After the cameras have gone home

The Ravens-Patriots and Giants-49ers championship games Sunday drew the largest audiences of any shows on television since the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen data released by the NFL.

Sunday's games also made for the most watched championship Sunday in three decades.

The Ravens loss to the Patriots was seen by 48.7 million viewers, while the Giants victory over the 49ers drew 57.6 million. But the latter was in prime time and went into overtime, which makes a big difference.

Here's the release from the NFL, which has enjoyed one incredible TV season.

Football fans across America continue to tune in to NFL games, resulting in the most-watched conference championship Sunday in 30 years.  An average of 53.7 million viewers watched NFL games last weekend, the most for an NFL conference championship Sunday since January 1982 (game-by-game comparison below).

The New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship Game on FOX drew 57.6 million viewers to rank as the third most-watched conference championship game ever (chart below).

The Baltimore Ravens-New England Patriots AFC Championship Game on CBS drew 48.7 million viewers.  The conference championship games are television's two most-watched shows since Super Bowl XLV.

In addition, a record five 2011 playoff games averaged at least 35 million viewers – up from four in 2010.

2011 NFL Conference Championship Games

Date     Network (Game)    Viewers
Jan. 22, 2012     CBS (Ravens at Patriots)     48.7 million
Jan. 22, 2012     FOX (Giants at 49ers)    57.6 million

1981 NFL Conference Championship Games

Date    Network (Game)    Viewers
Jan. 10, 1982     NBC (Chargers at Bengals)    51.6 million
Jan. 10, 1982     CBS (Cowboys at 49ers)     68.7 million

Most-Watched NFL Conference Championship Games

Date    Network (Game)    Viewers
Jan. 10, 1982     CBS (Cowboys at 49ers)     68.7 million
Jan. 24, 2010    FOX (Vikings at Saints-OT)    57.9 million
Jan. 22, 2012    FOX (N.Y. Giants at 49ers-OT)    57.6 million
Jan. 15, 1995    FOX (Cowboys-49ers)    56.8 million
Jan. 23, 2011    CBS (N.Y. Jets at Steelers)    54.8 million

Source: NFL & The Nielsen Company