Ratings Roundup: Daytona 500 Powers Through the Rain for Fox; PGA Tour Going Gangbusters

After a day-and-a-half of rain delays the Fox finally dropped the green flag on the Daytona 500 on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET, the first time that the Great American Race has aired in primetime. While it may not have been the most ideal circumstances, Fox won the night and notched its most-watched Monday night since the World Series with an 8.0/14 rating/share and 13.7 million viewers. That is down down 8% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (8.7, 15.597M), but up 4% and 3%, respectively, from 2010 (7.7, 13.294M).

A total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched at least a portion of the race, making 2012 Daytona 500 the most-watched since Fox acquired the rights to the race in 2002 and the second most watched on any network behind 37.0 million viewers in 2006 on NBC. That total audience is up 22% over last year (30 million) and up 22% over 2010 (29.8 million).

FOX won the primetime night among Adults 18-49 and total audience figures, beating original programming on other broadcast networks averaging a 4.6 rating and 14.1 million viewers from 8:00 – 11:00 PM ET.

Ratings for the race climbed to 8.2/12 (14.2 million viewers) in the 9:30 half-hour when the Juan Pablo Montoya suffered a fiery crash. Ratings grew further at 10:00 PM, peaking at an 8.8/13 (15.1 million viewers)…

…The main event wasn’t the only race last weekend to draw big numbers as, ESPN coverage of NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25 was the most watched Nationwide race ever on cable, averaging 4.4 million viwers.  The race posted a HH rating of 3.3, averaging 4,433,249 viewers in 3,304,012 households, breaking the record of 4,271,365 viewers in 3,170,109 households set for ESPN’s telecast of the Daytona race in 2010. Ratings and viewership for the Daytona telecast were up 37 percent from ESPN’s telecast of last year’s race, which earned a 2.4 household coverage rating and averaged 3,246,875 viewers…

…The Masters has yet to even tee off yet, but the PGA Tour is in full swing judging by the early ratings this season. Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Northern Trust Open earned a 4.2 final rating and 6.234 million viewers on CBS February 19, up 83% in ratings and 77% in viewership from last year (2.3, 3.533M), and the highest rated, most-viewed edition of the event since 2003 (4.6, 6.521M, ABC).

The Northern Trust Open was the third straight PGA Tour final round telecast to have a double-digit increase in ratings and viewership compared to the previous year, following the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on February 12 (up 113% in ratings and 115% in viewership) and the Phoenix Open on February 5 (up 11% and 14%, respectively). The only dud this season was the Farmers Insurance Open, which suffered declines of 49% in ratings and 51% in viewership for final round coverage on January 29.

The first four PGA Tour events of the season on broadcast, all of which aired on CBS, averaged a 2.6 rating and 3.8 million viewers — up 24% and 19%, respectively from last year (2.1, 3.2M)…

…The NBA has seen substantial ratings increases this season, but the sad-sack New Jersey Nets have apparently not been invited to the party. As a losing team trudging through its final team in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn, the nets have by far the lowest TV ratings in the league, a 0.38 on the YES Network at the halfway point. Second-worst is the Washington Wizards, at 1.13 – or triple the Nets’ rating. In terms of viewership, The Nets average 28,000 viewers per game, about one-fifth of what the nearby New York Knicks are averaging as a result of the Jeremy Lin phenomenon (149,000 viewers per game including 181,000 per game since Lin emerged). On a brighter note, the Nets were at 22,000 viewers and a 0.29 rating in 2010-11, so they are improving. But they are headed for a three-peat as NBA’s lowest-rated team…

…NBA TV had its most viewed February of all-time and continues to post record ratings growth for its regular season game schedule.  In February, the network averaged 312,000 total viewers (+21%) and 247,000 households (+22%) for 22 games compared to the same time period last year.  NBA TV continues to average the youngest median age (34.5) of any sports network…

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