CBS rides ratings into Super Bowl

AFC game a champ for Eye

Although its title-game matchup may not be marquee, CBS is riding some ratings momentum into the Super Bowl on the heels of a strong delivery Sunday for its AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

On Sunday, for just the third time in 10 years, the championship game of the smaller-market American Football Conference on CBS outdrew the larger-market National Football Conference contest on Fox, according to metered-market overnight ratings from Nielsen.

The early Sunday contest on CBS, in which the Patriots won 24-14 to advance to the Super Bowl, delivered a 26.6 rating/46 share in the local ratings from 3-6:15 p.m. ET, up slightly in rating from last year’s Tennessee-Oakland matchup (26.4/38) to make it the highest-rated AFC Championship game in five years (27.2/47 for New York-Denver in 1999).

Overnight rating is also the highest for any program on any net — sports or entertainment — since the Super Bowl on ABC last year.

Fox NFC ratings down

Later in the day, Fox’s coverage of the NFC title game between the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles averaged a 25.0/36 in the overnights, down from the 27.2/47 the net delivered last year with Tampa Bay-Philadelphia. In the game (6:45-10 p.m. ET), the Panthers defeated the Eagles 14-3 to earn a spot in the big game for the first time.

Overall, the day’s games — neither of which had auds at the edge of their seats in the closing moments — averaged a 25.8 rating in the metered-markets, down 3% from last year (26.5) but higher than the three previous seasons.

Fox dominated its primetime competish on Sunday, delivering what figures to rank as its highest-rated night of programming since it aired the Super Bowl two years ago.

Super Bowl XXXVIII, to be played Feb. 1 in Houston, pits the Cinderella-story Panthers against the pre-playoff favorite Patriots.

While at first glance the Panthers — less than 10 years old, without any big stars and not playing in a major metropolitan market — aren’t the glitziest of Super Bowl entries, the team’s appearance is sure to galvanize interest in the South.

Carolinas markets

Combined, the markets of the Carolinas (No. 28 Charlotte, No. 29 Raleigh, No. 35 Greenville and No. 46 Greensboro) represent a population slightly larger than No. 3 market Chicago. On Sunday, the Panthers contest on Fox garnered a 50.2 rating in Charlotte, a 43.2 in Greensboro, 36.0 in Raleigh and a 33.1 in Greenville.

Add in No. 6 market Boston as well as the potential for a competitive game and CBS should have no problem attracting viewers for what is regularly the year’s most-watched event.

Boston gave the Patriots a big 46.5/75 for Sunday’s game against the Colts, while the contest drew a similar 46.0/72 in Indianapolis. Philadelphia’s local-market rating for the Eagles game on Fox came in at a 48.8/62.

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