Insiders around the sports television industry are tepidly optimistic that 2021, especially the final quarter, can bring viewership closer to pre-pandemic levels. The Hollywood Reporter gauged the issue’s temperature this week as positive signs grow from the NCAA Tournament and young-MLB season.
ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball ratings are up over 30 percent compared to last season, while the NCAA Tournament slightly lagged behind 2019 figures.
“Now the challenge is, how do we get fans back in the building and how do we reestablish sports as an engine of social connectivity and a place where people come together?” Executive VP and head of strategy and analytics at Fox Sports Michael Mulvihill told The Hollywood Reporter. “When that happens, I think you’ll see viewership get back to more normal expectations.”
One key factor sports television has going for it is the scarcity of wide-ranging live programming. Monoculture is increasingly fading in today’s society but people are still coming together to support their teams.
“Our concern, if we have one, it’s more about the general trend of TV use than it is about interest in sports rebounding,” said Mulvihill. “I think the share of viewing taken up by sports is probably going to increase this year. We just don’t know what the trend in that total pie of viewership is going to be.”
The WWE and NBC have teamed up to help drive subscribers to Peacock, NBC’s new all-encompassing streaming app. The WWE exclusively aired Wrestlemania 37 on Peacock this past weekend after NBC began housing all WWE content in January. This is one of the ways leaders in the industry are adapting to the landscape.
Executives are hoping these positive signs culminate in a lucrative 2021 fourth quarter. Fall football action along with the baseball playoffs are crucial periods for sports television revenue.
“I feel like we can look at September and the football season and baseball postseason with a lot of confidence that it’s going to look like a normal sports event,” Mulvihill said to The Hollywood Reporter. “That will bring a resurgence of interest along with it.”
Russ Heltman is a daily news writer for BSM. He is the morning host and producer for 89.3 WMKV in Cincinnati, OH. He also works in gameday communications for FC Cincinnati and additionally contributes to the AllBengals blog for Sports Illustrated. Russ can be found on Twitter @RussHeltman11 or you can reach him by email at [email protected].
FOX Sports Averages Over 19 Million for Michigan/Ohio State Broadcast
“The Game” averaged 19.065 million viewers, making it the most-watched regular season college football game on any network since 2011.
FOX Sports has announced that its recent broadcast of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ matchup against the Michigan Wolverines averaged 19.065 million viewers on FOX, rendering it the most-watched regular season college football game on any network since 2011. Furthermore, the viewership figure makes the matchup the most-watched regular season college football game in the history of FOX Sports. The game was up 11% from last year’s broadcast, which peaked at 19.6 million viewers and also broke the previous record for the most-viewed college football broadcast in FOX Sports history.
This time around, “The Game” peaked at 22.9 million viewers in the quarter-hour from 3:30 to 3:45 p.m. EST on FOX and also finished as the most-streamed college football game in network history. Viewership data for the matchup comes from Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics, according to the news shared on Wednesday morning by FOX Sports.
Additional data from Sports Media Watch reveals that the game averaged a 9.0 rating and drew the second-largest audience on record, only surpassed by their matchup in 2006 when the two teams were ranked first and second. For the holiday weekend, the game was the fifth most-watched telecast behind the NFL Thanksgiving tripleheader and Sunday national window for the NFL on CBS, which included the overtime matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. Second in the ratings was the Iron Bowl game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers, which finished with an average of 9.09 million viewers on CBS.
FOX Sports’ Big Noon Saturday broadcast team, consisting of play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, color commentator Joel Klatt and sideline reporter Jenny Taft, were on the call for the game. The network has broadcast the contest for every year since 2017, excluding the 2020 cancellation of the game. Big Noon Kickoff was also on-site outside of Michigan Stadium for a pregame broadcast featuring host Rob Stone, analysts Brady Quinn, Mark Ingram, Charles Woodson, Matt Leinart and Urban Meyer.
