Ratings Roundup: Packers-Cowboys Is Most-Watched NFL Divisional Playoff Game of All Time

Ratings roundup is a rundown of ratings news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s NFL Playoffs-focused edition: Fox’s Packers-Cowboys matchup is the most-watched early-round NFL Playoff Game of all time, NBC comes up big in primetime with Steelers-Chiefs, and the Saturday NFL games deliver big numbers – though they are down from 2016. In other news, NFL Network was the second most-watched sports cable network among both P18-49 and P18-34 viewers during the 2016 NFL regular season and Univision Deportes continues its year-over-year ratings growth.

Packers-Cowboys Is Most-Watched Early-Round NFL Playoff Game of All Time
Sunday’s NFL playoffs delivered record-breaking ratings, led by the Fox’s Packers-Cowboys nail-biter on Fox. The Packers’ victory drew 48.5 million viewers on FOX (according to Nielsen fast-nationals), making it the most-watched Wild Card or Divisional Round game ever on any network.

NFL_on_FoxThe game also registered a 26.1 rating, making it the highest rated early round game in 20 years, since Cowboys/Panthers in the 1997 Divisional Round (27.6). The telecast was up 11% in ratings and 13% in viewership from Steelers/Broncos last year (23.6, 43.0M), both of which aired on CBS. Fox’s coveraged peaked at a 32.3 rating and 62.4 million viewers from 7:45 to 8 p.m. – meaning 52% of televisions in use were tuned to the game.

The Packers’ win represents Fox’s highest rated and most-watched program of any kind since the Packers/Seahawks NFC Championship in 2015 (27.4, 49.8M).

On top of that, an additional 363,000 viewers streamed the game on Fox Sports GO. (SMW)

NBC Comes Up Big in Primetime with Steelers-Chiefs
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ down-to-the-wire 18-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff on NBC Sunday night averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 37.4 million viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Digital platforms (according to Nielsen Fast Nationals and Adobe Analytics)

The NBC-only broadcast of Steelers-Chiefs, the first-ever Sunday NFL Playoff game to kick off after 8 p.m. ET due to weather-related rescheduling from earlier in the day, averaged 37.1 million viewers – ranking as the most-watched primetime game ever in the NFL’s Divisional and Wild Card Playoff rounds.  TV viewership for Steelers-Chiefs peaked at 39.1 million from 9-9:30 p.m. ET.

Viewership topped by 8% the prior primetime NFL Wild Card/Divisional Playoff record set three years ago by NBC’s Saints-Eagles NFC Wild Card telecast (34.4 million viewers on Jan. 4, 2014) and was 10% higher than NBC’s primetime Saturday Divisional Playoff game last year (33.7 million for Packers-Cardinals). The NFL introduced primetime Saturday games in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds in the 2001 season. NBC’s average of 37.1 million viewers for Steelers-Chiefs is the best for a Sunday primetime program on any network since Super Bowl 50 (Feb. 7, 2016). Sunday night’s viewership is the best for an NBC NFL Playoff telecast since it acquired the Sunday Night Football package beginning with the 2006 season (excluding Super Bowls). In addition, NBC’s Steelers-Chiefs AFC Divisional Playoff telecast (8:20-11:19 p.m. ET) posted a 19.8/32 household rating, ranking as the highest-rated primetime NFL Divisional or Wild Card playoff game ever. The prior record was also set by NBC’s Saints-Eagles Wild Card telecast in 2014 (19.1/31).

NBC Sports Digital’s presentation of Steelers-Chiefs totaled 52 million live streaming minutes– NBC’s best ever for a Sunday NFL game, excluding Super Bowls. The 52 million live streaming minutes is up 48% from last year’s primetime NBC Divisional Playoff (35.1 million for Packers-Cardinals). In addition, NBC Sports Digital reached 1.1 million unique users for Steelers-Chiefs, up 44% from last year’s Divisional Playoff (759,000). The Average Minute Audience for the Steelers-Chiefs live stream via the NBC Sports app, NBCSports.com, NBC.com ‘TV Everywhere,’ and NFL Mobile from Verizon was 260,000 viewers.

