SBD/February 1, 2011/Media

Fox Earns 7.7 Rating For Pro Bowl, Best Viewership Since '97

Pro Bowl viewership up 53% since move to pre-Super Bowl slot
Fox earned a 7.7 final Nielsen rating and 13.4 million viewers for Sunday night’s NFL Pro Bowl, marking the game’s best viewership since '97. The 7.7 rating also marks the highest-rated Pro Bowl since an 8.6 rating on ABC in '00. This year's Pro Bowl was also up 8% and 9%, respectively, from a 7.1 U.S. rating and 12.3 million viewers on ESPN last year. Fox won the night among all nets and saw a 5% bump among adults 18-34 (Fox). DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell noted the Pro Bowl "dominated the night in demos," including averaging a 4.4 rating in adults 18-49 (VARIETY.com, 1/31). In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis notes Pro Bowl viewership "has increased 53 percent in two years with the move to a pre-Super Bowl slot." Last year's game at Miami's Sun Life Stadium was the "first Pro Bowl played prior to the Super Bowl, and back-to-back years of improvement after sliding viewership are credited to the decision to move the game from the week following the Super Bowl." Hawaii Tourism Authority Tourism Brand Manager Michael Story said that he believes that "promotion of the Pro Bowl by Fox throughout the playoffs also helped the ratings" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 2/1). The AP's Bob Baum wrote the decision to stage the game "a week in advance of the Super Bowl, rather than after it, is paying off, if TV ratings are any indication." Baum: "For NFL junkies, even half-speed football helps fill the two-week void between the conference championships and the Super Bowl" (AP, 1/31). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "Americans obviously think that anything with football helmets is worth watching. ... I don't get it because it's obviously not football" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/31).

KEEPING A WINNING GAME PLAN
: BROADCASTING & CABLE's George Winslow notes Fox "plans to come out with the same team and game plan" for Sunday's Steelers-Packers Super Bowl "that worked so well three years ago" for Super Bowl XLII featuring Giants-Patriots. Fox Sports Senior VP/Field Operations Jerry Steinberg: "What we did in Arizona in 2008 was probably the leanest, most efficient Super Bowl that anyone had done." Winslow notes preparations for the Super Bowl "began soon after last February's Super Bowl telecast on CBS wrapped in Miami, and continued throughout the regular NFL season." Video-production company Game Creek Project Manager Jason Taubman, whose company is assisting Fox on the broadcast, said, "We start building for the Super Bowl on the very first game of the regular season. We don't do the reconfiguration at the end. It is more of a slow crescendo. As the season goes on, we start slotting more equipment into the infrastructure. So it isn't a big upheaval in the last few days. They are basically working from the same facility they've used all season" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 1/31 issue).

RECORD SETTER? A Hollywood Reporter poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found that Steelers-Packers "will lead to record ratings for Fox." The poll showed that 78% of Americans "plan to watch the game," up 5% from last year and 10% from '09. Men "make up the bulk of this ratings increase," as 89% said that they would watch the game. The poll indicated that 68% of women will watch the game, up 9% from '09. The number of participants in the poll was not released (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/31). But in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote it "does not appear that Steelers-Steelers will match or surpass" last year's Saints-Colts Super Bowl XLIV in viewership. The Colts featured QB Peyton Manning, "if not the most popular player in the NFL, then the most recognizable one," and the Saints presented the "unprecedented story of a city reclaiming its identity after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina." Wolfley: "The Saints' Super Bowl story was ... more than a football story. It transcended football." Saints-Colts also had "what every network begs from providence -- a competitive game." Also, a winter storm "hammered the mid-Atlantic area, prisoning viewers inside their homes during Super Bowl weekend" (JSONLINE.com, 1/30).

RAKING IN THE CASH
: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai cited a report by Evercore Partners analysts Alan Gould and Bryan Kraft as estimating that TV network owners are earning between $12-146M per year "on their current NFL contracts." The analysts suggested that CBS is making a $146M profit, Fox $107M, ESPN $83M and NBC $12M. They added that some are "likely reporting losses at the network level, but improve their result when including owned-and-operated TV stations." The calculation for this season "includes estimated advertising revenue -- plus, in the case of ESPN, an estimated 15 percent of the network's affiliate fee payments from its distributors -- minus the estimated production costs and NFL broadcast right license fees." It also "assumed that Fox, CBS and NBC each got a third" of the benefit from televising this year's Super Bowl (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/31).
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