Brady's Bucs debut draws big Fox audience as NBC struggles on first NFL weekend

Brady's Bucs debut draws big Fox audience as NBC struggles on first NFL weekend
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Fox scored its highest Week 1 NFL ratings since 2016 with its national telecast of Tom Brady's debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, drawing 16.4 million viewers as the league navigates a new season amid the coronavirus and displays of player protests.

Preliminary numbers from Nielsen Media Research show the highly anticipated matchup between the Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints delivered a 2 percent increase in viewership compared to the previous season's Week 1 ratings.

The Saints easily beat the Bucs, 34-23, in a game that was played before an empty stadium in New Orleans due to coronavirus restrictions.

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Preliminary numbers for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" were down compared to last year's Week 1 game, with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams delivering 14.6 million viewers. Last year's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots delivered 22.2 million viewers for NBC.

The NFL's prime-time season opener on Thursday also drew fewer viewers than the previous year for NBC, with 16.4 million tuning in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Houston Texans 34-20 at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, which included socially distanced fans.

The season opener also featured opposing players linking hands before the game in a "show of unity" to draw attention to racial injustice, a display that was booed by some fans in attendance.

Sports ratings in other leagues have also taken a dive despite more people staying at home during the pandemic. Ratings for the first round of the NBA playoffs were down 27 percent compared to last year and 40 percent when compared to 2018.

The ratings come as professional athletes in several leagues, including the NFL and the NBA, have taken a stand against racial injustice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Various professional sports teams have shown their support by participating in field walk-offs, wearing Black Lives Matter jerseys, taking a knee during the national anthem or refusing to play altogether.

In a Harris poll released Wednesday, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they were watching less basketball because “the league has become too political.”

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE has seized on the decline in ratings, blaming the NBA and its players for becoming "highly political" in a tweet earlier this month.