Credit Taylor Swift. Credit a close ballgame in doubt until the final minutes. Credit two of the NFL's marquee franchises for absolutely delivering in the clutch. Credit a nasty weather pattern that kept most of the United States huddling indoors. Wherever you want to direct the credit, the result is the same: Sunday night's divisional-round playoff game between the Chiefs and Bills was an absolute ratings monster, the most-watched program on American television since last year's Super Bowl.
The game averaged 50.393 million viewers, up 10 percent over last year's Cowboys-49ers game in the comparable time slot. The peak hit 56.25 million viewers. While CBS didn't disclose streaming breakdowns, the network noted that the game also marked the most streamed event ever on its service Paramount+.
Current NFL games now add estimated out-of-home viewing (ie. bars), which contributes to larger numbers in recent years. But even without the out-of-home bump, it's clear that sports — and NFL games in particular — remain massive attractions, and are some of the few, if only, programs that still must be viewed live.
For Sunday's conference championship games, Mahomes and the Chiefs will take on Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in the early game, while the Lions will play the 49ers in the late game. The targets for those games, from 2023: 47.5 million for the early slot 49ers-Eagles game, 53.1 million for Bengals-Chiefs in the evening game.