NBC’s Sunday night prime time NFL football package has been scoring big for it all season, but it went galactic on Sunday 12/30/12. The network benefitted from a pair of marquee teams – the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys – that not only have a historic rivalry, but were also battling it out for all the marbles.
It was all or nothing for the teams – win and go to the playoffs or lose and go home.
The Redskins prevailed under the guidance of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III (good news for this writer who began watching the Redskins when Sonny Jurgenson and Billy Kilmer were sharing the job and George Allen was an NFL coach, not a former US senator — not so good news for members of our production and sales teams, who support the Cowboys).
To put it in simple terms, it was the highest-rated and most-watched game in NBC history, and it was the biggest game on any network in 18 years. You have to go back to an ABC telecast of a 49ers-Vikings game in 1996 which drew 31.5M viewers to find a bigger than the audience produced by the Redskins-Cowboys, which Nielsen clocked in at 30.3M.
It was the biggest Redskins-Cowboys television matchup since 1993, when ABC pulled 31.1M.
Here, from NBC, are its top ten prime time games in terms of total viewers:
1. 30.3 million, Cowboys-Redskins, 12/30/12 (Sunday Night’s Game)
2. 27.62 million, Cowboys-Giants, 1/1/12 (2011 SNF Week 17)
3. 27.57 million, Steelers-Broncos, 9/9/12 (2012 SNF Week 1)
4. 27.5 million, Vikings-Saints, 9/9/10 (2010 Thursday Night Opener)*
5. 27.1 million, Saints-Packers, 9/8/11 (2011 Thursday Night Opener)*
6. 25.8 million, Cowboys-Jets, 9/11/11 (2011 SNF Week 1)
7. 25.73 million, Eagles-Cowboys, 12/12/10 (2010 SNF Week 14)
8. 25.68 million, Vikings-Packers, 10/24/10, (Favre Return to Lambeau II)
9. 25.3 million, Cowboys-Redskins, 9/12/10 (2010 SNF Week 1)
10. 24.8 million, Giants-Cowboys, 9/20/09 (Cowboys Stadium Debut)
* NFL Kickoff Games