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NFL conference championships deliver first TV viewership increase of playoffs

Buccaneers’ 31-26 win over the Packers was most-watched NFC championship game since 2017.

27 January 2021 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Average audience of 44.8m watch Tom Brady get better of Aaron Rodgers on Fox before 41.8m tune into CBS for Chiefs’ second consecutive AFC championship win
  • Viewership for NFC championship up 7% as AFC title game climbs 2% compared to last year
  • Wild card weekend and divisional round saw audience drops of 21% and 7% respectively

The National Football League (NFL) saw viewership increases for the first time during this season’s playoffs as both conference championship games averaged more than 40 million viewers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers drew the biggest audience of the two fixtures, averaging 44.8 million viewers on Fox, an increase of about five per cent on last year’s NFC championship matchup between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.

The audience peaked at 53 million viewers in the final moments of the fourth quarter as the Buccaneers held on to become the first NFL team to progress to a Super Bowl being staged at their home stadium.

The game, which pitted star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers against each other in the postseason for the first time, was also the most-watched NFC title fixture since the Packers lost to the Atlanta Falcons in 2017.

It also marked the second week running that an NFL game became the most-watched broadcast in the US since last year’s Super Bowl as viewers flocked to Fox to see Brady reach the league’s champion-crowning fixture for the tenth time in his career. 

Later on Sunday, CBS’ coverage of the Kansas City Chiefs’ second consecutive AFC championship win, a 38-24 triumph over the Buffalo Bills, drew an average audience of 41.8 million, an uptick of two per cent on last season’s equivalent fixture.

The viewership increases will come as a relief for the NFL, which until Sunday had seen audiences fall during each round of the postseason.

The average audience for the NFL’s divisional round was down seven per cent to 30.6 million viewers, while viewership for the expanded six-game wild card weekend fell 21 per cent to 24.3 million.

The NFL will be hoping that a star-studded Super Bowl, headlined by Brady going up against Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, will see it come close to matching the audience numbers for last season’s showpiece, which recorded more than 102 million viewers across Fox’s TV and digital platforms. 

Super Bowl LV takes place on 7th February and is being broadcast in the US by CBS.

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