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Volume 26 No. 204
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NFL's Strong Week 1 Continues With "MNF" Ratings Up On ESPN

New Orleans led all local markets with a 56.2 rating for the Saints' last-second win
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
New Orleans led all local markets with a 56.2 rating for the Saints' last-second win
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
New Orleans led all local markets with a 56.2 rating for the Saints' last-second win
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL's strong ratings weekend continued into last night, as ESPN saw year-over-year overnight ratings increases for both "MNF" games. Last night's Texans-Saints contest (7:15-10:30pm ET), which saw the Saints win on a last-second field goal, drew a 9.3 overnight, the opener's best overnight since '15 (9.8 for Eagles-Falcons). Texans-Saints is also up 24% from a 7.8 overnight for last year's opener, which featured the Jets blowing out the Lions 48-17. Last night's game peaked at a 12.8 rating between 10:15-10:30pm. New Orleans led all markets with a 56.8 rating (13.0 on ESPN, 43.8 on WDSU-NBC), while Houston came in fifth with a 25.9 (7.0 on ESPN, 18.9 on KTRK-ABC). In the late window (10:30pm-1:15am), the Raiders' win over the Broncos drew a 7.7 overnight, up 10% from a 7.0 last year for Rams-Raiders. Chargers-Broncos also drew a 7.0 two years ago in the late window. Broncos-Raiders peaked at a 10.6 rating between 10:30-10:45pm. Denver drew a 34.3 local rating (17.2 on ESPN, 17.1 on KTVD-Ind.), while S.F.-San Jose-Oakland drew a 17.1 (9.1 on ESPN, 8.0 on KGO-ABC) (Ourand & Carpenter, THE DAILY).

TAKES ON THE NEW BOOTH: ESPN last night debuted its retooled broadcast booth of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland sans Jason Witten for the first game, and SI.com's Jimmy Traina writes the two-man booth was "more enjoyable than then three-man experiment last season." Tessitore and McFarland "were not perfect" and they will "get better as the season goes on, but, holy cow, what a difference from last year's chemistry-less (is that a word?) booth" (SI.com, 9/10). Twitter observers had plenty of opinions on the duo. The N.Y. Post's Andrew Marchand wrote, "Pretty obvious at start of MNF that ESPN  -- without Witten, without BoogerMobile -- is focusing more on keeping it simple and focusing on the game." The Athletic's Richard Deitsch: "The Jason Witten-Booger-on-a-crane era feels like a million years ago." The Big Lead's Ryan Glasspiegel: "It's early but I like Tess and Booger." NFL blogger Melissa Jacobs: "Dig the MNF booth so far. Feels natural, Booger providing insight and passion. Doesn't feel too busy." USA Today's Glenn Guilbeau: "McFarland is doing an excellent job on MNF. Excited, informative, not silly." Deadspin's Drew Magary: "Look this is a super contrarian take but I believe the MNF booth is better without Witten." Fantasy Sports Markets' Ben Heisler: "How about that? Written leaves the booth and MNF immediately improves!" (TWITTER.com, 9/9).

BOOGER IN THE BOOTH: THE RINGER's Bryan Curtis noted McFarland will be the "first African American analyst to be in a no. 1 NFL booth for a full season since O.J. Simpson" left "MNF" in '85. McFarland, who played defensive tackle in the NFL, said, "The role of lead analyst has always been that of the quarterback. Offensive guy. Typically, it's been a white guy. That's been the norm. When you give African American broadcasters opportunities, I think you'll see there are very talented guys in the industry who just need an opportunity to show what they can do. … I know the seat I'm in." In '18, McFarland "rode on a cart" on the sidelines. McFarland "admired ESPN's attempt to do something different," but he "admitted he was disappointed with the assignment." He has the "same gravitas-via-neck-size" that Dan Dierdorf "used to bring to the booth." And like Don Meredith, McFarland is a "courtly Southerner whose best asset, other than X's and O's, is his relatability" (THERINGER.com, 9/9). South Carolina radio host Marc Ryan tweeted, "I hosted afternoon drive on FM with Booger McFarland for CBS Radio in Tampa. I can’t put into words how proud I am of him watching him do his thing. Now, he’s earned the #1 gig in all of sports media. Honored to have been part of his journey."

LOCAL RATINGS: Steelers-Patriots on Sunday night delivered a 35.1 rating in Boston, which is the highest season-opener figure in the market since '16. The game averaged 1,298,600 viewers in Boston (Patriots). That "crushed the Red Sox-Yankees game" on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast, which "drew a 2.5 rating" in Boston (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/10). In Nashville, Mike Organ notes local TV ratings for Titans-Browns on Sunday were the "highest for the franchise's opening day in four years." WTVF-CBS Senior Programming Dir Mark Binda said that the Titans 43-13 victory "earned a 25.4 rating." A total of 259,537 Nashville households watched the game. Ratings for the Titans' previous three home openers "averaged a 21.3 rating" (NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN, 9/10). In Buffalo, Alan Pergament notes Bills-Jets on Sunday "had a 36.0 rating" on WIVB-CBS. The rating "peaked in the final 15 minutes at 39.7." Sunday's figure was about 4% higher than the 34.6 rating for the Bills' '18 opener, and about 8% higher than the 33.5 rating for the opener in '17 (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/10).