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NBA Playoffs Produce Ratings Lift

Brandon Contes

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Cord-cutting and streaming have led to declining ratings across the entire television industry, but the NBA has created a product compelling enough to continue growing its audience. After each network experienced increases for national NBA broadcasts during the regular season, ratings success has continued into the playoffs.

Last Thursday was the NBA’s lowest rated playoff game of the first round which would be expected when competing with the NFL Draft. According to Sports Media Watch, game 6 of the Celtics Bucks series earned a 1.5 rating with 2.4 million viewers on TNT. It was the lowest rated game of the first-round, yet it still enjoyed a 28% increase in viewership from last year’s comparable timeslot.

The NBA bounced back Friday night with ESPN drawing a 2.9 metered market rating for their Game 6 broadcast of the Pacers and Cavaliers. The rating was an 81% increase from last year’s Friday night first round Game 6 between the Celtics and Bulls.

Game 7 of the Cavaliers – Pacers series on ABC generated a 5.4 metered market rating, the highest rated first round NBA Playoff game in 14 years according to Nielsen. The last first round NBA Playoffs game to receive a higher rating was an April 25th 2004 matchup between the Lakers and Rockets. To put in perspective how long ago the Lakers vs Rockets matchup was, Karl Malone led all scorers and Mark Jackson was not broadcasting the game, he was playing for the Houston team coached by Jeff Van Gundy.

Through six games on ABC during this year’s NBA Playoffs, the network’s ratings are up by 11% from last season. ESPN’s first round broadcasts averaged a 2.5 metered market rating, a 14% increase from 2017.

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

Scott Hanson Clarifies NFL RedZone Missteps During Raiders/Seahawks

Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available on select stations.

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NFL RedZone host Scott Hanson ruffled feathers for many football fans Sunday when he told viewers to switch from the channel to their local CBS affiliates to see the conclusion of the Las Vegas Raiders and Seattle Seahawks game.

Unfortunately, for both viewers and Hanson, the game was only being shown in a small portion of the country, with the rest of the nation’s CBS affiliates already airing 60 Minutes. The game was also available to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers.

Hanson took to Twitter Sunday evening to explain what happened on the air and to apologize for the miscalculation.

Hanson believed in the moment that CBS was airing the overtime period to a national audience. But due to NFL broadcasting rules, the game was only available to stations in the Las Vegas, Fresno, Sacramento, Reno, Eugene, Portland, Boise, Seattle, and Spokane markets on the west coast. Additionally, the game was available in Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, and Charlotte.

He apologized for the mistake and said he would have more details at a later date.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Creates ACC/SEC Challenge

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports.

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ESPN, in conjunction with the ACC and SEC, is slated to announce the creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball.

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports. That number will grow to 30 contests when the SEC expands for the 2025-2026 season.

Every game in the challenge will be aired on an ESPN platform, with each side hosting the same amount of home games.

The creation of the event comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, ending a nearly four-decade relationship with ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, with the SEC/Big 12 Challenging beginning in 2013. Both events will cease to exist following this season.

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Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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