NFL TV partners had strong gains during the ’13 regular season, rebounding from declines seen last season. The gains included record-setting viewership for Fox and NFL Network, as well as CBS seeing the second-best audience for the AFC TV package in 26 years (behind only ’10).
HIGH NOON: Fox concluded its 20th season of NFL regular-season broadcasts with a 12.5 rating and 21.2 million viewers for a combination of singleheader, regional and national broadcast windows -- setting a new viewership record for the net. The 12.5 rating is tied with ’95 as the best on record for the net. Fox’ top four NFL regular-season audience figures have come over the last four seasons. Compared to ’12, Fox was up 6% in ratings and 8% in viewership. The net’s national windows this season averaged a 15.9 rating and 27.2 million viewers, also marking a record for Fox. The previous record was set in ’09 with a 15.5 rating and 26.2 million viewers. Fox' national window audience was up 7% in rating and 10% in viewership compared to ’12. The net also posted gains among all key female viewers, including a tie for its best rating ever among women 18-49 and best figure on record among women 25-54. Meanwhile, CBS posted an 11.1 rating and 18.7 million viewers for its NFL game telecasts, marking the best rating for the AFC package since ’94 and best viewership since at least ’87 (as far back as records go). CBS’ rating was up 4% from last season and up 6% in viewership. The net also saw gains across all female demos in '13.
NIGHTLY NEWS: NBC averaged a 12.8 rating and 21.7 million viewers for its regular-season telecasts, marking the net’s second-best viewership since it acquired the NFL’s broadcast TV primetime package prior to the ’06 season. The rating was flat compared to ’12, but viewership was up 1%. “SNF” ranked as the No. 1 show in primetime for the fourth consecutive fall TV season and is on pace to be the No. 1 show for the entire Sept.-May primetime TV season for the third year in a row. NBC’s NFL telecasts also rank as the 12 most-viewed primetime shows since Sept. 1. “SNF” also ranked No. 1 among women 18-49 during the fall, marking the first time that the NFL primetime package has won the demo. “SNF” topped women 18-34 for the third year in a row and scored its best figure yet among women 25-54. Week 17 for “SNF” featured an NFC East finale involving the Cowboys for the third straight season, and the telecast again was the net’s best audience of the season. From ’06-10, the NBC finale did not feature an NFC East team in Week 17, and those respective telecasts were never NBC’s top audience for the season. New Orleans topped all NBC NFL telecasts with a 23.7 local rating, followed by Denver (22.7) and Richmond (19.5).
NFL REGULAR-SEASON GAME VIEWERSHIP
CABLE CARS: ESPN was up in ’13 with the third-best “MNF” average since the net acquired the package before the ’06 season. "MNF" also saw double-digit percentage gains among all key female demos, including a 12% jump among women 18-34. NFL Network, which marked its 10th anniversary on air in ‘13, had the highest audience for its package of regular-season games since the net began airing live games in '06. NFL Network also benefitted from an increase among female viewers. The net saw gains among all age demos for women, including a 14% jump among women 18-49 and 17% jump among women 25-54.
The Rams in '13 had "their fourth-worst TV ratings performance of their 19 seasons in St. Louis," according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Rams games averaged a 17.7 local rating in St. Louis this season, down 16% from '12 and down 34% from three seasons ago. KTVI-Fox GM Spencer Koch said that even in a "down year," the Rams "do better in the ratings than any other regular program -- sports or otherwise." The Rams’ local rating for '13 was "more than double" the 8.8 rating for the MLB Cardinals on FS Midwest in '13. However, this is "largely an apples-to-oranges comparison," as there were 147 baseball telecasts (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/3). Meanwhile, Patriots games finished as the most-watched local event of the week in Boston for 19 of 20 weeks, including all four preseason games and 15 of 16 regular-season contests. The only week that a Patriots broadcast did not finish first in the local ratings was in Week 9, when a win over the Steelers -- which drew a season-high 40.3 local rating -- was topped by Game 6 of the Red Sox-Cardinals World Series (Patriots).
TICKET TO RIDE? In L.A., Joe Flint cited a source as saying that an "exclusive deal" between DirecTV and the NFL over rights to the Sunday Ticket package would "probably get done in the coming months, but it might be the last one." Sources cited one reason as being that as the NFL seeks to "exploit new opportunities and create additional revenue streams, the value of an exclusive package with one distributor could diminish both for the league and the provider." Bedrocket Media Ventures Founder & CEO Brian Bedol said, "With all the new platforms coming, by the time the next Sunday Ticket deal comes up, it will be obsolete" (LATIMES.com, 1/1).
