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Quote of the Day:

It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

-Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame’s Leadership Luncheon, asked about how the Longhorn Network affects his long-term TV plans (read: how it keeps him from starting a conference network).

It’s hard to say whether or not he’s just saying this to try to save the appearance of being behind the eight ball because he can’t get on the conference cable network gravy train the way the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 have. It’s also hard to say what trying to “get on the front side of tomorrow’s technology” would entail, certainly beyond what’s already covered by the conference’s contracts with ESPN and Fox (color me skeptical that it would involve “Google Network” or Apple TV in any significant way). But just the fact he knows enough about these things to make these points is very encouraging. Of course, if “tomorrow’s technology” is what I think (or at least hope) it is, I’d say the ACC is further ahead than the Big 12, which seems to have gone backwards on that front.

Sports Ratings Report for Week of October 13-19 and Weekend Sports Ratings for October 25-26

Primetime Vwrs

Total Day Vwrs

(000)

LW/LY

(000)

LW/LY

2713

=

-15%

1174

=

+8%

#1

=

+1%

#1

=

-4%

1663

=

+12%

472

=

+14%

#2

+2

+518%

#2

+3

+230%

349

-1

-51%

272

=

-25%

#4

-1

-45%

#3

-1

-9%

508

+1

-3%

214

+1

+0%

#3

-1

-45%

#4

-1

-22%

77

+2

-14%

152

-1

-32%

#7

-1

-4%

#5

-1

-26%

152

=

+13%

77

+2

+20%

#5

=

+24%

#6

+2

+48%

129

=

+22%

73

=

-1%

#6

+3

+90%

#7

+2

+43%

62

+1

-3%

61

+1

-2%

#9

-1

-17%

#8

-2

+3%

77

=

-24%

58

+1

-3%

#7

-1

-4%

#9

-2

0%

42

-2

-54%

31

-4

-61%

#10

=

+27%

#10

=

-23%

I’m putting up network scorecards again (these are for the week of October 13-19), but with the loss of Son of the Bronx’s full network ratings I can’t do household averages or median minute ratings, and with Nielsen coverage estimates no longer being consistently reported I can’t do normalized averages either. You may see me experiment with a few different methods of presenting the information in the chart; I may ultimately break primetime and total day numbers into two charts. Click here to learn more about how to read the charts. Read More »

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 6-2 v. 5-3; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Protected games: Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Seahawks-Chiefs is an option and Texans-Browns is a dark horse, but…
  • Analysis: Lions-Cardinals is clearly the best option for a flex at 6-2 v. 6-1, compared to Seahawks-Chiefs at 4-3 v. 4-3. It’s also slightly better than Patriots-Colts, but probably not enough so to overcome the tentative game bias, even in a best-case scenario (the Lions have a bye this week so the best it can do is 6-2 v. 7-1 compared to 6-3 v. 5-4), nor are either of them particularly name teams on the level of the Pats or Colts.
  • Final prediction: New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts (no change).

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-2 v. 3-4. This game is starting to look lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Protected games: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Patriots is the best option, with Cardinals-Seahawks starting to look lopsided. Lions-Patriots, though, isn’t quite a big enough game involving (in the case of the Lions) a big enough name to justify flexing out Cowboys-Giants, and may end up getting crossflexed to doubleheader-holding CBS instead (whose best game is the protected game), leaving Cardinals-Seahawks as a game without much hope of overcoming the tentative game bias. Bengals-Texans is a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 4-3. Not terribly lopsided at the moment, but doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Chargers-Ravens and Browns-Bills are the only options, and neither one is all that impressive. Could either one overcome the opportunity to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 6-2 v. 5-3. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Protected games: Steelers-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns, Ravens-Dolphins, Chiefs-Cardinals, and Bills-Broncos are all options, but none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 6-2 v. 5-2 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chargers (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills, Bengals-Browns, and Dolphins-Patriots are all options, but they would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Texans-Colts is a dark horse.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 6-1 is starting to look a mite lopsided, but what do you flex it out for?
  • Protected games: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Steelers is the only game involving two teams over .500. Ravens-Texans is a dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sochi 2014 Olympics Ratings Roundup

