NFL postseason coverage dominates Nielsen ratings

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes leaps and throws a pass.
Kansas City’s wild-card victory over Pittsburgh drew the biggest audience of the season. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a pass as he avoids Pittsburgh defenders.
(Travis Heying / Associated Press)

NBC’s NFL coverage of Kansas City’s 42-21 victory over Pittsburgh averaged 28.935 million viewers, the largest audience audience for any program so far this season, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Wednesday. The previous high was 26.747 million for NBC’s New England-Tampa Bay “Sunday Night Football” game Oct. 3, which marked Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium after leaving the Patriots.

More than four hours of postseason NFL programming on CBS, plus “60 Minutes” and its traditionally popular entertainment series, gave the network an average 10.02 million viewers between Jan. 10 and Sunday, the highest average of any network for a week since Fox’s coverage of the opening five games of the World Series, Oct. 25-31.

CBS had the top-ranked non-sports program, “60 Minutes,” which averaged 11.291 million viewers, seventh for the week; the highest-rated entertainment program, “FBI,” eighth averaging 8.45 million viewers; the most popular comedy, “Young Sheldon,” ninth, averaging 7.7 million; and the highest-ranked first-season program, “Ghosts,” 12th averaging 6.475 million. It also won the 10 p.m. timeslot with “Blue Bloods,” 13th averaging 6.438 million.

NBC finished second for the week, averaging 6.83 million viewers, followed by ESPN, with 3.685 million, and ABC, with 2.67 million. Fox averaged 1.72 million viewers and The CW had 540,000.


NBC’s leading non-NFL program was “Chicago Fire,” 10th for the week and third among entertainment programming, averaging 7.412 million.

ABC’s ratings leader was “Judge Steve Harvey,” 24th for the week and 17th among entertainment programs, averaging 4.455 million viewers.

Fox’s biggest draw was the procedural drama “9-1-1: Lone Star,” 19th for the week and 12th among entertainment programs, averaging 5.031 million viewers.

The CW’s had its biggest audience for the second season premiere of the superhero series “Superman & Lois,” 114th among broadcast programs, averaging 1.089 million viewers.

The 20 most watched prime-time programs consisted of two NFL games; one NFL pregame show; one NFL postgame show; ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff national championship and its 20-minute pregame show; “60 Minutes”; eight CBS entertainment programs; four NBC entertainment programs; and Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star.”

The top cable program was ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff national championship, which averaged 22.257 million viewers, fourth overall for the week.

ESPN won the cable network race for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 3.368 million viewers. Fox News Channel was second behind ESPN for the fourth consecutive week after three first-place finishes in five weeks, averaging 2.241 million viewers. MSNBC was third, averaging 1.202 million viewers.

CNN dropped three spots from the previous week to 14th, averaging 588,000 viewers, 14.9% less than its 691,000 average viewership the previous week. CNN also trailed HGTV (1.08 million), Hallmark Channel (978,000), TLC (850,000), History (768,000), Discovery (722,000), Food Network (709,000), Lifetime (627,000), USA Network (621,000), TBS (605,000) and Investigation Discovery (602,000).

The top 20 cable programs consisted of ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff national championship and its 20-minute pregame show; 13 Fox News Channel political talk shows — five broadcasts each of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Hannity” and three of “The Ingraham Angle”; three editions of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”; the Hallmark Channel movie, “The Perfect Pairing”; and History’s long-running chronicle of the quest to solve the more than 2-century-old treasure mystery on a Canadian island, “The Curse of Oak Island.”

“Brazen” was the most-watched English-language movie on Netflix, as viewers spent 45.34 million hours watching the romantic thriller based on the novel by Nora Roberts in its first four days of release. “Don’t Look Up” dropped to second after three consecutive first-place finishes, according to figures released by the streaming service.

The limited series “Stay Close” rose one spot to finish first among English-language television programs in its second full week, despite dropping 41.1% from 91.81 million hours to 53.72 million for its eight episodes.

The fourth season of “Cobra Kai” fell to second after back-to-back first-place finishes with 41.24 million hours watched, 61.7% less than the 107.81 million hours watched of its 10 episodes the previous week.