Ratings Roundup: As Canadian Fans Carry 2019 NBA Finals, the Tennis Channel’s Coverage of the French Open Jumps 47% from 2018

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, the NBA Finals resonates more with fans north of the border, the French Open has taken a significant jump since last year’s tournament, the 2019 Stanley Cup final has slowly declined, the first Indy 500 on NBC saw a double-digit increase, Univision delivers the two most-watched soccer matches of the year and the most U.S. viewers of the UEFA Champions League, the WNBA received a massive bump for Opening Day, ESPN’s presentation of the Women’s College World Series completed a clean sweep of positive ratings throughout the postseason, Sunday Night Baseball continues to cruise with positive numbers, and ESPN’s studio shows saw an uptick in the month of May.

Fans in U.S. Not Intrigued in This Year’s Raptors-Warriors Matchup
Viewers of this year’s NBA Finals have been quite one-sided. With their first-ever trip, the Toronto Raptors continue to set audience records on TSN. According to SportsMediaWatch, Wednesday’s Raptors-Warriors NBA Finals Game 3 earned a 7.8 rating and 13.10 million viewers on ABC, down 25% in ratings and 27% in viewership from last year (10.4, 17.85M) and down 31% and 35% respectively from 2017 (11.3, 20.10M), both of which were Warriors-Cavaliers matchups.

Toronto’s win tied the lowest NBA Finals rating since Spurs-Cavaliers Game 4 in 2007 (6.5), matching Magic-Lakers Game 1 in 2009. It was the least-watched Finals game since Magic-Lakers Game 1 (13.04M) and the least-watched Game 3 since Spurs-Cavaliers (9.49M).

All three games of this year’s finals have hit at least a ten-year low in ratings and viewership.

In Canada, Game 3 had 3.8 million viewers across Sportsnet and Citytv. If one were to include the Canadian audience, Game 2 would combine for approximately 16.9 million viewers — down from the past two years, but ahead of the U.S.-only audience in 2016 and 2002-14.

In the U.S., Game 3 had a 4.6 rating in adults 18-49 — down 28% from last year (6.4) and down 36% from 2017 (7.2). The 4.6 is the lowest for any finals game in the demo since Game 4 in 2007 (4.0). It drew a 3.8 in adults 18-34, down 32% from last year (5.6) and down 43% from 2017 (6.7). As in 18-49, ratings in 18-34 were the lowest for any finals game since 2007.

Game 3 hit series-lows in ratings, viewership, adults 18-34 and adults 18-49.

The theme was the same for Sunday night’s Game 2, attracting an average audience of 4.3 million viewers on TSN, CTV2, and RDS, making it the most-watched NBA game on record in Canada.

More than 10 million unique Canadian viewers tuned in to watch some part of the game. Audiences peaked at nearly 6 million viewers at 10:44 p.m. ET in the game’s final minute as the Warriors secured the 109-104 victory. In Toronto, the game had a share of 68% on TSN and CTV2, meaning that more than two-thirds of all people watching television in Toronto on Sunday night were tuned in to the game.

Additionally, TSN’s live streaming coverage of Game 2 attracted nearly 100,000 video starts across the network’s digital platforms, including TSN.ca and the TSN app.

In Game 1, Sportsnet reached 7.4 million Canadians and attracted an average audience of 3.3 million viewers. Audience levels peaked at 4.1 million viewers at 11:35 p.m. ET, just as the Raptors clinched the victory.

Tennis Channel Surges to 47% Jump from 2018 Tournament
According to Awful Announcing, the 2019 French Open is performing well compared to last year’s event. The Tennis Channel has averaged 260,000 viewers for last week’s first week of the event, a 47% boost over last year.

The progress could relate to platforms rising subscription total. Ahead of last year’s tournament, the network’s Nielsen coverage estimates rose from an estimated 44,361,000 homes in February 2017 to an estimated 55,487,000 in April 2018 thanks to a big March 2018 jump. The last coverage estimate from a full Nielsen report is 54,901,000 in September 2018 and then 61 million homes in January 2019.

Stanley Cup Final Continues Slow Decline
According to SMW, the Stanley Cup Final reached highs in the first time the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues squared off, but has slowly dipped in each proceeding game.

