When we looked at the NFL Wild Card schedule a week ago, Sunday’s 49ers-Cowboys matchup on CBS (and Nickelodeon!) easily looked like the clubhouse favorite to draw the most viewers. The viewership numbers are in, and that ended up being true to a significant degree.
On Wednesday, CBS announced that the San Francisco-Dallas matchup drew a stunning 41.496 million viewers on the two networks, peaking at just over 50 million for the thrilling ending. That’s the highest number for a Wild Card game since 2015, when Lions-Cowboys drew 42.320 million on Fox. This year’s game was up 35% from Bears-Saints a year ago.
The network also claimed this game was Paramount+’s “most-streamed non-Super Bowl game of all time,” but didn’t release specific information there. Clearly, out of market viewers helped increase the overall viewership for this game, but you can attribute a lot of the success to the matchup: it was the most-watched CBS Wild Card game in a decade (Steelers-Broncos in 2012, AKA the Tim Tebow game).
As for the viewership breakdown by network, the lion’s share of viewers tuned in to CBS – 40.163 million of them, in fact. The Nickelodeon broadcast drew a respectable sounding 1.333 million viewers, but last year’s game drew over two million viewers – with the main game broadcast on CBS pulling in 28.592 million. That’s one hell of a shift.
Looking at the rest of the weekend (Monday night viewership will not be in until later today), the overall trends were….fine, I guess? 30.373 million people watched Eagles-Bucs on Fox, up 22% from Ravens-Titans on ABC and ESPN last year. In primetime, NBC is claiming 30.5 million viewers for Steelers-Chiefs, with 28.935 million of those viewers watching on NBC proper (and the rest on digital platforms and Telemundo). That’s up 17% from last year’s game, which drew 26 million on the smorgasbord of platforms.
Only two games aired on Saturday this year, compared to three last year. In the mid-afternoon window this year, NBC aired Raiders-Bengals, drawing 29 million viewers on all of the network’s platforms (27.7 million on NBC). The comparable game last year was Rams-Seahawks on Fox, which drew 23.963 million viewers. This year’s game was up 21%. Finally, in primetime, 26.373 million people watched Patriots-Bills, up 23% from Bucs-Washington in primetime on NBC a year ago.
Overall, while the numbers have been inflated compared to previous years by out of home and streaming viewership, they’re still quite good for the NFL.