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More than 200 million viewers "saw NFL games this season, with an average of 17.5 million per game," making it the "second-highest viewership average since 1989," according to the AP. The '10 season drew an average of 17.9 million viewers per game. NFL games "accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched TV shows among all programming," and the 16 "most-viewed shows on cable TV were NFL games." Fox "matched 2010 for its most-watched season, while NFL Network’s Thursday night telecasts were its most watched." NBC’s "SNF" was the "most-watched show in primetime for the second consecutive fall." ESPN’s "MNF" was cable’s "most-watched program for the sixth season in a row." CBS had its "second most-watched season carrying the AFC" (AP, 1/5). Regular-season NFL ratings on Fox "were the network’s highest in 16 years." Games "averaged a 12.0 rating and 24 share, up 2 percent from last year’s 11.8/24, according to Nielsen Media Research." Fox indicated that it was its "best NFL rating since a 12.5/29 in 1995 and it marked the first time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that the NFC package had an increase in ratings in three straight years." Fox "averaged 20.1 million viewers, tying 2010 as its most-viewed NFL season" (AP, 1/5). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Andy Fixmer noted ESPN "averaged 13.3 million viewers, a 9.6 percent drop that’s the biggest among the networks." NBC "drew the biggest audience with 21.5 million viewers, 1.5 percent fewer than the previous season." CBS "dropped 1.5 percent to average 18.4 million viewers" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/5).
LOCAL MARKETS: The Patriots averaged their highest ratings in 10 years, averaging a 35.2 in the Boston/Manchester market. The rating surpassed last year's record average of 34.85. Over the last five seasons, viewership has posted a season average rating of 30.0 or higher in four of those five years. Prior to that time frame, viewership had never topped 30.0 for the season (Patriots). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted Packers telecasts on local TV "averaged 48.1 this season up 9% from last season (44.0 rating) and were the highest in the Milwaukee market since the 1997 season." An estimated 436,555 HHs "on average watched some portion of a Packers game this season" (JSONLINE.com, 1/5).
OUTSIDER INTRIGUE: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the Cowboys-Giants season-finale broadcast on NBC "earned a 22.2 household rating in the D.C. market, equal to about 524,000 households." The Redskins-Eagles broadcast on Fox earlier in the afternoon "earned just an 18.7 rating, equal to about 441,000 households." Steinberg noted there are an "inordinate number of Dallas and New York fans" in the DC market, and the Redskins "had nothing to play for that week." But it is "obvious that in most markets, the home team broadcast still wins" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/5).
The ING N.Y. Marathon will be “broadcast live and across the nation for the first time in nearly two decades, the most significant feature of a new television deal" that will be announced Friday by the N.Y. Road Runners, according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. As part of a “five-year deal, the race will be carried for three and a half hours on ESPN2,” and for five hours on WABC in N.Y. WABC also will “broadcast the marathon’s opening ceremony and a half-hour preview show the night before the race, which will be held Nov. 4, and ABC will televise a highlight show a few hours after the race.” The N.Y. Half Marathon in March and the Fifth Avenue Mile “may also be televised.” The NYRR will receive “guaranteed payments from the networks and share any revenue generated by the broadcasts.” The race was last broadcast live and nationally in '93, when ABC aired the event. Since then, the race has been “broadcast live in the New York metropolitan area by WPIX and, more recently, by WNBC, an affiliate of NBC, which also produced a highlight show that was shown on tape delay.” Universal Sports also “showed the race to some cable households.” NYRR hopes that “showing the event live across the country on ESPN will attract more runners and sponsors to the club and the marathon” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/6).
ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said that the network “does not have unyielding influence over college football” although it has ties “in varying degrees to all six BCS automatic-qualifying conferences,” according to Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Magnus said, “Television plays a role, mostly on the scheduling side of things in terms of game times and which networks games appear on. The influence I would say we have is limited to mostly issues of scheduling in terms of this game goes in prime time or those go at 3:30 or is it on ABC or ESPN or ESPN2 or ESPNU. And that’s not unlike what other networks are doing.” But Hogan notes with many college football observers “looking to point blame for the current dysfunction and upheaval in sports, some finger ESPN as a culprit," claiming the net "has been a key behind-the-scenes player in the ongoing realignment in college sports.” Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts said, “Television drives the system now. And ESPN happens to be a player in that. But the Fox Sports networks and the regional networks are all part of that.” Outgoing Southern Miss AD Richard Giannini agreed and said, “There is no question that TV is driving it. The SEC gets a new contract and gets more money than everybody, and all of a sudden here comes the Pac-10 and they get a little different configuration and they get more money.” LSU AD Joe Alleva said that the cable net “does wield a lot of power” but added that he “doesn’t believe ESPN has too much control.” Alleva: “They definitely control a lot. But I think they are fair. Overall, the value that they bring and the exposure they bring to college football really helps the game.” Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters: “It’s easy to say that they have too much influence. But if you do away with that influence, then are you prepared to find an alternative funding source for those dollars?” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 1/6).
BOWL RATINGS: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted Monday’s Oregon-Wisconsin Rose Bowl telecast “had a rating of 34.8 in the Milwaukee market, which means about 315,800 local households watched at least a portion of the telecast.” The Milwaukee market delivered the highest rating for the game and was “16% higher than last season’s game between UW and TCU” (JSONLINE.com, 1/5)....The Champs Sports Bowl recorded a 3.6 Nielsen rating, marking a 64% increase over last year's bowl. The rating was also the third-highest of all bowls played before Dec. 31 (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/5).
Three Buffalo city lawmakers want the New York State Attorney General's Office “to get involved in the dispute between Time Warner Cable and the Madison Square Garden network, warning the spat may cost Buffalo revenue,” according to Besecker & Pignataro of the BUFFALO NEWS. New York Common Council President Richard Fontana said that Majority Leader Demone Smith and University Council Member Bonnie Russell joined him in asking Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “to intervene in the dispute.” TWC may “lose subscribers because it no longer airs the MSG network, which carries” Sabres games. Fontana said that the New York Attorney General's Office, under Eliot Spitzer, had “intervened in a cable television dispute downstate.” Besecker & Pignataro note “under a franchise agreement between Time Warner and the city, Buffalo receives 5 percent of the cable provider's gross revenue earned in the city.” Fontana said that in previous years, the city's revenue “has been up to $2.5 million.” Michelle Duffy, a spokesperson for Schneiderman, Thursday said that the attorney general's office “had no plans to intervene” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/6). In N.Y., Juan Gonzalez asks, “When will someone find a way to end these shrill cable television wars that suddenly turn innocent paying customers into hostages of big corporations?” As the “bickering continues, Time Warner customers are denied the programs they paid for.” Neither Congress nor the FCC, which regulates government cable policy, have been “willing to do something about these blatant abuses.” The local government, which “just awarded 15-year cable franchises to these companies, claims it is powerless.” But Congress “could require binding arbitration in such disputes so that service interruptions would be reduced,” and local politicians “could show some nerve” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/6).
The final installment of HBO's "24/7 Flyers-Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" did a "fantastic sell job on the importance of the Classic itself, despite it being just another regular season game," according to Greg Wyshynski of YAHOO SPORTS. The story told on the ice during the game was "more compelling than last season's finale," which featured the Penguins and Capitals. Wyshynski: "It was, overall, a better episode. It wasn't, overall, a better season -- and the fact that some of the beats in this and other installments now feel like part of a '24/7' template made for some predictability that the debut season didn't possess." The first season was better from a "dramatic storytelling perspective," but this season "might have produced a greater variety of players you cared about" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/6). NBCSPORTS.com's James O'Brien wrote under the header, "HBO Hits The High Point In Engrossing 24/7 Finale." The Rangers and Flyers "produced so many storylines in the last week that HBO probably gathered enough material for two jam-packed hours." The final hour "captured the most compelling threads with HBO’s artful mix of great music and stunning cinematography, leaving us all wanting more -- just like the 2011 edition" (NBCSPORTS.com, 1/5). NHL.com's Bob Condor writes, "Many viewers will decide this is the best '24/7' episode of the season, and over the last two Classics" (NHL.com, 1/6). In Philadelphia, Ryan Petzar wrote the "best parts of this show are the brief moments captured by the mics the players wear on the ice." He noted one of his favorite parts of the show was Rangers RW Brandon Prust, "having witnessed an opponent cheap shot on a teammate" during a game against the Panthers, telling one of his linemates: “I was gonna jump him, but I didn’t want to get suspended -- not right before the Winter Classic.” Petzar: "It was clearly not just for the cameras" (PHILLY.com, 1/5).
