Ratings Roundup: ESPN’s Masters First Round Viewership Up 40%; NBCSN Notches Best Quarter Ever

Ratings Roundup is a rundown of ratings news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this edition, ESPN’s first round of The Masters was up 40% over the Thursday audience of last year; NBC Sports Network had their best quarter ever; ESPN’s first quarter numbers saw them lead cable in the key demos for both during the day and prime time, led by their weekday studio shows and their NIT and Opening Day Coverage; the YES Network’s record-setting spring training has rolled into Opening Day; the ELEAGUE had high ratings for a recent TBS telecast and Univision is the top primetime Spanish-language network for the first quarter of this year.

Masters First Round Viewership on ESPN Up 40% From 2017
Nearly three million viewers tuned in for ESPN’s telecast of the first round of the Masters Tournament on Thursday, an increase of 40% over the Thursday audience of last year (according to Nielsen Fast Nationals). The telecast, which aired from 3 p.m. – 7:20 p.m. ET, averaged 2,971,287 viewers, up 40 percent from the 2,129,214 Thursday average in 2017 and up 24 percent from the 2016 Thursday average of 2,397,624. The telecast also saw growth across all key demographics, with a 44 percent increase in persons 25-54.

The telecast ranked as the fourth-best Thursday since ESPN began airing the Masters Tournament in 2008, exceeded only by the years in which Tiger Woods was featured in Thursday coverage (2009, 2010 and 2015). Most of Woods’ round on Thursday had already been completed when ESPN’s telecast began.

Digitally, ESPN saw significant growth across app and website usage compared to the opening Thursday of the tournament last year. The men’s golf section of the ESPN App saw a 111 percent increase in total minutes over 2017 (27,198,202 million vs. 12,889,566 million in 2017) with a 42 percent increase in visits (5,181,829 vs. 3,636,525 in 2017). On ESPN.com, the golf section had a 41 percent increase in visits over last year (3,310,158 million vs. 2,353,247 million in 2017).

Also on ThursdaySportsCenter at the Masters, which included more coverage from the Masters than ever before, saw a 67 percent increase in overnight ratings from noon to 3 p.m. over 2017 (0.5 vs. 0.3 in 2017).

NBCSN Delivers Best Quarter Ever 
Thanks to record-setting ratings for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, along with NHL, college hockey and golf coverage, the NBC Sports Network had its best quarter in its history, averaging 302,000 viewers a day during the quarter, more than triple the the number from last year during this time, according to Nielsen.

During this last quarter, NBCSN delivered its best-ever first-quarter primetime viewership, averaging of 569,000 viewers – more than doubling last year’s number and in February, NBCSN posted the network’s record monthly numbers in Total Day (753,000 viewers) and primetime (average of 1.27 million viewers) and was the top cable sports network in both metrics for the month. It was the first time NBCSN ranked number one for a month since August 2016.

Also during February, NBCSN posted its three most-watched days ever, as well as its nine most-watched weekdays on record.

ESPN Tops In Cable In Q1 Key Demos
Last month, ESPN grew its prime-time audience in all the key male and adult viewer demographics, according to Nielsen reports. The biggest increase was among men 25-54.  The 8% boost helped ESPN lead all full-time cable networks in first quarter in total day and in prime time among those six groups.

ESPN has led cable in the first quarter in the three male demos for at least 11 consecutive years. The network has led cable among the three adult viewer demos for the last three years. ESPN2’s prime time average audience was up 14%

Helping out ESPN’s ratings was First Take, which had its most-viewed March ever, averaging 433,000 viewers and the most-viewed first quarter of the year ever for the show. During its time slot, ESPN was the most-watched cable network among men 18-54.

Also helping out the network’s ratings was its coverage of the NIT through the quarterfinals, which averaged 404,000 viewers a game, 10 percent higher than last year across all of its networks. ESPN and ESPNU both saw increases, up 8 percent and 88 percent, respectively. The most-watched  quarterfinal matchup was between Louisville and Mississippi State with 933,000 viewers.

In addition, ESPN’s Opening Day telecast of the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers was its most-watched, regular-season weekday MLB game in six years. According to Nielsen, 1,966,000 watched the Giants beat the Dodgers, which was the most for a weekday game since Opening Day in 2012.

YES Network, Yankees Keep Record Ratings Streak Rolling Into Opening Day
According to Nielsen, the YES network averaged a 1.46 TV household rating in the New York market for its 2018 spring training slate, making its highest-rated Spring Training ever. The 1.46 rating is an 80% increase last year’s numbers and was higher than the average rating for all NCAA first and second round telecasts in New York.

The high ratings continued into the regular season as the Yankees-Blue Jays season opener was the highest-rated Yankees season opener on YES in seven years, averaging a 5.34 TV household rating in the New York market.

In New York, YES’ Opening Day broadcast drew more viewers than Mom, Life in Pieces and S.W.A.T. on CBS; Will & Grace, Superstore, A.P. Bio and Chicago Fire on NBC; and Scandal and Station 19 on ABC and was the highest-rated sports program in the New York DMA yesterday, out-rating the NBA on TNT, MLB on ESPN and the
NHL on NBC Sports Network.

Thanks To March Madness, ELEAGUE’s Tekken Series Draws High Ratings
According to The Next Level, the second episode of ELEAGUE’s Tekken Team Takedown on March 23 drew 410,000 viewers despite airing at 1:50 a.m. after an NCAA tournament game between Purdue and Texas Tech.

Despite the time, Tekken Team Takedown was able to retain 30% of the audience from the post-game show, making it the most-watched Esports show so far this year.

Univision Is No. 1 Primetime Spanish-Language Network For First Quarter 2018
Univision finished the first quarter of 2018 as the undisputed leader of Spanish-language primetime television, more than doubling the numbers of its closest competitor and the 26th consecutive first quarter that Univision was the top-ranked Spanish-language network in primetime among total viewers 2+, and adults 18-49.

During the first quarter of 2018, the Univision slate networks, which includes Univision, UniMás, Univision Deportes and Galavisión, garnered a 63 percent primetime share   Spanish speaking adults 18-49, up 3 percent from last year.

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