See if this sounds like a familiar refrain: The NFL and the networks are coming off another record-setting viewership weekend. Just goes to show what the NFL brand, close games and lousy weather across the country, keeping people at home, can do.
The four wild-card games averaged 34.7 million viewers, most ever for a comparable weekend.
Fox’s late Sunday afternoon game, which featured San Francisco’s 23-20 victory over Green Bay, led the pack. It averaged 47.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched wild-card game ever, pummeling the old record of 42.4 million for a 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers-Denver Broncos game on CBS.
Some perspective: The deciding Game 6 of the Boston Red Sox-St. Louis Cardinals 2013 World Series had 19.3 million viewers. The last time a World Series game topped the 30 million mark was Game 7 in 2002 when the then-Anaheim Angels beat the San Francisco Giants (30.8 million).
Last year’s Academy Awards had 40.3 million viewers. On the other hand, Baltimore-San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII drew 108.4 million.
Expect this weekend’s four playoff games on Fox and CBS to be in the same tony neighborhood as last weekend’s. It would not be unwise to wager on another record-breaking Saturday and Sunday.
You want to know why Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell are talking about expanding the playoffs? How does the league squeezing more dollars from the networks by putting up for bid Sunday and Monday night playoff games sound?
Meanwhile the NFL’s regular-season television numbers continue to stagger the imagination.
For 17 weeks, Fox averaged a record 21.1 million viewers per national broadcast. That’s despite losing four Cowboys games to NBC Sunday Night Football.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football averaged 21.7 million viewers, making it television’s No. 1 prime-time show for the fourth consecutive season.
The Cowboys-Raiders on Thanksgiving afternoon was the most watched show of the fall season, with 31.7 million viewers glued to CBS. The network averaged 18.6 million viewers, its second-best ever.
ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the most–watched series on cable with an average of 13.7 million.
To put the NFL numbers in perspective: The NFL averaged 20.3 million viewers on broadcast television. The networks’ prime-time programming averaged 7.0 million.
Of TV’s top 35 shows from Sept. 1 to the end of the year, 34 were NFL games. Only the NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, ranked No. 22, kept the NFL from shutting out the competition.
The 8-8 Cowboys, by the way, appeared in nine of the 35 and five of the top 10. In addition to No. 1 Raiders-Cowboys, there were: No. 4 Broncos at Cowboys (28.3 million); No. 6 Cowboys at Giants (27.9 million); No. 7 Packers at Cowboys (27.8 million); and No. 9 Eagles at Cowboys (27.4 million).
There has been considerable speculation that Brent Musburger’s time as ESPN’s lead college football play-by-play voice came to an end with Monday’s Florida State-Auburn call in the BCS Championship.
Musburger is 74. His contract expired at the end of the game. He has been with ESPN since 1990, resurrecting a career that once took him to the top of pecking order at CBS. Keith Jackson, by the way, was 77 when he called his final game – Texas’ victory over USC in the BCS Championship at the 2006 Rose Bowl. Over on CBS, college play-by-play voice Verne Lundquist will be 74 before next season.
Replacing Musburger alongside analyst Kirk Herbstreit, 44, could be College Football GameDay host Chris Fowler, 51.
Musburger wouldn’t necessarily be leaving ESPN. There are plenty of other calls to be made on the network’s college football and basketball coverage.
CBS’ Dan Dierdorf, 64, signs out Saturday night as the longest-tenured NFL game analyst on television. His work on the Colts-Patriots game ends a network career that began at CBS in 1984.
His three-decade career included a dozen seasons on ABC Monday Night Football between stops at CBS.
He entered the booth in the wake of a 13-season, Hall of Fame career as an offensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals. Cowboys fans may remember he was the Cardinals tackle who faced off against Too Tall Jones twice a season. His work on the field has taken a toll. Both of his knees and hips are artificial. Travelling is not easy.
“Physically it’s just hard for me to travel 20 weeks a year and do my job the right way,” Dierdorf said via conference call.
“I tell everybody, I’m retiring, I’m not expiring,” he said. “I’ve got to find something to do. I love the NFL, and I love the game of football. Whether it’s radio, just something that doesn’t involve me having to go to the airport every Thursday or Friday and be gone for three or four days. I’m going to find something to do, and you haven’t heard the last of me. I hope.”
Around the Horn
The Missouri-Oklahoma State matchup in the AT&T Cotton Bowl scored a 3.9 rating nationally for Fox and a 9.6 in Dallas-Fort Worth. The competing Orange Bowl, which featured Clemson-Ohio State on ESPN, pulled a 6.7 nationally but only a 4.8 in D-FW.
Bill Conlin, an iconic baseball writer in Philadelphia and a one-time Sunday morning regular on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, died Thursday. He was 79. His career ended in disgrace in 2011 when he was accused of child molestation.