After Hurricane Irma dented the ratings last year, the NFL has given broadcasters reasons for optimism in the first week of the new season.
After two years of declining viewership, CBS said Sunday ratings jumped 29 percent from last year, with 17.1 million viewers tuning in for regional matchups like the Houston Texans against the New England Patriots or the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Los Angeles Chargers. The audience for Fox's regional games grew 5 percent, while the network's national game was up 1 percent.
ESPN's Monday Night Football audience was down 4 percent for the early game and on par with the later game of its doubleheader, according to preliminary ratings from the Walt Disney Co. sports network.
The league was up against weak results last year, when Hurricane Irma dented the ratings, according to Steven Cahall, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets LLC.
NBC's Sunday night football broadcast fell 9 percent from a year ago, while the network's Thursday broadcast of the first game of the NFL season between the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending champions, and Atlanta Falcons fell 12 percent. That marked the third year in a row that ratings declined for the debut of the country's most popular sport.
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