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Volume 27 No. 5
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Smaller Markets, Blowouts Hurt NFL Championship Viewership

The 49ers' blowout win in primetime likely contributed to lower viewership for the NFC Championship
Photo: getty images
The 49ers' blowout win in primetime likely contributed to lower viewership for the NFC Championship
Photo: getty images
The 49ers' blowout win in primetime likely contributed to lower viewership for the NFC Championship
Photo: getty images

Viewership for the AFC and NFC Championship Games fell double digits compared to last year, and to their "smallest collective audience" since '09, according to Rick Porter of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The presence of some "smaller-market teams" like the Titans, as well as a blowout in 49ers-Packers, "may have all contributed to the declines." That decrease for Sunday's games puts this year's playoffs "slightly behind last year's average viewership, despite the first two rounds being up" over last year. CBS' Chiefs-Titans AFC Championship averaged 41.11 million viewers, the "smallest for the game" since '09. CBS was down about 7% from the 44.08 million viewers for Fox' afternoon telecast of last year's Rams-Saints NFC Championship. Meanwhile, for 49ers-Packers, Fox drew 42.7 million viewers. 49ers-Packers is "down by at least" 19% from CBS' primetime broadcast of last year's Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship, which went to overtime (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/20). VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton noted both of Sunday's games still rank as TV's "most-watched telecasts since last year's Super Bowl" (VARIETY.com, 1/20). Meanwhile, 49ers-Packers drew a 48.2 local rating in Milwaukee and a 42.6 rating in S.F./San Jose/Oakland. For Chiefs-Titans, CBS drew a strong 55.7 local rating in K.C. and a 46.0 rating in Nashville (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

MISSING THE USUAL SUSPECTS: In Boston, Christopher Price writes no one is "attributing the dip" in AFC Championship ratings "solely to the absence of the Patriots." There is an "argument to be made for timing, as the late game has occasionally enjoyed better ratings, and that may have been part of the reason the NFC battle in the later window had better totals." One also could "argue that last year's AFC Championship game was more competitive, which likely created a ratings spike as the game went on." Last year's NFC Championship also "provided an excellent lead-in," as Rams-Saints was a "thriller that was decided late." However, history has "shown the Patriots are an undeniably compelling team that moves the needle when it comes to TV ratings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/21). Also in Boston, Justin Leger wrote much of the "discrepancy" between last year's Patriots-Chiefs and this year's 49ers-Packers in primetime "has to do with Pats-Chiefs being far more competitive." Many viewers "tuned out" of the NFC Championship game when the 49ers led 27-0 at halftime (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 1/20).