NFL's Lions-Chiefs season opener averages 26.8 million viewers, up 24% from last season

Plenty of people tuned in to see the Detroit Lions open the 2023-24 NFL season with an upset of the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday.

The NFL Kickoff Game averaged 26.8 million viewers across NBC and its platforms, up 24% from last year's opener between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams, NBC announced Friday. Viewership peaked in the second quarter at 29.1 million, with 27.1 million still tuned in for the Lions' game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

A 35 share for the game was NBC’s largest for any regular-season game since "Sunday Night Football" started airing in 2006. The ratings in Kansas City were predictably huge, with an 81 share of televisions in the market.

Per NBC, the streaming numbers were particularly big, at 2.8 million viewers across Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms, beating three Super Bowls to become NBC's second-most streamed game ever (behind only Super Bowl LVI in 2022).

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 7: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs shakes hands with Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions after an NFL football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on September 7, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Plenty of people watched Patrick Mahomes open the NFL season. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The game itself was likely a boon for the ratings compared to last year's opener, in which the Bills steamrolled the Rams 31-10. Thursday's game was quite different, with the Lions falling behind 14-7 at halftime, taking the lead with a fourth-quarter touchdown drive and holding off Patrick Mahomes on the next drive for a 21-20 win.

The Chiefs also drew plenty of attention on social media with their miscues, particularly the five passes dropped by their Travis Kelce-less receiving corps and the questionable positioning of free-agent acquisition Jawaan Taylor.