CBS’s broadcast of the Broncos’ 20-18 victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday was the highest-rated television program since a certain football game with a far more satisfying outcome for New England fans: Super Bowl XLIX last February.
The game ranks as the second most-watched AFC Championship Game on any network in 39 years, drawing 53.3 million viewers. That trails only the Jets-Steelers AFC Championship Game on Jan. 23, 2011 (54.9 million). That game aired in the later window, which typically draws a bigger viewership.
It was the first time in 12 years that the early game on conference championship Sunday drew a bigger audience than the later game. The NFC Championship Game on Fox, in which the Panthers routed the Cardinals 49-15, drew a 24.1 rating and a 37 share.
The AFC game was the most-watched and highest-rated television program since the Patriots’ victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX last February. That game drew a drew a 49.7 rating and a 72 share.
The New England-Denver game earned a household rating of 29.3, which was the highest rating for the AFC Championship Game on any network since Jan. 12, 1986, when the Patriots’ victory over the Dolphins earned a 32.4 rating on NBC.
Ratings measures the percentage of television-equipped households that were tuned into a program. Share is the percentage of televisions that are in use that are tuned in.