The NFL and FOX got some (*extremely Futurama Professor voice*) "good news, everyone," in the form of solid ratings for this year's NFC Championship Game. The network announced that an average of about 45 million people watched Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers duke it out in the early afternoon slot of the NFL's championship Sunday.
I would imagine it is nice for league and network execs to finally get year-over-year ratings in the green. The NFL, like all sports, has suffered a decline in viewership with a season held in the midst of a pandemic and a, shall we say, chaotic election cycle. Through Week 13, ratings were down seven percent across the board for football. Bucs-Packers, on the other hand, was up five percent year-over-year. Not a gigantic leap, but a leap nonetheless.
Those same execs are probably still a little disappointed. Because as SBJ managing editor Austin Karp points out, the numbers are actually extremely low for a championship game featuring Tom Brady.
There are logical reasons for this not related to people just not feeling like watching football. Tampa Bay is a much smaller market than New England was, in part because the Bucs have been bad for a decade and a half. Green Bay is a smaller market than, say, Pittsburgh for football viewership. Viewer fatigue is also likely a strong factor. Brady and Rodgers, as good as they are, aren't exactly novelties anymore.
In a year of decline in this area, 44.8 million viewers is a good number, and peaking at 53 million is a great number. Still, one might expect pitting two of the greatest to play the game on a generally chilly Sunday afternoon in the country would result in eye-popping numbers. But not even Brady and Rodgers can buck that viewership trend.