SPORTS WRAP NFL Gears Up For Second-Biggest Weekend Of The Year

SPORTS WRAP NFL Gears Up For Second-Biggest Weekend Of The Year

For many NFL fans, Conference Championship Sunday is the best weekend for football.

In about the time it takes to watch the Super Bowl- with its 30-minute halftime and extended commercial breaks- fans can enjoy two championship-caliber games.

A Nielsen duplication study reveals that 66% of the households that tuned in to last year’s Conference Championships saw BOTH games, with 85% of the AFC’s audience also watching a portion of the NFC game, and 75% of the NFC audience watching the earlier AFC game.

This year’s matchups have their work cut out to top last year’s 98 million gross viewers for Giants-Packers and Chargers-Patriots – the most for any Conference Championship Sunday since 1982. Individually, the NFC and AFC Conference Championships were the  2nd and 3rd highest rated television broadcasts of the year, ahead of the Olympics and behind only Super Bowl XLII, the second most-watched US broadcast of all time.

2008 FOX N.Y. Giants/Green Bay 53,937,000
2008 CBS New England/San Diego 44,840,000
2007 FOX Chicago/New Orleans 43,247,000
2007 CBS Indianapolis/New England 46,695,000
2006 FOX Seattle/Carolina 35,233,000
2006 CBS Pittsburgh/Denver 39,001,000
2005 FOX Philadelphia/Atlanta 42,937,000
2005 CBS New England/Pittsburgh 44,334,000
2004 FOX Carolina/Philadelphia 40,444,000
2004 CBS New England/Indianapolis 40,115,000
source: The Nielsen Company (2009)

The AFC Championship Game on CBS features the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, fierce AFC North rivals, who last met up in week 15 for a matchup that was the second-highest rated regular season game of the year for both the Pittsburgh and Baltimore markets.

The NFC Championship will also be a rematch of an earlier game this season. The Eagles and Cardinals met up on the Thanksgiving Night game on the NFL Network, receiving a 1.9 rating nationally and 3.8 million viewers – numbers which will surely be dwarfed by this coming Sunday’s audience

The Eagles and Steelers, in particular, are no strangers to the national stage.

The Eagles, participants in five of the last eight NFC championships, have a strong following across the country. And this season they played in the most watched cable event of all time (vs. Cowboys on MNF, 9/15/08).

Meanwhile, the Steelers are as popular as ever with four primetime games, and seven 4:15pm games this season. Most notably, the Week 14 FOX national game, featuring Dallas-Pittsburgh in 90% of the country, was the most-watched NFL broadcast of the regular season, receiving a 15.6 rating and 25.7 million viewers.