NFL Scores Historic Ratings as Super Bowl Approaches

by | January 25, 2011 at 5:14 PM | TV News

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu celebrate their win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship football game (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu celebrate their win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship football game (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)


BY: DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK – After audiences of more than 50 million people watched them get into the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have the chance for more bragging rights: most-watched television show in U.S. broadcast history.

The game on Feb. 6 would need to draw more than the 106.5 million people who watched the New Orleans Saints’ first Super Bowl victory ever, last year against the Indianapolis Colts. Fox is televising this year’s game.

The Steelers’ victory over the New York Jets was seen by 54.9 million people, mostly in prime time on Sunday, the Nielsen Co. said. That made it the most watched AFC championship game on record. Meanwhile, Nielsen said 52 million people saw the Packers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.

Football ratings have been very strong the past few years. The sports’ potency as a communal event has been growing, helped by the growth in larger screened and high definition television sets.

Pittsburgh and Green Bay have two of the smaller television markets with home teams. Pittsburgh ranks No. 24 in size, while Green Bay is the 71st biggest market in the country. In contrast, New York is the largest and Chicago the third largest, Nielsen said.

But the Steelers and Packers are two iconic franchises with widely scattered fan bases. The last time the Packers were in the Super Bowl, in 1997, the audience was larger than it was for the next seven games, Nielsen said. It was surpassed in 2005 — when the Steelers were involved.

The biggest factor, however, is a competitive game. If the Super Bowl is a rout, fans tend to turn away.

Fox saw the return of “American Idol,” but it wasn’t enough to top CBS and the football.

The debut of “Idol” with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler was seen by 26.2 million last Wednesday and 22.9 million on Thursday. That was enough to make “Idol” the most-watched show after pro football and its aftermath. Yet it was down from last year and will be watched closely for further erosion.

The football ratings helped CBS dominate the week with a 17.2 million prime-time viewer average (9.9 rating, 16 share). Fox was second with 9.8 million viewers, ABC and NBC both had 5.6 million (both 3.5, 6), and the CW and ION networks both had 1.3 million (both 0.8, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with a 3.4 million viewer average (1.7 rating, 3 share). Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura had 920,000 (0.5, 1), Azteca had 270,000 and Estrella 220,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC’s “Nightly News” topped the evening newscasts with an average of 10 million viewers (6.4, 12). ABC’s “World News” was second with 8.9 million (5.9, 11) and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.7 million viewers (4.4, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,159,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 115.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Jan. 17-23, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: AFC Championship: N.Y. Jets vs. Pittsburgh, CBS, 54.85 million; “AFC Championship Post Game,” CBS, 31.51 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 26.23 million; “American Idol” (Thursday), Fox, 22.9 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 21.09 million; “Hawaii Five-0″ (Sunday), CBS, 19.34 million; “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 17.29 million; “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 15.56 million; “The Mentalist,” CBS, 14.82 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 14.34 million.

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