SBD/January 25, 2011/Media

NFL Sees Most-Viewed Conference Championship Weekend Since '82 Playoffs

The AFC and NFC Championship game telecasts this past Sunday averaged 53.4 million viewers on CBS and Fox, marking the most-viewed conference championship Sunday since NBC and CBS combined to average 60.2 million viewers in '82. The Steelers' 24-19 win over the Jets from 6:40-9:54pm ET earned CBS a 28.3 fast-national Nielsen rating and 54.9 million viewers, marking the most-viewed AFC Championship game ever and highest-rated AFC title game since Patriots-Jaguars earned a 28.5 rating on NBC in '97. Steelers-Jets is up 7.6% and 16.9%, respectively, from a 26.3 rating and 46.9 million viewers for CBS' Colts-Jets in the early window last year. However, Steelers-Jets is down 7.5% and 5.3%, respectively, from Fox' Saints-Vikings NFC Championship in the late window last year. In this year's early window, Fox earned a 28.1 rating and 51.9 million viewers for the Packers' 21-14 win over the Bears in the NFC Championship game, which is up 6.8% and 10.6%, respectively, compared to Colts-Jets in the early window last year. However, Packers-Bears is down 8.2% and 10.4%, respectively, compared to Saints-Vikings in last year's late window (THE DAILY). In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reports WFLD-Fox earned a 50.6 local rating and 1.771 million HHs in the market for Packers-Bears, "more viewers than the Bears' 2007 Super Bowl appearance, but not as large a rating as the team's 1986 Super Bowl telecast." The '07 Colts-Bears Super Bowl earned a 50.2 local rating in Chicago, while the '86 Bears-Patriots Super Bowl posted a 63.0 rating in the market. Sunday's NFC Championship "capped a season of surging ratings for the Bears" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/25).

TOP 10 MOST-VIEWED NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
GAMES SINCE '75
YEAR
NET
GAME
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'82
CBS
49ers-Cowboys
42.9
68,690
'10
Fox
Saints-Vikings
30.6
57,933
'95
Fox
49ers-Cowboys
34.2
56,809
'11
CBS
Steelers-Jets
28.3
54,850
'08
Fox
Giants-Packers
29.0
53,937
'96
Fox
Cowboys-Packers
33.3
52,685
'93
CBS
Cowboys-49ers
33.3
51,987
'11
Fox
Packers-Bears
28.1
51,900
'78
CBS
Cowboys-Vikings
35.0
51,640
'82
NBC
Bengals-Chargers
35.0
51,620

 

ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine notes there is "feverish anticipation" that the Packers-Steelers Super Bowl "could topple" the viewership record of 106.5 million set during last year's Saints-Colts Super Bowl. If the ratings for Sunday's conference championship games are "any indication, this Super Bowl should go through the roof." Fox is "being careful not to raise expectations," as the network "doesn't want to be seen calling anything less than a record-setting audience a ratings disappointment" (DAILY VARIETY, 1/25). In L.A., Joe Flint wrote under the header, "Green Bay Packers And Pittsburgh Steelers Should Be Ratings Gold For Fox." Flint: "Anyone who thinks that a Super Bowl featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers won't deliver the numbers that the New York Jets and Chicago Bears would because they are from larger markets is sadly mistaken." Fox "won't have to do a lot of promoting to get people pumped for the Feb. 6 showdown." NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol yesterday noted both the Packers and Steelers are "iconic brands," and added, "This is going to be a monster." Ebersol: "I would give my eye teeth to be [Fox Sports Media Group Chair & CEO] David Hill this morning" (LATIMES.com, 1/24). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Fox "lost the biggest TV markets with NFL teams" when the Jets and Bears lost. But given the Packers and Steelers are "brand names and the NFL's huge national fan base minimizes the importance of market size, Fox might get the first Super Bowl in 15 years to draw more than 45% of U.S. households" (USA TODAY, 1/25).

MAJOR STORY LINE? In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy "will be a major story line" leading up to the Super Bowl. Unless Fox "doesn't want sleazy details of the NFL's dark side to interfere with America's Party, it probably won't totally ignore the story during its marathon Super Bowl pregame coverage and its game telecast." There are "a few ways to handle the story," and "two of the options were on display Sunday." ESPN's "NFL Primetime" Sunday after the AFC Championship "keyed off Roethlisberger's answer to a question about his thoughts following the win while he was kneeling on the turf with a towel covering his face." ESPN's Chris Berman "did not get into specifics," saying, "Whatever happened, or did not happen, everybody knows the story of why he didn't play the first four weeks of the season." But Raissman writes, "That was a mistake. Maybe Berman didn't want to present the facts, but he should not have assumed everyone watching knew the allegations that led Roger Goodell to suspend the quarterback." Meanwhile, CBS announcer Jim Nantz during the third quarter of the AFC Championship said Roethlisberger had "seen quite an odyssey." Nantz "did not make any assumptions," rather he "detailed exactly why Roethlisberger was suspended then set up" CBS analyst Phil Simms. Simms said that he "did see a change in Roethlisberger's 'personality,' adding he thinks the quarterback is more patient and 'feels good' about himself" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/25).

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