So, you know those Year in Review Sports Ratings Roundup posts I try to do and in fact did last year? Yeeeaaah, turns out I can only do them in odd-numbered years. While the Olympic primetime windows get all the glamor and attention, NBC’s afternoon and late night windows attract many millions of viewers as well, and SportsBusiness Daily only reports numbers for them for the weekend (and the Friday night late night window). I’d like to think the weekday windows have substantially smaller audiences than the weekend windows, especially in daytime, but I have no idea what numbers are normal for them; at best I could assume they’d do no better than eight million viewers but the ratings declines the Sochi games experienced as they went along makes any sort of estimation difficult, and the real number range could be upwards of 9M. There’s not much point in doing more than the Top Live Events list at that point.

Besides those NBC windows, I’m also missing several USA windows, especially from the second week, solely because Son of the Bronx didn’t normally cover that network when his blog was going. He did post a general “ratings recap” post on TV Media Insights, but seemed to abandon it in the second week, and doesn’t seem to have been able to do much to close the NBC gaps. The first chart below contains all the NBC numbers I know about, plus two subsets of the NBCSN coverage NBC broke out in early press releases for context. The second chart contains all the cable windows I know about. Click here to learn more about how to read the charts. Read More »

Sports Ratings Report for Week of October 6-12 and Weekend Sports Ratings for October 18-19

So I’m all set to start doing the Sports Ratings Highlights again so I don’t have to post the with-locals numbers for MNF on Twitter, and what happens? This week’s Top 25 syndicated shows on TVbytheNumbers doesn’t have MNF on it. Just my luck.

The National League playoffs may be reaping benefits for FS1’s college football coverage. Two games between one-loss teams attracted over a million viewers on Saturday. West Virginia only pulled away from Baylor in the fourth quarter to score the upset, but Oregon simply blew Washington out of the water, taking a 28-6 lead into halftime and never looking back, and that game still attracted 1.13 million viewers, only 32,000 less than Missouri-Florida on ESPN2 at the same time (admittedly that game was an even bigger blowout in favor of the Tigers).

Click here to learn more about how to read the charts. Read More »

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 7

Now with full list of protections!

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Protected games: Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Lions-Cardinals is probably the best option. Seahawks-Chiefs is a very dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 3-4. This game is starting to look lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Protected games: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS).
  • Other possible games: This was my only whiff on picking the protections; I had thought Fox would protect Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots here, but those aren’t such huge games involving such big names as to justify reducing the chance of getting Cowboys-Giants back. Lions-Patriots is the best option; Cardinals-Seahawks is now only a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. Not terribly lopsided at the moment, but doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Protected games: Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but Chargers-Ravens is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 5-2 v. 5-2. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Protected games: Steelers-Bengals (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns, Ravens-Dolphins, and Chiefs-Cardinals are dark horses, but only Bills-Broncos involves two teams over .500, and none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 6-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Protected games: Broncos-Chargers (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills is the only game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 5-1 is starting to look a mite lopsided, but what do you flex it out for?
  • Protected games: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Chiefs-Steelers is your best option at 4-3 v. 3-3. Browns-Panthers is a very dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 4-2; hard to imagine it losing its spot.
  • Likely protections: Probably nothing, but if anything Bengals-Saints (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 3-3. This game could start looking lopsided, but the Cowboys being flexed out of SNF would probably be a harbinger of the apocalypse, especially when they’re not the ones dragging it down.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically, the only real option is whatever game Fox didn’t protect, although Bengals-Texans is a dark horse.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-3. Also could start looking lopsided, and doesn’t have the Cowboys invulnerability factor.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers (FOX, confirmed).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Would that overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on?