PAINT IT BLACK: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote programming for the NFL's Black Monday on NFL Network and ESPN2 is "an occasion when the studios should be draped in black curtains and the anchors should speak in hushed tones." NFL Network "recognized a few years ago that sticking with firings (and potential hires) on Black Monday benefited viewers most, even if it grew repetitive when the firings stopped." ESPN2 was "less single-minded about the firings than the NFL Network, mixing coverage of the dismissals with speculation about possible replacements (as the NFL Network did), analysis of this weekend’s wild-card playoff games and other news" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/31).
ESPN earned a 9.3 overnight rating for Oklahoma's 45-31 win over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Thursday night, marking the best figure for the game since Fox' LSU-Notre Dame telecast earned a 9.8 overnight in '07. The 9.3 overnight also is up 45% from a 6.4 rating for Louisville-Florida in last year's Sugar Bowl, which aired on a Wednesday night. Birmingham led all markets with a 50.1 local rating, which ranks as the fourth-best figure in the market for any bowl game on ESPN -- behind only three BCS National Championship telecasts. The Oklahoma City market ranked second with a 34.7 local rating, while Tulsa ranked third with a 33.5 rating -- good enough for Tulsa's best local number yet for any bowl airing on ESPN. Through three BCS games (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar), ESPN is averaging a 9.1 overnight, up 21% from a 7.5 rating for the three comparable games last season (Rose, Orange, Sugar) (ESPN).
SHOW ME THE RATINGS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes a "solid rating in St. Louis is expected" for tonight's AT&T Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Oklahoma State "if the Tigers are competitive." CBS drew a 22.1 local rating in St. Louis for the Auburn-Missouri SEC Championship, marking the "biggest St. Louis rating for a Tigers telecast since late in their standout 2007 season, when they vaulted to No. 1 in the nation" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/3). The mobile app Fox Sports Go will provide live streaming video of the game (Fox Sports).
WARM & FUZZY: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi following the Rose Bowl on Wednesday ended "with Rinaldi giving Dantonio a hug." Hoffarth: "Everyone OK with that? All that was missing was the soft piano music in the background that often accompanies Rinaldi’s emotional sports-related pieces for the network. ... In a live sideline interview, maybe rethink it" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/3).
BELLS & WHISTLES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN's bowl coverage was "like studying the condensed version of how it wrecks nearly everything it touches." The net's "Bottom Line" feature "steadily pitched an ESPN study that showed how much every team should win/lose by on a 'neutral field,'" which was "as predictably useless as any tout against any line using any 'formula.'" Another new feature was "a superimposed line atop the field, a line indicating field goal kickers’ maximum distance." With Duke down by four in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday with a "last chance vs. Texas A&M, ESPN had that field-goal line there for our edification." Mushnick: "Did it matter that Georgia, in the Gator Bowl, was going quick-huddle/snap? Not to ESPN." It kept showing "worthless replays then showed the next live play in a split-screen" (N.Y. POST, 1/3).
The Phillies on Thursday agreed "to a long-term extension with Comcast SportsNet that will be worth billions" after the two sides' current deal expires following the '15 season, according to Matt Gelb of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Terms were not released, but a source said that the agreement "is for at least 20 years." CSN Philadelphia "will televise the majority of the 162-game schedule," and a "limited number of games will no longer appear" on WPHL-TV. Instead, CSN "will select some weekend dates to televise on its sister station," WCAU-NBC. The contract "is not expected to eclipse" the $7B reaped by the Dodgers in their 25-year TV-rights deal signed last winter, but it "will represent a significant windfall." The Phillies "garnered some of the best local TV ratings" among MLB clubs in recent seasons. It is "unknown how much money" CSN paid the Phillies "under the previous deal; various estimates have stated the annual value" was $35M. The Phillies' deal "was unique in that they received a cut of advertising revenue from the telecasts because the team was responsible, in part, for selling the ads." It is "unclear whether that partnership will continue" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/3). In Pennsylvania, Kevin Cooney notes the Phillies "will not start their own network, but still likely get the financial windfall many expected." How the new TV deal "impacts the Phillies' remaining offseason remains to be seen," but currently, the club is "expected to have a payroll" of $165M (BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES, 1/3).
