UPDATE with viewership numbers: The down-to-the-wire finish in Sunday afternoon’s Denver-New England showdown in the AFC Championship Game ended up being a winner for both the Broncos and CBS. The game, a 20-18 Denver victory that punched the Broncos’ ticket to Super Bowl 50, drew 53.3 million total viewers and a rating of 29.3/51. It is second-most watched AFC title game on any network in 39 years and the most-watched and highest-rated program on TV since Super Bowl XLIX in February.
The CBS game, which pitted longtime rival quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, came down to the end, when the Patriots scored a late touchdown but failed on a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game. Only the New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game in January 2011 (54.9 million) drew more eyeballs, but that record result came in the primetime window — the Broncos-Patriots game was the afternoon game.
This year’s late game, the NFC Championship Game on Fox — which saw the Carolina Panthers wipe out the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15 — averaged 45.7M viewers and a 24.1/37 rating. It still was up 11% over last year’s AFC game (Indianapolis-New England) in the same window, and Fox said it saw record local numbers in Phoenix (43.9/65) and Charlotte (54.2/71). But the half-hour ratings peaked at 8-8:30 PM ET with a 29.2/43 before dropping off as the game reached blowout status.
Yesterday’s AFC title game viewership peaked with an average of 62.9 million viewers from 6-6:30 PM ET, when the Patriots made their final drive but came up short.