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SBD/Issue 82/Sports Media
NFL Final Ratings, Part II: Execs Go On The Record
Published January 18, 2001
With CBS' NFL ratings down 10% from last year, CBS Sports President Sean McManus told THE DAILY the numbers "are down about as much as we expected them to be based on the fact that we started on Labor Day weekend and had three weeks of Olympic competition. ... This year, Fox had one more double-header than we had. A lot of the quirks of the schedule worked against us this year. Some teams in some of our large markets didn't perform as well as we would have liked, specifically the Patriots." ABC Sports VP/Media Relations Mark Mandel agreed with McManus that the calendar was one obstacle to better ratings, calling the season a "strange scheduling year" and adding that the last "MNF" game of the season was on Christmas Day. But McManus added, "I don't believe that we are getting an accurate count from Nielsen on NFL ratings. ... Some of the declines I see don't make any sense. I don't believe on certain weekends on certain games that many less people had decided to watch NFL football. It makes no mathematical or logical sense whatsoever." McManus said, "We're coming up with some specific questions for Nielsen, and it's up to them, I think, to come back to us and then talk about their methodology and their sample and how their sample may have changed over the last six or eight months" (THE DAILY).
IMPACT OF PARITY: Mandel, when asked if the NFL's job of scheduling "MNF" games has become more difficult due to parity: "No question. They would probably admit to that as well. In the past, it was pretty easy to predict which teams would be at the top of their divisions. ... That's changed." McManus added, "There are pluses and minuses to parity. The pluses are more teams have a shot at the playoffs there's more interest in more cities, which helps your regional games. Where parity hurts is in the big national matchups either in a big double-header game on CBS or Fox, or a Monday night game on ABC. I think everyone would agree that if you're a television executive and you can choose between having one or two super successful national teams in each conference as opposed to parity, you would probably choose to have a couple of super teams. ... It's getting more and more difficult to create marquee national matchups when you have parity" (THE DAILY).
PREGAME SHOW: McManus said the 10% ratings drop for the network's pregame show, "The NFL Today," was "disappointing primarily because of the enormous lack of top ten markets that we were able to feature in the early window. There will always be a disparity between the NFC pre-game show and the AFC pre-game show. This year was slightly more because of the fact that we had so few top ten market games compared to Fox. ... In the early window, 1:00pm, we had a top-ten market team 27 times and Fox had one 64 times." McManus said of the pregame show, "I think some of the less-than-serious things we tried like having questions from the studio audience or having cheerleaders probably got us away from what we do best, which is delivering really good content in an entertaining way." Fox Sports Exec Producer Ed Goren and NFL Senior VP/Broadcasting Dennis Lewin were unavailable for comment (THE DAILY).