Thursday, November 17, 2016

Better Matchups Attracting More Viewers

Those of us who believe that the TV live sports ratings variations have more to do with matchups than other circumstances have even more to go by from the past week as proof. It appears that with all of the live sports tugging for fans' attention that fans have flat out become more selective.

Even the most hardcore sports fans admit that there is a lot going on these days, even with the historic World Series now behind us.

College hoops have begun. ESPN brought us a big time doubleheader on Tuesday (11/15) night to help get the weeks of seemingly non-stop live telecasts underway. The opening game with Kentucky vs. Michigan State, two teams with strong national traditions, actually produced ratings roughly one-third less than last season (which paired Kentucky vs. Duke). The 2014 ratings for the similar first game (Michigan State vs. Duke) drew a roughly 19% better rating. Safe to say that this season's matchup was down in viewers from what was expected.

Before you draw a conclusion, move on to the second game which followed between Kansas and Duke. This game, also on ESPN, drew 2.4 million viewers, which was a roughly 27% increase over last season (Michigan State vs. Kansas). While we rarely include streaming via ESPN in ratings information, it is noteworthy that the reported 83,000 streaming viewers for this game is the most ever for a college basketball regular season game via the ESPN app.

Two games, same night, each with 'major' schools which have a national following. The more appealing matchup drew the most viewers. That's called fans being more selective.
The same can now be said for the NFL. Having games every Thursday night, three early Sunday games from London (making four live Sunday games those weeks), plus Monday night, appear to be making viewers more selective. Fans simply don't have 12 hours to watch games regardless of the quality of the matchup.

Last Thursday (11/10) the Cleveland vs. Baltimore game was down roughly 25% in viewers from last year's same week matchup, and that included Buffalo (vs. NY Jets), not exactly a huge draw.

Yet, on Sunday (11/13), the attractive Dallas vs. Pittsburgh doubleheader game on Fox which went down to the very end wound up as the most watched doubleheader game for either network (Fox or CBS) this season. Then, the Seattle vs. New England battle on NBC Sunday Night Football was NBC's best Sunday Night rating since the season opener (Week 1), which also featured the Patriots.
Monday night (11/14), which had Cincinnati vs. N.Y. Giants, not considered a compelling matchup, came up nearly 1.5 million viewers short of last season's equivalent game, which also featured the Bengals (vs. Houston).

Now you get the picture. Fans are becoming more selective.

The pre-game shows are feeling the same crunch. According to Sports Business Daily, NBC's Sunday "Football Night In America" pre-game show had a roughly 18% drop in viewers through Week 9 compared with last season.

ESPN's Monday Night Countdown pre-game show has a roughly 22% drop in viewers during the same weeks. It's "Sunday NFL Countdown" is down roughly 15% over its 2-hour show, although that includes the weeks it was up against a live game from London.

NFL Network's 4-hour Sunday pre-game show is down only about 1% over last season.

Having the three networks which have extended Sunday pre-game programming all down at the same time is an indication of this trend. It would be different if one of them rose in audience and took away from the others.

Although it is early in the season for both the NBA and NHL, we have also seen similar trends of "better" matchups shown nationally drawing better than the average weekly totals.

Whether it really was the NFL holding this up or not, it's nice to see that Mike Tirico will indeed be calling some NFL games for NBC, and starting sooner than we thought.

Al Michaels gets a "bye week" in an indication that the 72-year old play-by-play voice may indeed begin to reduce his workload. Tirico will call this week's Green Bay vs. Washington telecast.

Mike will take over for Thanksgiving week as well, calling the Thanksgiving night matchup with Pittsburgh vs. Indianapolis and then the Sunday (11/27) game between K.C. and Denver. He will also call the Dec. 22nd Thursday night game between N.Y. Giants and Philadelphia.

As a means to further cement its relationship with the NHL, NBC is adding streaming for its regional Comcast SportsNet groups which have rights to a local NHL team.
Cable/satellite subscribers using the NBC Sports App can stream local teams games, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and San Jose, as of this week.

Just this past Tuesday (11/15), CSN ranked first in males 25-54 during the time period of NHL telecasts in both Chicago and Philadelphia for its on-air telecasts.

DALLAS: Now that the paperwork is back in place, as they say diplomatically, ESPN Deportes is back on the air at KZMP 1540 after a two week "absence".

TORONTO: Best wishes to a full recovery for Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth, who is about to undergo cancer surgery. Here's hoping that Howarth is back in the booth for his 37th season of calling the Jays games next spring.

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