Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 45


Fox Sports averaged 35.1 million viewers for its Redskins-Cowboys game last Thanksgiving, making it the most-viewed regular-season NFL game in Fox Sports’ history and the NFL’s biggest regular-season TV audience since 1995.

Still, Fox Sports executives say that already record-setting viewership actually was 40 percent higher than reported. When combined with out-of-home viewership, the game averaged a whopping 48.7 million viewers.

The out-of-home audience pushed viewership for Washington-Dallas to a whopping 48.7 million.

That 40 percent viewership increase is not a fluke, according to ESPN executives. They have seen similar increases when out-of-home audiences were added to its Christmas Day schedule of NBA games, according to Kelly Johnson, vice president of advertising and marketing intelligence for ESPN.

The development of Nielsen’s out-of-home system is one of the most closely viewed happenings in sports TV this fall, particularly when the NFL kicks off. After a season that saw NFL ratings fall by close to 10 percent, the increases that come from out-of-home ratings could build momentum for NFL telecasts that saw their biggest TV ratings drop in years, network executives say.

The out-of-home premise is simple: Nielsen wants to count viewers watching television outside of their homes and has created an audience sample to register viewing from bars, restaurants, hotels, work, second homes, etc. People in the Nielsen sample carry a device the size of a pager that picks up audio encoding from a nearby television. The key is to pick up audio — people watching in bars or an airport where there is no sound are not counted, even if they are watching.

Fox NFL out-of-home lift percentages

The chart below shows that out-of-home viewers ages 6 and up for last Thanksgiving's Redskins-Cowboys game provided a 42 percent lift in overall viewership for Fox Sports, representing a gain of 13.6 million viewers.

2016 Thanksgiving Day game, Washington vs. Dallas, live program data

P6+ P18-34 P18-49 P25-54 M18-34 M18-49 M25-54
Lift (000s) Lift (000s) Lift (000s) Lift (000s) Lift (000s) Lift (000s) Lift (000s)
42% 13,601 54% 3,463 48% 6,573 43% 6,286 49% 1,783 43% 3,456 38% 3,282

Source: Fox Sports

So far, ESPN and Fox Sports are the only networks to sign up for the ratings. CBS and NBC are having discussions with Nielsen, but neither has decided whether to sign on.

“We are currently working with Nielsen to ensure that its out-of-home methodology accurately reflects the full audience picture,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson said via email.

NFL Network likely will participate in Nielsen’s out-of-home measurement, according to an NFL source.

“Fox has been enthusiastic and recognized the potential in out-of-home from early on,” said Mike Mulvihill, executive vice president of research, league operations and strategy at Fox Sports. “If we are not making our best effort as a company to capture all of the viewing that there is around our content then we’re not maximizing the value of that content and we’re selling our product short.”

First Look podcast, with out-of-home viewership discussion beginning at the 7:20 mark:

Out-of-home ratings are not without their skeptics. Ad buyers question how much value they should assign to an out-of-home viewer — is someone watching television at a restaurant really as engaged as someone watching from home? Ad buyers also push back on the higher price tag ESPN and Fox are seeking, saying that they already are paying for out-of-home viewers as part of their traditional advertising buys. Plus, the delay in reporting out-of-home numbers presents problems. Currently, it takes a couple of weeks for Nielsen to come up with the out-of-home number. Nielsen has assured network executives that the lag time will soon be shortened.

So far, most out-of-home stories in the press have focused on sales — and with good reason. Everyone wants to know how this change will affect revenue.

But if these out-of-home numbers stand, they will have a big impact in how executives program their channels. Traditionally, networks try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights, as fewer people stay home and watch television on those nights.

Out-of-home viewership lifts for ESPN


P2+ P18-34 P18-49 P25-54
Around the Horn 14.0% 16.6% 15.7% 14.5%
College GameDay 8.4% 11.7% 9.9% 9.1%
Pardon the Interruption 10.9% 14.8% 13.0% 11.8%
SportsCenter 12 a.m. 4.6% 5.3% 5.0% 4.4%
SportsCenter 6 p.m. 14.2% 16.2% 15.3% 14.8%


P2+ P18-34 P18-49 P25-54
CFP Championship 4.2% 8.0% 6.3% 5.5%
College basketball reg. season 9.2% 13.9% 12.9% 11.6%
College football afternoon 10.3% 16.8% 14.1% 12.4%
NBA regular season 9.2% 10.5% 10.7% 10.7%
Monday Night Football 7.0% 11.0% 9.4% 8.0%
Tennis U.S. Open afternoon 12.3% 23.9% 21.1% 17.9%

Source: Nielsen Media Research, Aug. 29, 2016 - June 11, 2017

For example, the traditional TV ratings for World Series Games 1 and 2 last season (Tuesday and Wednesday nights) were higher than the traditional TV ratings for Games 3 and 4 (Friday and Saturday nights). But once the out-of-home audience was counted, Games 3 and 4 had bigger audiences than Games 1 and 2.

“There’s a path to Friday prime time being just as dominated by sports as Saturday prime time is right now,” Mulvihill said. “But we’re going to have to go through this out-of-home transition to get there and really take full advantage of that night.”

