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Touchdown! NFL rushes toward its most-watched TV season ever


Viewers may not be loving the new fall shows, but football is another story. The NFL season is off to its biggest start in TV history, with a record 150 million fans tuning in on broadcast and cable for the first month of the season, according to the Nielsen Co.

The average game has drawn 18.9 million total viewers -- which, as the NFL pointed out in a news release Wednesday afternoon, is more than double the average prime-time viewership (9.2 million) for the big four broadcast networks so far this season.

A best-ever total of nine NFL games have topped the 20 million viewership mark -- a feat achieved by only two entertainment programs so far this fall. Furthermore, all four of the NFL's network partners -- CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN -- have seen record ratings with recent games.

What's it all mean? Well, for starters, the ratings are sure to make for some passionate negotiations when the networks' NFL licenses next come up for renewal. Remember a few years back, when NBC announced it was pulling out of the NFL business, saying the league just wasn't worth the rich contracts it demanded?

Looking at the latest numbers, it's hard to imagine any network making that case today.

-- Scott Collins


Photo: Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. Credit: John Paul Filo / CBS Sports



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They would be crazy if they went ahead with a lockout next year.


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