NFL's opening night audience drops from last year

FILE PHOTO: Sep 10, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball against Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The National Football League’s opening night game averaged 20.3 million viewers on Comcast Corp’s NBC television network and online, an 11% drop from last year’s kickoff, according to an estimate from NBC Sports.

The audience figure for the Thursday night contest between the Houston Texans and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs included people who watched on NBC plus NBC Sports Digital and the NFL’s digital platforms.

The game had competition from National Basketball League and National Hockey League playoffs, which usually wrap up long before the U.S. football season starts. This year, play in those leagues were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A year ago, 22.7 million people tuned in via TV or digital platforms when the NFL season opened with a matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, a longtime rivalry.

The audience number for Thursday does not include viewing in bars and other places outside of homes. That data is expected to be available next week.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell