NFL sees viewership decline for conference championship games


Sunday’s AFC and NFC Championship Games drew what qualify as massive TV audiences by any standards — except by the standards that the AFC and NFC Championship Games set last year.

The NFL has announced that the Packers-Seahawks game averaged 49.8 million viewers, and the Colts-Patriots game averaged 42.1 million viewers. Those are huge television audiences, and the NFC Championship Game was the most-watched American television show since last year’s Super Bowl.

But while those numbers are great, they’re actually down quite a bit from last year, when the 49ers-Seahawks NFC Championship Game averaged 55.9 million viewers and the Patriots-Broncos AFC Championship Game averaged 51.3 million viewers.

The decline in viewership is surely the result of the games themselves being less competitive: Although the Seahawks came back and beat the Packers in overtime, for much of the game it looked like it was going to be a Packers blowout, which may have led some fans to turn off the TV. And the Patriots destroyed the Colts in a game that was over before the fourth quarter.

In fact, the peak rating for this year’s NFC Championship Game was actually higher than the peak rating for last year’s NFC Championship Game: This year there were 60.5 million viewers watching as the Seahawks scored a touchdown to win in overtime, while last year there were 60.3 million viewers watching as Richard Sherman tipped a pass intended for Michael Crabtree to set up the game-winning interception. But while more people watched the end of this year’s game than the end of last year’s game, last year’s game had a higher average rating because it was close and competitive throughout, which results in more fans staying tuned for all three-plus hours of play. This year’s game looked at halftime like it was going to be a dud, which results in some fans tuning out — even if they came back in time to watch the Seahawks win in overtime.

The ratings for this year’s playoffs have generally followed that pattern, with closer and more competitive games (particularly those in last weekend’s divisional round) drawing better ratings, and less competitive games drawing fewer viewers.

However, it’s worth noting that even a bad NFL playoff game like Colts-Patriots drew a rating that dwarfs the ratings of anything else on TV. The NFL remains the king of American television.

109 responses to “NFL sees viewership decline for conference championship games

  1. cable is killing the game. i enjoy the coverage but there are a lot of fans that cant afford it and in turn dont get the hype to tune in even tho its on free tv…. so the nfl needs to adjust their thinking….the people with cash are still tuning in and those with no money are not.

  2. With a bogus scandal swirling around NE you can bet the SB ratings will be up this year.

    The Patriot haters will be watching in full force praying for the downfall of the best team in American sports for the last 15 years.

  3. Maybe go back to noon and 3 when football was meant to be played. The fans have spoken.

  4. I wonder what people like to watch..let’s see: Kardashians, Reality TV, Maury, and other junk. People don’t even watch the World Series, the NBA Finals, the State of the Union, and other important events. Everyone is on their dopey phones.

  5. Maybe people are fed up about all the rigged games like the Dallas-Detroit & Green Bay-Dallas games? Perhaps people are waking up that the NFL is rigged like WWE? I hope so!

  6. I think that starting the Seahawks-Packers game an hour earlier than is usual, didn’t help matters in terms of viewership. On the West Coast, people couldn’t even get home from church before the game started. Millions recorded it to be played at a later time.

  7. It’s gone a gets worse with all the rule change, officiating , the commercials , The NFL is getting worst.

  8. Good for the fans. A 10 million viewer decline is pretty big, even for the NFL.

    Fix the officiating, fix the rule book, quit favoring QB’s and offense in general, and for crying out loud stop fining players for football plays. Let the players play.

  9. People are catching on to the blatant game rigging and are apparently just not watching anymore. Also, in a league where parity is supposed to give every team a shot you hardly see that.

  10. It’s a shame – The Green Bay-Seattle game is going is going to go down as one of the most memorable games in NFL history.

  11. Let’s see. Lousy officiating, scandals from every direction. Cover ups.

    That sorta adds up to a crappy product.

  12. The Pats/Colts game was over before the kickoff. Anyone who actually thought Indy was going to win or even be competitive for the entire game has next to no football knowledge. The only reason to have watched game if you’re not a Pats fan was to laugh at how inept the Colts are and how overrated Luck currently is.

    The Packers/Hawks game was just a brutal display of passing for most of the game. I like both teams and even I thought about turning it off.