ESPN in hiring Tim Tebow to be on the SEC Network "set him up to succeed by putting him in front of an audience that already regards him as an icon, and working with respected host Joe Tessitore will only help," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. But whether Tebow can "make a concise and compelling point while a producer is barking at him through his earpiece" is one of the outstanding questions. Finn: "I’m just not sure he will succeed, at least within the parameters of what makes for a quality analyst. Can Tebow be articulate and insightful? ... Will he be blunt when the moment calls for it?" Perhaps his "biggest flaw" is, for all of his "appeal, he is not particularly articulate." During a press conference on Jan. 10, 2012 before a playoff matchup against the Patriots, Tebow took 16 questions and his answers "totaled 1,334 words." Within those answers, he "used the word 'definitely' 18 times, 'great' 17 times, and 'excited' seven times." Maybe Tebow, "because of his name recognition, doesn’t have to be that good" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3).
VANILLA FLAVOR: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Tebow "will bring this vanilla rhetorical style to television, where he will be asked to be insightful and occasionally critical." No one "expects him to zing anyone or fire brickbats." Tebow "might work best if he talks primarily about training and preparation, about how players feel before a major game, and about his specific experiences," but he "will probably not excel at chastising players for academic failures or asking tough questions or calling for any coach’s firing." His "inoffensive style could help him avoid staking out controversial positions, but it could just as easily make him look like the odd man out on a network built on a power conference’s tribal loyalties." Tebow "may only need to be Tebow for ESPN and the SEC Network to be pleased with him." ESPN has "long been in the Tebow business, covering him regularly and, at times, relentlessly." He is "seen as a special ratings attraction within the network" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3).
ESPN in November posted the second-highest overall total of unique visitors ever by a U.S. sports property, and the best-ever month of mobile usage among sports properties, according to monthly comScore Media Metrics Multi-Platform traffic ratings. ESPN's reach total of 68.2 million unique visitors trailed only the fantasy sports-fueled mark of 72.7 million uniques it set in September, while its 4.1 billion minutes of consumption from mobile devices set another category record. ESPN during November generated 54% of its total consumption and 42% of its reach during the month from mobile. ESPN extended its run atop the reach list over rival outfit Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network to a third consecutive month, while Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network rose to third place.
Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network *
Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network **
FoxSports.com on MSN
USA Today Sports Media Group ***
NFL Internet Group
Sporting News Media/Perform Sports
Sports Illustrated sites
NOTES: * = Includes Rivals.com, ThePostGame.com, and Rotoworld. ** = NBA.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com, and WNBA.com. *** = Includes 81 local Gannett newspapers sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV station sites, USA Today High School Sports, BNQT Media Group, The Big Lead and For The Win.
In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes "no local broadcaster has been more popular" than NESN's Jerry Remy. But now fans "wonder ... is Remy coming back to work Red Sox games this year? Or next year? Or ever?" Folks at NESN are "waiting for the popular analyst to make a decision." Jerry Remy’s son Jared is "charged with murdering Jennifer Martel this past August, and everyone associated with Remy, NESN, and the Red Sox has been unfailingly sensitive and respectful." Sources said that Remy has "a standing offer to return to NESN, and network officials are hoping to make an announcement before the Red Sox report to spring training." Remy has been "virtually invisible" since Aug. 15, the "night Jared Remy was charged with killing Martel" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3).
PRIVACY PLEASE: The CP's Stephen Whyno noted Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle "could barely contain his relief" after the conclusion of the Winter Classic and HBO's "24/7" series. Carlyle said, "It's been a long three weeks, that's for sure. ... There are lot of things that are going on inside that are hard to deal with when you're always constantly under a camera or a microphone (is) under you." The Winter Classic represented "the end of a difficult journey for the Leafs." Team GM Dave Nonis said, "It is a lot leading up to it. I think it's tough on the players, it's tough on the coaches. But I also think that it created an atmosphere that made it more than just a game. I think both teams raised their level of play" (CP, 1/2).
STAYING PUT: In Charlotte, Jim Utter reported race announcer Allen Bestwick will “remain with ESPN/ABC after it loses its NASCAR contract and work primarily as play-by-play announcer" for ABC's IndyCar telecasts. Sources said that Bestwick will do “both IndyCar and NASCAR events this season for ESPN/ABC.” Sources also said that Bestwick in ’15 will do IndyCar broadcasts and “work in other sports” for ESPN (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 1/2).
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: CBSSPORTS.com's Gary Parrish noted ESPN announcer Bill Walton at the open to last Saturday's Alabama-UCLA men's basketball game was talking about "how the players were no longer constantly looking to the sideline for direction." Walton's broadcast partner Dave Pasch said, "Couple of veiled Ben Howland references just four minutes into the game." Parrish: "At this point, is there anything longer and stranger than Walton's obsession with Howland?" It is "pretty bad when fellow ESPN employees are publicly calling for Walton to shutup or at least backoff." ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg tweeted, "Ben Howland deserves better. Give it a break Bill" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/2).