SBD/January 14, 2011/Media

Are NFL Owners, Players Foolish To Risk Amazing Ratings?

NFL ratings this season "across the board, from network to network and market to market, have been so spectacular that it's not an exaggeration to say virtually any game is sure to get big numbers," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The numbers are "so impressive that it's a wonder the networks don't scroll them across the bottom of the screen along with the scores and injury updates." If fans "want a reason to believe there won't be a lockout next season," the ratings figures provide "some pretty compelling evidence." Owners and players "would be foolish to risk damaging such success." CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus "declined to answer a question about how a 2011 lockout might damage ratings, but he was more than willing to offer his opinion on how things got to such lofty levels this season." McManus: "It was a combination of things. There were so many story lines that continued throughout the season. Whether it was Michael Vick, whether it was Brett Favre, whether it was Tom Brady, there seemed to be so many stories that kept building throughout the year and generated interest throughout the regular season." McManus added, "The NFL has just been on fire this year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes this NFL season is "likely to be remembered as the zenith for a North American sports league, the climax of 50 years of work in which all five television networks that feature NFL games have shattered records for viewership." The league's 267 regular-season and playoff games "have continued to be appointment television, even in an era when" technology has "made the idea of tens of millions of people sitting down to watch a scheduled television show seem completely anachronistic." Futterman: "As every other sport and form of television programming struggles to retain eyeballs, NFL games are seeing improbable gains" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/14).

GRIDIRON GLORY: NFL regular-season games were watched by an average of 17.9 million viewers this season, marking the league's best TV viewership since '89, when games averaged 18.0 million viewers. For the first time ever, an NFL game was the most-viewed show among all programs in each of the season's 17 weeks. NFL games accounted for the 19 most-viewed TV shows among all programming in the fall, up from 11 last season. NFL games were also the highest-rated program locally a record 90% of the time, topping the 89% mark set last season. The '10 regular season was the most-viewed season ever among Hispanics, African Americans and women, as well as the most-viewed season among kids since '97 (NFL).

LOCAL MARKETS: In Miami, Barry Jackson writes while NFL audiences are "reaching record levels," it is a "somewhat different story in South Florida." Dolphins games averaged an 18.3 local rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market this season, down from a 19.5 average in '08 and '09. The 18.3 rating ranked as the NFL's "fifth-worst compared with what other home teams drew in their markets." Meanwhile, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale's ratings, "which sometimes lag behind other big cities, ranked among the worst in the country for three" of last week's Wild Card games (MIAMI HERALD, 1/14)....In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht reports the Cowboys "remain Oklahoma City's most popular NFL team," as the team's games averaged a 14.1 local rating in the market this season. That rating was down from a 14.4 last year, but was ahead of the Vikings, featuring former Univ. of Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, who ranked second with a 12.9 local rating. The Rams, featuring former Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, ranked third with a 12.4 rating, while the Chiefs ranked fourth with an 8.1 rating (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 1/14).

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