Category Archives: Sports TV Ratings

The 200 Most-Watched Live Events of 2014

Yes, this is over a year late. I actually got really close to being far enough along to post this until I let things drop off to pursue other interests and eventually started spending all my time putting the book together.

If, as I’ve suggested, the only purpose of linear television going forward will be to show live events that many people want to watch at the same time, then ratings for live events become a particularly important category to look at, because they form the underpinning of everything else. So here are the 200 most-viewed live programs of 2014 to my knowledge, with the top 50 ranked.

Breaking news outside of primetime and other non-primetime news events are not counted because I couldn’t find any numbers for them. I’m also assuming no other evening news shows had audiences high enough to appear on the chart; I also assumed all non-audition episodes of American Idol were live, but marked the Hollywood and Vegas episodes with question marks. Events in red are news events; in blue are NFL games; in green are other sports events; in orange are awards shows; in purple are reality shows; and all other events are white. Read More »

How Kentucky May Have Saved Turner From Another Teamcast Fiasco

Last year Turner, in their first year airing the Final Four, decided to supplement their main coverage on TBS with two “teamcast” feeds on TNT and truTV, offering team-centric coverage of each team in each game. The result, however, was people turning on the teamcasts thinking they were the main feed and complaining about the “biased” announcers. So as much as Turner may have publicly proclaimed the Teamcasts a “success”, when they announced they would be repeating the Teamcasts this year, it was clear they would need to do more to direct people to the main feed on TBS and let them know what the purpose of the Teamcasts actually were, whether over the previous rounds of the tournament or at the Final Four itself.

Kentucky may have just done more to achieve that goal than anything Turner did or could do itself.

One of the more noteworthy elements of the Teamcast fiasco was that the vast majority of complaining tweets concerned the TNT Teamcast, and TNT’s viewership far outpaced truTV’s viewership for both teamcast games, making up a substantial chunk of the viewership for both games. Because of this, a leading theory for the cause of the Teamcast fiasco, or at least a factor that might have exacerbated it, was that people associated TNT with “the basketball channel”, not making the association Turner wanted them to make with TBS as the network for college basketball. To me, this only made sense if it only applied to those people that hadn’t watched TBS’ coverage of the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight; if they had watched those games, they could have probably figured out that TBS was airing games in rounds TNT wasn’t, and was likely to continue doing so into the Final Four. But the numbers back that up as well: TBS’ Elite Eight games last year had viewership numbers of 9.97 million and 7.2 million. The Final Four games had audiences of 10.39 million and 7.1 million on TBS alone. In other words, Kentucky/Wisconsin didn’t improve much over the Elite Eight numbers on TBS alone, and Connecticut/Florida did worse on TBS alone than either Elite Eight game. The Teamcast confusion primarily affected people parachuting in for the Final Four without necessarily having watched much of anything from the earlier rounds.

Fast forward to this year, when Kentucky played Notre Dame in a thrilling fight to the finish with Kentucky’s perfect season on the line on TBS. The result was a game that attracted an 8.4 household rating and 14.7 million viewers, the highest-rated and most-watched college basketball game on a single network in cable history (which opens up a whole other can of gripes for me, but whatever). That’s 14.7 million viewers with no choice but to turn on TBS to watch the game, and 19.7 million tuning in during the quarter-hour starting at 10:45 PM. To put that in perspective, Connecticut-Florida only attracted 11.65 million viewers last year across all networks, while Kentucky-Wisconsin attracted 16.25 million.

How many of those millions of people that turned on TBS to watch Kentucky-Notre Dame will now know to turn on TBS to watch the Final Four? We’ll know in a week’s time how this year’s Teamcast (or “Team Stream” as it’s being billed this year) works out; ideally both games would see the vast majority of their audience flip to TBS and leave tiny portions of the audience on TNT and truTV. But if Duke-Michigan State sees most of its audience turn on TBS, but Kentucky-Wisconsin sees only about 13 million or so people turn on TBS, we’ll know any improvement in TBS’ numbers vis-a-vis the teamcasts will have had more to do with the Kentucky-Notre Dame game than anything intentional on CBS or Turner’s part. Even that, though, would still be a massive improvement over last year.