In last Monday’s Game 1, NBC Sports earned a 2.9 rating and 5.25 million viewers on NBC, per Nielsen fast-nationals — flat in ratings and up 1% in viewership from Capitals-Golden Knights last year, which aired opposite an NBA conference final Game 7 (2.9, 5.20M), and up a tick and 8% respectively from Predators-Penguins in 2017 (2.8, 4.85M).

Boston’s comeback win ranked as the most-watched Stanley Cup Final opener in four years (2015 Blackhawks-Lightning: 5.55M) and the third-most watched since 1997 (Red Wings-Flyers: 6.37M). Bruins-Blackhawks in 2013 holds the top spot (6.36M), followed by Blackhawks-Lightning in ’15. Including the streaming audience of 115,000 — up 37% from last year — the game had an audience of 5.37 million.

Last Wednesday’s Game 2 delivered a 2.0 rating and 3.39 million viewers on NBCSN, flat in ratings and down 7% in viewership from Capitals-Golden Knights last year (2.0, 3.65M), but up 11% and 6% respectively from 2017 Predators-Penguins (1.8, 3.18M). The Blues’ overtime win, which peaked with 3.95 million viewers from 9:45-10 PM ET, delivered the ninth-largest Stanley Cup Final audience on cable since 2002. Game 2 viewership fell 36% from Monday’s opener, a bigger drop than last year (30%) or 2017 (34%).

The Bruins 7-2 slobber-knocker in Game 3 ultimately hurt ratings even more, with a 1.6 rating and 2.93 million viewers on NBCSN. Those numbers are down 17% in ratings and 15% in viewership from Capitals-Golden Knights last year (1.9, 3.44M) and flat and down 1% respectively from Penguins-Predators in 2017 (1.6, 2.95M).

Boston’s blowout win delivered the smallest Stanley Cup Final TV audience in three years, since Game 3 of Penguins-Sharks in 2016 (2.79M), and the fourth-smallest audience since 2012 (Devils-Kings Game 4: 2.07M). Including the streaming audience of 119,000 (-13%), it had 3.05 million — down 15% from last year (3.58M), but slightly ahead of 2017 (3.03M).

Although the decline is steep, Game 4 on NBC showed that it’s not all that dreary. The contest earned a 3.1 rating and 5.13 million viewers on NBC, up 3% in ratings and 1% viewership from Golden Knights-Capitals last year (3.0, 5.06M), but down a tick and 9% respectively from Penguins–Predators in 2017 (3.2, 5.65M).

The Blues’ win, which peaked with 5.84 million viewers from 10:30-10:45 PM ET, posted the third-largest Stanley Cup Final Game 4 audience since at least 1998, behind Penguins-Predators in ’17 and Blackhawks-Bruins in 2013 (6.46M).

It also delivered the third-highest Game 4 rating since 2002 (Red Wings-Hurricanes: 3.5), again behind Penguins-Predators and Blackhawks-Bruins (3.8).

Notably, both Bruins-Blues games on NBC have increased, while both games on NBCSN declined.

Thursday night’s Game 5 data is not yet available.

NBC Sports’ First Indy 500 Ends in 11% Increase
With a thrilling finish and 300,000+ fans in attendance, the star-studded 103rd Indianapolis 500 — the first ever broadcast on NBC — delivered an 11% viewership increase vs. 2018, its best household rating in three years, and is now NBC Sports’ most-streamed INDYCAR race ever, according to Fast National data from Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 5.446 million viewers yesterday afternoon across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (12:43-4:03 p.m. ET), up 11% vs. the 2018 race (TV-only 4.913 million, ABC). Viewership peaked in the final quarter-hour (3:45-4 p.m. ET) when 6.700 million viewers watched Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud outduel Andretti Autosports’ Alexander Rossi in a thrilling finish to take the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NBC’s TV-only viewership averaged 5.414 million viewers and delivered a 3.43 household rating, which is the best for an Indy 500 in three years (3.88 in 2016).

This year’s Indy 500 also stands as the most-watched Sunday afternoon sporting event on NBC in more than four months, since the NFL Wild Card game between the Eagles and Bears on Jan. 6 (36.0 million viewers). It was also the most watched sporting event of the day across all TV.

Digitally, the 103rd Indianapolis 500 is now NBC Sports’ most-streamed INDYCAR race ever, setting records with 161,000 uniques, 8.4 million live minutes, and an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 31,700 viewers.

