NFL Wild-Card Ratings Hit 4-Year Highs

Tennessee Titans New England Patriots AFC Wild Card Playoff - Getty - H 2020
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The regular-season gains for the NFL on TV continued in the first round of the playoffs.

The four games in the league's wild-card round averaged 7 percent more viewers than a year ago, with three of the telecasts hitting multiyear highs. Three of the four games also went down to the wire, with two — Saturday's Buffalo Bills-Houston Texans matchup on ABC and ESPN and Sunday's Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints contest on Fox — needing overtime.  

The four games combined to average better than 30.5 million viewers, making for the most-watched wild-card round since January 2016. The league is also coming off a 5 percent bump for regular-season ratings, tying its biggest audience since the 2016 season.

The Bills-Texans contest led off the weekend with 26.34 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, up 14 percent from a year ago (including ESPN Deportes pushes the total to 26.41 million). The overtime win by the Texans marked the biggest Saturday afternoon wild-card game since 2014.

CBS followed in primetime Saturday with 31.42 million viewers tuning in to see the Tennessee Titans beat the New England Patriots, 20-13. It was up 7 percent from last year's Saturday primetime broadcast (on Fox) and improved by 23 percent over CBS' Sunday afternoon wild-card game. That game also hit a six-year high in viewers. 

On Sunday, Fox delivered just under 30 million viewers for the Vikings' 26-20 victory over the Saints. Viewership on Fox Deportes and streaming platforms pushed the total audience to 30.79 million. It was Fox's biggest wild-card broadcast in four years.

The only game to decline vs. last year was NBC's late-afternoon Sunday game, a 17-9 win by the Seattle Seahawks over the Philadelphia Eagles. It was also, however, the most-watched game of the weekend with 35.12 million TV viewers, off just 2 percent from 35.89 million a year ago. (NBC Sports says it averaged 702,000 viewers on the network's and the NFL's streaming platforms.)