Amazon Prime Video Has Its Lowest-Rated NFL Game of Season on Black Friday
The contest averaged 9.61 million viewers, marking Amazon Prime Video’s second-least watched NFL game of the season.
For the first time in the history of the National Football League, Amazon Prime Video broadcast an exclusive game on Black Friday between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The company utilized various broadcast viewership verticals outside of the primary broadcast featuring play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, color commentator Kirk Herbstreit and sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung. A special edition of TNF Tonight took the air before the game, which was followed by an alternate broadcast from YouTube sports comedy group Dude Perfect. The day ended with a postgame concert from country music recording artist Garth Brooks, closing the day of a new tradition that Prime Video expects to continue over the years.
The contest averaged 9.61 million viewers on Friday afternoon, and while it outperformed all competing programming in afternoon and prime time across broadcast and cable television, it was the second-least watched Prime Video game this year (Panthers-Bears on 11/9/23 averaged 9.56 million viewers). Moreover, Sports Media Watch states that the game garnered a 4.0 rating, marking the streaming provider’s lowest-rated contest of the year. Within the P18-34 demographic, the game was No. 1 across dayparts on Friday with an average of 1.77 million viewers, 220% higher than the No. 2 program. Additionally, the game finished No. 1 on the day among persons ages 18 to 49, averaging 4.28 million viewers. Ratings in both these categories, however, were low-points on the year at 2.5 and 3.2, respectively.
Viewership for the game peaked at 11.18 million viewers between 5 and 5:15 p.m. EST, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. When combined with out-of-home (OOH), local station (OTA) and computer and mobile measurements, the game attained an average minute audience of 10.83 million viewers.
“Prime Video’s first Black Friday Football game welcomed meaningful successes across Amazon’s many touchpoints with fans and customers,” Jay Marine, vice president and global head of sports at Prime Video, said in a statement. “We’re beyond proud of this new tentpole event we’ve created with the NFL, and how so many parts of Amazon worked to create a fun and innovative production that surrounded football, family, shopping, food and music. We look forward to building this Black Friday game into one of America’s great annual sports traditions.”
Reports from various sources indicated that Prime Video was successful in selling its available advertising slots ahead of the NFL Black Friday game, reportedly pricing 30-second commercials at approximately $600,000. Next year’s matchup for the day after Thanksgiving has yet to be announced, but the intent of the NFL is to rotate the contest and grant another NFL market the chance to host the game, according to Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president of media distribution.
Amazon Prime Video will resume its Thursday Night Football broadcasts this week when the Seattle Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys at 8:15 p.m. EST/5:15 p.m. PST.
Stephen A. Smith: You Can’t Just ‘Go Out There Running Your Mouth’ About Serious Topics
Smith’s comments came after being asked why he had remained silent on the accusations against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey.
Stephen A. Smith clapped back towards those who have been critical of the First Take panelist and podcast host for his silence on the ongoing Josh Giddey situation.
Giddey, a 21-year-old guard from Australia, is being investigated by the NBA after allegations on social media surfaced that he was having an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl.
On The Stephen A. Smith Show on Monday, Smith was annoyed with people who just want him to skewer Giddey based on the limited information available.
“Y’all are getting on my last damn nerves. Could you try to be responsible? Could you try?” he asked. “That’s all I’m asking. What you want Stephen A. to say?”
Stephen A. Smith pointed out that there are a lot of unknowns with this case right now. All that people have to go off of currently are social media posts. He said throwing around accusations without proof or supporting facts is a good way to get slapped with a lawsuit.
“You know why Stephen A. hasn’t said anything? Because you could get sued, idiots!” he said. “You don’t just go out there running your damn mouth over something this serious.”
Smith concluded by saying until there’s more information available and signs that something wrong has taken place, he’s going to stay out of it. It’s hard to offer a reaction when you don’t know how deep the accusations run.
“If I had a clue, I would have spoken on it, but I don’t and it’s why I haven’t said anything,” he said. “My advice to you all is to shut the hell up and do the same.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.