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 5-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals (CBS, confirmed) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Browns is an option, and Bills-Broncos is a dark horse, but none of those are particularly appealing, especially given the tentative they’d have to unseat.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 5-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS, confirmed) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Bengals-Browns is the only unprotected game involving two teams over .500, and it would require an absolute collapse by one or both tentative teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1 makes for a pretty strong game, all things considered, especially given the alternatives.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and almost certainly nothing, but if anything Lions-Bears (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Browns-Panthers is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Ravens-Texans and Lions-Bears are dark horses.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Against the Tyranny of Nielsen

Last year, Nielsen announced that it would be adding “broadband-only homes” to its television ratings sample and viewing universe. This category consisted of people that not only didn’t subscribe to cable television, but didn’t even have an antenna to watch broadcast television, and thus couldn’t watch any programming on any platform that Nielsen normally measures, so their inclusion in the sample must have seemed superfluous and useless. As a result, ratings, and the estimated universe of people that could watch cable channels, fell. On the other hand, Nielsen also announced that starting this year, it would begin including online viewing of content in its TV ratings… so long as the ad load on those programs was exactly the same as when it aired live.

This unusual outcome is the result of the tension between Nielsen’s actual role in the television industry and the role it inadvertently fills as a result of it. Television networks pay Nielsen to tell them how many people are watching the ads accompanying their programming, because the ads are what are paying for the programming and the people who buy ad time want to know if they’re getting their money’s worth and where they should spend it if they want to. For most of Nielsen’s history, that meant measuring how many people were watching the programs, and as such Nielsen became the barometer for how popular America’s TV shows were.

As time-shifting became more popular, however, and as Nielsen’s measurement practices became more refined, these two purposes became increasingly at odds with one another. Today the currency in the TV industry is “C3″, or how many people are watching each minute of commercial time either live or within the first three days of DVR playback; some media buyers this year have adopted “C7″ as their currency, which is exactly what you think it is. In other words, if you fast-forward past the commercials, your viewing counts for jack all to the networks even if you’re in a Nielsen household. Neither of these are widely reported, but it doesn’t matter because most people do, in fact, fast-forward past the commercials, and waiting the amount of time it takes for the C3 or C7 ratings to come out isn’t always practical (especially if you have a ratings flop on your hands), so the live-plus-same-day ratings that are widely reported are good enough for most purposes. (Nielsen’s definition of “live” is so restrictive that there are enough same-day viewers watching enough commercials to be useful.)

Nielsen’s move to counting broadband-only homes is a direct response to criticism from outside the TV industry that Nielsen dramatically undercounts the true popularity of many shows, especially in the most valuable demographics, by not counting viewership on alternative platforms besides live TV and time-shifted DVR – an attitude that expects and assumes Nielsen to be primarily concerned with its role as barometer of shows’ popularity. But in order for measurement of online viewing to be in any way relevant to the networks that are only concerned about who’s watching the commercials they sold for those shows, Nielsen has to impose the bizarre “same ad load” requirement, which no network or online platform would put in place without the incentive of being counted in Nielsen ratings, preferring dynamic ad insertion techniques that can adjust based on a viewer’s location and Web browsing habits. I try to stay away from authenticated TV Everywhere services, but I did have occasion to use my Dad’s account to use WatchESPN recently, and I found that even there, even while watching the live feed of an ESPN channel that is supposed to be no different from watching it on television, the ads were not the same as on TV, meaning no one using WatchESPN could be counted in Nielsen ratings. Heck, there were one or two commercial breaks where no ads were inserted into the feed, and I still wasn’t getting the ads that were being shown on television, just a placeholder slide.

It is certainly true that the model of television on which Nielsen is based is becoming outdated, but the reality is that Nielsen shouldn’t have had to create such contortions to count online viewing towards its TV ratings, because no matter how many viewers aren’t being counted, as far as the networks are concerned, Nielsen is working exactly as it should. The problem is not that Nielsen is falling short on the goal it doesn’t really have to serve as barometer of the popularity of television shows; the problem is that that role is still relevant even though Nielsen should not really be concerned with filling it. The problem is that the success or failure of television shows is staked to a system that, structurally and by design, can only capture a fraction of its popularity. And this is not a problem with Nielsen, but with the networks.