2014 Boxing Ratings Wrap-Up

Putting together a list of the most-watched boxing fights of the year by myself poses a unique challenge. Both HBO and Showtime break up their boxing cards into multiple parts for ratings purposes that include both actual fights and bridge segments between fights, and to someone like me who’s just looking at the raw numbers it’s not at all clear which is which, especially when fights end in early knockouts – if you look at the chart you see I’ve listed two different time slots for one fight because I’m not sure my primary source identified which one was the actual fight correctly. I’m confident enough in the completeness of my sources that next year I’m probably going to do a chronological list of fight cards, similar to what I had for UFC last year, with all the numbers I have for them, and let you interpret them as you will. In the meantime, I’m going to take Dan Rafael’s top 16 fights of 2014 and use that as a baseline to extend the list as far as I can be reasonably confident in to a top 20, though I can’t be 100% certain there isn’t an interloper in the bottom four spots. The second table lists buyrates for all the PPV cards of 2014.

18-49 ratings, when available, from TV by the Numbers, TV Media Insights, or other sources. Household ratings for HBO/Showtime fights from SportsBusiness Daily, for ESPN from Son of the Bronx. Read More »

2014 NASCAR Ratings Wrap-Up

Here are the ratings for every NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series race in the 2014 season.

Despite the disruption caused by the rain-delayed Daytona 500, every race on Fox to actually run (that I know of) outrated every race not on Fox, and as usual the four March races outrated every non-Daytona race. The most-watched race not on Fox was the Ford EcoBoost 400 on ESPN, followed by the Oral-B 500, with the Brickyard 400 falling to third; ABC’s most-watched race was the Bank of America 500, followed by the Irwin Tools Night Race. TNT’s most-watched race, the Toyota/Save Mart 350, fell behind eleven ESPN/ABC races including four Chase races and all three of ABC’s races. Due to rain delays, the Coke Zero 400 went from TNT’s most-viewed race to its second-least viewed.

Do not take this to necessarily mean the new Chase format is winning people over, however. The first four Chase races were ESPN’s least-viewed races of the year and only beat one other race, the Quaker State 400 on TNT, and five of the first seven Chase races filled out ESPN’s bottom five spots. ESPN’s least-viewed non-Chase race was the Gobowling.com 400, which fell behind only two TNT races. The Quaker State 400 finished only 50,000 viewers ahead of the Sprint Unlimited in its first year moved to Fox Sports 1.

On the Nationwide side of the ledger, the most-watched non-Daytona race was the Aaron’s 312, followed by the Gardner Denver 200 on ABC. ESPN2 had the fourth-most watched race, but it was the third race of the year overall. The least-watched race not to have a significant portion air on ESPNEWS was the Buckle Up 200 on May 31.

Ratings for races on broadcast from SportsBusiness Daily, Sports Media Watch, or for primetime races, The Futon Critic or TV Media Insights. Ratings for races on cable from Son of the Bronx/Awful Announcing, with some information from SportsBusiness Daily. 18-49 ratings, when available, from TVbytheNumbers, The Futon Critic, or TV Media Insights. Read More »

2014 MLB Postseason Ratings Wrap-Up

Here are the viewership numbers for every game of the MLB postseason sorted by viewership. Game 7 of the World Series had more than ten million more viewers than the next-most viewed baseball game of the year.

The move of half of the pre-World Series portion of the postseason to Fox Sports 1, with one wild card game moving to ESPN, had a tremendous impact on the ratings. Only two non-World Series games, both ALCS games on TBS, had more viewers than ESPN’s Wild Card game, and only one other game beat TBS’ Wild Card game, and that only if Fox Sports 1’s analytics-based telecast of NLCS Game 1 is included in the numbers. FS1 was able to draw a larger audience to its most-watched broadcast ever, NLCS Game 4, than Fox alone drew to NLCS Game 1 (both had over five million viewers), and thanks to drawing the big-name Giants and Cardinals in contrast to the ALCS’ Orioles-Royals series, four out of five NLCS games drew a larger audience than all of TBS’ ALDS or non-primetime ALCS games, but none of FS1’s NLDS games could beat more than one primetime ALDS game, Royals-Angels Game 2, which had 3.414 million viewers.

The most-watched non-primetime game was Game 2 of the ALCS with 4.25 million viewers; the most-watched non-primetime Division Series game was Tigers-Orioles Game 1 with almost four million viewers, which started at 5:30 PM ET, followed by Orioles-Tigers Game 3 with 3.297 million viewers. Depending on definition, FS1’s most-watched non-primetime game was either Dodgers-Cardinals Game 4 at 5 PM ET with 3.267 million viewers, or Cardinals-Giants Game 3 with 2.779 million viewers, by far the smallest audience of the League Championship Series. Giants-Nationals Game 1, at just over two million viewers, was FS1’s only other non-primetime game, the least viewed non-MLBN game of the postseason, and the only FS1 game to be beaten by TBS’ least-viewed postseason game, Tigers-Orioles Game 2, a noon start that attracted 2.261 million viewers. The least-viewed non-MLBN primetime game was Dodgers-Cardinals Game 3 with 2.887 million viewers.

