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Delivering Real Playoff NFL: Numbers For Local

The NFL’s Conference Championship Games broadcasts brought in huge audiences across the country, delivering national viewing numbers that were the highest in decades. But it’s at the local level that the ratings truly hit the stratosphere. Nationally, the NFC Championship game had a staggering 23.5 A25-54 rating (“American Idol” usually averages around a 9.0 A25-54 rating). Yet that would only rank #35 for the NFL Playoffs this season if it were a local market (LPM) rating, just below the 23.6 A25-54 rating for the Giants/Packers game – in Charlotte.

The highest rated local market game for these NFL Playoffs belonged to Pittsburgh for their Wild Card round loss to the Denver Broncos. The game delivered a 51.6 A25-54 rating in the market – over 300% above the national rating for the game. But before you think that number was driven just by men watching sports, the Pittsburgh W25-54 rating was a 47.5.

So the home teams definitely bring in local market viewers, not only the ones you’d expect.

In Boston, the Ravens/Patriots game had an 89 share for Men 25-54 – meaning that if they had their TV on, about 9 out of 10 men between the ages of 25 and 54 had their TV tuned to the game.

And it’s not only the home teams in their home markets that deliver viewers. The Giants/49ers game had a 31.9 A25-54 rating in Washington, DC, whose hometown Redskins didn’t make the playoffs this year. And strangely, the primetime Giants/49ers game had a higher A25-54 rating in Atlanta (25.1) than the afternoon Falcons/Giants game (21.3) for the hometown Falcons the week before – so the daypart might have even more impact on viewing than the home team, in some cases.

As a point of comparison to the power of the NFL, the national household rating for the BCS Championship Game – college football’s championship game – was a 14.0. Hyped as “the second highest rated program in cable history”, it was only bested by last year’s BCS Championship Game. Yet the game lost viewers for the second consecutive year – a streak that started when the game moved to cable. These results demonstrate two things: that the NFL isn’t just about people’s interest in the sport of football; and how hard it is for cable to deliver broadcast-sized ratings, even for “event” programming.

Another area of dominance of the NFL: social media. For the week of January 22nd, the Conference Championship Games had over 3 million comments in social media – dwarfing the roughly 623,000 of the top TV program that week, “American Idol”, fitting, as “Idol” was a distant third in the national ratings as well.

So for this year’s Super Bowl, NBC gets the marquee matchup between the biggest media market teams from each conference: the Giants from New York (the #1 TV market overall) representing the NFC vs the Patriots from Boston (the #7 TV market) for the AFC. Most analysts anticipate this year’s audience to top last season’s record-setting Super Bowl. So in some local markets, with these two high-powered offenses set to face each other, by the end of the game you might be wondering to yourself: “Is that the final score – or the local ratings?”

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