The vast majority of big-budget, big-studio shows are still widely assumed to need a place on a linear television network’s schedule, to be underwritten by the network and distributed by them to the network’s audience. The network, however, only cares about the show – or at least, should only care about the show – insofar as the show can attract people to the advertisements they can intersperse throughout the show. If not enough people are watching it live to serve as a captive audience for the commercials, the network can and will cancel the show. If a show is on network television, its existence is dependent on the commercials the network airs, or else the network can cut bait and abandon the show, potentially driving it out of existence no matter how popular the show may be on platforms that don’t expose their audience to the same commercials.

Shows should not be dependent on this system, on networks that will stake the show’s existence to a particular set of commercials inserted into the network’s feed. The presence of a show on a linear television network, and thus a show’s ability to attract audiences to a linear network’s commercials, should not be a precondition for a show’s existence; rather, a show should have a presence on a linear network only if that network has reason to believe that they can sell commercials off it and attract the show’s audience to those commercials by giving them a reason to watch it “live”. We’re a long ways away from the day when a show’s presence on linear television is a recognition of its value to the network rather than a precondition of its existence – we’ll know that day has arrived when a show that originated on the Internet moves to linear TV rather than the other way around – but we’re at least seeing halting steps towards throwing off the tyranny of the linear networks and of Nielsen, through the original shows on Netflix and Amazon and through Yahoo’s recent move to give Community one last season. The arrangement between CBS and Amazon for Under the Dome also frees that show’s fate from being dependent on the Nielsen ratings, though as it happens the show has done quite well for CBS, especially for a summer show.

Just as I don’t think linear television is necessarily completely obsolete in the age of the Internet (and it may in fact be of paramount importance, if lessened compared to pre-Internet days), so I don’t think Nielsen needs to worry about its core business going under; even with the prospect of broadcast linear television colonizing mobile devices, given the appeal of that prospect to the consumer and the basic nature of the technology there will always be a place for Nielsen’s measurement methods so long as the transmission of advertising isn’t dependent on a two-way connection over the Internet. I only hope that, so long as linear television remains the primary mode of video consumption, Nielsen does not overly hobble the prospective future where it is not, and that by the time that future arrives both networks and ad buyers (and to some degree the public) will be fully aware of Nielsen’s limitations.

Weekend Sports Ratings for October 4-5

This post will eventually become home to the weekly ratings roundups I was doing for a while last year. For now, The Futon Critic lost its source for ratings a while back, and Douglas “SonOfTheBronx” Pucci has made up for it and then some on TV Media Insights, including some daytime cable shows not on the TVbytheNumbers list, and that was already making for some pretty crowded tweets on the weekends that made me start thinking about putting weekend ratings in the roundup post. Now he’s started including household ratings (and even 18-34 ratings!) for broadcast and cable shows, which has started making even my weekday tweets too crowded to bother with. I’m not even going to attempt it with the weekend, even though I’m way behind where I should be with the ratings overall. Admittedly it’s especially bad now with the baseball playoffs and both college and pro football going on; the cupboard could be quite bare in July.

I’m also giving in and listing overnight ratings just for events in broadcast daytime that don’t show up on either site, certainly not right away, just to serve as a placeholder and give a general sense of how those events did, but I’m graying out the numbers to indicate their uselessness. To get a sense of the scale here, at least for college football, Saturday Night Football got the same 2.3 overnight as the other ABC games.

Click here to learn more about how to read the charts.

Weekend Broadcast Primetime and Top Cable Sports Ratings

All information from TVByTheNumbers and TV Media Insights.

Vwr (mil) HH 18-49 Time Net
NFL: Chiefs @ 49ers
or Jets @ Chargers

19.654

11.5

6.9

10/5 4:25 PM

CBS
Sunday Night Football:
Bengals @ Patriots

19.386

11.7

7.4

10/5 8:30 PM

NBC
CFB: Nebraska @ Michigan State

4.563

2.8

1.4

10/4 8:00 PM

ABC
ALDS: Angels @ Royals, Game 3

4.35

2.6

1.2

10/5 7:30 PM

TBS
CFB: Texas A&M @ Mississippi State

4.101

 

0.6

10/4 12:00 PM

ESPN
CFB: LSU @ Auburn

3.744

 