  13. After ripping off Dallas last week, 30% of the NFL fans collectively screamed “BS!” and vowed not to waste their time with fixed games. The NFL needs to fix their rule book and hire refs with better vision if they want to bring in the fans.

  14. Maybe fans are getting sick of watching football games decided by the refs instead of the players.

  15. Watching the patriots cheat doesn’t interest a lot of people. deflated ballsyesterday what’s it going to be during the super bowl or next year? Clearly Belichick can’t read the rule book.

  16. The Super Bowl may have simular result…. I can’t remember the last time their was such a more boring SB billing…. Nothing to look forward to…

    Well may be commercials!

  17. The fact that last years games were more compelling matchups probably had something to do with it too.

    Seahawks/49ers are bitter rivals and the other matchup was Manning vs Brady.

    Not that this years matchups weren’t intriguing but they didnt have the same hype as last year.

  18. Move them both to Primetime. One on Saturday Night the other on Sunday. Go back to the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl Format with the winner getting the advantage of the Saturday Game.

  19. The Divisional round always feels better to me as far as game times. Noon pacific is a weird start time for folks here.

    I usually watch both games, but as a Packer fan the TV went off 5 seconds after the last play. No way I’m watching the other game and having that loss rehashed 10 times.

  20. Looks like Mark Cuban was right.

    “I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you.”
    ~Mark Cuban

  21. The product has been pretty bad for a few years in all honesty. Passing 849 times a game, tons of commercial breaks, and very one sided rules geared to ramp up offense are making it pretty boring to watch. And I agree with some here that it really has seemed like games are being rigged. I still watch, but not nearly as much as I used to because I just haven’t found it very entertaining.

  22. Better get the officiating/rules figured out THIS offseason… A lot of Detroit Lions fans and Dallas Cowboys fans weren’t watching this weekend and probably won’t watch the Super Bowl either. It’s one thing for you team to lose, it’s another to have the game end feeling like someone had broken into your home and stolen from you.

  23. Robbing Dallas of their win killed it. Imagine the ratings for a Dallas-New England Super Bowl. Dez caught the ball. He caught it, man.

  24. People probably didn’t watch because they expected a blow out in the GB/Sea game, something that occurred in the NE/Colts game instead. The GB/Sea was one of the most exciting games I ever watched.

  25. The chatter about questionable refs is growing louder and louder. This is the first time in 35 years watching the NFL that I’ve wondered if the fix is in. And I’m not alone.

  26. People Are Tired Of The Same Old Teams, Year After Year! If We Want To Watch Groundhog Day, We’ll Look Up A Much More Enjoyable Bill Murray Version!

  27. It’s about time fans took action (or inaction). Not watching footballs is the only way a fan can get back at the NFL. It’s not the NFL I knew and loved!

  28. A lot of posts about the same teams in the playoffs, especially the super bowl year in and year out. Can’t watch the super bowl because there’s NO ONE to root for!!!!

  29. There’s no anticipation in these games any more. No matter the outcome most people either know who will win or don’t care. Plus, last year everyone expected two good games because of the history of the 4 participants (they got good games from them earlier in the season) This year when the 4 participants played before it wasn’t even close. Most expected the same.

    I bet you the NFL was made they couldn’t get a Dallas – Seattle and New England – Denver matchup. Leading to an America’s team versus The Cheaters Super Bowl or a title game to decide who Really is Americas team – Denver (new) or Dallas (old). Rematch not so much. See above.

  30. Yes that is why the NFL has a very kind schedule for teams like Dallas who the NFL wants in the playoffs and the superbowl because of the fan base.
    They don’t want small town teams like the Packers but favor the big cities teams like Frisco, Chicago, Atlanta… .

    Next year check out Dallas schedule: Sunday evening games, home games, monday night games and Thursday and every one of those games will be home and favor them.

  31. Lucky none of you whipersnappers was alive for the earlier dynasties, like the 70’s Steelers, or 80’s Forty-Niners: you would have been bored, and bummed.

  32. Those are some surprising numbers. I can understand the numbers on the Pats game against Indy but not so much the Green Bay game. Over saturation may be the reason. Is there really a need for Thursday night football? We fans lived without it since football’s inception and we made out OK. Greed is the only reason for Thursday night football. I thought the NFL was concerned about player safety. I think they are but the pecking order is #1 revenue and player safety #2.