Locally, Indianapolis led all markets with a 10.98 HH rating for its primetime replay. Dayton (9.77), Sacramento-Stockton (7.97), Cincinnati (7.34), and Ft. Myers-Naples (7.30) rounded out the top five for live coverage in the afternoon.

The Top 10 markets for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on NBC include Indianapolis (10.98), Dayton 9.77, Sacramento-Stockton (7.97), Cincinnati (7.34), Ft. Myers-Naples (7.30), West Palm Beach (6.94), Louisville (6.77), Columbus, OH (6.36), Richmond (6.34), and Tulsa (6.18).

The network continued that momentum into the following weekend in Detroit. The doubleheader coverage of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear this past Saturday and Sunday across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app delivered the best-combined viewership for the races in three years as well as numerous other milestones, according to Fast National data by Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

Race #1 on Saturday and Race #2 on Sunday combined to average a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 929,000 viewers across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, up 10% vs. ABC’s TV-only viewership in 2018 (846,000) and the best-combined viewership for the two races in three years (2016; 1.205 million). The two-race TV-only viewership on NBC averaged 924,000 viewers.

Sunday’s Race #2, which was won by five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, averaged a TAD of 1.097 million viewers, up 17% vs. vs. ABC’s TV-only viewership in 2018 (937,000) and the best for the Sunday race in three years (2016; 1.397 million). The race peaked on NBC with 1.364 million viewers from 5:30-5:45 p.m. ET as Dixon took the checkered flag. The TV-only viewership for the race on NBC (3:47-5:50 p.m. ET) was 1.091 million viewers, with a 0.71 household rating.

Race #1 on Saturday (3:53-6 p.m. ET) was impacted by significant weather delays and saw Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden win a timed race in the rain. Across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, Saturday’s race averaged a TAD of 766,000 viewers, up 2% vs. ABC’s TV-only viewership in 2018 (752,000). Viewership peaked on NBC with 1.043 million viewers from 5:45-6 p.m. ET. NBC’s TV-only viewership on Saturday averaged 761,000 viewers and delivered a 0.55 household rating. The final 20 minutes of the race were televised on CNBC and are not included in NBC’s final viewership.

For the season, the four races presented across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app have combined to average a TAD of 2.526 million viewers, up 18% vs. the same four races last season on ABC (2.143 million).

Univision Captures Two Most-Watched Soccer Matches, Impressive UEFA Champions League
Univision Deportes closed out the Torneo Clausura with a flourish as the two-match Gran Final featuring Tigres UANL and Club León averaged 1.90 million Total Viewers 2+ and 976,000 Adults 18-49, and delivered the two-most watched soccer telecasts of the year on any network, regardless of language.

Airing on Univision and Univision Deportes Network (UDN), the Gran Final was highlighted by the second and decisive leg, which crowned Tigres UANL the Mexican Champion for Tornea Clausura 2019. Telecast on May 26, the contest reached 5.2 million Total Viewers 2+, who tuned in for all or part of the match, and averaged 1.97 million Total Viewers 2+ and 989,000 Adults 18-49, becoming the top-rated soccer match on any network for the current year. Meanwhile, in local markets, the match was the No. 1 broadcast in the time period in Houston, Dallas, and Chicago among Adults 18-49, and finished second in the time period in both Los Angeles and Miami, ahead of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW among Adults 18-49.

The first leg, airing May 23, reached 5 million Total Viewers 2+, who tuned in for all or part of the contest. The thrilling 1-0 result in favor of Tigres, averaged 1.84 million Total Viewers 2+ and 961,000 Adults 18-49. The performance at the time made it the most-watched soccer match of 2019 before being overtaken by Sunday’s telecast. In Houston and Sacramento, it was the No. 1 broadcast among Adults 18-49, while the telecast surpassed ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW with Adults 18-49 in Los Angeles to finish second in the market during the time period.

Also on Univision Deportes, nearly 22.2 million Total Viewers 2+ tuned in to all or part of its 91 UEFA Champions League (UCL) telecasts, making it the most-watched season on any network or in any language during Univision Deporte’s inaugural season as the exclusive Spanish-language television partner. In total, Univision delivered 60% of the UCL television audience in the U.S. The performance marks the first time since 2013-14 that the league’s Spanish-language telecasts attracted a higher audience share than English-language.