1.3

10/4 7:00 PM

ESPN
NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400

3.601

2.3

0.7

10/5 2:00 PM

ESPN
ALDS: Orioles @ Tigers, Game 3

3.297

2.0

0.7

10/5 3:30 PM

TBS
NLDS: Giants @ Nationals, Game 2

3.16

 

0.8

10/4 5:30 PM

FS1
CFB: Arizona State @ USC

2.294

1.4

0.7

10/4 7:30 PM

FOX
CFB: Utah @ UCLA

2.027

 

0.8

10/4 10:30 PM

ESPN
NLDS: Cardinals @ Dodgers, Game 2

1.785

1.0

0.6

10/4 9:30 PM

MLBN
NASCAR Nationwide Series

1.539

 

0.4

10/4 3:30 PM

ESPN
CFB: Wisconsin @ Northwestern

1.257

 

0.3

10/4 3:30 PM

ESPN2
CFB: Miami (FL) @ Georgia Tech

1.133

 

0.4

10/4 7:30 PM

ESPN2
Liga MX

1.062

0.6

0.5

10/4 6:00 PM

Univ.
English Premier League:
Chelsea v. Arsenal

0.874

0.5

10/5 9:15 AM

NBCSN
UFC Fight Night

0.799

0.4

10/5 12:00 AM

FS1
UFC Fight Night (overflow)

0.413

0.3

0.2

10/4 10:00 PM

FX

Weekend Broadcast Daytime Overnight Sports Ratings

These numbers only incorporate data from the 56 metered markets and should not be used to infer precise final ratings. Events will generally finish in the same order, but not always. All information from Sports Media Watch.

HH Time Net
NFL: Regional coverage (or 4 PM ET)

12.8

10/5 1:00 PM

FOX
NFL: Regional coverage

11.6

10/5 1:00 PM

CBS
CFB: Alabama @ Mississippi

3.9

10/4 3:30 PM

CBS
CFB: Stanford @ Notre Dame

2.7

10/4 3:30 PM

NBC
CFB: Baylor @ Texas or
Wake Forest @ Florida State

2.3

10/4 3:30 PM

ABC
CFB: Ohio State @ Maryland

2.3

10/4 12:00 PM

ABC
CFB: Oklahoma @ TCU

1.4

10/4 3:30 PM

FOX
English Premier League:
Aston Villa v. Manchester City

0.7

10/4 12:30 PM

NBC

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 5

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that even with the bit about the early flexes, this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 5
  • In effect during Weeks 5-17
  • Up to 2 games may be flexed into Sunday Night between Weeks 5-10
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks starting Week 11, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 in 2006 and 2011, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5. As I understand it, during the Week 5-10 period the NFL and NBC declare their intention to flex out a game two weeks in advance, at which point CBS and Fox pick one game each to protect.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; ten teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Packers, Bears, 49ers, Steelers, and Saints don’t have games in the main flex period, and all have games in the early flex period. I don’t know if both of the games scheduled for 12/20 count towards the total, or only the one in primetime. NBC appearances for all teams: GB 3 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 3 (1 flexible), IND 2 (1 flexible), DEN 3 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 2 (1 semi-flexible), SF 3 (1 semi-flexible), PIT 2 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 1, NO 2 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 3 (2 flexible), CIN 1, NE 3 (2 flexible), NYG 2 (1 flexible), PHI 3 (1 flexible, 1 ?), BAL 1 (semi-flexible), KC 1 (flexible), SD 1 (flexible), ARI 1 (flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: GB 5 (2 semi-flexible), SEA 4 (1 flexible), IND 5 (1 flexible), DEN 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 flexible), CHI 5 (1 semi-flexible), SF 5 (1 semi-flexible, 1 ?), PIT 5 (1 semi-flexible), CAR 3, NO 5 (1 semi-flexible), DAL 5 (2 flexible), CIN 3, NE 5 (2 flexible), NYG 5 (1 flexible), PHI 4 (1 flexible), BAL 3 (1 semi-flexible), KC 3 (1 flexible), SD 4 (1 flexible, 1 ?), ARI 3 (1 flexible), DET 1, NYJ 3, WAS 4 (1 ?), STL 2, HOU 2, TEN 2, MIA 2, ATL 2, all other teams 1.