26 games had more viewers than the most-watched regular season game window of the season, with Dodgers-Cardinals Game 3 beating every regular season game window that wasn’t World Cup-inflated. For perspective, 30 games aired on Fox, TBS, ESPN, and FS1, all but two of which beat every non-World-Cup-inflated regular season game on ESPN.

Of MLB Network’s two games, Nationals-Giants Game 3 attracted a larger audience with 1.838 million viewers, with Cardinals-Dodgers Game 2 lagging behind with 1.785 million viewers. Both games beat last year’s MLBN games by substantial margins (last year’s most-watched MLBN game had less than a million viewers), and both games broke the previous record for the most-watched game in MLBN history, Tigers-Athletics Game 2 in 2012, which had had around 1.3 million viewers. Both games aired later in the day than previous MLBN postseason games, and Cardinals-Dodgers Game 2 competed with an extra-inning game on FS1 for much of the game, so it finished lower despite airing more of the game in primetime. Only 19 regular season windows on any network beat Nationals-Giants Game 3, including no non-“Sunday Night Baseball” ESPN windows, and that only if the YES Network audience for Derek Jeter’s final home game is combined with the MLBN audience. Only one additional regular season window beat Cardinals-Dodgers Game 2.

Only four regular season games on MLBN, probably all involving the Yankees, beat MLBN’s overflow coverage of Cardinals-Dodgers Game 1. FS2’s overflow coverage of the same game became, at the time, the ninth most-watched program in the network’s history, including its days as Fuel, and the fourth most-watched program since relaunching as FS2. To my knowledge, only one regular-season game not on Fox, ESPN, or ESPN2 beat the combined audience for the overflow coverage on both networks.

All numbers from TVbytheNumbers, TV Media Insights, and Awful Announcing. Some Fox household ratings from SportsBusiness Daily. Read More »

Weekend Sports Ratings for January 24-25

As I acknowledged a while back, the only three networks that can regularly top 100,000 viewers for their studio shows are ESPN, ESPN2, and NFL Network, making it pointless to do a daily Studio Show Scorecard until other networks can at least reach that threshold. Until then, there really isn’t any competition for ESPN. In the meantime, I’m going to work on templates for a couple different formats for this post. This one I’m already pretty sure I won’t be using, at least before the studio shows justify the scorecard, as it’s proved too time-consuming.

Most viewership numbers for events on cable from Sports TV Ratings, 18-49 numbers from TV Recaps and Reviews or TVbytheNumbers. All ratings for primetime events on broadcast from TV Media Insights, overnights for daytime events from ShowBuzz Daily. Read More »

2014 MLB Regular Season Ratings Wrap-Up

Putting this post together was a mess. This year coincided with the Son of the Bronx shutdown, which affected MLB far more than other sports, and while I did lean on the guy to provide MLB Network and other baseball ratings from the “gap” I didn’t realize he would only provide the top five shows on MLB Network his first few weeks on Awful Announcing, probably not enough to cover every game. His early days at AA also coincided with the World Cup dominating ESPN’s top ten, meaning I might not even have every ESPN window with over a million viewers. Conversely, he started including numbers for the TBS game late in the season (which does about as well as a medium-high MLBN game, in other words, even worse than I thought) but not quite throughout TBS’ portion of the season.

Still, here’s every MLB game I do have numbers for. A couple of factors led me to not split this post up into two parts like I did last year. First, the new TV contract meant each Saturday had at least one game on Fox Sports 1 (as Fox broadcast’s schedule compressed down to just Baseball Night in America and some September windows), and with no one knowing where FS1 was until the postseason (and only needing to find out if their team on a Fox RSN had a “regional elevate” game), many FS1 games, especially those that weren’t regional elevates, had numbers on par with MLBN games. The other, of course, was having access to TBS figures. In addition, there seemed to be more games scheduled for ESPN2 than last year, and they got some bad ratings, on par with those other three networks I just mentioned. Finally, with Derek Jeter’s last home game getting a million viewers just on YES, I rolled its numbers up with MLB Network’s figures, and the result is a game that had more viewers than any window that wasn’t on Fox or Sunday Night Baseball, before MASN’s Orioles broadcast is even factored in. Counting an RSN might be a dicey proposition – those numbers aren’t widely available for most games, and the most-watched games across RSNs and (if applicable) national telecasts would quickly fill up with Yankees and Red Sox games – but it’s ultimately the same principle as including local simulcasts of cable NFL games, and this was truly rarified air.

