up 51 percent over ESPN’s comparable MNF telecast of a year ago, a week 14 matchup between the Jags and Texans that drew 8.92 million viewers on Dec. 1, 2008.

Season-to-date, ESPN’s MNF is averaging 14.5 million viewers, up 21 percent from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the NFL Network on Dec. 3 drew 3.07 million viewers with its Thursday Night Football coverage of the AFC East battle between the Jets and Bills. Through the first half of its slate of eight games, the NFL Net is averaging 4.01 million viewers, up 10 percent from 3.65 million viewers a year ago.

Some of NFL Net’s higher deliveries may be chalked up to expanded distribution. When the 2008-09 NFL season began, the net was available in around 35 million households. As of this year’s opening kickoff, the channel’s footprint had expanded 30 percent to around 45 million homes.

On Thanksgiving night, the NFL Net’s coverage of Giants-Broncos drew 6.11 million viewers, making it the second-most watched telecast in the channel’s 6-year history. The pigskin outlet set its high-water mark on Nov. 29, 2007, as the Packers and Cowboys locked horns in front of a TV audience of 10.1 million total viewers.