The NFL Championship games are perhaps even more anticipated than the Super Bowl itself and Sunday’s AFC and NFC matches did not disappoint, even with the Philadephia Eagles blowing out the Minnesota Vikings 38-7.
The New England Patriots thrilling come-from-behind win Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars earned a 27.3 rating/50 share and 48 million viewers in the early window for the NFL’s conference championship weekend. That was down a hair from last year’s 27.6 for New England’s rout of the Steelers and just about even with total viewers. The AFC title game viewer total the last two years has been below the 2015 AFC contest between New England and the Denver Broncos, which drew 53.3 million viewers. It was, however, significantly higher than the Patriots’ drubbing of the Indiana Colts in the 2014 conference championship.
Not surprisingly, the numbers were huge in the local markets. About three-quarters of all televisions that were on in New England during the game were tuned to CBS, with the game earning a 50.1/75 local household rating. In Jacksonville, interest was just about as high, with the market turning in a 47.6/70.
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All told, Jaguars/Patriots was the highest-rated program on American television since Super Bowl LI last February.
Still, NFL ratings declined in the regular season and continued to drop throughout the playoffs. Some who watch NFL ratings closely were wondering if interest would continue to fall without the presence of a second big-market team in the AFC. Seeing that Jacksonville, one of the smallest markets in the league, was participating, an even rating from last year might be perceived by the league as a modest win.
Ratings for the NFC championship in which the Eagles crushed the Vikings were less solid. The game drew a 24.4, dropping 10 points from last year’s contest between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers. It also drew 42.3 million viewers, about four million less than last year and the least-watched NFC title game in five years.
The Philadelphia market posted a 50.3/69, an increase of 14 percent from the last time the Eagles appeared in a conference championship game nine years ago. Minneapolis also posted large local ratings. Despite the lopsided score, the Super Bowl-hosting city led all markets with a 54.4/76.
And so one game remains in the season for this star-crossed sport. The Patriots, appearing in their eighth Super Bowl of the somewhat controversial Brady/Belichick era, will no doubt be a huge ratings draw on Sunday, Feb. 4, when it’s played at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium. A championship-starved Philly market should also help to drive ratings.
The year’s biggest football game remains a salve for some of the league’s ratings woes; it has drawn more than 110 million U.S. viewers in each of the last four years. However, the last time the Pats and Eagles faced off in 2005 was the last time the Super Bowl drew less than 90 million domestic viewers.
Spoiler alert: it’s gonna be higher this time.
[Large content image courtesy of the NY Times/Jim Rogash/Getty Images]