NFL season opener draws 26.9 million viewers to NBC

Sep 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Packers 36-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The National Football League's opening game between Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers drew 26.9 million viewers on average, NBC said on Friday, making it one of the most-watched TV programs of the year.

It was the third-highest watched season-opener, according to figures compiled by Nielsen, and underscores the value of football programming to broadcast networks that have steadily lost viewers to cable in recent years.

The Seahawks defeated the Packers 36-16 to kick off the NFL season that will conclude in February 2015 with the Super Bowl, U.S. television's most-watched program.

Viewership was up 7 percent compared with last year's opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos on network CBS.

Comcast Corp-owned NBC, which has used NFL football to boost its sometimes lackluster primetime numbers, said it was the biggest TV audience since Hollywood's Academy Awards ceremony attracted 43.7 million to broadcaster ABC in March.

The highest-rated cities for the game were Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Seattle, followed by Minneapolis and New Orleans.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Gunna Dickson)