Saturday Games Deliver Big Numbers, but Down From 2016
On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks loss to the Atlanta Falcons drew an 18.3/35 overnight on Fox, making it the top-rated event of the day amon metered markets. However, that is down 7% from Chiefs/Patriots on CBS last year (19.7) and marks the lowest overnight in the window in seven years, since Cardinals/Saints had a 17.9 in 2010 (SMW)

The one-sided Texans/Patriots AFC Divisional Round game notched an 18.2 overnight rating on CBS Saturday night, down 10% from Packers/Cardinals on NBC last year (20.3) and the lowest for the window since Packers/Falcons in 2011 (18.1). The 18.2 is also the lowest for a Divisional Round game on CBS since Ravens/Titans in 2009, which aired on a Saturday afternoon (17.0). (SMW)

NFL Network Is Second Most-Watched Cable Net in P18-49, P18-34 Demos
For the first time in its 13-year history, NFL Network was the second most-watched sports cable network among both P18-49 and P18-34 viewers during the 2016 NFL regular season (ESPN ranked No.1). In 2016, NFL Network averaged 256,000 overall viewers – a +3% overall increase from 2015 and +6% when excluding all live Thursday Night Football programming, making this NFL season the network’s most-watched among P2+ viewers since 2013. Specific to the P18-49 demo, NFL Network averaged 123,000 viewers for the 2016 NFL regular season, and in Primetime NFL Network ended the season as the second most-watched sports cable network among P18-49 and P18-34 viewers. Established NFL Network shows like NFL Total AccessA Football Life, The Timeline and NFL GameDay Morning, as well as new shows including Good Morning FootballNFL GameDay Prime, and Tackle My Ride all saw ratings gains.

Thursday Night Football also delivered big numbers for NFL Network. The Christmas Day Thursday Night Football Special Edition featuring the Baltimore Ravens at the Pittsburgh Steelers was the highest-rated and most-watched Thursday Night Football game ever on NFL Network (15.4M P2+ including over-the-air stations).  The Ravens-Steelers game on NFL Network out-delivered the Christmas Day NBA Finals. rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors on ABC by +46% This game was the 4th most-watched sports cable telecast during the 2016 NFL Regular Season (behind Week #16 Monday Night Football and both College Football Playoff Bowls on 12/31)

Univision Deportes Continues Growth
Univision Deportes delivered record ratings and double-digit growth in key metrics for its sports content across media platforms in 2016. Additionally, the five-year-old Univision Deportes Network registered year-over-year ratings gains for the fourth consecutive year and was the only sports network to do so. UDN saw a year-over-year increase of +33 percent – making it the fastest-growing of any TV network, regardless of genre or language, in primetime – and averaged 124,000 Adults 18-49 in 2016. UDN was one of only five sports networks (of 15 total) to grow as it continued to beat MLB Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, FS2, ESPNU, beIN SPORTS, among others.

In 2016, Univision Deportes delivered a record-shattering ratings for Copa América Centenario which positioned UDN as the No. 1 sports network in primetime in June among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Men 18-49 and Men 18-34, besting ESPN, FS1, NBCSN and all competitors, marking the first time a Spanish-language sports network ranked as No. 1. Furthermore, through 28 matches, Copa América Centenario tournament averaged 2.9 million Total Viewers 2+ and 1.6 million Adults 18-49 per match, beating the World Cup by +9,000 among Total Viewers 2+ and +64,000 among Adults 18-49 and making it the most viewed Copa América tournament ever among Total Viewers 2+. The final match between Argentina and Chile averaged 6.8 million Total Viewers 2+ and 3.8 million Adults 18-49, making it the most-viewed Copa América final ever, on any network, regardless of language. The tournament was a success on the social media front as well, reaching the highest video views for Univision during the month of June and resulted in 2.7 million unique visitors to the website – the highest for the year.

Meanwhile, Liga MX averaged 209,000 Adults 18-49 on UDN in 2016, +22 percent better than the NBA on NBA TV and +15 percent better than NHL on NBCSN among Adults 18-49. 2016 marked the most-watched Liga MX finals ever, with the first leg match between Tigres and América – the most-viewed in Univision’s history – outperforming the 2014 Liga MX Apertura final between the same two teams. In addition, the highest-rated regular season club soccer match of the year was Chivas versus América on Univision, averaging more than 3 million Total Viewers 2+, which was +165 percent higher than the most-viewed English Premier League match of the year on NBC Networks.

The 2016 World Cup qualifying match between the USA and Mexico men’s teams simulcast on Univision Network and UDN reached 7.7 million Total Viewers 2+, and averaged 4.6 million Total Viewers 2+ and 2.5 million Adults 18-49. This marked the best-rated World Cup qualifier match on any network since the USA versus Mexico match in March 2013.

For the season, MLS on Univision and UniMás averaged 262,000 Total Viewers 2+ and 143,000 Adults 18-49, up +7 percent and +3 percent from the prior season, respectively – and showing stronger growth than MLS on any other TV network, regardless of language.

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