Ratings Roundup: ESPN Open MLB Season Up 48% Over 2014; MLB Network Scores Most Watched Opening Day

ESPN’s 2015 Major League Baseball season-opening viewership is up 48% compared to 2014. Through five games – MLB Opening Night and a MLB Opening Day quadruple-header – ESPN is averaging 1,370,000 viewers (p2+) compared to 926,000 in 2014. ESPN is also up 50% in U.S. household rating (0.9 versus 0.6) compared to last year.

ESPN and ESPN2 combined to televise a four-game MLB Opening Day slate on Monday, April 6, which was up 21% in viewership compared to the company’s five-game Opening Day slate in 2014 (803,000 versus 666,000). Additionally, the composite rating for MLB Opening Day was a 0.6 (U.S household) up 20% versus a 0.5 (U.S. household) in 2014.

ESPN2’s MLB Opening Night – featuring St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs – on Sunday, April 5, delivered 3,354,000 viewers and a 2.0 U.S. household rating. This is up 47% from 2,279,000 viewers and 43% from 1.4 U.S. household rating compared to Opening Night 2014 – Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres. On the digital front, Opening Night had 163,000 unique viewers (an increase of 180% from last year) and 8.6 million minutes viewed (up 218%), which makes it the most-viewed regular-season MLB game ever on WatchESPN…

…MLB Network, which presented 17 consecutive hours of live studio coverage that included the premiere of the regular season morning show MLB Central, earned its most-watched Opening Day ever. The Network’s viewership for the day rose 16% higher than Opening Day 2014, peaking with 222,000 viewers during MLB Tonight at 7 p.m.. In addition, the debut of MLB Central at 10 a.m, grew the time period’s total viewing average by 33% over 2014…

…Opening day also generated increases for Fox Sports RSN’s. FOX Sports San Diego (SD 3, LAD 6) earned its highest-rated game ever on FOX Sports San Diego (5.4 HH rating) and +34% in viewership over last year’s opener. FOX Sports Kansas City (KC 10, CWS 1) notched its highest-rated Royals season-opener ever (11.7 HH rating) and +89% higher than the 2014 home opener (6.2 HH rating). FOX Sports Ohio (PIT 2, CIN 5) generated a 18.63 HH rating on FOX Sports Ohio in simulcast with WKRC, up slightly over last year’s home opener (18.37 HH). FOX Sports Detroit (MIN 0, DET 4) scored a 13.8 HH rating and was #2-rated program of the entire day in Detroit, behind only the NCAA Championship game. SportsTime Ohio (HOU 2, CLE 0) delivered a 5.7 HH rating, beating ESPN’s rating for the same game by 58% (3.6 HH rating). FOX Sports Florida (MIA 1, ATL 2) earned a 2.6 HH rating, +35% in viewership over last year’s home opener, making it the most watched Marlins’ Opening Day on FOX Sports Florida since 2011. FOX Sports South (MIA 1, ATL 2) posted a 3.32 HH rating, out pacing last year’s opener by 54%. YES Network (TOR 6, NYY ) earned a 4.03 HH rating, +8% in viewership over last year’s home opener and recorded a 146% increase in Persons 18-34 with a 102% increase in Males 18-34. FOX Sports Arizona (SF 5, ARI 4) scored a 3.7 HH rating, beating ESPN2’s 1.2 HH rating for the same game by 280%. FOX Sports Southwest (TEX 0, OAK 8) produced a 2.80 HH rating, +25% compared to the Rangers 2014 season average…

…The MLB opener comes on the heels of a big first quarter for ESPN and ESPN2, which were each up double digits in average 24-hour audience for the first quarter, which ended this past weekend.  In addition, the total combined audience for ESPN’s six measured networks was an average of 1,468,000 people, an increase of 9% over 2014 (1,346,000).

ESPN was up 11%, averaging more than a million viewers at any time – 1,033,000, up from 931,000.  The quarter got off to a tremendous start with the new College Football Playoff semifinals and championship drawing the three largest audiences in cable television history, topped by the 33,395,000 viewer average for the National Championship Game, won by Ohio State over Oregon.  January was also boosted by the addition of an NFL wild card playoff game and the return of the NFL Pro Bowl.

