The AFC championship game drew its second-largest audience among available records while viewership for the NFC championship game was up 4.2 percent from last year, despite not airing in prime time.
CBS’ prime-time coverage of the New England Patriots 37-31 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC championship game averaged 53.918 million viewers, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Wednesday by Nielsen.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-19 victory over the New York Jets in 2011 averaged more viewers, 54.85 million, among available figures, which date back to the 1977 NFL season.
The game was also the most-watched NFL conference championship game since 2011.
The prime-time NFC conference championship game is traditionally the season’s most-watched prime-time program before the Super Bowl.
Fox’s afternoon coverage of the Los Angeles Rams 26-23 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints averaged 44.075 million viewers. The Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 prime-time victory over the Minnesota Vikings in last season’s NFC championship game averaged 42.298 million viewers.
The NFC and AFC championship games annually alternate in prime time.
The combination of the AFC championship game and having five of the week’s six most-watched non-sports programs enabled CBS to have the most-watched week for any network since NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in February.
CBS averaged 14.15 million viewers for its prime-time programming between Jan. 14 and Sunday. NBC was second, averaging 5.02 million, followed by ABC, which averaged 4.11 million, and Fox, which averaged 3.19 million.
CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming while Fox aired 15.
CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” was the week’s most-watched non-sports program, averaging 13.331 million viewers, its second-largest audience of the season, finishing third overall behind the AFC championship game and its 18-minute postgame show.
The most-watched non-CBS program was NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” sixth for the week averaging 9.988 million viewers, becoming the rare program to average more viewers for its second episode than its premiere, which averaged 9.966 million.
ABC’s most-watched program was the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” 17th for the week, averaging 7.082 million viewers.
Fox’s most-watched program was “The Masked Singer,” 18th for the week, averaging 6.95 million viewers.
The week’s only premiere on the four major broadcast networks, the Fox action drama “The Passage,” was fourth in its 9-10 p.m. time slot and 32nd for the week, averaging 5.233 million viewers.
The week’s most-watched cable program was the history documentary series “The Curse of Oak Island,” which averaged 3.524 million viewers, 54th overall.
Without a football telecast, ESPN’s six-week streak as the most-watched cable network ended, as it finished sixth, averaging 1.201 million viewers.
Fox News Channel finished first among cable networks, averaging 2.193 million viewers. MSNBC was second, averaging 2.008 million, with the Thursday, Monday and Tuesday episodes of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” finishing second, third and fourth among the week’s cable programs.
Hallmark Channel was third, averaging 1.355 million, HGTV fourth, averaging 1.233 million, and USA Network fifth, averaging 1.222 million.
The most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was the Monday episode of the Univision drama anthology “La Rosa de Guadalupe” which averaged 1.799 million viewers to finish 82nd among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 12th consecutive week, averaging 1.39 million viewers. Telemundo finished second, averaging 1.15 million viewers, followed by UniMas, which averaged 320,000, Estrella TV, which averaged 260,000, and Azteca America, which averaged 80,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the eighth consecutive week and 59th time in the past 60 weeks, averaging 9.796 million viewers.
The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 8.851 million viewers.
The “CBS Evening News” averaged 6.93 million viewers. It has finished third each week since the week of Sept. 25-29, 2006.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were CBS’ coverage of the AFC championship game and its 18-minute post game show; “The Big Bang Theory,” “NCIS” and “Young Sheldon”; NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” and CBS’ “FBI” and the Sunday broadcast of “Magnum P.I.”; NBC’s “Chicago Med”; and CBS’ “Mom.”
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