NFL audience momentum continued with its divisional playoff round, as three of the four telecasts generated gains over their counterparts from the prior season, highlighted by the most watched game of the current campaign.
FOX (US) scored the most watched NFL game of the 2018-2019 season thus far with its Jan. 13 coverage of the New Orleans win over the defending champion Philadelphia, which averaged 38.2 million watchers, according to data from Nielsen Holdings PLC. That was 7% more than the 35.7 million average for the Saints-Minnesota in the corresponding late Sunday afternoon window in 2018. Sunday's telecast displaced the 35.9 million average audience for NBC's coverage of the Eagles-Chicago in their Jan. 6 wild-card match-up as the pro football league's biggest audience of the 2018-2019 season to date.
FOX said it also tallied its best-ever Saturday audience Jan. 12, with its prime-time telecast of the Los Angeles Rams' defeat of the Dallas Cowboys, drawing 33.4 million watchers on average. That marked a 25% uptick from the 26.9 million viewers on CBS (US) for New England-Tennessee last season and exceeded the 30.4 million for the Game 6-clinching victory of the 1996 World Series.
NBC (US) kicked off the divisional round in the late afternoon window on Jan. 11 with an average audience of 29.1 million watchers for Kansas City's triumph over Indianapolis, an 8% advance over 27.1 million for Philadelphia-Atlanta on FOX the prior year.
Only CBS' coverage of New England’s 41-28 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 13 sustained an audience hit — the only one of the eight postseason games to date this season.
The telecast in the 1 p.m. Sunday window — the Patriots led 35-7 at the half — averaged 29.2 million watchers, down 7% from the 31.4 million average viewership for Jacksonville-Pittsburgh a year ago. The Patriots' blowout stands as the least watched Sunday Divisional game since FOX's telecast of Tampa Bay-San Francisco drew 28.1 million in 2003.
However, CBS will likely record the second-largest audience of 2019, with its Jan. 20 prime-time coverage of the American Football Conference championship between the Chiefs and Patriots. CBS will tackle the year's biggest audience when it airs Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.
FOX will air the National Football Conference title contest between the Saints and Rams earlier on Jan. 20.