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Championship Sunday Presents Ratings Test For The NFL

Jason Barrett

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Usually the AFC and NFC Championship games are saved for the elite quarterbacks. The NFL is used to seeing Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger on Championship Sunday, but with three of the final four quarterbacks being Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles, what will that do for the league’s television ratings?

Entering the divisional round of the playoffs, the NFL had a chance to see Matt Ryan vs Drew Brees and Tom Brady vs Ben Roethlisberger on Championship Sunday. While the league enjoyed the exciting finishes the games provided, they have to be concerned with what the end results mean for next week’s ratings.

With a significant decline in television ratings for two consecutive years, Championship Weekend and the Super Bowl provide a chance for the NFL to rebound and reaffirm its popularity. For the NFC Championship, the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles bring with them the 15th and 4th largest local television markets respectively, according to Nielsen estimates. However, in terms of the larger audience, the quarterback matchup between Case Keenum and Nick Foles is one of the least attractive championship games the league has seen in recent years regarding their national popularity.

For the AFC game, New England and Jacksonville’s local markets are the 9th and 42nd largest in the country. The NFL is grateful to have the love ‘em or hate ‘em New England Patriots led by Tom Brady still playing and needs the polarizing franchise in the Super Bowl for all of their provided story lines.

Richard Deitsch of SI provided ratings from the previous six Championship Sundays in yesterday’s Media Circus article.

Date: Jan. 22, 2017
Early game: Falcons-Packers (Fox): 46.3 million viewers
Late game: Patriots-Steelers (CBS): 48.0 million viewers
Average viewership: 46.903 million

Date: Jan. 24, 2016
Early game: Broncos-Patriots (CBS): 53.3 million viewers
Late game: Panthers-Cardinals (Fox) 45.7 million viewers
Average viewership: 49.700 million

Date: Jan. 18 2015
Early game: Seahawks-Packers (Fox): 49.84 million viewers
Late game: Patriots-Colts (CBS): 42.14 million viewers
Average viewership: 46.151 million

Date: Jan. 19, 2014
Early game: Broncos-Patriots (CBS): 51.3 million viewers
Late game: Seahawks-Niners (Fox): 55.9 million viewers
Average viewership: 53.697 million

Date: Jan. 20, 2013
Early game: Niners-Falcons (Fox): 42.0 million viewers
Late game: Ravens-Patriots (CBS): 47.1 million viewers
Average viewership: 44.824 million

Date: Jan. 22, 2012
Early game: Patriots-Ravens (CBS): 48.7 million viewers
Late game: Giants-Niners (Fox): 57.6 million
Average viewership: 53.976 million

There is no consistent decline with these ratings, the numbers change based on the teams/markets involved and how close the game is late. The highest rated game was between two large markets, New York and San Francisco, a game that went into overtime. One of the lowest rated games had the Patriots and Colts, a blowout between the 9th and 28th largest television markets.

Last week Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wasn’t concerned about their ratings decline.

“We always want ratings to go up, but we’re 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever,” said Goodell . “We’re likely to be the No. 1 show on Fox — excuse me on all of television, the Fox Sunday afternoon game. Sunday night, prime time is for the seventh year in a row the No. 1 show. Thursday Night Football is No. 2. I think dominance of the NFL in television is still very clear.”

The league still generates higher ratings than other sports and television shows, but that doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing a decline that’s cause for concern. According to Sports Business Daily, the Wild Card Games had a double digit decrease from the previous year’s television ratings.

Early returns for the Divisional Round games showed a continued dip. Sportstvratings.com reported a 17.4 rating for the Falcons Eagles game, down from an 18.2 last season. Last year’s Packers Cowboys game was the highest rated divisional game ever, even with the fantastic finish to last night’s Vikings-Saints game the ratings are expected to show a large drop based on the teams’ national following.

The AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Jaguars on CBS has a 3:05 start time, with the FOX broadcast of Vikings vs Eagles getting the late window at 6:40pm ET.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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