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NFL generates 7-per-cent US ratings boost during Wild Card weekend

The National Football League’s recent ratings tear accelerated over the now-completed Wild Card weekend, with cumulative audience totals in the US reaching a four-year high.

The NFL’s quartet of Wild Card ratings played January 4-5 collectively averaged 30.5m viewers in the US, up 7 percent from a year ago, and the best such figure since 2016. The numbers were boosted by three of four games coming down to the final possession and two going into overtime.

NBC Sports’ late Sunday afternoon coverage of the Seattle Seahawks-Philadelphia Eagles game in particular drew 35.8m US viewers across all platforms, representing the most-watched show of any type in the country since Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. Though it was the most-watched game of the weekend, it was also the only one of the four games to show any sort of decline from 2019, falling 2 per cent in TV viewership.

The Seattle market in particular for that game posted an 82 share, meaning that more than four out of every five TVs in use in the market during that time slot were tuned to the Seahawks-Eagles game.

The Buffalo Bills-Houston Texans game January 4 on ESPN and ABC average 26.41m viewers in the US, up 14 percent from a year ago, and becoming the most-watched Saturday afternoon Wild Card game since 2014.

CBS Sports that evening drew 31.4m viewers for the Tennessee Titans’ upset win over New England, up 7 per cent from the comparative game a year ago. And Fox Sports garnered nearly 30.8m viewers across all of its platforms for the Minnesota Vikings’ overtime road victory against New Orleans, also that network’s biggest Wild Card draw in four years.

The bullish numbers follow a 5 per cent boost in final regular season ratings for the NFL. ProSieben Maxx, the German commercial free-to-air channel, similarly reached its own viewing audience record for the Vikings-Saints game.