TV ratings: NFL conference championships hit multi-year highs

The NFL capped off a remarkable playoff season on Sunday with two more games in its conference championship round. The league’s television numbers were equally impressive.

The AFC championship game on CBS and the NFC title game on Fox averaged 49 million viewers Sunday, up 13 percent from last year’s two games (43.31 million). All three playoff rounds increased by double-digit percentages year over year, following regular-season gains of 7 percent from last year. The big numbers once again underscore how far the NFL is from anything else on television.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship averaged 47.85 million viewers for CBS in the afternoon window, peaking at nearly 61 million. That’s a three-year high for the AFC title game (the 2019 contest, which aired in prime time, drew 53.9 million viewers) and the most-watched conference title game ( AFC or NFC) in the afternoon window since 2016. CBS had a game Top 40 million viewers in each round of the playoffs.

On Fox, the LA Rams’ 20–17 win over the San Francisco 49ers followed 50.23 million viewers (with Fox Deportes’ Spanish broadcast totaling 50.42 million). That marks a maximum of eight years for the network’s NFC championship broadcast.

(One caveat: All figures prior to last year do not include out-of-home viewing, which has risen over the past year as pandemic restrictions eased.)

Sunday’s two games are the most-watched shows of the 2021-22 television season so far (and will likely be second only to the Super Bowl on Feb. 13). The league also had 33 television broadcasts that exceeded 20 million viewers this season. Just an entertainment program, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, has accomplished that feat.

No primetime entertainment series broadcast has surpassed 10 million same-day viewers this season. Even with a week of delayed viewing, only four entertainment shows (CBS’ NCIS Y FBINBC chicago fire and Paramount Network yellow stone) break the 10 million mark. By comparison, of the 130 NFL broadcasts that aired this season, only eight made it. low 10 million viewers, seven of them exclusive to the NFL Network, with the eighth being a CBS morning broadcast of one of two league games in London.

Converting Sunday’s two games to the preferred broadcast metric of total viewing time gives a tally of nearly 19 billion minutes, about seven times the largest week for any recent streaming series: The Wizard’s 2.73 billion minutes on Netflix over Christmas.

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TV ratings: NFL conference championships hit multi-year highs