Ratings Roundup: Euro Soccer Strikes Gold in States; Rangers-Caps Nail-Biter Lights Ratings Lamp

European soccer had a heck of a couple weeks here in the States, showing the nation’s growing hunger for elite “football.”

Monday’s Manchester derby on ESPN, a 1-0 home win for Manchester City over Manchester United Premier League showdown, averaged 1.033 million viewers (832,000 television homes), based on a 0.8 rating, making it the most-watched Premiership telecast on U.S. cable television (previous record was 610,000 for Arsenal-Chelsea on ESPN2 on Dec. 27, 2010). It was also the most-viewed Premier League telecast on ESPN Deportes, earing 4.0 Hispanic coverage rating and 273,000 Hispanic viewers. (previous high was 2.5 and 183,000) for Blackburn-Man United on April 2, 2012).

All four English and Spanish UEFA Champions League semifinal telecasts on Fox networks in April averaged 1.033 million viewers, up 29% from a year ago (800,000). Barcelona-Chelsea on April 24 in English on FOX Soccer, recorded 438,000 total viewers, up 71% (256,000, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona). Combined, FOX Soccer and FOX Deportes drew 983,000 total viewers, up 20% (822,000).

On April 25, the second semifinal between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich attracted an FX soccer record or 627,000 viewers, beating the 592,000 viewers that saw Chelsea host Barcelona on April 18 and up 104% (308,000 for Manchester United vs. FC Schalke). Combined, FX and FOX Deportes drew 1.236 million vs. the 1.1 million combined audience from April 18, making Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich the most-watched UEFA Champions League non-final match in history…

…NBC Sports Network’s coverage of the Game 3 triple-OT nail-biter between the Rangers and Capitals on Wednesday drew 1.85 million viewers, easily topping Game 2 of the series as the most watched game of the playoffs on cable. It marked the second most-watched non-Final game ever on the network, save for Bruins/Lightning Game 7 last year. It beats out all other games from last year’s playoffs and was the second most-watched non-Stanley Cup game since the lockout on cable.

Locally, the game scored record ratings in New York, where it drew a 3.99, highest for any NHL game ever on NBC Sports Net. It was also up 93% from VERSUS’ exclusive broadcasts of the Rangers/Penguins series in 2008, the last time New York made it to the semifinals. In Washington DC, the game drew a 6.8, up 6% over the exclusive broadcasts from last year’s Lightning/Capitals semifinal series…

…NASCAR on FOX hit a record low last Saturday night, as the Sprint Cup Capital City 400 from Richmond drew a 3.6 final rating and 5.914 million viewers, down 3% in ratings and 4% in viewership from last year’s race (3.7, 6.138M). The race ties the 2009 Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix as the lowest rated NASCAR Sprint Cup telecast ever on FOX (dates back to 2001). In addition, this marks the lowest rated and least-viewed edition of the spring Richmond race since 2006, when it aired on cable network FX (3.4, 5.633M). Despite the lower numbers, the race was the highest rated and most-viewed sports telecast of the weekend…

…FOX is scoring with MLB players this season, with ratings on the company’s RSNs up 20% to start this season. Overall, ten FOX RSNS are up year-to-year in April including FOX Sports Southwest, where the Rangers have propelled local ratings to a 7.5, up 89% compared to a April 2011. Other local spikes include Prime Ticket, which is up 67% to a 2.3 for Dodgers games, FOX Sports Arizona, up 54% to a 4.2 for the Diamondbacks, and FOX Sports Detroit, up 50% with a 9.2 for the Tigers…

… Of the first eight primetime NBA playoff games on TNT this year (Sunday-Wednesday), six have had declines in viewership compared to last year.

A quick roundup of the numbers for the NBA Playoffs first round thus far:

Game 1 of the Knicks/Heat first round NBA playoff series drew a 3.1 final rating and 4.752 million viewers on ABC on Saturday, up slightly from last year’s Sixers/Heat Game 1 last year (3.0, 4.546M) and the most-viewed first Playoff Saturday game (on broadcast) since Supersonics/Spurs Game 1 on NBC in 2002 (4.946M).

On Sunday on ABC, Game 1 of the Nuggets/Lakers series drew a 3.3 final rating and 4.882 million viewers — down 11% in ratings and 18% in viewership from Hornets/Lakers Game 1 last year (3.7, 5.950M).

Game 1 of the Mavericks/Thunder NBA playoff series drew 4.115 million viewers on ESPN Saturday night, up 19% from Trail Blazers/Mavericks Game 1 last year (3.456M).

On Sunday, Game 1 between the Jazz and Spurs drew 3.197 million viewers — up 13% from Grizzlies/Spurs Game 1 on TNT last year (2.836M).

Game 2 of the Jazz/Spurs first round NBA playoff series drew just 1.811 million viewers on TNT Wednesday night, down 45% from Nuggets/Thunder Game 2 last year (3.292M). The game ranks as the least-viewed NBA playoff game on ABC, ESPN or TNT since Magic/Bobcats Game 4 in 2010 (1.678M).

Later Wednesday night, Game 2 of the Clippers/Grizzlies posted a 3.137 million viewers, down 41% from Hornets/Lakers Game 2 last year (5.352M), but up 3% from Spurs/Mavericks Game 2 in 2010 (3.059M).

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