Ratings Roundup: A Quick Look at the Numbers of NFL, College Football, Stanley Cup, NBA Playoffs, U.S. Open, and More

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, numbers from Week 2 of the NFL and college football, the 2020 Stanley Cup, the NBA playoffs in the bubble, and U.S. Open roll in.

NFL Week 2
ESPN’s Monday Night Football MegaCast featuring the New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders delivered an average audience of 15,590,000 viewers, a 31% year-over-year viewership increase. The viewership for Las Vegas’ inaugural NFL game, which includes the audiences across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes, is MNF’s best in eight games, dating back to November 2019 (Seattle at San Francisco) and the franchise’s second-best in 24 games (November 2018, Kansas City at LA Rams).

Locally, Las Vegas scored its highest local rating for an MNF game in a decade, delivering a 22.1 local rating. Of the 44 markets available, Las Vegas was easily the highest, followed by San Francisco (16.2) and San Diego (15.6).

Other markets include:

  • Sacramento (14.6)
  • Seattle-Tacoma (14.2)
  • Denver, Kansas City (13.2)
  • Nashville (12.9)
  • Austin (12.3)
  • Los Angeles (12.0)

ESPN’s MegaCast helped ESPN and ABC become the No. 1 and No. 2 networks in primetime across households, as well as all key male and people demos…

…Fox’s NFL Week 2 slate drew 16.9 million viewers, up +10% over last season’s comparable singleheader (15.3 million)

On digital, the networks average minute audience was 711,000. NFL and Verizon streaming services is up +96% over last year’s regional and national windows. Through two weeks, streaming sup +84% in average minute audience and +41% in unique streamers…

…Total viewership of last week’s Thursday Night Football Presented by Bud Light Platinum game featuring the Cleveland Browns’ 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals was 7.2 million viewers (TV + Digital).

The 7.2 million viewers for Bengals-Browns on TV and Digital is up +3% versus last year’s Week 2 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers (7.0 million) and was the most-watched telecast of the day on Thursday.

Digital streaming across NFL digital platforms, Bengals and Browns mobile properties, and Verizon Media mobile properties delivered an average minute audience of 522K – the highest digital average minute audience ever for an NFL Network exclusive game. Additionally, digital audience increased +49% versus last year’s Week 2 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Buccaneers-Panthers (349K)…

…Sunday’s NFL national window (Chiefs-Chargers in 73% of markets) averaged a 10.1 rating and 18.87 million viewers on CBS, marking the lowest Week 2 rating in the window since at least 2000 and smallest audience since 2007 (17.44M).

The telecast, which also included Ravens-Texans in 27% of markets, declined 23% in ratings and 19% in viewership from Week 2 on FOX last year (mostly Saints-Rams: 13.2, 23.34M) and down 16% and 10% respectively from 2018 on CBS (mostly Patriots-Jaguars: 12.0, 20.97M).

The early doubleheader window (mostly Giants-Bears or Broncos-Steelers) had just a 5.4 (-41%) and 9.75 million (-39%), the least-watched Sunday window on broadcast since Week 17 in 2018 (8.89M). The two CBS windows were the only ones in Week 2 to decline (SportsMediaWatch)…

College Football Week 2
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, ratings for the first few weeks of nationally televised college football are down significantly compared to last season, which kicked off with a far more compelling roster of late-summer games. Last Saturday’s games averaged 1.3 million viewers and a 0.8 household rating, which marked a decline of 40% and 43%, respectively, compared to 2.18 million viewers/1.4 rating in the compatible windows a year ago.

CBS took the biggest hit of the weekend, as deliveries for its Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET window plummeted 75%. Little wonder: Last year’s game, which featured No. 8 Alabama and their SEC cohorts from South Carolina, averaged 4.95 million viewers and a 3.0 rating, making it the most-watched collegiate broadcast of the week. This time around, CBS was saddled with an inter-conference skirmish between the Sun Belt’s Appalachian State and Conference USA’s Marshall; per Nielsen, the Thundering Herd’s 17-7 upset of the Mountaineers averaged just 1.25 million viewers and a 0.7 rating.

ABC got a boost from a favorable year-ago comp, as its presentation of an ACC intrigue between Miami and Louisville averaged 3.8 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in primetime, up 5% versus the 3.62 million viewers who tuned in for last year’s Clemson’s 41-6 blowout of Syracuse. (ABC’s household ratings were down two-tenths of a point, or 9%. The disparity between overall viewership and the household ratings is largely a function of the impact the addition of out-of-home impressions is having on the final tallies. In other words, while the total audience is getting a bit of a lift from fans watching in bars, gyms and restaurants, the more prosaic household rating isn’t seeing any benefit from the inflation.)

ABC’s cable siblings had another rough outing, as ESPN’s Saturday triple-header averaged 960,000 viewers and a 0.6 rating, down 51% and 45%, respectively, compared to its year-ago 1.94 million/1.1, while deliveries for ESPN2’s suite of college games dropped 56% to just 317,000 viewers. Again, the quality of the matchups would seem to have been a factor in ESPN’s ratings declines; a year ago the network featured the No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Kentucky in primetime, whereas this weekend’s marquee draw pitted the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina against the Fighting Camels of Campbell. Ratings for ESPN’s primetime window were down 68% versus the year-ago Gators-Wildcats telecast. (Sportico)

2020 Stanley Cup
Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final Game 3 (Lightning-Stars) averaged a 0.65 rating and 1.15 million viewers on NBCSN (1.21M including streaming), topping only Monday’s Game 2 (0.62, 1.14M) as the lowest-rated and least-watched Cup Final telecast in 13 years (2007 Senators-Ducks Game 2: 0.5, 769K).

The Lightning’s win delivered the sixth-smallest Cup Final audience since at least 2000, ahead of only Game 2, Games 1 and 2 in 2007 and Games 1 and 2 in 2006. Tampa Bay has played in four of the bottom ten, tied with Anaheim as the most of any team.

NBA Playoffs
Tuesday’s Lakers-Nuggets NBA Western Conference Finals Game 3 averaged 4.83 million viewers on TNT, up 52% from Game 2 on Sunday night, which hit a 17-year conference final low opposite Sunday Night Football (3.17M).

Denver’s win delivered the fourth-largest audience of the NBA Playoffs, behind Game 1 last Friday (4.92M), Nuggets-Clippers Game 7 on ESPN September 15 (5.23M) and Rockets-Lakers Game 2 on ABC Labor Day weekend (5.43M). It ranks seventh among cable sportscasts since the NFL Draft, behind the former three NBA games and ESPN’s three Monday Night Football games.

On Wednesday, Celtics-Heat Game 4 averaged 4.48 million on ESPN — down 15% from Bucks-Raptors last year (5.30M) and down 44% from Celtics-Cavaliers in 2018 (7.94M). (SMW)

U.S. Open
Sunday’s final round of the US Open averaged a 2.0 rating and 3.21 million viewers on NBC, easily the lowest rated and least-watched final round of the tournament on record (dates back to 1987). The previous lows were a comparably strong 3.0 and 4.63 million in 2014, NBC’s previous year carrying the event.

Ratings fell 55% and viewership 56% from last year on Fox, when the tournament took place on the West Coast and coverage bled into primetime (4.4, 7.31M). Compared to the last East Coast US Open in 2018, ratings fell 38% (from 3.2) and viewership 37% (from 5.08M). (SMW)

Odds and Ends: NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, TUDN
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Bristol averaged a 1.2 rating and 2.12 million viewers on NBCSN, marking the lowest rated edition of the race since at least 1998 and the least-watched since at least 2000 — including rainouts. Bristol ranks as the fourth-most watched non-Sunday race this season, not a small distinction in a season that has featured 11. The top three — the Saturday night race at Daytona in August (3.87M), Monday rainout at Talladega in June (3.33M), and Saturday afternoon race at Pocono in June (2.66M) — aired on broadcast television…

…Univision’s multi-platform sports brand TUDN is built around the flagship TUDN cable network – the No. 1 Spanish-language sports channel in the U.S. With a portfolio of live soccer rights including Liga MX, Mexican National Team, U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, UEFA Champions League, and Major League Soccer, among others, TUDN is responsible for over half of all soccer viewership in the country, and recently delivered the most-watched Round of 16, Quarter-Final and Semi-Final matches of all-time for the UEFA Champions League property in the U.S. Additionally, Univision networks telecast 22 of the top 25 soccer matches during the 2019/2020 season.

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