Wild Card : ESPN's Second-Most-Viewed NFL Telecast

Carolina-Arizona Draws 21.7 Million Viewers
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ESPN’s first NFL playoff game was the network’s second-most-viewed pro football telecast ever.

The worldwide leader’s coverage of the Carolina Panthers’ 27-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday afternoon averaged a 12.3 U.S. rating, nearly 14.6 million households and 21.7 million watchers, according to Nielsen fast nationals data.

The first NFL playoff game in ESPN’s 35-year history trailed only the 21.8 million who watched Minnesota-Green Bay on Oct. 5, 2009 in Brett Favre’s first game against his old team. Carolina-Arizona now ranks as the eighth-most-viewed telecast ever for ESPN.  

The only NFL games on ESPN to rate higher were Monday Night Football contests – the aforementioned Minnesota-Green Bay with a 13.2 and New Orleans-New England, which generated a 12.9 rating on Nov. 30, 2009.

The rating peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. (ET) with a 13.9 rating and at 24 million viewers in the 7 p.m. quarter hour.

The Jan. 3 Wild Card affair came two days after ESPN recorded the two-most-watched telecasts in cable history, with the sports giant’s coverage of the inaugural College Football Playoff semfinals.

The Panthers-Cardinals Wild Card game produced a WatchESPN average minute audience of 144,000, the second highest ever for an NFL game, behind only the 145,000 for the Washington-Dallas game on Oct. 27. The game also logged 378,000 unique viewers and 30.8 million total minutes viewed.

The average MNF game this season had a WatchESPN average minute audience of 106,000, 331,000 unique viewers and 21.6 million total minutes viewed – up 64%, 81% and 68%, respectively, compared to the 2013 campaign.

Top 10 Most-Viewed Programs in Cable Television History (Viewers):

Rank

Date

Program

Network

Viewers (000s)

1.

01/01/2015

CFB/Sugar Bowl: Alabama-Ohio St. ^

ESPN

28,271

2.

01/01/2015

CFB/Rose Bowl: Oregon-Florida St. ^

ESPN

28,164

3.

01/10/2011

CFB/BCS Champ: Oregon-Auburn

ESPN

27,316

4.

01/07/2013

CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-Notre Dame

ESPN

26,380

5.

01/06/2014

CFB/BCS Champ: Florida St.-Auburn

ESPN

25,572

6.

01/09/2012

CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-LSU

ESPN

24,214

7.

10/05/2009

NFL MNF: Green Bay-Minnesota

ESPN

21,839

8.

01/03/2015

NFL Wild Card: Arizona-Carolina

ESPN

21,678

9.

11/30/2009

NFL MNF: New England-New Orleans

ESPN

21,402

10.

01/01/2011

CFB/Rose Bowl: TCU-Wisconsin

ESPN

  20,558  

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