Ratings Roundup: CBS Sports, Nickelodeon Leads NFL Super Wild Card Weekend

Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, we take a look at the numbers from last weekend’s NFL Super Wild Card weekend, including the most-watched Wild Card game in seven years on CBS Sports and Nickelodeon.

CBS Sports and Nickelodeon Deliver Most-Watch NFL Wild Card Game in Seven Years

CBS Sports and Nickelodeon’s presentation of the 49ers’ victory over the Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 16 scored as the most-watched NFL Wild Card game on any network in seven years, averaging 41.496 million viewers across both networks and up +35% versus last year’s comparable game.

The audience peaked with more than 50 million viewers (50.229) for the game’s conclusion.

Paramount+ registered its most-streamed non-Super Bowl NFL weekend ever and 49ers-Cowboys scored as its most-streamed non-Super Bowl game of all-time. Super Wild Card Weekend delivered double-digit year-over-year growth in total streams, streaming minutes and unique viewers from last year’s Super Wild Card games.

After recording its most-watched regular season in six years, The NFL on CBS continued its strong viewership into the postseason as the 41.496 million viewers for 49ers-Cowboys marked CBS’ most-watched Wild Card game in 10 years (Pittsburgh-Denver, 1/8/12, 42.371) and ranks as the Network’s second-most watched Wild Card game on record (since 1988).

The game is the most-watched television program on any network since Super Bowl LV on CBS and THE NFL ON CBS has delivered the only two programs with more than 40 million viewers during that span (49ers-Cowboys, 41.496 million viewers and Raiders-Cowboys on Thanksgiving, 40.802 million viewers).

In addition, the Buffalo Bills’ 30-point victory over the New England Patriots in primetime on Saturday, Jan. 15 averaged 26.373 million viewers, a +23% increase over last year’s comparable Saturday night game.

NBC’S Steelers-Chiefs Sunday NFL Wild Card Game Named Most-Watched Primetime Show Since Super Bowl LV

NBC Sports’ presentation of two NFL Super Wild Card Weekend games posted viewership milestones, delivered increases over the games in last year’s corresponding time slots, and set NBC Sports Digital NFL streaming records.

Across both games, NBC Sports’ Total Audience Delivery average of 29.7 million viewers is up 23% from its Super Wild Card Weekend coverage last year (24.1 million TAD).

Sunday Night (Pittsburgh-Kansas City)
Despite Kansas City’s 35-7 lead early in the third quarter, Sunday night’s Steelers-Chiefs game averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 30.5 million viewers across NBC, Telemundo, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms – up 17% from last year’s Sunday night Wild Card game on the same platforms (26.1 million for Browns-Steelers), according to official data released today by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

The NBC audience of 28.9 million viewers ranks as television’s most-watched primetime show since Super Bowl LV in February 2021. Viewership on NBC peaked at 33.8 million viewers at the end of the first half from 9:30-9:45 p.m. ET. Sunday night’s game (8:16-11:11 p.m. ET), highlighted by five Patrick Mahomes touchdown passes in Kansas City’s 42-21 win, registered a national TV household rating of 14.7/33 – up 10% from last year (13.4/28).

Steelers-Chiefs delivered an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 1.25 million viewers across Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms, NFL Digital platforms, Steelers and Chiefs mobile properties, and Yahoo Sports mobile properties – ranking as the most streamed NBC NFL playoff game ever, excluding Super Bowls. The prior NBC Sports’ NFL playoff record was set just one day earlier as Saturday’s Raiders-Bengals game delivered an AMA of 1.21 million viewers.

Top Metered Markets for Steelers-Chiefs:

  • Kansas City 50.5/80
  • Pittsburgh 41.0/67
  • Buffalo 27.0/48
  • New Orleans 23.1/40
  • Cincinnati 22.0/44
  • Nashville 20.7/39
  • Milwaukee 19.8/39
  • Albuquerque 19.1/36
  • Cleveland 18.9/40
  • Columbus 18.8/38

Saturday Afternoon (Las Vegas-Cincinnati)
Cincinnati’s 23-16 victory over Las Vegas, headlined by Bengals QB Joe Burrow’s 244 passing yards and two touchdowns in his first career playoff start, averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 29.0 million viewers — ranking as the most-watched Saturday afternoon Wild Card game since 1999 (30.7 million for Arizona-Dallas on ABC) and up 30% from NBC Sports’ Saturday night Wild Card game in January 2021 (22.3 million for Tampa Bay-Washington).

Raiders-Bengals averaged 27.7 million viewers on NBC, an increase of 13% from last year’s LA. Rams-Seattle matchup in the same time window (24.5 million viewers on FOX). Saturday’s game (4:36-7:53 p.m. ET) registered a national TV household rating of 14.2/36 – up 23% from last year’s NBC Saturday Wild Card (11.5/25 for Bucs-WFT) and up 12% from Rams-Seattle in the same time slot (12.7/30).

