- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Peyton Manning not only beat the New England Patriots, he knocked off “American Idol” in the process.

The Indianapolis Colts’ victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game Sunday drew a 28.1 rating and 40 share on CBS, according to Nielsen Media Research, making it the highest-rated television program since last year’s Super Bowl.

An average of more than 46 million viewers tuned into the game, with about 57 million watching the final minutes as Manning led the Colts to a game-winning touchdown.

The highly anticipated game overtook ratings juggernaut “Idol,” which had its best debut ever the previous week on Fox.

The Chicago Bears’ win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship on Fox also enjoyed a huge audience, with a 25.1 rating and 45 share — the highest-rated NFC finale since 1997. Ratings were 21 percent higher than last year’s NFC Championship game between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, marking Fox’s largest one-year increase ever.

The big ratings came after regular-season viewership for the NFL increased on every network that carried games. CBS will televise the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 4

“Going into Super Bowl XLI, we could not be happier to see a record-breaking audience for the AFC Championship combined with the strong audience for the NFC Championship and for NFL Football across the regular season,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports. “It confirms the remarkable power of the NFL as a television property and the AFC as a conference.”

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