Numbers on cable where household ratings are available or where 18-49 ratings are not, including all games on TBS or MLB Network, from Son of the Bronx or Awful Announcing. Numbers on broadcast from SportsBusiness Daily or Sports Media Watch. 18-49 numbers, where available, from TVbytheNumbers, The Futon Critic, or TV Media Insights. Read More »

Overall Sports Network Ratings for 2014

Primetime – 2014
Vwr
(000)
18-49
(000)

1

2321

1010

=

+6%

#1

2

469

174

=

-2%

#3

3

385

181

=

-4%

#2

4

340

140

+1

+46%

#5

5

300

142

-1

+8%

#4

6

132

46

=

-6%

#8

7

128

62

+1

+10%

#6

8

123

35

-1

-11%

#10

9

106

44

=

-8%

#9

10

100

49

=

-4%

#7

Total Day – 2014
Vwr
(000)
18-49
(000)

1

1016

505

=

+5%

#1

2

274

127

=

0%

#2

3

164

84

=

+2%

#3

4

148

68

+2

+57%

#4

5

131

52

-1

+10%

#5

6

100

22

-1

-7%

#10

7

71

27

=

+4%

#8

8

62

26

+1

+3%

#9

9

60

33

-1

-8%

#6

10

58

31

=

+5%

#7

This is a little later than I’d hoped because I hoped to get comparable year-to-year measures in overall rank from TVNewser, but their year-end wrap-up only had “preliminary” yearly averages through December 23rd. The Nielsen year always begins on Monday and ends on Sunday, so it was always going to stop short of the calendar year, but it still should have run through the 28th.

ESPN nudged ahead of USA Network to take the top spot in primetime viewership in all of cable for the first time ever. ESPN had some increases in the raw numbers, but the real cause of ESPN’s jump was USA losing a fifth of its audience. Did WWE Raw, USA’s flagship show, fall off a cliff in the ratings? Did USA lose other popular shows from 2013 to 2014? I don’t know.

Last year FS1, spending most of the year as Speed, had the edge over NBCSN in total day but NBCSN had the edge in primetime. This time it’s the reverse: FS1 jumped up in both measures and was the fastest-growing sports network in primetime (coming almost as close to NFL Network as it was to NBCSN) with the addition of the baseball playoffs, but NBCSN shot past not only FS1 but corporate sibling Golf Channel as the fastest growing network in total day thanks to the Winter Olympics, but new records for Premier League and Formula One coverage also helped tremendously. NBATV also jumped ahead of Golf Channel in primetime; NBATV had its most-watched programs ever during the NBA playoffs, but did Golf Channel see some of its primetime shows, like reality show Big Break, slip in the ratings? ESPNU also nudged ahead of ESPNEWS in total day, another milestone in the continuing burial of ESPNEWS.

The 18-49 rankings in primetime see a lot of changes from the overall rankings; NFL Network leaps ahead of ESPN2, FS1 and NBCSN swap places again thanks to FS1’s reliance on old-skewing baseball, and Golf Channel and MLB Network take a tumble while NBATV and ESPNEWS shoot up. By contrast, the 18-49 total-day rankings mostly mirror the overall rankings, except that Golf Channel skews particularly old, with under a quarter of its audience in the money demo. MLB Network and ESPNU also skew old compared to the others, which except for “the insurgents” (NBCSN and FS1) have half or more of their total-day audience coming from 18-49. Most networks seem to skew older in primetime than in total day. (All 18-49 numbers from here.)

Not shown: Fox Sports 2’s ratings, already pathetic, actually slipped by a third in both measures from last year when it was Fuel for most of the year, as what little attractive events it had, mostly UFC cards, moved to FS1. Many of FS2’s most popular shows in 2014 were actually overflow from FS1.

After the jump, charts, based on SportsBusiness Daily’s numbers here and elsewhere, so you can see how all this has changed over time! Read More »

The Top 20 Most-Watched Shows of Fox Sports 1’s First Year

My hope for this post was to encompass everything from the first year of Fox Sports 1 to get a good sense of a “typical” year in the life of FS1, even if it didn’t have the MLB playoffs, the World Cup, or US Open, before the same event from multiple years layered on top of each other, and I hoped to go as deep as I did for my ESPNU post. But this was the year of the Son of the Bronx shutdown and subsequent move to Awful Announcing – which might not be so bad, except the “gap” between the two coincided with NASCAR’s All-Star Race weekend, and NASCAR skews so old that a Camping World Truck Series race that weekend that had over a million viewers didn’t show up on the TVbytheNumbers list, so I can’t be completely sure I even have every program with over a million viewers. (In any case, we already know the Speed audience remains a disproportionate portion of the FS1 audience; the top five shows are all NASCAR programming, and the next two are Fox Sports Live editions following NASCAR programming, which I now suspect got such great retention using the same trick FSL used during the baseball playoffs of cutting to FSL as soon as possible after the race ends.) I might maintain a regularly-updated page of FS1’s ratings like I was going to do for ESPNU, or I might not; I do know I’ll repost this list, somewhere, once I get caught up and can include e.g. the MLB playoffs. Underlined events spent time as the most-watched show in FS1 history.

