Fox, NBC Notch Record Wild Card Overnights

On the heels of a record-smashing NFL broadcast season, Wild Card Weekend has put up some monster preliminary numbers, thanks to a massive upset and a tight AFC matchup between an aging veteran and a spunky upstart.

Saturday’s Saints-Seahawks NFC Wild Card game earned an 18.3 overnight on NBC, the highest rating for the earliest of early-round playoff broadcasts since 1991. That year, the first the NFL scheduled a quartet of Wild Card games, saw the ‘Skins and Eagles draw an 18.6 overnight.

The Seahawk’s home-field upset over the defending Super Bowl champs was up 8 percent from last year’s Jets-Bengals tussle (16.9/31) and improved on the analogous 2009 game (Falcons-Cardinals) by 28 percent, according to Nielsen.

As Drew Brees and the Saints bowed out, fans in New Orleans were glued to their sets. The NBC broadcast earned a 54.4 HH rating/73 share in the Crescent City, beating all comers among the DMAs. The game drew a 39.9/73 in Seattle.

NBC’s late game performed even better, as the Jets-Colts AFC Wild Card showdown drew a 20.8 overnight rating/33 share, up 6 percent from last year’s Dallas-Philly meeting and up 14 percent from Colts-Chargers in 2009.

The overnight is the highest for any Saturday Wild Card game since the 1998-99 season, when Arizona and Dallas fought it out to a 20.9/38 on ABC.

NBC notched the best two-game average overnight for an NFL Wild Card Saturday in 16 years, as the Jan. 8 double-header earned a 19.4/33, the best since Lions-Packers and Chiefs-Dolphins averaged a 20.1/34 on Jan. 8, 1994.

The early exit by Peyton Manning and the Colts narrow defeat earned a 48.0/64 in Indianapolis, the highest rating among metered markets. The New York DMA ranked 20th (21.9/34).

On Sunday, CBS experienced some slight slippage, as the Ravens blew out the Chiefs 30-7 in the 1 p.m. EST game. The network earned an 18.8 overnight rating, down 3 percent from last season’s Ravens-Patriots game (19.4).

In the late game, Fox on Sunday earned a 24.4 overnight with its Packers-Eagles NFC Wild Card game, marking its best opening-round NFL playoff ever. It’s been 20 years since an NFC Wild Card game boasted such a huge overnight; in 1991, the Bears and Saints clawed their way to a 24.9.

Fox’ Packers-Eagles overnight was up 12 percent from the 21.8 the net drew with its Cardinals-Packers game in the late window last year.