Jets-Bills draws 22.6 million viewers, most in ESPN ‘Monday Night Football’ history

The New York Jets’ 22-16 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills was the most-watched “Monday Night Football” game of all time in the ESPN era, the network announced. Here’s what you need to know:

  • More than 22.6 million viewers watched the Week 1 matchup. The viewership surpassed a 2009 Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers game that featured Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field for the first time and drew 21.8 million viewers.
  • The record audience peaked at 25.2 million viewers from 9-9:15 p.m. ET, when Buffalo took a 10-3 lead late in the second quarter.
  • The total viewership number for Jets-Bills was up 14 percent from the 2022 “Monday Night Football” opener (19.8 million, Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks).
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers made his Jets debut but left the game after just four offensive plays after Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd sacked him on the team’s opening drive. The team later announced Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon, ending his season.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Why such high viewership?

ESPN executives told NFL broadcasting officials they really wanted to air the first home game for Rodgers with his new team. That they landed Rodgers against Josh Allen and the Bills gave ESPN arguably its most viewership-friendly matchup of the season. The pregame run-up, and all the content surrounding it, felt like a “Monday Night Football” game from the Howard Cosell era. Then came one of the wildest opening-week games we’ve ever seen, a 22-16 New York overtime victory over Buffalo with enough drama for multiple telenovelas. Had Rodgers not gotten injured, we likely would have seen an even higher number. The audience peaked at 25.2 million viewers in the first half, which suggests there were some people who tuned out. And what a show they missed. — Deitsch

Any other contributing factors?

Charter and Disney settled their week-plus dispute over renewal for carriage a couple of hours before kickoff. That undoubtedly helped pump up viewership given the nearly 15 million Charter Spectrum customers nationally, including more than 1 million Charter subscribers in New York. Disney-owned channels including ESPN had been unavailable to Charter’s Spectrum cable customers since Aug. 31. — Deitsch

Required reading

(Photo: Robert Deutsch / USA Today)

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