Fox and ESPN executives are energized by the numbers they are seeing from out-of-home ratings — and not just from the overall audience lift. Both ESPN and Fox said the out-of-home audience makeup is younger, more ethnic and more affluent.

“What we’re seeing is that all of the areas where traditional TV usage tends to be a little bit lower, the out-of-home ratings are disproportionately strong,” Mulvihill said.

ESPN also has found that more women are counted in its out-of-home audience than in-home. “That stands out the most to me,” Johnson said.

Johnson said out-of-home is helping more than just live sports. Studio shows like “Around the Horn” (up 14 percent) and early evening “SportsCenter” (up 14 percent) have seen considerable jumps with out-of-home ratings. “PTI” is up 11 percent, and “Monday Night Football” was up 7 percent last season.

John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

About eight months after joining Fox Sports as executive vice president of communications, Terri Hines is filling out her leadership team in the communications department.

Motl is the new VP of media relations.
Photo by: FOX SPORTS
Earlier this month, Hines promoted Eddie Motl to vice president of media relations where he will act as the sports division’s spokesman and work with the communications departments at various leagues and conferences. Motl will remain in New York and also will handle communications for Fox Sports’ ad sales group.

Over the past several weeks, Hines, who is based in Los Angeles, has been interviewing candidates for a senior communications position overseeing Fox Sports’ regional sports networks. A source said Hines is “very close” to filling that position, which also will be based in Los Angeles. Hines then will fill two more positions to complete her leadership team. These would mark the biggest moves since Hines came over from Nike last December.

Fox Sports’ communications department has seen a huge amount of turnover since last summer when longtime executives including senior vice president Lou D’Ermilio, vice president Dan Bell and director Ileana Pena took buyouts and left the company.

In the fall, the department lost two other senior executives, as vice president Chris Bellitti bolted for the WWE and executive vice president Chris Hannan left for a job at WME-IMG.

D’Ermilio hired Motl in 2004 soon after he graduated from St. John’s University. Motl started as D’Ermilio’s assistant.

The Cubs are down 17 percent from last year's championship season.
The TV ratings doldrums are hitting local baseball, with 18 of the 29 U.S.-based MLB teams showing ratings declines so far this season.

The poor numbers fly in the face of the “Trump Effect” theory, which suggested that the over-heated presidential race last summer led to higher TV ratings for news networks and lower ones for sports. By the end of last season, 15 of the U.S.-based clubs showed local rating increases; 14 were down.

The Royals are down 37 percent, though their 7.69 average rating is still the best in baseball.
The most surprising drop this year comes in Chicago, where the Cubs’ tepid on-field play is translating to tepid TV ratings. A year after the team’s historic World Series title, ratings for Cubs games on CSN Chicago are down 17 percent to a 3.58 rating so far this season compared with the same number of games last season.

Could it be that the Cubs and its fans are suffering from a hangover after breaking the 108-year championship drought? As a point of comparison, Red Sox games on NESN posted a 20 percent ratings increase in 2005, the year after the team broke its 86-year championship drought.

The cross-town rival White Sox are faring worse, posting the league’s second smallest TV rating (0.83) and tied for the second biggest decline (down 29 percent). No surprise that the White Sox had the American League’s worst record at the All-Star break.

First Look podcast, with MLB ratings discussion beginning at the 4:55 mark:

SportsBusiness Journal reviewed data from all 29 U.S.-based MLB teams through the All-Star break. The Blue Jays in the Toronto market were not included.

On a national basis, MLB games on Fox and FS1 were up a combined 3 percent through the All-Star break. ESPN also was up for the year, fueled by strong ratings for “Sunday Night Baseball,” which were up 9 percent at the break.

Several usually reliable Midwest teams are creating some concern. Ratings for the Royals, sitting at just above .500 at the break, are down 37 percent on FS Kansas City this year — the league’s biggest drop and one that follows a 10 percent drop last season. Still, the Royals’ 7.69 rating is the highest in baseball.

It’s a similar story across the state, where the sub-.500 Cardinals are down 12 percent on FS Midwest, a drop that follows a 19 percent decline last season. The team’s 7.06 rating is the third highest in MLB.

Dropping ratings span the country. In Oakland, A’s games on NBC Sports California are at a 0.59 — MLB’s lowest midpoint rating since the Astros’ 0.39 mark in 2014. Pirates ratings on Root Pittsburgh are down 27 percent — a year after they dropped 21 percent. Both the A’s and Pirates have had disappointing seasons and sat below .500 at the All-Star break.

And Red Sox ratings on NESN are down 19 percent despite a season where the team was in first place in the AL East at the break.

The league’s good news stories are in its two biggest markets. Yankees ratings on YES have posted MLB’s biggest increase, thanks largely to a young team that has the fourth-best record in the American League.

And in Los Angeles, the Dodgers finally have some good news: They have the best record in baseball and the team’s games on SportsNet LA are up 24 percent — even as the RSN still has not been able to gain full distribution in the market. Still, despite posting the best record in baseball, Dodgers games on SportsNet LA are among the league’s lowest rated. This marks the fourth year in a row that the Dodgers’ ratings have been in bottom five at the break.

Another good news story is in Cleveland, where the World Series runner-up has seen its games on SportsTime Ohio increase by 29 percent. Its 7.52 rating is the second highest in the league and the Indians lead the AL Central division.