(Reuters) - The “Deflategate” scandal involving New England quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL’s most popular player, did not turn fans off as they watched the season-opening slate of games in record numbers, the league said on Thursday.
An average of 19.9 million viewers watched the 16 games during NFL Kickoff Weekend, topping the previous record of 19.6 million viewers who tuned in for the season-opening slate of games in 2013, the league said in a statement.
Overall, the NFL said it marked the sixth consecutive Kickoff Weekend where over 105 million viewers tuned in.
Last Thursday’s season-opener featuring Brady’s Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers was the most-watched show of the week and the second-most watched Kickoff Weekend game ever with an average of 27.4 million viewers, according to the NFL.
The game marked the first for Brady following an offseason in which he was at the center of a probe into his alleged role in a scheme to tamper with footballs for a competitive edge.
It also came a week after a federal judge vacated the NFL’s four-game suspension of Brady due to “several significant legal deficiencies”, including a failure to notify the four-times Super Bowl winner that football deflation could be punished by suspension. The league has appealed the ruling.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes