Ratings Roundup: USWNT Stars Bring Spike to NWSL; Lowest Open Championship Final Round Since 2015
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 NWSL receives positive spike with the return of USWNT superstars, the British Open hit a four-year low, the Formula 1 British Grand Prix has unusual low ratings, and the BIG3 brings high numbers to CBS compared to FS1.
NWSL Rebounds With World Cup Stars
According to SportsMediaWatch, coverage of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has averaged 112,000 viewers on ESPN2 and ESPNEWS through two telecasts, up 47% from last year’s full-season average on Lifetime and ESPNEWS (76K, 22 telecasts).
Last Sunday’s Chicago-North Carolina match averaged 149,000 on ESPN2, up 67% from coverage on Lifetime on the same weekend last year (89K), and the most-watched NWSL telecast since the 2016 final on FS1 (180K). Viewership peaked at 177,000 from 7:45-8 PM ET.
The match earned a slightly larger audience than Major League Soccer on FS1 around the same time (Orlando-New York: 148K). It trailed the two other MLS matches on national TV that day, Atlanta-D.C. on ESPN (328K) and Seattle-Portland on FS1 (250K).
The last time ESPN2 aired a package of NWSL matches in 2014, the viewership average was similar at 144,000.
The Open Championship Ends With a Lull
Shane Lowry‘s win was the lowest-rated and least-watched final round of the tournament since 2015 — a Monday finish on cable (2.4, 3.36M) (SMW).
Final-round coverage of the British Open averaged a 2.5 rating and 3.72 million viewers on NBC, down 42% in ratings and 43% in viewership from last year, when Tiger Woods held a share of the lead and finished in sixth (4.3, 6.48M), and down 22% and 24% respectively from 2017 (3.2, 4.91M).
The 2.5 rating is the fifth-lowest for the final round of the Open — or any major — dating back to at least 1981. The Open earned a lower final round rating in 2015, 2014 (2.3), 2011 (2.3) and 2010 (2.1). The tournament aired on ESPN in each of those years.
Despite the low numbers, Thursday’s opening round of the British Open averaged 864,000 viewers on Golf Channel, up 2% from last year (851K) and up 25% from 2017 (693K). It was the tournament’s largest first-round audience since 2015, the last year it aired on ESPN (1.2M). Viewership excludes the overnight hours.
As one would expect given the early timeslot, viewership trailed the opening rounds of the Masters on ESPN (2.97M), US Open on Fox/FS1 (1.99M) and PGA Championship on TNT (990K).
Odd Decline for Formula 1 Racing
Last Sunday’s Formula 1 British Grand Prix averaged a 0.40 rating and 591,000 viewers on ESPN2, down 5% in ratings and 6% in viewership from last year on ESPN (0.42, 629K), but up 48% and 31% respectively from 2017 on CNBC (0.27, 452K) (SMW).
The race, which aired opposite the Wimbledon men’s final on ESPN, was just the third F1 race this season to decline.
Later in the day, IndyCar racing from Toronto scored a 0.33 (+14%) and 502,000 on NBCSN (+10%). Last Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Kansas had a 0.38 (-21%) and 572,000 (-25%); every Xfinity Series race this season has declined.
CBS Suprasses Fs1 for Big3 Coverage
Coverage of the BIG3 basketball league averaged a 0.50 rating and 725,000 on CBS last Sunday and a 0.47 and 670,000 last Saturday. In week four of last season, coverage on FS1 had 112,000 (SMW).