ESPN2’s average audience was up 10%, at 282,000 viewers, up from 257,000.  In addition to the network’s  highest rating in history for the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day (a 3.8 for Wisconsin’s overtime victory over Auburn), its weekday studio programming continued to perform strongly (Mike & Mike, First Take, His and Hers, and SportsNation) while the Australian Open and college basketball also contributed to the gains…

…FS1’s FOX SPORTS LIVE studio show is up thus far in 2015, as the show’s first hour posted a +73% increase among all viewers in first quarter 2015 compared to the first three months of 2014 (149,000 vs. 86,000). In addition, the show showed a significant 48% gain in the key Adult 18-49 demographic (62,000 vs. 42,000). From an audience standpoint, FOX SPORTS LIVE’s increases were highlighted by the delivery of four of the top 10 and nine of the top 30 highest-rated shows since launch, peaking with the Saturday, Feb. 21 edition that drew 2,485,000 viewers for the first hour, the second most-watched show since it premiered in 2013.  Also driving the larger audience numbers was an increase in time spent watching the show, as the first quarter saw average length of stay grow 27% from the same period in 2014.  Additionally, audience retention showed gains, as the first hour of FOX SPORTS LIVE held an average of 35% of the audience from the previous quarter-hour of lead-in programming…

FOX Sports 1’s debut of the NASCAR Sprint Cup on March 29 drew 4,061,000 viewers to the channel, marking the most-watched motorsports event in network history and the fourth most-watched telecast ever on the network. The race pushed the network to its most-watched Sunday from 6a-3a since launch, averaging 1,068,000 viewers over that span. (Cynopsis Sports)…

…NBCSN’s live coverage of the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on March 29, was the most-watched overnight F1 race on cable in 18 years, averaging 384,000 viewers. Viewership of Sunday’s race, which aired overnight from 2:30-4:55 a.m. ET, was up 55% vs. 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix average viewership (248,000), and up 217% vs. the 2013 viewership on NBCSN (121,000). It was the most-watched overnight F1 race since 1997 (ESPN, Grand Prix of Germany). The race delivered a 0.24 household rating, up 41% from last year’s rating (0.17). Including the Australian Grand Prix, which was the first race of the season, NBCSN’s 2015 F1 coverage has averaged 324,000 viewers, up 31% vs. 2014 through two races (248,000), and up 163% vs. 2013 through two races (123,000). In addition, NBCSN’s live presentation of qualifying on Saturday morning (5:00-6:43 a.m. ET) averaged 193,000 viewers, up 58% from last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying session on NBCSN (122,000)…

…According to the New York Post, the New York Knicks ratings bottomed out on MSG Network Friday against the Washington Wizards, limping to a 0.18 rating— which is believed to be the smallest number for a Knicks live telecast in many years. That rating represents 14,000 viewers for the Wizards’ blowout victory. The Knicks’ average rating on MSG Network is 1.32, down 39 percent from 2013-14. (NYP)

…While the Knicks struggle, New York hockey ratings are sky-high, led by the Islanders on MSG Networks, whom have averaged 0.60 percent of homes – up 76% over this point last season. The Rangers were up 26% to 1.63 percent of area homes entering Monday night’s game and easily will surpass the Knicks for the first time since 2007-08 (1.15 to 0.91). The Devils, meanwhile, are up 41% this season, to a modest 0.25 rating. (Newsday)…

…NESN received a 7.3 average household rating in the Boston DMA (13 share) on March 29, for the 2-1 Bruins overtime victory over Carolina, which marks the network’s best game rating of the 2014/15 season. NESN’s previous high rating on the season was a 6.3 HH rating on January 20th when the Bruins beat the Dallas Stars 3-1…

…Univision’s aired four of the top fie most-viewed soccer matches on television among both Total Viewers and Adults 18-49, regardless of language. UniMas’ broadcast of the Mexico/Ecuador international friendly on March 28 marked the most-viewed soccer match of 1Q15 with an average of 2.6 million Total Viewers and 1.5 million Adults 18-49. On Univision, viewership for Liga MX increased by 10% among both Total Viewers and Adults 18-49 vs. prior year. (Cynopsis Sports)

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