RATINGS RAT RACE: ABC Dramas Hold Up Well Against NFC Game, ‘Idol’ Gets Sampled

UPDATE, 1 PM: CBS and Fox have released updated numbers for yesterday’s AFC and NFC championship games. The close AFC contest, won by the New England Patriots, averaged 48.7 million viewers, the largest audience for an afternoon AFC Championship Game in 30 years — since January 10, 1982 (San Diego-Cincinnati on NBC). Overall, it was the second-most-watched AFC Championship Game (early or late) in 30 years, behind last year’s New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers game (54.9 million), which aired in the late window. The NFC Championship game on Fox, won by the New York Giants in overtime, scored an average audience of 57.6 million viewers, down a fraction from the last time the NFC title game aired in primetime two years ago. Sunday’s game ranked as the third-most-watched conference championship game ever, behind the 1982 Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers face-off (68.7 million viewers on CBS) and the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints overtime battle in 2010 (57.9 million viewers on Fox).

PREVIOUS, 9 AM: The ratings for the two highly contested Sunday NFL championship games are in. The AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens drew an overnight household rating/share of 29.1/51 on CBS — the highest rating in the metered markets for an afternoon AFC Championship in 18 years. It was up 2% from the previous afternoon championship game CBS carried in 2010 (New York Jets-Indianapolis Colts) and up sharply from the much-hyped Partiots-Denver Broncos face-off a week ago (20.6/23). The Patriots-Ravens game peaked at a 34.9/56 from 6-6:15 PM ET. Following in the later window was the NFC Championship Game on Fox, the New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers matchup, which posted a 33.4/48, the highest overnight rating for a conference championship game in 17 years. It was up a tenth from the last time the NFC title game aired in the later window two years ago (Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints). The ratings peaked in the overtime to a 39.3/55.