Ratings Roundup: LeBron Gives ESPN Highest Overnight of the Year for Non-NFL Program

LeBron James’s decision to depart the city of Cleveland for the beaches of Miami may not have gone over well with most sports fans, but it reeled them in nonetheless. ESPN’s telecast of The Decision, in which James announced his decision to join fellow NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat, generated a 7.3 overnight rating, the highest for any non-NFL ESPN program this calendar year. Additionally, the ESPN telecast was the highest-rated program of the night for cable or broadcast.

The telecast peaked at a 9.6 rating in the 9:15-9:30 p.m. period, when James officially made the announcement. The top three markets were Cleveland (26.0 metered-market rating); Columbus, Ohio (14.2); and Miami (12.8). Chicago ranked sixth with a 10.7 rating, New York seventh with a 10.4.

The Decision trounced ESPN’s ratings for exclusive interviews with Tiger Woods on March 21 (0.4 rating, 0.8 peak) and with Alex Rodriguez on Feb. 9, 2009 (a 0.9 rating).

After 62 of the 64 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, ESPN networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) have averaged a 1.9 U.S. rating, up 36% from 1.4 through the same point – the semifinals – in 2006.  The average household audience is up 41% (from 1,575,000 to 2,227,000) and the viewer audience (P2+) is up 45% (from 2,057,000 to 2,984,000).

Up against the World Cup and a baseball season in full swing, Wimbledon got lost in the TV sports shuffle this year, logging dismal numbers for the Men’s and Women’s Finals last weekend. Serena Williams’s second-straight Wimbledon win averaged a 1.8 household rating on Saturday, down a third from last year’s 2.7, when Serena defeated older sister Venus. The men’s final struggled as well, with Rafael Nadal’s three-set victory over Tomas Berdych posting a 1.9 rating, down a whopping 55% from Roger Federer’s epic five-set, 77-game win over Andy Roddick in 2009 (4.2).

Through the first four days of the three-week-long Tour de France, Versus’ morning coverage is averaging 484,000 viewers, up 16 percent from the comparable period a year ago. Cumulatively, Versus has delivered 1.16 million viewers in its first four days of live coverage, a five percent increase from last year’s 1.1 million.

TNT posted solid ratings increases for its coverage of NASCAR’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, FL, on Saturday July 3. The race earned a 3.6 U.S. household rating, up 16% from last year. In addition, total viewers and households were up 16% each, with total viewers at 6.127 million (5.277 million in 2009) and households at 4.152 million (3.567 million in 2009). The race was the number-one program of the night in households, total viewers, and key adult and male demos, as well as the number-one cable program of the week in households, total viewers, and men 25-54.

Landon Donovan’s first MLS match since team USA’s loss to Ghana in the World Cup drew 391,000 viewers, up 87 percent from a year-ago meeting between DC United and the Columbus Crew (209,000 viewers). The July 4 Galaxy-Seattle Sounders match marks the most-watched MLS game so far this season.

The final round of the AT&T National golf tournament on CBS Sunday drew a 1.9 overnight rating, down 59% from Tiger Woods’s win last year (4.6) and up 27% from 2008. The 1.9 is the lowest overnight rating this year for a tournament involving Woods, who finished tied for 46th.

The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest attracted 1.677 million viewers on ESPN July 4, up 25% from last year (1.340 million).

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