  33. Recent goof ups by the Refs and the teams playing. Some people think it’s fixed, some people are tired of the media drumbeat always about the same NFL players, Wilson being the latest to join that group.

  34. The same old boring teams year in and year out is taking it’s toll. It’s time for some new blood in the playoffs. This is indeed a yawn worthy match-up for the Super Bowl. The Patriots brand of football is snooze worthy and played out. The only way I’ll watch the entire game is if it’s really close, or the Hawks blow the Jan Brady’s out so I can get a good laugh.

  35. thebadguyswon says:
    Jan 19, 2015 7:01 PM

    The chatter about questionable refs is growing louder and louder. This is the first time in 35 years watching the NFL that I’ve wondered if the fix is in. And I’m not alone.


    I began about 10 years ago. Welcome to the new reality.

  36. Good for the fans. A 10 million viewer decline is pretty big, even for the NFL.

    Fix the officiating, fix the rule book, quit favoring QB’s and offense in general, and for crying out loud stop fining players for football plays. Let the players play.
    The post of the year! Bravo!

  37. I think the weather had a lot to do with decline from last year’s high level of viewership. Last year we were dealing with cold and snow. I remember that San Fran. vs. Green Bay game and it about three feet of snow and temps were well below zero in Indiana where I live. Going outside in all that cold and snow was really not an option, so I sat at home and watched the Niners and Pack play football in that mess. The weather has not been nearly as bad this winter and so people had other options on how to spend their time.

  38. Let’s be realistic. A lot of the uptick in football ratings comes from an influx of casual viewers. They’ll tune in for matchups like Tom v. Peyton or the Cowboys v. just about anyone. But they’re not committed to watch the game no matter who’s playing. And as others have said, if Goodell’s worried about integrity, he should take more interest in poor officiating than underinflated footballs.

  39. It’s because aside from the massive following of the Packers, no one gives a damn about the Seahawks, Colts, or Patriots. At least not outside of the bandwagon “12th man” and the idiots in New England.

  40. The NFL is considered entertainment and therefore it is perfectly legal for them to fix outcomes. If you had a multi billion dollar business, would you leave it up to chance? The owners all want to win but want to make money more. They won’t kill the golden goose.

    Congress needs to strip the NFL of their non-profit status. The next step is to make it illegal for non-profits to receive any taxpayer money or public financing of any type. Basically, if they want a new stadium the owner and league pays all costs.

    The league needs to fix the officiating. It is pathetic. There were several mistakes yesterday.

    1. GB threw a TD pass on a play that should have been blown dead. Defense entered the neutral zone and RT moved prior to snap. Dead ball foul every time when offense moves.

    2. They can’t spot ball or determine Td. GB had run ruled a TD that was a half yard short. Officials call TD because they know it will be reviewed. If they call it short it is not reviewed unless the offense uses a challenge. This is a stupid rule. All spots inside the two yard line should be reviewed by the booth as well as all spots close to the line to gain.

    3. In 2 minute drill, the ball should have been spotted at the 20, player nor ball penetrated the 20 yet the official spotted it at the 19 a yard past the line to gain. This happens regularly in two minute drills. Teams cannot challenge the spot unless it effects the line to gain. So an official can give the ball carrier two yards but as long as he marks it short of the line to gain, the defense cannot challenge. Stupid rule.

    4. Penalty enforcement takes too long. If it takes longer than a minute to enforce penalty the rules are too complicated. It is not that hard to figure this stuff out.

    5. Offensive holding is overlooked more often when Brady, Manning, Romo, Rogers are in the pocket. They protect them better than the younger mobile quarterbacks. Another blatant way to control the games and effect the outcomes.

    6. Roughing the passer is called tighter on these same QBs. Roughing of Brady yesterday was a horrible call.

    7. Defensive Holding and illegal contact is not called consistently. Players that are deemed better coverage DBs are given more latitude in holding and illegal contact. First this rule needs to be changed to make it easier to enforce but secondly officials need to be fired if they don’t enforce it every single time. Make the players adjust to the rules. I think contact should be extended to first ten yards instead of five.

    8. Replay officials should make all calls. There is no need for the referee to be involved. Replay officials should not be ex or retired NFL officials. It should be persons of integrity that can demonstrate a complete understanding of the rules. Replay needs to be expanded. Every play should be reviewable including penalties. Coaches should get unlimited challenges as long as they win them. The goal should be to get every call correct not just be close and get most correct.

