Sports Seeing Strong Viewership Increases Since Shutdown Return
The number of different sports holding competition in the usually quiet summer months has "resulted in a staggering boost in total sports viewing" compared to last year, according to Stephen Battaglio of the L.A. TIMES. The NHL, PGA Tour, NASCAR and EPL are "pacing well ahead of their viewing levels before all action was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic in March," while MLB also has "come back strong, especially among younger viewers." Fox Sports Exec VP and Head Of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill indicated that since the end of July, which is when MLB, the NBA and the NHL all started back, there "have been days when sports viewing has been up 100% to 150% over comparable dates last year." NBA viewing in primetime on TNT and ESPN is "even with pre-pandemic levels," though the games "have a larger share of the TV audience ... than they did before action was paused." The NHL "typically has the smallest audience of the four major sports leagues," but its post-pandemic audience has grown "by 60% over its first 24 games on NBC Sports Network and 57% on the NBC broadcast network." Playing as many as six games throughout the day "has likely helped build the audience." Meanwhile, RSNs airing MLB games are "seeing triple digit increases in audiences," while ESPN's national telecasts are "averaging 1.2 million viewers, up 29% from last year" (L.A. TIMES, 8/14).
SHOULD NBA BE WORRIED? In DC, Matthew Paras notes MLB and NHL viewership is up while the NBA "is in a ratings slump." The league "benefited from a strong opening night" when it returned last month, though it has "since seen a decline." However, it is worth noting that the NBA "still draws a higher average than baseball or hockey, with 1.56 million viewers across TNT, ESPN and ABC." Additionally, former Fox Sports Senior VP Patrick Crakes pointed out the "number of options viewers now have, stretching across new time slots and months not usually associated with sports like basketball and hockey" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/13).