TV Ratings: NFC Championship Game Tops 2016, Patriots-Steelers Can’t Top Broncos-Patriots

Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl LI
Erik S. Lesser/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

UPDATED: The games that decided which NFL teams are heading to Super Bowl LI in Houston brought in their usual mega audiences: 46 million for the NFC Championship Game on Fox, and 47.95 million for the AFC Championship Game on CBS.

While the NFC game was up from last year’s NFC Championship (45.7 million), it fell short of last week’s divisional game between the Green Packers and the Dallas Cowboys (48.5 million). The AFC’s audience was smaller than last year’s (53.3 million), but bigger than 2015’s New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts match-up (42.1 million).

In Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings, the early NFC Championship Game brought in a 27.4 household rating on Fox, while the late AFC Championship drew a 27.6 on CBS.

The NFC’s overnight ratings topped last year’s blowout of the Arizona Cardinals by the Carolina Panthers (26.8); that game was the late one of the two conference championships. Sunday’s NFC Championship was a blowout as well, with the Atlanta Falcons trouncing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to book their first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years.

The AFC’s overnights for Sunday were quite a bit south of last year’s gangbusters game, which drew a massive 31.8 household rating. This year, the Pats smoked the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to send Tom Brady in search of another ring.

After the AFC Championship Game, CBS debuted reality series “Hunted” to a 4.0 in the dollar demo (18-49) and 11.83 million viewers. That’s a big premiere — technically, the biggest premiere of any show this season in the demo. However, none of the other new shows bowed after an NFL game that likely brought in more than 45 million viewers.

Understandably, everyone who didn’t have football on in the evening hours went into hibernation, excepting only a special 90-minute “Dateline” on NBC (0.8 in the demo, 5 million total viewers) and Fox’s “Son of Zorn,” a new episode of which brought in a 0.9 in the demo and 1.99 million viewers.