The viewership ratings have trickled in for the six games of the NFL Super Wild Card weekend. Here are the average viewership numbers (hat tip on numbers to Sports Media Watch, a site that keeps essential records of relevant sports TV viewership):
Colts-Bills (CBS) – 20.08 million
Bucs-WFT (NBC) – 21.37 million
Rams-Seahawks – 24.62 million
Ravens-Titans (ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/Freeform) – 24.82 million
Bears-Saints (CBS, Nickelodeon) – 30.65 million
Browns-Steelers (NBC, Peacock) – 26.0 million
The six games combined to average 24.59 million viewers. This number is down about 20 percent from last year, where the four Wild Card weekend games averaged 30.70 million viewers. However, the six games this year added up to a total of 147.54 million viewers, whereas the four games last year added up to a total of 122.81 million viewers.
Therefore, by adding an extra round, the NFL added total reach while sacrificing average minute audience. It was a tradeoff they likely were aware of in making the decision to expand the playoff field. Furthermore, this was a particularly frenetic weekend in real-world news as the fallout continued from the Capitol riots.
I expect a lot of people to see a 20 percent drop and use it as a sticking point to tell NBA haters that actually everything is down, but the broader context to me tells a deeper story.