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Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick a ratings hit for NBC

Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after

Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after defeating the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  Credit: Getty Images/Maddie Meyer

Tom Brady’s return to New England on Sunday night generated a huge TV audience on NBC, whose preliminary estimate of the average viewership across all platforms was 28.5 million.

Comparing numbers across eras is tricky because NBC now includes TV and streaming audiences in its "Total Audience Delivery," but by NBC’s measure, the Buccaneers’ 19-17 victory over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium was the most-watched "Sunday Night Football" game since 2012 and the second-most-watched of all time.

Based on preliminary data, the audience on NBC alone averaged 27.2 million viewers, 14.6% of all TV households and 34% of those with a TV in use.

The local numbers in New England were remarkable, with Providence averaging 45.1% of homes and 73% of those with a TV in use, followed by Boston at 43.8 and 70. Tampa ranked third among measured markets at 27.1 and 51.

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