NBC announced this morning that the Broncos’ victory over the Steelers on Sunday night, in Manning’s first game back after a year off, yielded an overnight rating of 18.0, which is the highest rating for any prime time regular-season game ever on NBC. The previous best was a 17.7 rating for the 2010 kickoff game, which was an NFC Championship Game rematch between the Super Bowl champion Saints and Brett Favre’s Vikings.
The Steelers-Broncos rating is up 8 percent from last year’s first Sunday Night Football game, the Cowboys at the Jets. That game drew a 16.9 rating.
The huge TV ratings are evidence of Manning’s stardom, but also another reminder of the incredible popularity of the NFL. In a 500-channel world where TV ratings are in decline for basically everything, the NFL seems immune to that decline. The record ratings numbers just keep coming.