Manning, Denver Scare Up Huge NFL Kickoff Ratings for NBC

25.1 million fans watch as Broncos trample Ravens

Despite a half-hour rain delay and a comprehensive butt-whuppin’ that threatened to send East Coast football fans off to bed early, the 2013 NFL Kickoff Game put up huge numbers for NBC.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Denver’s 49-27 stomping of Super Bowl champs Baltimore averaged 25.1 million viewers and a 10.3 rating in the 18-49 demo, making it the third most-watched season opener since NBC began broadcasting the game back in 2005.

Only the 2010 defensive slugfest between the Saints and Vikings (27.5 million viewers) and the following year’s 76-point Packers-Saints scoregasm (27.1 million) have put up bigger numbers than last night’s game.

While rain and lightning pushed the opening kickoff 33 minutes behind schedule and Peyton Manning ruthlessly disemboweled the Ravens’ secondary with a record-tying seven TD passes, fans remained riveted to their television screens. Because: Football.

Thursday night’s table setter topped the deliveries for the 2012 Cowboys-Giants hate fest (23.9 million viewers) by 5 percent, while doubling the prime time averages of CBS, ABC and Fox combined.

NBC also nearly tripled its rivals in the 18-49 demo, averaging a 9.0 rating in prime compared to an aggregate 3.1 for the other three broadcasters.

Ratings peaked in the 10-10:30 p.m. slot, when NBC notched a 14.9 household rating/26 share. NBC’s prime time NFL coverage resumes on Sept. 8 when Eli Manning and the Giants lock horns with Tony Romo and the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football