Extra wild-card games lead to diluted ratings for NFL
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two additional games on wild-card weekend resulted in somewhat diluted ratings for the NFL.
The six games averaged 25.1 million viewers on television and online, which is a 20% drop from last season’s per-game viewership on the first playoff weekend, according to the league and Nielsen. Last year’s four wild-card games, two of which went to overtime, averaged 30.5 million viewers.
Only two of the six games this season had drama late in the fourth quarter. The NFL expanded the postseason field from six to seven teams in each conference, with only one team in each getting a first-round bye.
The weekend’s most-viewed game was Sunday’s 21-9 victory by the New Orleans Saints over the Chicago Bears on CBS and Nickelodeon. It averaged 30.65 million, making it CBS’ most-viewed first-round game since 2014. The 2.06 million average for the kids-oriented broadcast on Nickelodeon made it the network’s most-watched program among in nearly four years.
Sunday night’s Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers game on NBC averaged 26 million. The Browns’ 48-37 win was the most-watched prime-time program since last year’s Super Bowl.
Sunday’s first game — Baltimore’s 20-13 victory at Tennessee — on ESPN and ABC averaged 24.88 million.
Saturday’s most-viewed game was the late-afternoon kickoff between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks on Fox. The Rams’ 30-20 win ended up averaging 24.56 million. The prime-time game on NBC — Tampa Bay’s 31-23 victory over Washington — averaged 22.2 million.
Buffalo’s 27-24 victory over Indianapolis was the least-viewed wild-card game in 18 years. The Bills’ first playoff win since 1995 averaged 20.08 million on CBS, narrowly edging the 19.66 million average for the Indianapolis-New York Jets game in 2003 that was aired on ABC.
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