    The NFL has an integrity issue and it starts in the front office and is very prevalent every Sunday with the game officials. Same officials, making the same mistakes every year should tell you something.

  41. Nobody wants to watch 2 hours of football and 2 hours of commercials. NFL is too greedy and stupid to see that. I can’t stand sitting at the games and wondering why all the players are standing around. Then I realize they’re waiting for the commercials to end. Bring back 70, 80, & 90’s football. Rules and all.

  42. JSpicoli says:
    Jan 19, 2015 7:44 PM
    thebadguyswon says:
    Jan 19, 2015 7:01 PM

    The chatter about questionable refs is growing louder and louder. This is the first time in 35 years watching the NFL that I’ve wondered if the fix is in. And I’m not alone.


    I began about 10 years ago. Welcome to the new reality.


    I’m with you Spicoli. I think it might be even longer for me. This year though more than ever before I have had a very hard time getting into any game. It was also the first year I didn’t care how my fantasy team did even though it is almost a $200 buy in. The game is no longer a game. Rules suck, teams suck, players are garbage, never seen more players get arrested or killed because they are as dumb as a box of rocks. Players beating wife’s, kids, people. Refs get away with God awful calls each week with a lousy excuse of “the rule states” Tell me what flippin rule makes it right to rob Dez Bryant of that catch. The game is like my kids diapers… Garbage

    I am not a fan of any of these playoff teams this year but I usually like to watch the remaining teams and games but not now. Not this year.

  43. well the gb seattle game was down, because fans knew gb would poop the bed and lose anyway, like they do every year, wether its the divisional round or the nfc championship. rodgers doesnt do well in those games

  44. No, you got it backwards.
    Last year’s record numbers were after all the markets came in. The 2014 numbers first came in at 46 million. This year they came in at almost 50 million.
    Bottom line…this year’s viewership numbers will easily outscore last year’s record numbers by at least 2 million.
    Look for a 30+ market share and over 50 million for the Green Bay/Seattle game with more than 65 million for the last minutes of the game which is also a record.

  45. “Great play on third and long. Wait, there’s a flag on the play. The refs are huddled, trying to decide what the call is. While they make up their minds, we’re going to pause here for that Chevy truck commercial you’ve already seen 27 times this game. No! Wait! Now, Tom Coughlin has thrown the challenge flag, and the refs are headed to the replay booth. This could take some time to sort out. Let’s take 5 minutes to catch up on all the commercials we have to cram in to pay Terry Bradshaw’s outrageous salary, which, for someone with what sounds like a third grade education, is quite substantial. We’ll be back after so many commercials that you will have forgotten who is playing. This is the NFL on Fox…”

  46. Case in point…after last year’s Super Bowl it was reported that the Nielsen ratings for overnight markets had it at 107-108 million only later to be revised to 111.5 million which is the alltime record.
    Just wait.

  47. The Cowboys are good for the cash register and the click bait, and should’ve been playing – but I digress.
    Cbs games are awful to watch, and the colts lost after 5 minutes.

  48. Early Conference game kickoff at 4:05 ET
    Late Conference game kickoff at 7:40 ET

    This way, if the early game is on the west coast, kickoff would be at 1:05PT the same time as a regular season game on the singleheader network. Noon was too early to kick off a game in Seattle, IMO.

  49. I’ve been watching football for 40 years… this year was the year for me… I’m NOW convinced more than ever that the games are rigged… Why big maket teams in the Super bowl, no need they already make billions… so put smaller market teams in there so they can raise their revenue higher… games are fixed… and this year more than ever it shows.

  50. “There’s no anticipation. You know what’s going to happen.”
    Yes, we all saw that Seattle 3 minute 2-score comeback and exciting overtime finish coming a mile away.

    “It’s the same teams every year. It’s so boring.”
    Seattle, Green Bay, and New England have consistently drafted in the bottom 3rd of the order for several years now. If your favorite team can’t keep up with them despite having ample opportunity then go blame these slacker franchises.

    “These games are all rigged.”
    Yeah, the NFL had a real vested interest and knocking out the no-name Dallas Cowboys for the big market appeal of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    “I can’t remember a more boring matchup than the Patriots and Seahawks.”
    Yup, the greatest coach and QB of all time versus this century’s most intense defense sounds like a hard snooze.

