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NFL's Wild Card weekend sees viewership gains, led by 49ers-Cowboys

By Austin Karp

The NFL will see an uptick for Wild Card weekend audience numbers, though the audience numbers for Monday night’s Rams-Cardinals blowout are still not in. CBS led the weekend with 41.5 million viewers for the 49ers’ close win over the Cowboys in the late Sunday afternoon window, marking the best figure for any Wild Card game in seven years. That dates back to the 42.3 million that Fox drew for Cowboys-Lions in the same window in '15, which was the last time the ratings-magnet Cowboys were featured in what is traditionally the best window for audience numbers. 49ers-Cowboys this year is CBS’ second-best Wild Card game on record (dating back to ’88), behind only 42.4 million for Broncos-Steelers in that late afternoon Sunday window in ’12. CBS alone drew 40.2 million for the game, while Nickelodeon drew 1.3 million for its “SlimeCast” version of the game. That figure is down 35% from the debut of the alternate telecast last season. Given the matchup, many viewers likely preferred the traditional broadcast this year. With the Cowboys’ dramatic last drive on Sunday, the game peaked at 50.2 million viewers at its conclusion. Outside of a Super Bowl, 49ers-Cowboys was the best streaming audience yet for an NFL game on Paramount+.

BEST OF THE REST: The Buccaneers’ 31-15 win over the Eagles averaged 30.4 million viewers on Fox, marking the best figure for the early Sunday afternoon Wild Card window since NBC drew 35.4 million for Seahawks-Vikings in ’16. Bucs-Eagles is up big (+23%) from Ravens-Titans in the same window last year on ABC, ESPN and Freeform. NBC on Sunday night averaged 30.2 million viewers for the Chiefs’ rout of the Steelers, up from 26 million last year for Browns-Steelers, which was the first Sunday night Wild Card window after the expansion of the round. On late Saturday afternoon, NBC also drew 28.9 million for Bengals-Raiders, marking the best Saturday afternoon Wild Card game since Cowboys-Cardinals drew 30.7 million on ABC in ’99. CBS on Saturday night averaged 26.4 million viewers for the Bills’ 30-point blowout of the Patriots. That is still up big (+23%) from 21.4 million for Buccaneers-WFT on NBC in the same window last year (the last of a Saturday tripleheader; only two games on Saturday this season). Two years ago in primetime on a Saturday, CBS averaged 31.4 million for Titans-Patriots, which ended up being Tom Brady’s last game in a Pats uniform.

NFL Wild Card weekend audience
WINDOW '22 GAME VIEWERS (000) '21 GAME VIEWERS (000)
Sat. 1:00pm ET no game in this window in '22 Colts-Bills (CBS) 20,079
Sat. 430pm ET Bengals-Raiders (NBC) 28,910 Rams-Seahawks (Fox) 23,963
Sat. 8:15pm ET Bills-Patriots (CBS) 26,373 Buccaneers-WFT (NBC) 21,371
Sun. 1:00pm Buccaneers-Eagles (Fox) 30,373 Ravens-Titans
(ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/Freeform)
24,779
Sun. 4:30pm ET 49ers-Cowboys
(CBS/Nickelodeon)
41,496 Bears-Saints
(CBS/Nickelodeon)
30,653
Sun. 8:15pm ET Chiefs-Steelers (NBC) 30,185 Browns-Steelers (NBC) 26,000
Mon. 8:15pm ET Rams-Cardinals
(ABC/ESPN/ESPN2)
N/A no game in this window in '21
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NFL WC weekend

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