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NFL Wild Card audience grows 7% from 2019 round

Building on the ratings momentum from its centennial regular season, the NFL kicked off its playoffs with a 7% audience advance.

The pro football league, citing data from Nielsen Holdings PLC, reported the average audience across its four Wild Card games on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 was 30.5 million viewers, marking the round's best collective delivery since 2016.

NBC (US)'s coverage of Seattle's win over Philadelphia in the late Sunday afternoon drew the biggest audience, with 35.1 million TV viewers and a 35.8 million Total Audience Delivery, when digital watching was factored in. The game, which was down 2.2% from 35.9 million TV viewers for Chicago-Philadelphia in the same window in 2019, ranks as TV's top audience since CBS (US)'s presentation of Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019.

CBS' coverage of Tennessee-New England averaged 31.4 million viewers on Saturday night, to stand as the most-watched American Football Conference Wild Card game in primetime in nine years, according to the network. In what may have been Tom Brady’s farewell Patriots' performance, the telecast was up 7% from the 28.5 million viewers for Seattle-Dallas in the corresponding window last season.

FOX Sports' coverage of Minnesota's overtime upset of New Orleans on Jan. 5 was the programmer's best in the early Sunday Wild Card window since 2016, averaging nearly 30.8 million watchers across FOX (US), FOX Deportes (US) and digital platforms. It was up from 25.4 million for Los Angeles Chargers-Baltimore in the comparable window on CBS a year ago.

As for The Walt Disney Co.'s coverage, ESPN (US), ABC (US) and ESPN Deportes (US) averaged 26.4 million viewers for Houston-Buffalo with the 2020 Wild Card opener. The Texans' overtime triumph scored a 14.3% increase from the 23.1 million average audience for Indianapolis-Houston in the same 2019 window and ranks as the most-viewed Wild Card game on ESPN and ABC to date.