The New York Giants' 20-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers yesterday drew the best preliminary TV rating for any National Football League conference championship game since 1995 -- and proved that live events can still reassemble the kind of TV audiences that are increasingly fragmented these days.
The game, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, was seen on Fox in 33.4% of homes in the top 56 U.S. TV markets, according to Ileana Pena, a spokeswoman for the News Corp.network.
That makes it the highest-rated conference title game since the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-28 in January 1995, which drew a major-market rating of 34.2.
The Giants' victory drew a rating 11% better than last year's NFC championship between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, which earned a 30 rating while airing earlier in the day.
New York topped the 49ers 7:54 into overtime on a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes. The kick came after the Giants recovered a fumbled punt by Kyle Williams at the 49ers' 24-yard line.
The New England Patriots' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens -- also decided in the closing seconds -- had the highest rating for an afternoon American Football Conference championship since 1994. The Patriots-Ravens game earned a 29.1 major-market rating on CBS. That's the highest such rating for an afternoon AFC championship since a 1994 meeting between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills that drew a 29.5, according to CBS Corp.
The victories by the Giants and the Patriots gave marketers the Super Bowl they most wanted.
The teams will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in a rematch of the 2008 title game, which New York won 17-14. Last year's Super Bowl, won by the Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the most-watched program in U.S. TV history, drawing an average of 111 million viewers.
The 2008 Super Bowl drew an average of 97 million viewers -- a record for the event at the time -- and a 43.1 rating, according to Nielsen.
-- Bloomberg News --