Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why NFL Ratings Are Down While Others Are Up

It is most interesting to hear and read a variety of opinions as to why NFL viewership is down overall this season. The trend continues as this past Sunday's (11/6) CBS doubleheader and NBC Sunday Night Football were each down roughly 20% from the same week in 2015, while Fox regional telecasts were down roughly 9%. And that was the first Sunday in a month without competition from the baseball post-season.

There are the "after the elections", "the number of player arrests and legal challenges", and the "many less attractive prime time matchups" theories all over the place. Perhaps the decline is really a combination of these three to whatever extent.

What makes this especially intriguing at this point in the season is the fact that while NFL ratings are down overall, the other major pro sports TV ratings are going in the opposite direction.

We have already documented the strong World Series numbers, and the nice start for NBCSN with its early regular season NHL telecasts.

On the NBA side, this past Friday (11/4) brought ESPN a more than 40% ratings increase for its doubleheader over week 2 last season. That is impressive, although having four of the nation's top six TV markets involved certainly helped.

Opening up was the NY Knicks at Chicago, which marked the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to their previous home court for the first time. In Chicago, where the ESPN telecast was exclusive, it was the highest rated ESPN telecast of an NBA game in almost two years.

The second game, which had Golden State vs. the Lakers, was Lakers coach Luke Walton going against the team he left (as an assistant coach) to take the job prior to this season for the first time. That telecast was up 58% nationally from the late week 2 matchup last season (Houston vs. Sacramento).

While those were both strong and appealing early season matchups, the point is that the fans were paying attention. This happened leading into the same weekend as the NFL ratings dip on the three major networks airing games.

Let me add one more theory about the NFL ratings decline, even though I think the earlier ones contribute. This season, the NFL is losing viewers from some key markets because of the teams which are shown.

Los Angeles has a team once again, and the market is back to showing the struggling Rams games instead of some more appealing national matchups. In Chicago, the Bears are a miserable 2-6 for the first half of the season and with the Cubs post-season run and the Blackhawks on a winning streak (6 in a row at press time), the Bears no longer dominate the local sports media all week.

In San Francisco, the 49ers are struggling, just as the Jets are for the NYC audience. Then there is St. Louis, which lost the Rams to L.A. starting with this season. Fox and CBS started out with the thought that viewers in St. Louis would still give a crap about the Rams. Let's put it this way. For this Sunday (11/3), St. Louis gets the Philadelphia vs. Atlanta telecast from Fox and not the Rams vs. Jets telecast at the same time.

Maybe the local team performance does make a difference in the ratings, as it should.

Fox Sports Radio has a new NBA analyst, as Chris Broussard will co-host a couple of weekend shows on the little heard network, including Saturday 8 - 11 PM ET with Brian Noe. Broussard had been with ESPN.

ATLANTA: WCNN 680 and 93.7 The Fan have extended their contract to air the Braves games all the way through the 2016 season. In addition, the studio shows surrounding home game broadcasts will originate from studios located adjacent to the new stadium. WCNN began broadcasting the Braves games with the 2010 season.

NEW YORK: Will it be "Let's go to the videotape!" to hear Warner Wolf from now on? The 79 year-old Wolf (with that as his TV catch phrase for many years) gave a farewell speech during his spot on WABC this past Friday (11/4) morning during the Don Imus Show. Nothing about any future gigs as of yet. Sid Rosenberg, who co-hosts on WABC from 10 AM to Noon, expands to cover sports during the morning show.

CHICAGO: Sorry to report that WSCR The Score 670 host Terry Boers is back off the air after returning for only a few days due to continuing health problems. No return date is set, and rumors continue that he will retire early next year, which would be 25 years since starting with the station.

College basketball still doesn't do well in the Chicago market, even with some 50,000 watt AM stations giving it a try in recent years. The UIC (University of Illinois - Chicago) Flames basketball games, which have aired in part on WMVP ESPN 1000 since 2009, will not (as of press time) have any Chicago radio station airing their games. Yet, the ESPN family will televise some of their games instead.

ESPN3 will televise 19 of the team's games this season, with Sam Panayotovich on play-by-play. For the remaining 11 games, they will be broadcast (audio only) online only at, with Jonathan Hood returning to call play-by-play.

The problem is that this system eliminates the casual fan who would have (in the past) stumbled upon the broadcasts, gives those who do follow the team one less reason to listen to a local radio station, and hurts the school's visibility for recruiting and potential ticket buyers. Sorry, but nobody wins with this type of arrangement.

ALBANY: Siena College hoops will now have A.J. Kanell as its new play-by-play voice while Andy Grazulis returns as analyst. Kanell replaces Robert Lee, who had called the games for the previous 14 seasons.

COLUMBUS MS: Good for KNMQ 103.1 The Team. Starting Nov.28th, the station will go local from 4 to 6 PM during the week. The station adds "Drive Time with Steve & The Professor", co-hosted by Glen Lautzenhiser and Steve Rogers. How local will it be? It seems that Lautzenhiser has lived in Columbus since 1974.

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