UP & DOWN THE ICE: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote perhaps one of the "best elements of the four-part hockey reality series" is its "sense of time and place." It is "long enough to tell interesting, often compelling, just as frequently profane stories of life" in the NHL. Yet the series is "not too long to make it seem dull and finishes with a natural end point -- the Winter Classic -- in the middle of a season that often seems endless." But it is "not a show without its flaws, and we can only hope that next year's version won't sidestep storylines because they are awkward or don't fit ... like a puzzle piece into the narrative." Earlier in the series, the announcement that Flyers D Chris Pronger was out for the season after sustaining a concussion "passed almost unnoticed." And perhaps "most egregious was a lack of attention paid to Derek Boogaard, a former New York Ranger tough guy who was one of three players to die last offseason" (ESPN.com, 1/5).
BACK FOR MORE? YAHOO SPORTS' Wyshynski wrote, "From the language to the candor to the cameras in places where fans and media can't go, 'HBO 24/7' has presented two seasons of addictive, appointment television." What next season will provide "is a mystery -- including whether there will be a third season." When asked if "24/7" could shift its focus from the Winter Classic to another part of the NHL season, HBO Senior Producer Dave Harmon said, "No idea. There's a lot of [things] that have to happen. We're focused on this year." Wyshynski noted whether there will even be a "24/7" series next year is a "sensitive subject for those involved in the production." The viewership numbers "were down this season, at least on the night when the show premiered, yet the buzz is still palpable among sports fans." HBO Sports President Ken Hershman said that "nothing has been determined for a third season" of the show. NHL COO John Collins also was "non-committal for next season, although he clearly hopes to renew" the series (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/5).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RATING "Road to the Bowls"12/31ABC2:30-3:30pm0.5 AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Cincinnati-Vanderbilt12/31ABC3:30-7:00pm1.9 NCAA Basketball: Louisville-Kentucky12/31CBS12:00-2:00pm1.9 Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech-Utah12/31CBS2:00-6:00pm2.7 U.S. Snowboard Cup (taped)12/31NBC5:00-6:00pm0.8 "The NFL Today"1/1CBS12:00-1:00pm3.8 "NFL on CBS": (regional)1/1CBS1:00-4:15pm8.1 "NFL on CBS": Chiefs-Broncos (66%)1/1CBS4:15-7:30pm15.1 "NFL on Fox": (regional)1/1Fox1:00-4:15pm4.5 "NFL on Fox": Buccaneers-Falcons (89%)1/1Fox4:15-7:30pm11.6 "A Salute To Ladies of the Ice" (taped)1/1NBC4:00-6:00pm0.8 "Football Night in America"1/1NBC7:30-8:15pm5.5 "Sunday Night Football": Cowboys-Giants1/1NBC8:30-11:30pm15.7 NHL Winter Classic: Rangers-Flyers1/2NBC3:00-6:00pm2.1
TEEING OFF: Golf Channel recorded its most-watched year ever in '11, with viewership up almost 30% over '10 and 3% over '09. PGA Tour viewership was up 23% and LPGA Tour viewership was up 30%. Coverage of the Presidents Cup from Nov. 14-20 earned the net its highest-rated week in history, and Nov. 18 marked the highest-rated day in Golf Channel history (Golf Channel).
PUCK ACTION: TSN recorded an average audience of 2.8 million viewers for coverage of the Canada-U.S. IIHF World Junior Hockey preliminary matchup on Dec. 31, making the game the most-watched program on Canadian television. TSN averaged 2.4 million viewers for Team Canada's four preliminary round games, and all four games ranked as the most-watched program of the day on Canadian television in all key demographics. Online, TSN.ca registered 190,000 live streams of Team Canada games (TSN).