Top Metered Markets for Raiders-Bengals:

  • Cincinnati 42.2/74
  • Dayton 28.6/54
  • New Orleans 26.5/50
  • Columbus 23.0/52
  • Buffalo 22.8/43
  • Kansas City 21.9/46
  • Las Vegas 21.4/54
  • Providence 19.5/41
  • Pittsburgh 18.9/41
  • Nashville 18.5/38
  • Milwaukee 18.5/44

ESPN’s MegaCast Draws More Than 23.1 Million Viewers for the Los Angeles Rams’ Decisive Victory Over the Arizona Cardinals

The NFL Super Wild Card Weekend concluded on a Monday night (Jan. 17) for the first time, as ESPN’s MegaCast presentation (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes) registered 23,150,000 viewers for the Los Angeles Rams 23-point victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The audience peaked at 27.9 million viewers as the Rams led 21-0 in the second quarter (9:30 – 9:45 p.m.). Despite the first half lead, which ballooned to 28-0 shortly after halftime, and the margin of victory, the debut of the Monday night Wild Card easily became the most-watched Monday night NFL game during ESPN’s Monday Night Football era (2006 – present).

The Wild Card game concludes a season where Monday Night Football finished the regular season with its best viewership since 2010, including up 16% from 2020 and 13% from 2019.

Note: MegaCast included main telecast, Peyton and Eli’ and ‘Between the Lines’ all on ESPN+ – those audiences are not included in this release; viewership reported by Nielsen for ESPN includes streaming audience across some ESPN, NFL and Yahoo Sports properties

As part of ESPN’s MegaCast, NFL Super Wild Card with Peyton and Eli continued to add their show to ESPN’s most-watched alternate telecasts, as the duos’ nine most recent shows are now ESPN’s nine most-watched alternate telecasts. The audience on ESPN2 for the Wild Card game registered 1,419,000 million viewers. The complete list of the Manning audiences is available here.

The debut Monday night Wild Card brings ESPN’s season of superlatives to a grand conclusion. During the 2021-22 season, inclusive of the Cardinals-Rams audience, ESPN delivered two of the four most-watched NFL Monday night games and three of the six during this era of MNF (2006 – present). More on the tremendous regular season, including MNF televising its most-watched game since 2009, can be found here.

ESPN and ABC combined to win the night among all key demos, including Males 18-49 (ESPN), Persons 18-34 (ESPN) and households (ABC). Cardinals-Rams was the most-watched telecast among all key demos, including Males 18-34 (ESPN), Males 25-54 (ESPN) and Persons 25-54 (ABC)

Eagles-Buccaneers Wild Card Matchup Delivers Top Telecast of the Season for Fox

30,373,000 viewers tuned into Fox’s presentation of the NFC Wild Card Came between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game was the network’s most-watched telecast since last year’s NFC Championship Game and was up +24% over last year’s NFC Wild Card Game on Fox between the Los Angeles Ram and Seattle Seahawks (24,524,000).

The game was also over last year’s comparable window featuring the AFC Wild Card Game between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans (25,381,800). It delivered the most-streamed NFC Wild Card Game in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 1,029,402 across Fox, NFL, and Yahoo! Sports properties; up +28% over last year (803,000).

Over 102 Million Total Viewers Tune In for Super Wild Card Weekend

For Super Wild Card Weekend, over 102 million total viewers tuned in over the course of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers (TV+Digital).

The 30.5 million average viewers are up +21% vs. 2020 and is the second-highest Wild Card Weekend average since 2015-16.

Additionally, there were over 34 billion total minutes of Super Wild Card Weekend coverage consumed across all platforms – up +17% vs. 2020 and the highest total on record (dates back to 1988).

Digitally, Super Wild Card Weekend produced an average minute audience of 1.4 million across NFL, Yahoo Sports and broadcaster platforms – ranking as the highest digital AMA on record for Wild Card Weekend, and up +35% vs. 2020 and up +72% vs. 2019.

2021 NFL Regular Season Averaged 17.1 Million Viewers — Up +10% vs. 2020 & Highest Average Since 2015 

Prior to the start of the playoffs, the 2021 NFL regular season averaged 17.1 million viewers (TV+Digital) – the highest regular season average since 2015 and up +10% vs. 2020.

During the 2021 NFL regular season, NFL games ranked as the top 16, 48 of the top 50 and 91 of the top 100 telecasts on TV.

Throughout the season, there were 370 billion total minutes consumed which is up +18% vs. 2020 and the second-highest total on record behind only 2015.

During the 2021 NFL regular season, there were 34 games decided by a game-winning score on the final play – the most in a single season all-time – while 49 games were decided by a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or overtime – tied for the most in a single season all-time. Additionally, 175 games – 64% of all games – were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter – tied for the fourth-most all-time.

Provided below is the list of the Top 10 most-watched NFL games during the 2021 regular season:

  • Las Vegas Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys (Week 12, CBS) – 40.8 million
  • Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Week 11, FOX) – 28.7 million
  • Cleveland Browns vs. Green Bay Packers (Week 16, FOX+NFLN) – 28.6 million
  • Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions (Week 12, FOX) – 28.2 million
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New England Patriots (Week 4, NBC) – 27.2 million
  • Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys (Week 17, FOX) – 26.8 million
  • Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers (Week 12, FOX) – 25.2 million
  • Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Kickoff, NBC) – 25.2 million
  • Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Week 9, FOX) – 25.0 million
  • Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Week 2, CBS) – 25.0 million

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