For the season, matches airing on Univision and simulcast on Univision Deportes Network (UDN) averaged 631,000 Total Viewers 2+ and 314,000 Adults 18-49. Meanwhile, across the Univision Deportes linear portfolio – including Univision, UniMás, Univision Deportes Network (UDN) and Galavisión – UCL contests generated an average of 231,000 Total Viewers 2+ and 120,000 Adults 18-49. This season’s matches out-delivered the previous season’s Spanish-language telecasts by +32% among Total Viewers 2+ and +9% with Adults 18-49.

Univision Deportes’ telecast of the UEFA Champions League Final featuring Tottenham-Liverpool delivered the largest final audience in Spanish-language since 2015. The June 1 match, simulcast on UDN, reached nearly 4.0 million Total Viewers 2+ during the broadcast, and averaged 1.4 million Total Viewers and 732,000 Adults 18-49. Compared to last year’s telecast on ESPN Deportes, Univision Deportes saw double-digit increases among Total Viewers 2+ (+34% advantage) and Adults 18-49 (+14% advantage).

Univision Deportes shattered viewership records during the UEFA Champions League Semifinals, attracting the largest audience ever for a UCL semifinal round, regardless of television network or language. Airing from April 30 – May 8, the four matches broadcast on Univision/UDN averaged 705,000 Total Viewers 2+, and delivered the two most-watched UCL semifinal contests ever on television, topped by Liverpool-Barcelona on May 7 at nearly 800,000 Total Viewers 2+.

WNBA Gets Off to Hot Ratings Start
ABC’s presentation of the Seattle Storm vs. Phoenix Mercury on Saturday, May 25, delivered a 0.5 overnight rating according to Nielsen (excluding Chicago market), making it the highest-rated WNBA opening game on ESPN networks since the 2012 matchup between the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx (0.8, ABC). This year’s season opener was up 25% compared to last year’s regular-season opener (0.4, ESPN2).

The top markets included Seattle (1.5), Louisville (1.2), Nashville (1.1), and Birmingham/Cleveland (0.9).

WCWS Finishes Sweep from Regular Season to Championship Series
ESPN’s college softball coverage saw double-digit viewership growth throughout the season scoring its most-watched Women’s College World Series production since 2015, most-viewed Super Regionals since 2008, and best regular season since 2016.

ESPN’s coverage of this year’s 15-game Women’s College World Series tournament (May 30 – June 4) averaged one million viewers up, 20% year-over-year. The two-game championship series (June 3-4) between the UCLA Bruins and Oklahoma Sooners averaged 1,574,000 viewers, up 13% year over year. The Bruins championship-clinching game two win averaged 1,799,000 viewers, up 17% year-over-year. Game one of the championship series averaged 134,000,000 viewers, up 7% year-over-year.

The top-five local television markets for the WCWS Finals included Oklahoma City (8.3), Tulsa (7.1), Birmingham (3.0), Austin (2.2), and Los Angeles (2.1).

The three-game, Semifinals Sunday (June 2) averaged 1,340,000 viewers, up 43% over last year’s similar three-game slate, resulting in the most-watched semifinal Sunday since 2015. The entire 13-game, round robin (May 30-June2) averaged 962,000 viewers, up 23% year-over-year. Six of the early round games averaged one million viewers or more:

  • Sun, June 2 (Alabama vs. Oklahoma) Semifinal Sunday, Game 1 on ESPN/ESPN2: 1,430,000
  • Sun, June 2 (Oklahoma vs. Alabama) Semifinal Sunday, Game 2 on ESPN2: 1,346,000
  • Sun, June 2 (Washington vs. UCLA) on ESPN: 1,276,000
  • Sat, June 1 (Oklahoma State vs. Washington) on ESPN: 1,261,000
  • Fri, May 31 (Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State) on ESPN: 1,058,000
  • Sat, Jun 1 (Florida vs. Alabama) on ESPN: 1,042,000

The Women’s College World Series saw an increase across all key demos:

  • Men 18-34: up 45%
  • Women 18-34: up 41%
  • Men 12-17: up 75%
  • Women 12-17: up 36%

Super Regional coverage (May 23-26) averaged 510,000 viewers across 19 games, the most-watched Super Regional round since 2008, and up 36% year over year. Regular season games on ESPN’s Nielsen rated networks were up 40% this season, with the 28 games on ESPN/ESPN2 (up from 23 last year) averaging 266,000 viewers per game.

