Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning (September 11, 2012)

NBC Sports wasted no time re-establishing "Sunday Night Football" as the top-rated show in prime time with a season opener that set a viewing record.

Sunday's game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, which saw the return of Peyton Manning after neck surgery, was the highest rated Sunday game ever on the most-watched football show in the nation.

An audience of 27.57 million watched Sunday as Manning's Broncos beat the Steelers.

Baltimore was the 10th highest-rated city for the game, and every one of the viewers enjoyed every second of seeing the Steelers lose (OK, I made up the last part of that sentence following the comma. But it was the 10th highest-rated. See the chart below.)

Here's the NBC release:

Sunday’s Steelers-Broncos game on NBC was the highest-rated Sunday Night Football game ever and tied the 2010 NFL Kickoff opener as the highest-rated regular-season NFL game ever on NBC. Additionally, the game earned NBC’s highest-ever regular-season primetime rating in the advertiser-coveted Adult 18-49 demographic, according to official national data released today by The Nielsen Company.

Sunday night’s game on NBC, in which the Broncos defeated the Steelers, 31-19, in Peyton Manning’s first game as quarterback of the Broncos, drew a 16.5 national household rating and a 26 share, the highest-rated Sunday Night Football game ever, topping the 15.7/25 for last year’s Cowboys-Giants Week 17 finale by five percent. Additionally, the 16.5/26 rating ties the 2010 NFL Kickoff opener (Vikings-Saints) as the highest-rated NFL primetime regular-season game ever on NBC.

The Steelers-Broncos game was seen by 27.57 million viewers, less than one percent below the most-watched NFL regular-season primetime game ever on NBC (27.62 million for Cowboys-Giants Week 17 game last year that determined the NFC East title). 

Other Ratings Notes:

Household rating (16.5/26) and viewership (27.57) are up 8% and 7%,
respectively, over last year’s first SNF game (Cowboys-Jets, 15.3/25 and 25.8

 Adult 18-49 rating of 11.0 is highest for any regular-season primetime NFL
game ever on NBC, and is best in the advertiser-coveted demographic for an NFL
regular-season primetime game on ANY network in 15 years (Broncos-49ers, 11.6,
12/15/97, on ABC).

Second most-watched NFL regular-season primetime game on ANY network in 16
years (Packers-Cowboys, 31.5 million, 11/18/96, on ABC).

Ties 2010 NFL Kickoff opener for highest-rated NFL regular-season