NEW YORK (AP) — Television viewership for the NFL's divisional round playoff games was down 16 percent compared to last year, offering ammunition to critics of the football league, but there are a couple of compelling explanations.
The weekend's four games averaged 30.43 million viewers, off from 36.22 million the year before, the Nielsen company said. The NFL has received some blowback from President Donald Trump and his supporters for protests involving the National Anthem, with some suggesting that had something to do with the audience being smaller for games this season.
Last year had a blockbuster game between two rivals with national followings, Green Bay and Dallas, which reached more than 48 million viewers. Nothing came close this year, with the most-watched game, involving the furious finish between Minnesota and New Orleans, reaching 35.64 million people.
Two of last year's games were also in prime-time, which naturally boosts the audience. This year only one of the games — Tennessee at New England — was in prime-time, and that was non-competitive.
CBS easily won the week in prime time, averaging 10.7 million viewers. Fox had 6.7 million, NBC had 4.6 million, ABC had 4.3 million, Univision had 1.5 million, ION Television had 1.2 million, Telemundo had 1.1 million and the CW had 1 million.
ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 4.52 million viewers in prime-time. Fox News Channel had 2.15 million, MSNBC had 1.93 million, HGTV had 1.48 million and USA had 1.3 million.
ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.9 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" had 9.7 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.3 million.
For the week of Jan. 8-14, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: College Football Championship: Alabama vs. Georgia, ESPN, 27.7 million; NFL Playoff: Tennessee at New England, CBS, 26.69 million; "NFL Playoff Post-Game," Fox, 23.44 million; "The Big Bang Theory," CBS, 15.93 million; "College Football Championship Pre-Game," ESPN, 15.66 million; "NCIS," CBS, 14.24 million; "Young Sheldon," CBS, 14.17 million; "College Football Championship Post-Game," ESPN, 13.59 million; "Bull," CBS, 10.5 million; "Blue Bloods," CBS, 10.17 million.
ABC and ESPN are owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.