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Return of Peyton Manning brings huge TV ratings to NBC

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos stalls at the line of scrimmage as he runs off the clock late in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 9, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 31-19. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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Last year, Tim Tebow made the Denver Broncos a big television draw. This year, Peyton Manning has made the Broncos an even bigger draw.

NBC announced this morning that the Broncos’ victory over the Steelers on Sunday night, in Manning’s first game back after a year off, yielded an overnight rating of 18.0, which is the highest rating for any prime time regular-season game ever on NBC. The previous best was a 17.7 rating for the 2010 kickoff game, which was an NFC Championship Game rematch between the Super Bowl champion Saints and Brett Favre’s Vikings.

The Steelers-Broncos rating is up 8 percent from last year’s first Sunday Night Football game, the Cowboys at the Jets. That game drew a 16.9 rating.

The huge TV ratings are evidence of Manning’s stardom, but also another reminder of the incredible popularity of the NFL. In a 500-channel world where TV ratings are in decline for basically everything, the NFL seems immune to that decline. The record ratings numbers just keep coming.