Briefly, here are the current early-season games and their prospects for being flexed out:

  • Week 7: San Francisco (3-2) @ Denver (3-1). The 49ers started out 1-2, but now that they’ve climbed back above .500 I don’t think you waste an early flex on this. No chance of being flexed out.
  • Week 8: Green Bay (3-2) @ New Orleans (2-3). A bit chintzy, but it is still two name teams and it’s still Aaron Rodgers v. Drew Brees.
  • Week 9: Baltimore (3-2) @ Pittsburgh (3-2). Again, not a great game, but still a marquee rivalry between two teams above .500.
  • Week 10: Chicago (2-3) @ Green Bay (3-2). Basically the same situation as Packers-Saints, except Chicago isn’t quite as big a name (but still a big market) and Jay Cutler isn’t Drew Brees. The Bears would need to look pretty bad for this game to lose its spot, but if the NFL still has one or both early flexes left they could easily burn it on this.

I held off on making this post because I wanted to find out how the new “cross-flex” system affected how protections worked, if at all; the purpose of protections is to protect the afternoon packages, so it seems to defeat the point of protections if you can protect a game from NBC only to lose it to CBS or Fox. On the other hand, that would seem to defeat the point of the cross-flex system, whose main purpose was billed as beefing up the late spot of the doubleheader, which would seem to be difficult to do if you can only move games you could move to SNF anyway (although the tentative game bias would seem to produce at least a few candidates). And then there’s the fact that some games in the flex period have already been picked for cross-flexing, meaning they could be protected by networks that wouldn’t normally have them… Regardless, for now I’m going to assume protections work as they have in seasons past, and as such here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Indianapolis
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 3-2, about the same as the remaining early-flex games. Obviously this rivalry isn’t as hot as in the Brady-Manning days, but it’s still Brady v. Luck.
  • Likely protections: Bengals-Saints if anything (CBS) and 49ers-Giants or Eagles-Packers (FOX).
  • Other possible games: With no unbeaten teams after just five weeks, you see a lot of mediocrity in the standings, as the early-flex games and this first tentative show. Besides Fox’s unprotected game, Lions-Cardinals is a possibility, and Texans-Browns is a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 3-2. The NFC East is hardly last year’s tire fire, and for once the Cowboys don’t look quite so mediocre as in years past.
  • Likely protections: Dolphins-Broncos, Bengals-Texans, or nothing (CBS) and Cardinals-Seahawks or Lions-Patriots (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Basically comes down to whatever games CBS and Fox don’t protect.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Denver @ Kansas City
  • Prospects: 3-1 v. 2-3. Possibly the most vulnerable of the tentatives, yet still has a pretty good chance to keep its spot on its own merits.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Ravens or Patriots-Packers (CBS) and Saints-Steelers if anything (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving weekend, paucity of good games, especially with Eagles-Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Browns-Bills is a dark horse, but CBS’ unprotected game is really the only good option. Doubtful that’d overcome the chance to have Peyton Manning on.

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ San Diego
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 4-1. Very strong to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Bengals, Bills-Broncos, or nothing (CBS) and Seahawks-Eagles (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Besides CBS’s unprotected game, Ravens-Dolphins and Colts-Browns are dark horses. None of those are particularly appealing.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Philadelphia
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 4-1 and an NFC East showdown. If form holds, this game has a mortal lock on this spot.
  • Likely protections: Chargers-Broncos (CBS) and 49ers-Seahawks (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Bills and Texans-Colts, both of which would require an absolute collapse by one or both teams and that still might not be enough (as many Cowboys games past have shown). Bengals-Browns and Dolphins-Patriots are dark horses.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: Seattle @ Arizona
  • Prospects: The NFL sometimes seems to put throwaway games in Week 16 and this may have seemed like one of them, but at 3-1 v. 3-1 it’s nearly on par with the previous week.
  • Likely protections: Colts-Cowboys (CBS) and Lions-Bears but more likely nothing (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Ravens-Texans is the only real option at the moment, and it hardly is one. Browns-Panthers is a dark horse.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.