By Alan Pergament
If the local ratings for the AFC and NFC title games are any indication, the Western New York audience for the 2014 Super Bowl should be at near record levels.
Denver's 26-16 victory over New England in the earlier game for the AFC title Sunday had a prelininary rating of at least 34.3 on WIVB (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate, and it could go as high as 35.6. A year ago, Baltimore's win over New England in the later game had a 30.6 rating, which means this year's rating was at least 12 percent higher than a year ago.
The WNY rating for Denver-New England was considerably higher than the 29.5 that CBS averaged nationally in overnight markets and that rating was its second highest in 27 years for a conference title game.
Seattle's 23-17 victory over San Francisco had a 34.7 preliminary rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. That is more than 20 percent higher than San Francisco's NFC title win over Atlanta in the earlier game last year.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's quest for a second Super Bowl will be one of the big storylines for the Feb. 2 game in New Jersey.
While the Manning matchup with New England quarterback Tom Brady undoubtedly drove Sunday's rating, the Super Bowl could be a bigger attraction in AFC markets like Buffalo, since Seattle was an AFC team until 2002 when it moved to the NFC.
To put the NFL ratings in perspective, the two title games had ratings in the area of what several Buffalo Bills regular season games averaged this past season. The 15 Bills games on TV this season averaged a 32.8 local rating.
As usual, the competing broadcast networks mostly relied on repeat entertainment programming to play opposite the Seattle-San Francisco game in prime time rather than waste original episodes.
To put the rating in further perspective, Chicago's victory over the Boston Bruins Sunday afternoon, which was won by a shootout goal by South Buffalo's Patrick Kane, had a 1.4 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate.
In other ratings news of note, the season premiere of "The Following" with Kevin Bacon -- which followed Fox's post-game show -- had a 7.6 rating on WUTV. It lost more than half of the post-game show audience of 19.8.
The third episode of "Downton Abbey" this season had a 5.8 rating, the same as it had the week before opposite "The Golden Globes."
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