ESPN is bringing back at least one piece of its Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports in his weekly “Sports Clicker” newsletter (you can subscribe here) that Countdown host Samantha Ponder has been re-signed to a three-year contract. The deal, reportedly for a total of just over $3 million, will also include work beyond the Sunday pregame show, such as contributing to NFL Draft coverage.
In February, Marchand reported that analysts Randy Moss and Matt Hasselback were also facing expired contracts along with Ponder. (He also mentions Steve Young as up for renewal in his latest report.) This appeared to be an opportunity for ESPN to overhaul Sunday NFL Countdown, especially as weekday show NFL Live gets more attention and viewer engagement on social media.
But the network apparently sought to renew everyone’s contract and keep the band together. Now, ESPN is a quarter of the way there. (NFL Live and college football game analyst Dan Orlovsky is also facing a contract renewal.)
According to Marchand, negotiations between ESPN and Ponder were bumpy at times, which is surely to be expected. One of the issues may have been Ponder’s workload, which has been limited to Sundays since she took over hosting Countdown. But in looking at ESPN currently, many hosts and anchors are working across network programming.
As mentioned, Ponder will contribute to NFL Draft coverage, but as ESPN’s NFL footprint expands, perhaps she’ll be doing more in the months and years to come. Having a more prominent role in NFL coverage could be a factor in who hosts ABC/ESPN’s Super Bowl broadcast in 2027. Ponder, Suzy Kolber, and Laura Rutledge could be vying for that role. Other names Marchand mentions are Steve Levy, Scott Van Pelt, and Mike Greenberg.
If you start seeing more of Ponder across ESPN’s NFL programming, that could be one reason why. Although a Super Bowl role would have to be part of her next contract.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years
“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”
The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.
The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.
Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.
NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.
That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.
NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.
Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.
ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.
The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.
At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.
AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS
53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.
The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.
53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.
CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.
With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.