The NFL playoff wild card game between Carolina and Arizona capped a memorable week for ESPN, becoming the No. 8 most-watched telecast in cable TV history, just days after two college football playoff games on the network set all-time records for cable audiences.
The NFC Wild Card Game, which Carolina won 27-16, was the first playoff game ever shown on ESPN and became its No. 3 highest-rated NFL game telecast, and No. 9 highest-rated show ever on cable, according to Nielsen same-day ratings. The game averaged a 12.5 household rating, reaching 14.55 million households and 21.67 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals.
The game was also the second-biggest ever for ESPN’s digital side, with 378,000 unique viewers coming to WatchESPN, and an average minute attracting 144,000 viewers. That was barely behind the Oct. 27 matchup between Washington and Dallas that drew 145,00 viewers in an average minute.
On New Year’s Day, the first-ever college championship semifinal games each drew more than 28 million viewers for ESPN, led by the matchup between Ohio State and Alabama. Semifinal winners Ohio State and Oregon will meet on Jan. 12 for the first national championship game under the new playoff system. ESPN will carry that game as well.
Two Monday Night Football games from 2009 are the only NFL games to grab higher ratings on ESPN. The Minnesota-Green Bay game in October of that year grabbed a 13.2 household rating.