You can argue that this Patriots team isn't as good as some past editions, but when it comes to television ratings, they have no peer.
The Patriots just wrapped up yet another season of record-breaking local household (HH) TV ratings in the Boston/Manchester designated market area (DMA) This season's average of 35.2 (HH) surpassed last year's then-record setting HH rating of 34.85.
Over the last five seasons, viewership has posted a season average HH rating of 30.0 or higher in four-out-of-five years (2011- 35.2, 2010- 34.85, 2009- 30.14, 2008- 25.28, and 2007- 33.60). Prior to that time frame, viewership never once topped a season HH rating average of 30.0.
The season began (Miami) and ended (Buffalo) with identical 37.10 ratings and 56 household shares. In between, 14 of the 15 recorded ratings, (Data for the October 30th loss to Pittsburgh was not available due to extended power failures in the Boston/Manchester DMA.) finished with an HH rating of over 30 - the only exception being the September 25th loss to Buffalo, which rated a 27.37, but still a 60 HH share.
Six times the ratings went to 37 or higher (Miami, Dallas, Giants, Eagles, Broncos 2nd Bills game) with the high point being the December 18th win at Denver, which scored a 42.65 with a 68 share. That game against Tim Tebow and company, which was the subject of much discussion beforehand, as CBS and NBC battled for flex rights to show the game, was the third highest-rated Patriots regular season game in the Boston (Manchester) television market all-time.
Furthermore, the percent of households (HH share) tuning into Patriots broadcasts has also continued to rise over the years. The season HH share average per game was 60.10, marking the second time in franchise history that HH share season average has been above 60.0 (2010- 61.31). To put this season in prospective, the 2007 undefeated regular season recorded the highest HH share rating for any week in franchise history with a 75 percent of viewers during the Week 17 matchup against the New York Giants, yet the 2007 season HH share average was 55.9 per game.
What will the playoffs hold? Hopefully the Patriots will be playing more than one postseason game this year, but their first game, this Saturday night, could be a record-breaker on its own in terms of ratings. The rematch with Tim Tebow and the Broncos will be the most talked-about matchup of the weekend, both from a media perspective and that of the casual fan.
CBS’s broadcast of the AFC Wild Card game featuring the Broncos defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime on Sunday, Jan. 8 (4:41-8:13 PM, ET) earned a national Rating/Share of 24.0/40 and averaged 42.371 million viewers and was the most-watched Wild Card game on any network in 24 years (as far back as CBS records go).
From the Patriots perspective, the highest rated divisional playoff game in their recorded history was the upset win over the San Diego Chargers on January 14th, 2007, which pulled in a 44.9 rating.
A prediction? This Saturday's game tops that Chargers game by getting at least a 45 rating locally. That would be despite the fact that the Patriots will be playing at the same time as the Bruins (home against Carolina) and the Celtics (on the road in Indiana.)
Nationally, I think the number could approach 30, topping last week's CBS rating, and passing it as the highest rating show since the Steelers/Packers Super Bowl.
While the Patriots on-the-field product may have flaws that locals feel they need to point out endlessly, it sure doesn't stop them from tuning in what the ball is kicked off. Add in a national phenomena like Tim Tebow, and you have the recipe for ratings history.