Ratings Roundup: Duke’s Road Win at UVA Named Most-Watched This Season; 2019 Pro Bowl Reaches Eight Million Viewers
Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Duke’s narrow victory over the Virginia Cavaliers is the most-watched college basketball game of the season, the Pro Bowl reached eight million viewers, the NHL All-Star Game hits new low in three years, ESPN’s coverage of the Australian Open finishes strong, PBC on Fox sees an increase from last year, and the 2019 Alabama-Clemson National Championship was the most watched in the trio of matchups.
Blue Devils-Cavs Account for Most-Watched CBB Game
The top-5 matchup between then-No. 4 Virginia and then-No. 1 Duke delivered a Nielsen reported audience of 3,764,000 viewers, making it the most-watched college basketball game across all networks this season. The audience peaked at 4,980,000 viewers in the telecast’s final minutes of the game.
ESPN networks have aired the 44 most-viewed games on cable, including seven of the top 10 across all networks.
The top markets for the Virginia-Duke matchup were Louisville/ Raleigh-Durham (11.2), Greensboro-High Point (10.2), Richmond (9.9), and Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News (7.6).
2019 Pro Bowl Reaches Eight Million
Sunday afternoon’s broadcast of the NFL’s 2019 Pro Bowl – a 26-7 AFC victory over the NFC – averaged eight million viewers on ESPN and ABC, based on fast nationals. The audience for the game peaked from 5-5:30 p.m. ET with 8,931,000 viewers.
The top 10 metered markets include Kansas City (13.9), Pittsburgh (8.6), Norfolk (8.2), West Palm Beach (8.1), Cleveland (8.1), Chicago (7.8), Buffalo (7.8), Seattle-Tacoma (7.4), New Orleans (7.3), and Orlando (7.3).
According to SportsMediaWatch, Thursday’s Skills Showdown scored 761,000 viewers, down 35% from last year (1.17M) and down 23% from the inaugural edition in 2017 (989K).
2019 NHL All-Star Game Hits Third Year Low
Saturday’s NHL All-Star Game earned a 1.1 rating and 1.78 million viewers on NBC, down a tick in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (1.2, 2.03M) and down 15% and 21% respectively from 2017 (1.3, 2.26M). Prior to this year, the game aired on a Sunday afternoon.
Ratings and viewership were the lowest for the NHL All-Star Game since it last aired on NBCSN in 2016 (0.9, 1.60M), but still the third-best for the event since 2004 (1.8, 2.68M). Keep in mind it was only the third All-Star Game to air on broadcast television since ’04.
However, compared to the entire NHL season, the game was ranked second after the NHL Winter Classic (1.6, 2.97M) (SMW).
Australian Open Hits 27% Increase Across ESPN, ESPN2
The audience for tennis’ first Major of 2019, the Australian Open, was up 27% across ESPN and ESPN2 compared to the 2018 event. The live coverage averaged 347,000 viewers (P2+), up from 274,000.
Among demo groups, leading the way were increases for viewers 55+ (up 35%), viewers 25-54 (up 25%) and viewers 18-49 (up 10%).
The most-viewed telecast from Melbourne came Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m. ET. The six-hour window – which included Karolina Pliskova’s shocking third-set comeback victory over Serena Williams – averaged 631,000 viewers. The telecast peaked with 1,366,000 viewers from 11-11:15 p.m., the end of that match. It also out-drew any telecast last year except the men’s final.
Overall, 19 of the 25 live telecast windows showed improvement over 2018, including the women’s final. The three-set victory by Naomi Osaka – her second consecutive Major win, following her taking the US Open last September – over Petra Kvitova was seen by an average of 529,000 viewers. That represents an increase of 18% over last year’s championship (450,000). Both matches started at 3:30 a.m.
In addition, ESPN and ESPN2 combined to air nearly 125 live hours of action from Melbourne, an increase of 14% from the scheduled 109.5 hours, thanks to long-running matches extending the telecast windows in the morning hours.
PBC on Fox Rises +74% Year-Over-Year
Saturday night’s Fox PBC Fight Night delivered 1.5/3 meter market rating for a thrilling three-fight card, according to Nielsen Media Research. The match was up +67% over last year’s comparable PBC event that did a 0.9/2 on January 17, 2018. It also ties as Fox’s best meter-marking rating for a PBC event since 2016 (1.6/3 on January 26, 2016).
Fox, Fox Deportes, and the Fox streaming platforms grabbed a combined 2,170,000 viewers. On Fox, PBC Fight Night averaged 1,980,000 viewers, up +74% over last year’s comparable fight. The fight peaked with 2,765,000 viewers from 10:30 pm to 10:35 pm ET.
Third Iteration of Bama-Clemson National Championship Comes Out on Top
The year’s College Football Playoff National Championship featuring Alabama and Clemson (January 7, 2019) averaged nearly 27 million viewers and is the most-watched of their three head-to-head CFP National Championship games based on final Nielsen reporting, which now includes out-of-home viewing and computer/mobile streaming.
The final Nielsen total live audience is 26,979,000 viewers for the Tigers’ 44-16 victory in the fifth CFP National Championship, up 3% and 2% from the Nielsen final reported audience for the second (January 11, 2016) and third (January 9, 2017) CFP National Championship games, respectively. This season’s championship audience also surpassed the previous two matchups despite Clemson’s decisive 28-point victory, which was the largest margin of victory for any college football national championship game since 2005*.
Nielsen out-of-home reporting added 1.3 million viewers to the previously reported audience of 25,280,000, which accounted for ESPN’s MegaCast** and a portion of the streaming audience. Further Nielsen reporting of mobile and computer streaming contributed another 399,000 viewers, resulting in nearly 27 million viewers for the game.
The 2019 CFP National Championship was already a top 10 most-watched cable telecast based on the initial Nielsen reporting. With the new measured audience, the game ranks as the No. 7 most-watched cable telecast ever. All five CFP National Championship games rank in the top 10.