   

Vwr (mil)

HH

18-49

Time

1

NASCAR: Sprint Unlimited

3.526

2.0

0.9

2/15 8:00 PM

2

NASCAR All-Star Race

3.482

2.2

0.8

5/17 8:40 PM

3

NASCAR: Food City 500
(post-rain delay portion)

3.227

2.0

0.9

3/16 7:00 PM

4

NASCAR: Budweiser Duels

3.122

1.9

0.8

2/20 7:00 PM

5

NASCAR Winner’s Circle

2.863

1.6

0.9

3/16 9:30 PM

6

Fox Sports Live

2.584

 

0.6

5/17 11:21 PM

7

Fox Sports Live

2.272

1.4

0.6

2/20 10:00 PM

8

CFB: Oregon @ Oregon State

2.179

1.3

0.6

11/29 7:00 PM

9

CFB: Oklahoma @ Baylor

2.11

1.3

0.7

11/7 7:30 PM

10

NASCAR All-Star Race Qualifying

2.014

  

0.5

5/17 7:02 PM

11

UFC Fight Night: Shogun v. Sonnen

1.782

1.0

 

8/17 8:00 PM

12

CFB: Oregon @ Washington

1.765

1.0

  

10/12 4:00 PM

13

UFC 168 Prelims

1.554

0.8

0.8

12/28 8:00 PM

14

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

1.502

0.9

0.3

2/21 8:00 PM

15

UFC Fight Night

1.4

0.8

0.6

2/15 10:30 PM

16

NASCAR RaceDay

1.357

0.8

 

2/15 6:25 PM

17

NASCAR: Sprint Showdown

1.217

  

0.2

May 16

17

UFC Fight Night

1.217

0.6

0.6

6/7 10:00 PM

19

NASCAR Victory Lane

1.19

0.7

0.3

3/16 9:41 PM

20

CFB: Washington State @ Oregon

1.135

0.6

0.4

10/19 10:00 PM

2014 FIFA World Cup Ratings Wrap-Up

Here are the numbers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in English and Spanish as far as I can determine given the severe constraints I had to work with. I complained last year about SportsBusiness Daily mysteriously completely dropping Univision’s numbers for the FIFA Confederations Cup, but this year the problem was much worse, because it’s the World Cup it dropped, including many of the most popular matches in the history of American Spanish-language television. Here’s hoping this madness ends with Telemundo taking over the World Cup. At least I managed to get enough numbers for the knockout stages that I’m fairly confident I have data for every knockout stage match over 3 million on Univision, but the group stage, especially the later part of the group stage, is more problematic; I have to assume I have every match with an audience over 5 million, but that might be a dicey proposition. Even the matches I do have I don’t have anything beyond the ten-thousands place, and I only have that much because of Sports Media Watch’s year-end ratings wrapup and doing the math based on the ESPN match-portion numbers.

Oh yes, that. ESPN wanted any mention of records or the actual ratings each match received to refer to the “match portion” of each window starting at the top of the hour, excluding the 30-minute pregame show, which SportsBusiness Daily and Sports Media Watch obliged them, but the official time slots according to Nielsen, which are thus more widely available from sites like Awful Announcing or TVbytheNumbers, include the pregame show, which could be as long as an hour if the United States was playing. To make matters worse, ESPN’s press releases tended to put out those match-portion numbers based on the fast nationals I don’t trust, which SMW ended up going with. So I had to hope each match finished in the top ten sports events on cable for the week to show up on SBD, and if it didn’t, hope ESPN reported numbers in its press releases or SMW found them out in other ways, or be stuck with the full-window numbers. And because the World Cup coincided with Douglas “Son of the Bronx” Pucci’s early days at Awful Announcing, when he was just posting top tens for each network with anything else being by request only, if a match was particularly lightly viewed I couldn’t even count on that.

Numbers for matches on ABC, as well as most ESPN match portions not marked as being fast nationals, from SportsBusiness Daily or Sports Media Watch. Other ESPN match portions from ESPN press releases. Numbers for ESPN full windows from Awful Announcing (household ratings) and TVbytheNumbers (18-49 ratings). Numbers in Spanish from Univision press releases and Sports Media Watch. Read More »