The NFL conference championship games once again drew big overnight ratings yesterday, but both telecasts were down compared to figures from last season. Both networks also had their respective lowest Championship game overnights since ’09. CBS led with a 27.9 overnight Nielsen ratings for its Ravens-Patriots AFC Championship in primetime, down 16% from Fox’ Giants-49ers OT game in the primetime window last year. Ravens-Patriots this year was also down from a 29.1 for the same matchup on CBS in the early window last year. The game, which aired from 6:45-10:00pm ET, gave CBS an easy win among all networks in primetime, and the net’s fifth best AFC Championship overnight since it acquired NFL rights. Ravens-Patriots yesterday peaked at a 30.2 rating from 9:00-9:30pm. Meanwhile, Fox earned a 26.1 overnight for the 49ers' comeback win over the Falcons in the NFC Championship yesterday afternoon from 3:00-6:15pm, down 10% from CBS' early window last year and down from Giants-49ers in primetime (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
LACKLUSTER BROADCAST: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote CBS "once again failed to deliver the goods" with Ravens-Patriots last night. Zurawik: "How many promotions for CBS can you cram into a telecast?" From the pregame show "through the first half, everyone connected with the telecast was certain New England was going to win and didn't even try to hide it." However, analyst Phil Simms provided "energized, focused and generally sound analysis throughout the game." In fact, he "carried the telecast, giving it whatever verbal life it had." The "best thing anyone at CBS Sports did Sunday was Shannon Sharpe denouncing" Patriots coach Bill Belichick for not giving a postgame interview (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/20). Sharpe said, "There's something to be said about being gracious in defeat. ... Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can't be a poor sport all the time. You're not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It's unacceptable" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/20).
PREGAMING: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes that "unlike Fox, CBS opted not to send its pregame show to Gillette Stadium for the Ravens-Patriots game and it was a missed opportunity." Fox' pregame show for the NFC Championship game "offered immediacy for viewers -- the feeling of something big happening behind them." Conversely, CBS' "The NFL Today" felt "distant from its own championship game -- the second biggest game it will air this season." You also "had to feel bad" for show host James Brown, who "once again drew the short straw as the interviewer for the absurd and painfully unfunny E-Trade baby segment" (SI.com, 1/21). Meanwhile, in Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "Seriously, did Fox really call its NFL postgame show on Sunday the 'Yippie Kay Yay' postgame show because it was sponsored by the newest 'Die Hard' movie? Ridiculous" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/21).
KINGS OF NEW ORLEANS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reports NFL Network tomorrow will announce it is planning to air 140 hours of coverage from New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII. It is up 41% from last year, and will include "425 people and 11 sets, up from nine on-site sets last year." Coverage plans are highlighted by a 10 1/2-hour pregame show. Combined with a "3 1/2-hour postgame show means NFLN will have 14 hours of game-day coverage -- up two hours more than last year." NFLN's expansion comes "at a time when on-site Super Bowl coverage from various networks also is increasing." CBS Sports Network will have "more than 50 hours of live coverage from New Orleans." NBC Sports Network will have "more than 20 live hours." ESPN will broadcast "more than 120 hours of live TV and radio programming" (USA TODAY, 1/21).