The NFL Wild Card playoffs resulted in a boon for the television networks and for the league after eye-popping TV ratings suggesting an increased playoff field is all but a formality for next season.
If you are like me you cleared your schedule so you could watch the opening weekend of the NFL playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, and after looking at the ratings for the four games, you and countless others tuned in to catch all the action.
The first game saw the Carolina Panthers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in what was an ugly game, but the play ont he field didn’t see people turning the channel as it was ESPN’s third highest-rated NFL game ever, eighth most-watched telecast among viewers and the ninth highest-rated in cable TV history, according to TV by the numbers.
ESPN’s first NFL playoff game averaged a 12.5 household US; 14,551,000 households; and 21,678,000 viewers (P2+), according to Nielsen fast nationals. The rating peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with a 13.9 rating and at 24,300,000 viewers from 7-7:15 p.m.
Viewers then turned to NBC to watch the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers which drew the second largest TV audience in the last 20 years of AFC Wild Card Saturday football, according to Nielsen data provided by NBC Sports, via The Baltimore Sun.
28 million people tuned in to see Joe Flacco and the Ravens knock off their AFC North division rival, second only to the 33.3 million who saw the Mark Sanchez-led New York Jets beat the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 8, 2011.
Sunday’s games provided even better ratings as 28.3 million tuned in to see Andrew Luck and the Colts beat the Cincinnati Bengals on CBS, but those numbers paled in comparison to the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions game on FOX that averaged 42.3 million viewers.
This was the most-watched telecast since the Academy Awards (43.6 million, ABC, 3/2/14) and the third most-watched Wild Card game on record (49ers-Packers on FOX, 47.1 million, 1/5/14; Steelers-Broncos on CBS, 42.4 million, 1/8/12), according to TV by the Numbers.
In March the NFL will vote on whether they will expand the NFL playoffs form 12 to 14 teams which would mean two more Wild Card games and a ton of cash for the networks and league, especially if major market teams in New York and Chicago get back in the postseason mix.
The ratings should once again be terrific with two games on Saturday and Sunday in the divisional round matchups.
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