SBD/Issue 35/Sports Media

Writer Suggests Some Of NFL's Ratings Gains Due To Luck

Packers-Vikings "MNF" Game Became
Most-Watched Program Ever On Cable TV
USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes "each NFL TV carrier's game ratings are up noticeably this year," though "some of those gains, especially ESPN's, were juiced by luck." While networks "lobby the league for good matchups, no one could have predicted when the schedule came out last spring" that the October 5 Packers-Vikings "MNF" game on ESPN "would end up the most-watched program ever on cable TV." Meanwhile, Hiestand notes NFL Sunday afternoon games "come with asterisks," as overall ratings for Fox and CBS are "beefed up by ... showing games in teams' local TV markets." Still, the NFL's "power to mesmerize can confound," as last Sunday's Falcons-Cowboys in the national window ranked as Fox' most-viewed Sunday telecast since '96, and it was a "solid game, but hardly the stuff of legend" (USA TODAY, 10/30).

BLOWOUT BLUES: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes Fox' "antiquated policy of the way it handles blowout games sent you back to a bygone era last weekend, a time when there were just a handful of network-dictated viewing options." Fox first "flexed its muscles by removing the originally scheduled" Falcons-Cowboys game "in favor" of the Bears-Bengals game in the St. Louis market. That move is "debatable," but what "isn't debatable is that local viewers were scalded when that game quickly deteriorated into a mongrel and Fox was unable to switch to a competitive contest." The Bengals led 31-3 at halftime, but Fox Sports VP/Communications Dan Bell said, "Technically, we weren't capable to make the switch from the Bears game. We were just technically capable to make the switch from the Atlanta-Dallas game in the event that was lopsided" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/30).

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