  51. A drop in viewership like that probably has more to do with the fact that green bay and Indy are very small markets when compared to Denver and San Fran. That and everyone and their grandma knew NE was going to wine.

  52. I don’t have TV or Internet service in my house.

    I use my mobile phone’s unlimited data plan to wirelessly tether Internet to all devices in my house. With my computer connected to my big screen, I stream the games over the ‘net for free. No blackouts, no cost. Saving thousands of dollars a year.

    Therefore, I was a viewer, but was not counted. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, and our numbers will grow larger each year, taking a bigger piece of the pie as time goes on.

  53. With the Patriots in the superbowl the ratings are about to decline even more, unless everyone just tunes in with the hope of the Seahawks crushing the Patriots for the pure joy of it!

  54. Regardless of the topic, I still want Goodell fired. Let’s figure out a way to tie this to Goodell. Ratings are down because the public has no confidence in the Commissioner. Not sexy, but it works!

  55. Whatever—-most exciting 5 minutes of football I have ever seen, very glad I didn’t miss it.

  56. Everyone knew the AFC Championship was two saturdays ago. Whoever won that game was going to the Superbowl.

  57. When you hear talk of the NFL considering a SB Halftime performer ‘buy in’ or, see video of the NFL’s Head Official Dean Blandino doing the hooker and blow tour on an Owner’s bus, most loyal Fans have to ask just how much integrity exists with this game.

    The Billionaire Boys Club seems to dictate everything from broadcast rights to officiating.

    Hard to take this stuff seriously anymore.

    Competition Committee = Rich guys manipulating the product.

  58. I especially enjoyed the Commissioners Exempt List this year too.

    Yeah, right.
    Pulled that one out of your backside huh Roger?
    Guess that’s why you get the BIG bucks.

  59. Maybe people don’t want to see serial rapists and serial killers in the NFL.

    The Super Bowl will have it’s usual high rating, because of all the non football fans who tune in for all the wrong reasons.

    I believe Cuban hit it out of the park, they’ve killed the golden goose, they just haven’t realized it yet.

  60. Here’s the problem, as I see it.

    The NFL in recent years has trended toward lots of drama. Sure, it makes the games exciting (or, if you’re like me, makes them seem scripted). That’s what people want to see now; if a team is down by a large margin at halftime, everyone wants to see the against-all-odds, come-from-behind “miracle” comeback. When that doesn’t happen they feel cheated. People like this don’t actually qualify as football fans, in my opinion. They don’t want to see the clearly superior team stomp the clearly inferior team, even though it makes perfect sense & looks way more authentic when that happens. Just my $0.02.

  61. And commercials out the ass. if they have 30 seconds lets shove another ad in there soon it will be 1 play then 2 ads them another play and them 2 more ads ad nauseum who what to watch that ?

  62. I mean people in Seattle didn’t even stay in the stadium to watch the game so I’m sure people watching in Seattle turned the tv off as well.

  63. Far too many commercials. I started to DVR all my games this past year and just avoid places where I could hear the scores. I start watching my first recorded game when the second was being played. Get through both in about 3 hours.

  64. Because the quality of games has dropped largely in part of the Referees and the All Offense no defense mindset of the NFL. MAINLY the Refs taking control of the games. No more judgement calls.

  65. The game under God-del has gone backwards. The talk of media is all on off the field issues or things done by a player during the game than the game itself. We watch a game looking for a flag on every play and then thinking will that player get fined or suspended. Watered down the game with too many rules called differently by the officials. You see the same type play in five games called in two not in the others, same even during the same game. Finally the announcers have become not calling the game but their take on everything from play calling to, what a player is thinking to second guessing coaches to how pretty they are.

  66. The majority of games don’t seem to be fixed.

    Refs are just downright bad (aka human) and miss calls that are often times better seen on camera. They either need to add more eyes looking for penalties or allow penalties like pass interference to be challenged.

    Without this it’s easy for the average viewer to believe the games are fixed, as they lack integrity.

  67. It can’t be said enough…the NFL has gotten greedy and will do anything to not get sued again. The game is slowly going by the wayside. Time for THUNDERDOME !!!!!!

    “I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you.”
    ~Mark Cuban

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.