For the first time in NFL Playoff history, we had four different broadcast networks air one Wild Card game each. We had ABC simulcasting ESPN’s production of Kansas City at Houston, CBS airing Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, NBC broadcasting Seattle at Minnesota and Fox with Green Bay at Washington.

For Saturday’s games, we saw higher numbers for the AFC Wild Card doubleheader as compared to last year. As of this writing, we don’t have the final NFC numbers for Sunday’s games, but we do have the overnight ratings/share for both contests.

Looking at Saturday’s games, they break down as follows:

The KC-Houston game which was an awful 30-0 blowout gave ESPN/ABC a very good number. Despite the Chiefs shutting out the Texans, over 25 million people watched the game. That’s 25.171 million to be exact. That’s up 13% from last year’s Arizona-Carolina game which aired in the same window on ESPN only. The combined rating on ESPN/ABC was 14.7 and that’s a 15% increase from last year’s 12.8 on just ESPN. Chiefs-Texans was the third most-watched Saturday afternoon Wild Card game since 1999 according to ESPN. Kansas City-Houston marked the first NFL game on ABC since Super Bowl XL in 2005.

For Pittsburgh-Cincinnati on CBS, the Tiffany Network reached some new heights for an AFC Wild Card game. Bengals-Steelers which had a wild fourth quarter resulting in a last-minute Pittsburgh 18-16 win, gave CBS a huge primetime win with 31.2 million viewers. It’s a huge 12% increase from last year’s Baltimore-Pittsburgh Wild Card game on NBC which had 27.9 million viewers. CBS points out that it’s the most-watched AFC Wild Card game on any network dating back four years to the 42.4 million people who watched the Pittsburgh-Denver OT game on CBS in 2012.

For Sunday’s games, the overnights for NBC and Fox bring some encouragement when the final numbers come out. Seattle at Minnesota which gave the Seahawks a 10-9 victory averaged a 22.5/44 overnight for the Peacock. It marked NBC’s first Sunday afternoon playoff game since the 1997-98 season, it’s last as the network of the AFC before ceding to CBS. The rating/share is up 21% from last year’s 18.6/32 for the Cincinnati-Indianapolis game which aired in the same early Sunday afternoon window on CBS. It’s also the best rating for an early Sunday afternoon Wild Card playoff game since 1994.

Local numbers are amazing. Seattle had a 50.4/87 while Minneapolis-St. Paul received a 50.5/82 meaning 87% of the TV’s in Seattle and 82% of the TV’s in Minneapolis were on the Wild Card.

And for the Green Bay-Washington game that aired on Fox in the late Sunday afternoon window, the ratings are the highest of the weekend. Fox garnered a 23.6/38 which was the only game which was down from the previous year. Last year’s Detroit-Dallas game in the same window had a 25.0/41 on Fox. But local numbers were also spectacular. Milwaukee averaged a 55.1/75 while DC received a 38.6/61.

Here’s a chart for this weekend’s numbers. We’ll fill in the Sunday’s viewership numbers when they become available:

NFL Wild Card Weekend Viewership

Game (2016)

Average Viewership (2016)

Game (2015)

Average Viewership (2015)

Green Bay-Washington (Fox) 38.8 Million Detroit-Dallas (Fox) 42.3 Million
Seattle-Minnesota (NBC) 35.3 Million Cincinnati-Indianapolis (CBS) 28.3 Million
Pittsburgh-Cincinnati (CBS) 31.2 Million Baltimore-Pittsburgh (NBC) 28.0 Million
Kansas City-Houston (ESPN/ABC) 25.171 Million Arizona-Carolina (ESPN) 21.7 Million
Four Game Average  32.6 Million Four Game Average 29.9 Million

Overall, the NFL may be looking at an increase from the year before.

UPDATE: The NFC Wild Card numbers are in and they are very good. Fox had the highest-rated and most-watched Wild Card game of the weekend in Green Bay at Washington with a 21.8/37 rating/share and 38.8 million viewers. That’s down from last year’s 23.6/40 for Detroit at Dallas. It’s the top TV program since Super Bowl XLIX last February on NBC.

Speaking of NBC,  it has to be pleased with its numbers for Seattle at Minnesota. It received a 21.0/42 rating/share, the best rating for an early Sunday afternoon Wild Card game dating back to January 1, 1995 when the Peacock aired New England at Cleveland and received a  22.0/48. Seahawks-Minnesota averaged 35.3 million viewers, beating last year’s early window for Cincinnati-Indianapolis on CBS which had 28.3 million viewers.

The four game average for this year’s Wild Card game is 32.6 million, better than last year’s 29.9 million average.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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