Sunday’s NFL wild-card game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, simulcast by ViacomCBS on Nickelodeon, averaged 2.06 million viewers — the network’s most-watched program in nearly four years.
The game was also a hit on social media, with its virtual displays of characters like SpongeBob SquarePants going viral across platforms. Saints head coach Sean Payton got “slimed” after his team’s win.
“Nickelodeon’s broadcast of the wild card game was one of the greatest moments in the history of Nickelodeon,” network president Brian Robbins told The New York Times. He added that the NFL was “thrilled.”
The version that aired on CBS drew about 28.6 million viewers, bringing total game viewership to over 30 million.
Last year’s comparable wild-card game, during a weekend with fewer matchups, drew 35.1 million viewers on NBC.
The Nickelodeon game’s success could sweeten ViacomCBS’ status with the league as new media rights negotiations are underway.
- CBS likely landed the rights to the new wild-card round game thanks to the potential of a kid-focused broadcast to draw in new viewers, Robbins said.
- ViacomCBS currently pays $1.09 billion annually for its NFL package, but rights fees are expected to double. All of the NFL’s current media rights deals expire by 2022.
Disney’s Freeform simulcast, an attempt to draw in younger, female viewers, didn’t fare as well as the Nickelodeon game. The network’s Baltimore Ravens-Tennessee Titans matchup had just 67,000 viewers.