Football Championship Sunday draws big

Blackhawks a big draw in Canada over the weekend

Even though three of the four teams who participated in last Sunday’s NFL Conference Championship games came from smaller markets, the ratings were certainly big enough.

The NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints drew a whopping 58 million viewers, the most for a NFC Championship Game since the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers matchup on January 10, 1982, which featured “the catch” Dwight Clark made to put the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

In New Orleans, WVUE-TV, a Fox affiliate owned by Saints owner Tom Benson – scored a huge 63.2 household rating and a 82 share, ranking it as the highest rated NFL game in the market’s history.

The game went into overtime and kept viewers glued to the edge of their seats. The Saints won on a field goal, advancing them to the Super Bowl for the first time in their 42-year history.

Earlier in the day, the AFC Championship Game between the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts drew 46.9 million for CBS, the most of an AFC Championship Game since the January 12, 1986 matchup between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, where the Patriots advanced to face the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX. The Colts beat the Jets to earn a trip to the Big game on February 7 on CBS.

With the Saints and Colts in the big game, the affiliates in those home markets – Belo’s WWL-TV and LIN Broadcasting’s WISH-TV – will certainly get huge financial windfalls.

WWL is already the ratings leader in New Orleans and has been for decades, and is one of CBS’ highest rated affiliates. The station received a Peabody Award for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

WISH in Indianapolis is also one of CBS’ highest-rated affiliates and ranks a strong second to market leader WTHR-TV, an NBC affiliate owned by The Dispatch Group. WISH recently took the lead from WTHR in the market’s 11 p.m. news race, thanks to NBC’s failure with The Jay Leno Show and CBS’ strong prime-time lineup and Indianapolis native David Letterman late-night gabfest as a lead-out.

Also: While the Blackhawks have been setting ratings records in Chicago all season long, they’ve been a big draw north of the border as well.

The Blackhawks-Canucks game in Vancouver Saturday night drew 1.13 million viewers to CBC in the second game of a Hockey Night In Canada doubleheader. The first game – featuring regional matchups between either the Toronto Maple leafs at Florida Panthers, or the New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens – drew 1.45 million viewers.

Local ratings for the Hawks-Canucks game – seen locally on Comcast Sportsnet – were not available.