Viewership for the ACC and SEC Conference Championship Games (May 11) was up significantly year-over-year and each saw its largest audiences since 2016:

  • SEC Championship: Averaged 549,000 viewers, up 130% year-over year
  • SEC Semifinals: Averaged 280,000 viewers, up 177% year-over-year
  • ACC Championship: Averaged 480,000 viewers; up 41% year-over-year

Sunday Night Baseball Continues to Roll
ESPN’s 2019 Sunday Night Baseball viewership is up 3% from 2018, according to Nielsen. The franchise is averaging 1,505,000 viewers through 10 telecasts, up from 1,460,000 viewers last year. In addition, ESPN has generated five consecutive weeks of year-over-year audience increases for Sunday Night Baseball.

The June 2 edition of Sunday Night Baseball, in which the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees, averaged 1,973,000 viewers, up 36% from 1,446,000 viewers for last year’s comparable game (Red Sox vs. Houston Astros). It is now ESPN’s most-watched Sunday Night Baseball telecast since August 12, 2018 (Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals). Sunday’s telecast peaked with 2,565,000 viewers from 9-9:15 p.m. ET.

ESPN Studio Shows Power Network to Stellar Month of May
In May, ESPN’s studio shows — stretching from morning through afternoon to late night – posted strong increases in audience (P2+), according to Nielsen. The increases were led by the 11 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter (+29%) and morning’s Get Up! (+22%).

Also, for many of the dayparts ESPN led cable – if not all of television – in delivering the key young male demos. In fact, ESPN led cable in total day delivery of men 18-34 and 18-49.

Increases All Day Long

  • For the third straight month the 7 a.m. SportsCenter was up, growing +18% in May vs. the comparable 7-8 a.m. daypart last year (333K vs. 282K). The show also saw a gain of +16% in May among P18-49 (179K vs. 154K).
  • In May, Get Up! was also up for its third consecutive month, increasing +22% vs. the comparable 8-10 a.m. daypart in the month last year (341K vs. 279K). This follows a +30% increase in April.
  • First Take saw an increase for the second straight month, growing +5% year over year in May (442K vs. 421K).
  • The noon SportsCenter gained +4% in May vs. 2018 (338K vs. 326K) and Outside the Lines that follows at 1 p.m. posted an increase of +3% (276K vs. 267K).
  • The 5-6 p.m. hour also grew in May. Around the Horn saw gains of +3% (486K vs. 470K), and Pardon the Interruption – which recently won its third Sports Emmy Award as TV’s best daily sports studio show – increased for its second straight month at +9% (740K vs. 676K).
  • The 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter – hosted by Kevin Negandhi and Sage Steele for one year as of May 14 – was up +5% (510K vs. 486K). The show has increased its audience in 11 of the 13 months since the duo teamed together.
  • Late night editions of SportsCenter had a strong month in May. The 11 p.m. edition was up +29% for the month (626K vs. 486K) and the 1 a.m. show was up +15% (568K vs. 493K). Both shows also showed an increase among viewers 18-49 – the 11 p.m. was up +24% (321K vs. 258K) and the 1 a.m. was up +10% (317K vs. 289K).
  • The Saturday and Sunday morning SportsCenter shows also showed gains. Combined, the shows from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. increased +4% (545K vs. 522K) vs. last year.

Young Male Demographic

    • Driven by SportsCenter at 7 a.m. and Get Up!, ESPN leads cable from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. among M18-34 and M18-49 and P18-49.
  • Thanks to First Take, ESPN is the No. 1 cable network from 10 a.m.-noon across all key male demos. It is also the top network (cable or broadcast) among M18-34.
  • ESPN is also the No. 1 network (cable or broadcast) among M18-34 during the noon SportsCenter. The show is also best on cable among M18-49 and M25-54.
  • ESPN leads cable from 4-6 p.m. – High Noon, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption – across all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) and took the top spot among M18-34 for any network (cable or broadcast).
  • Driven by the late night editions of SportsCenter, ESPN is the No. 1 network (cable or broadcast) from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. across all key male demos. It is also the #1 network (cable or broadcast) among P18-34 and P18-49.
    • The weekend editions of SportsCenter boosted ESPN to be the leading cable network from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. across all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54). It is also the #1 network (cable or broadcast) among M18-34.

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