Peyton Manning wasn’t the only big winner on Sunday afternoon
With snow-bound viewers across the country and pulsating game between the Broncos and Patriots—likely the last showdown between Manning and New England quarterback Tom Brady—CBS Sports drew an eye-popping 53.3 million viewers for the Denver’s 20–18 win over New England on Sunday. That's the second highest AFC Championship game viewership ever behind the 2011 AFC Championship between the Steelers-Jets (54.9 million). The Broncos-Patriots game peaked with an average of 62.9 million viewers from 6-6:30 p.m. ET. The game outdrew the NFC Championship by 22%. Fox averaged 45.7 million viewers for Carolina’s blowout win over Arizona.
The Denver-New England game drew an overnight rating of 31.8, the highest rated AFC Championship in 29 years since the Broncos-Browns overtime game in 1987 (on NBC). CBS said the 31.8 rating was the highest early-window (meaning the first game of the championship round) game rating for both the AFC or NFC Championship since 1987.
The AFC Championship was up 31% in household rating over last year’s AFC Championship and up 9% from last year’s NFC Championship. Last year’s NFC Championship game between the Seahawks-Packers drew 49.8 million while 42.1 million tuned into Patriots-Colts in the AFC matchup on CBS. The Broncos-Patriots game was the most-watched non-Super Bowl game since the 2014 NFC Championship, which drew 55.9 million.