There appears to be no end in sight to the National Football League’s ratings dominance, as its opening round of the playoffs drew huge numbers across three networks over the weekend.
The four NFL Wild-Card games averaged about 34.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen, more than the combined 2013 averages for the NBA Finals (17.5 million) and World Series (14.9 million)
Fox’s coverage of Sunday’s NFC Wild-Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, decided on a field goal as time expired, averaged a whopping 47.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen — the largest audience for the first round of the postseason in at least 25 years. This was a 24% improvement over last year’s game on Fox (38.1 million for Seattle-Washington).
Tune-in peaked in the concluding 7:30 p.m. ET half-hour with 53.4 million viewers.
The 47.1 million average audience is the biggest crowd for any telecast since last year’s Super Bowl on CBS, and it actually is larger than 13 of Fox’s 19 NFC Championship Games to date. The boffo early numbers bode well for later rounds of this year’s playoffs, including the Super Bowl, which Fox will air on Feb. 2.
Elsewhere over the weekend, NBC averaged a record 30.8 million viewers for its pair of Saturday Wild-Card games, which were decided by a combined three points.
The New Orleans Saints’ 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in primetime on Saturday averaged 34.4 million viewers, up 14% from last year’s evening NBC game (30.3 million for Green Bay-Minnesota). Viewership peaked with 36.6 million in the game’s final half-hour (11-11:30 p.m. ET).
Earlier in the day, the Indianapolis Colts’ 45-44 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs averaged 27.6 million viewers, a 17% gain over last year’s 23.6 million for Houston-Cincinnati. This makes it the second most-watched early Saturday Wild-Card game ever, behind only the 28.3 million who watched Seattle beat New Orleans on NBC in 2011.
At CBS, its early Sunday contest between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals averged 30.9 million — the largest audience for an early Sunday AFC Wild-Card game in 19 years (since 31.6 million for New England-Cleveland on NBC).