This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.
So it turns out that all the NFL needs to solve its ratings woes is a permanent postseason and matchups of the best teams in the game.
After a year in which ratings trended mostly downward, Fox won a nice little bump from Sunday’s NFC championship, and all it required was the best team in the conference playing one of the all-time legends:
— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) January 25, 2021
The game won the highest ratings of any telecast since last year’s Super Bowl. Moreover, ratings rose 5% over last year’s NFC championship (Packers vs. Bears) and 5% over last year’s game in the same time slot (Titans vs. Chiefs).
Fox proudly touted the game as delivering its best performance for an NFC championship since 2017’s Packers-Falcons game. Bucs-Pack peaked at 53 million viewers, and averaged 44.8 million, an increase of 3 percent over last year’s NFC championship and 8 percent over the same broadcast window in 2020.
Buffalo-Kansas City on CBS didn’t have the two-team star power of the NFC championship, but still averaged 41.85 million viewers. That’s the second-highest viewership of any game this season ... after the NFC championship, of course. The AFC championship was the most-watched show of any sort on CBS since Super Bowl LIII in 2019.
While the decline in overall ratings grabs headlines, it’s notable that the NFL continues to dominate both the sports and television landscape. NFL games are the most-watched sports by a wide margin — Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is the only recent sporting event to reach NFL playoff levels — and only major events like presidential debates and the Academy Awards match the NFL’s numbers overall. So, glass half full or glass half empty, it’s still a huge glass.
NFL ratings always surge in the postseason, and this year, despite the pandemic, is no exception. According to Sports Media Watch, every divisional game exceeded 26 million viewers, and every wild card round game two weeks ago exceeded 21 million viewers. Even so, all of those ratings were down from 2019 numbers. We’ll have two weeks to see if the Super Bowl suffers a similar fate.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee and contact him at email@example.com.
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