Propelled by the intrigue of watching Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning square off for perhaps the final time, Indianapolis-area viewership for Sunday’s second-round AFC playoff game was the highest of the year and easily bested the Colts' Jan. 4 first-round, wild-card game versus Cincinnati.
The fact that there was a berth to the NFL's AFC Championship game on the line didn't hurt, either.
On Sunday, about 557,500 TVs were tuned in to the Indianapolis Colts-Denver Broncos game on local CBS affiliate WTTV-TV Channel 4. The telecast scored an overall rating of 52.0, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research, beating the 42.3 rating recorded by the Colts' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Before Sunday, the Bengals game had been the most-watched Colts game of the season for central Indiana.
The Colts' 24-13 victory over Denver on Sunday still was short of the team’s all-time record of 56.1 set during the 2006 AFC Championship game on Jan. 21, 2007. The Colts pulled off a come-from-behind, 38-34 squeaker against the New England Patriots in that game. (That game scored higher than the Colts' Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears two weeks later. It earned just under a 56 rating.)
At its peak in the second half, Sunday's game registered a rating spike of 57.6, meaning well over half of all central Indiana households were watching then.
The overall 52.0 rating also was higher than those of the two other games the Colts have played against the Broncos since future Hall-of-Famer Manning was cut loose by Indianapolis and joined Denver in 2012.
Last season's home game—the first against Denver since Manning joined the team—scored a 49 rating, while this season's opener in Denver earned a 38.9 rating, according to Nielsen.
While the outcome of Sunday's game wasn't certain for much of the fourth quarter, the game likely would have been rated even higher if it had been more of a nail-biter.
“Tight games get the best ratings, especially with a late-afternoon or nighttime kickoff,” said Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward.
Either way, the game—and the rating—was good news for WTTV, which took over as the local CBS affiliate Jan. 1 and is using this month’s playoffs as a major promotional tool.
It remains to be seen if an AFC championship game this coming Sunday against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts, will attract as many viewers as did the Denver game.
A 6:30 p.m. kickoff for the Jan. 18 game also should help boost ratings. Late-afternoon and evening games on Sundays, when people are at home nesting, often earn the highest ratings.