Monday, March 19, 2018

Tournament Viewing Down Early

As we go into the 2nd week of the NCAA Tournament it will be interesting to see how the 'real' TV ratings go the rest of the way. The fact is that they were actually down from last year for the first weekend. It was only when viewers watching by way of streaming were included that the viewership actually rose above last season.

This is a significant development, if it continues. Sports fans know that the Tournament is appointment TV for a lot of fans, and advertisers know that people "watching" on their phones and tablets don't always pay attention when commercials are airing. It could be because of the upsets, such as top seeded Virginia losing in the opener, which cost some viewers.

One media storyline of this Tournament will be Loyola-Chicago for next season regardless of whether or not they advance past this coming Thursday. Their first NCAA Tournament wins since 1985 could be significant for the team's media presence within its local Chicago market.

Fans around the country are probably not aware that Loyola has not had so much as a local radio contract for many years. Only the limited power campus FM station has been airing the games for many years, while other Chicago schools such as DePaul and University of Illinois-Chicago have had some to all of their games aired on 50,000 watt AM stations. It will be interesting to see whether or not the school can pick up on this success and gain a radio deal starting next season.

The Nielsen radio ratings from February are coming out this week, and it's not generally not favorable for major sports stations (although the Boston ratings were not released as of press time).

The big story comes from New York, with WFAN now two months into the new year of having new shows in both its morning and afternoon drive time slots.

It seems that the air talent does make a difference in NYC sports radio. In morning drive, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti ranked #6 in the market's morning show ratings, while WEPN ESPN came in 14th while airing its new ESPN national morning show.

Afternoons are a different story, especially for those who recall The Broadcast Booth's speculation last year that WFAN was going after Michael Kay's show from rival WEPN. For the just concluded ratings period, Kay's show, which was signed to a large contract extension prior to the WFAN selection of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott for afternoons (replacing Mike Francesa), finished a full ratings point higher than WFAN's new show in the important males aged 25-54 demographic. (The full numbers were not available at press time.)

Overall, WFAN dropped .6 of a ratings point and is now only at #14 overall in the market, while WEPN rose .2 while finishing only at #22 overall.

In Philadelphia, despite dropping .8 of a ratings point, WIP-FM remained #1 in the market, while WPEN ESPN dropped .2 and came in at #16.

Chicago's sports stations both dropped, with WSCR The Score 670 dipping .2 and WMVP ESPN 1000 dipping by .1, with neither station making the market's top 20. This is a considerable dip for WSCR, which spent some of the past year in the market's top five stations. The station, as we mentioned last week, just made a lineup change for its midday and afternoon drive shows after this ratings book concluded.

All three of the Dallas sports stations dropped this time, while the gap widened. KTCK-AM The Ticket dropped .3 and finished at #13 overall, with over 30% more listeners than KRLD-FM and over triple the total audience of KESN-FM ESPN.

In San Francisco, KNBR saw its total audience dip by 10% from the month prior and is now at #10 overall, actually losing ground to KGMZ-FM The Game, which gained .4 of a ratings point during the same time.

Houston's three sports stations, which showed signs of life after the Astros championship last fall, are back to being completely out of the market's top 20 stations, as all three stations are at or under a 0.8 total rating.

Although the NFL schedule for the 2018 regular season won't be released until mid-April, the word is that NBC will hit the jackpot for its Thursday Night Football NFL Kickoff telecast to start the regular season. As much as we don't like to report speculation (like so many media members do and would), even the possibility that it really will be Minnesota at Philadelphia to open the season is worth talking about.

CBS Sports Network has expanded its deal with Conference USA, which includes airing nine football games along with the Conference Championship Game next season. In addition, this new deal will include the basketball semi-finals and championship games.

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