To nobody’s surprise, CBS’ telecast of the Broncos/Steelers Wild Card playoff game on Sunday was watched by many people.
As many people, in fact, that have collectively watched a Wild Card playoff game in two dozen years.
CBS announced that the game, punctuated by an overtime period that lasted no more than eleven seconds, was watched by 42 million viewers, good enough for a 26.7 overnight rating. The last Wild Card game to garner such numbers was back in 1988, when the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) beat the visiting Seattle Seahawks on a 42-yard Tony Zendejas field goal – of course, this was under the old overtime rules; had the Broncos’ kicker attempted a field goal, the Steelers would have a chance to win the game… ya get it now?
But if you believe in Tim Tebow, and you believe in the phrase “numbers don’t lie,” then you’ll love this factoid: The 8:00-8:15 PM Eastern quarter-hour period on CBS at the end of the Broncos/Steelers game drew a 31.6 rating.
Yes, a 31.6 rating for a game in which Tebow finished with 316 total passing yards. Not only is it a career high, but he achieved it in his first playoff game – and perhaps the first of many. And since he converted only ten passes, that means his average yards per pass in that game was – you guessed it – 31.6.
Imagine if FOX had the AFC package. Denver’s FOX station is Channel 31 (KDVR). Think it might be worth it to them to program six digital subchannels, with the sixth one devoted to all-Tim Tebow programming, all the time? “Channel 31-6” – hey! (And, of course, on the seventh subchannel, he rested.)
We’re sure Jim Nantz will be resting after finally getting off the schneid and calling a Broncos game in which Tebow and the team won. Saturday night’s matchup in New England will be the fifth straight week that Nantz and Phil Simms have called a game with the Broncos in it, going back to Week 15 against those same Patriots, who handed Denver the first of three straight losses to end the regular season.
The Broncos/Patriots Week 15 contest at Mile High Sports Authority Field, or whatever the devil they’re calling it these days, was half a point from drawing an overnight rating of 20, making it the highest rated game on CBS in four years. Remember, that was without two top ten markets – New York and Philadelphia, whose Jets and Eagles were also playing in the same late game window on CBS – not factoring into the Broncos/Patriots rating.
Of course, the entire country will be able to watch this one. Even if it is on the 21st century broadcasting black hole that is Saturday night.
In the current television universe, primetime viewing has been mostly hard to come by. In all fairness, Friday nights are more dubious than Saturday nights when it comes to primetime viewing habits, as networks may choose to “burn off” orders of episodes destined for cancellation. Networks also opt to show reruns of original programming on Saturday nights. Yes, gone are the days of “Fantasy Island” and “The Golden Girls”: if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.
All that being said, the prospect of a rematch of a game that drew high ratings one month ago, combined with the ubiquitous affliction of Tim Tebow fever, could single-handedly give CBS the highest primetime broadcast rating on a Saturday night ever. It’ll easily threaten, if not shatter, the combined audience for CBS and NBC when they simulcast NFL Network’s Week 17 game between the Patriots, en route to a perfect (regular) season, and the New York Giants. CBS had 13.7 million viewers for that one, 2 million more than NBC (11.7 million).
By the way, I checked the temperature for Foxboro, MA for Saturday. The high that day: 31.
Or is it 31.6?
Have mercy, will travel.