The agony and ecstasy of the Jets contributed to a record-breaking evening for ESPN.
The network announced that Jets-Bills was the network’s most watched “Monday Night Football” telecast since it began airing the package in 2006.
In all, the telecast, which featured a soul-crushing, season-ending Achilles injury to superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the improbable Jets comeback capped off by a punt return for a touchdown by rookie Xavier Gipson in overtime, averaged 22.6 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2’s “ManningCast,” ESPN+, ESPN Deportes and NFL+.
Factors included the star power of Rodgers and the drama of his injury, the big-market Jets, an MVP candidate Josh Allen leading a legacy franchise in the Bills and the fact that the game itself was an overtime thriller.
“ManningCast” on ESPN2 accounted for 1.52 million of the 22.6 million viewers.
The previous record for ESPN was Packers versus Vikings in 2009, when Brett Favre returned to Lambeau Field for the first time — as a member of the NFC North rival Vikings.
That matchup drew 21.8 million viewers.
There are a few caveats to Monday’s record-breaking numbers.
It was not until recently that the “Monday Night Football” opener was simulcast on several Disney-owned networks.
Furthermore, Nielsen did not begin including out-of-home viewership — in bars, restaurants, houses of friends and family, hotels, etc. — in its immediate numbers until 2020.
Later, the company said it had been undercounting these metrics, and has thus continued to tinker with these metrics where they have tended to rise as the years have gone forward.
Nevertheless, this is a monster number for “Monday Night Football” and once again proves that nothing else on television, other than perhaps the Olympics and presidential debates, can drive eyeballs like the NFL.
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