Viewership totals were relatively consistent during Wild Card weekend, although we found slight upticks for marquee matchups among storied franchises – two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City and perennial AFC North power Pittsburgh drew 27.17 million fans, while Dallas and San Francisco led the opening weekend with 31.94 million. In the postseason’s second slate, overall averages increased by 10.9% to 29.15 million, led by an overtime thriller between Kansas City and Buffalo. Finally, the conference championships averaged 33.22 million fans, including 33.96M for the AFC title game pitting the Chiefs against the Bengals.
We contrasted the designated market areas for each NFL playoff team to determine which region displayed the strongest partiality to its hometown team. Local DMAs for all 12 Wild Card Round participants noticed a jolt when their team was playing, but none was more evident than Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ game against Kansas City experienced a 68% viewership boost in Western Pennsylvania compared to the area’s average for other games during the weekend.
While all four Divisional Round games came down to the wire, the height of intensity occurred during Kansas City’s overtime victory over Buffalo, during which the lead changed five times after the two-minute warning. At its conclusion, Chiefs fans were elated and Bills fans were heartbroken, but the exhilarating finish resulted in significant audience boosts in the Kansas City and Buffalo markets. Relative to other games during the round, viewership totals during the game were 55% higher in Kansas City and 42% higher in Buffalo. Nashville was the only other market to experience a spike of at least 40% during its hometown team’s game.
On the heels of their overtime victory and the precipice of a third consecutive AFC championship, the Chiefs’ local fan base tuned in to CBS in great numbers for their game against Cincinnati. Viewership in Kansas City was 75% higher for the AFC title game than it was for the NFC game between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Notably, both AFC championship markets exhibited a stronger affinity for their teams than their NFC counterparts. Los Angeles, whose Rams ultimately earned a trip to the Super Bowl, finished with a viewership figure during the NFC matchup between the Rams and 49ers only 17% higher than it earned during the AFC contest.