Much fun was had with the notion that the playoff-bound Houston Texans were back on Saturday afternoon, considered the slot that TV networks often put their least-appealing playoff game on opening weekend. Joke’s on us, it seems, as America tuned in to watch the Texans come back and beat the Buffalo Bills in droves.
Per ESPN, Houston’s 22-19 overtime victory over the Bills averaged 26,409,000 viewers across ABC, ESPN, and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. That is a 14 percent increase over last year’s Wild Card Saturday afternoon game (23,110,000 viewers for the Colts-Texans). But that number also makes it the most-viewed Saturday afternoon NFL Wild Card game since 2014 as well as the most-viewed NFL Wild Card Game ever on ESPN and ABC.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) January 5, 2020
In 2014, the Wild Card games were broadcast by NBC, CBS, and Fox. ESPN first broadcast a Wild Card game on January 3, 2015, between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers, which garnered 21.7 million viewers.
As you might imagine, this year’s ratings were helped along by the fact that Deshaun Watson and the Texans engineers a 16-point comeback in the second half, leading to an overtime period where viewership peaked at 35,450,000. The game also featured a few noteworthy moments that seemed to keep audiences engaged, including a game-opening touchdown drive by Josh Allen and the Bills and a strange Texans muffed touchback that was initially called a Bills touchdown but was then reversed.
The game delivered a combined 26.0 rating in Houston while the ratings for the Buffalo market won’t be known until Monday. Other top-metered markets for the playoff game include Nashville (23.5), Kansas City (22.3), Norfolk (20.7), Austin (20.2), and Philadelphia (20.2).
Coupled with Saturday evening’s playoff game between the Titans and Patriots, which also saw huge numbers, it’s a good reminder that America’s infatuation with pro football is far from over.