Ratings Roundup: Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry is Back; MLB Viewership Up Across the Board

After a brief ratings hibernation, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is officially back. The final Nielsen numbers for last weekend’s series are in and they are big. Sunday’s outing on ESPN earned a 3.0 U.S. rating and 4.722 million viewers, up 100% and 105%, respectively, from the 19th Sunday Night Baseball telecast last season (Phillies-Mets: 1.5, 2.305 million). The game ranks as the most-viewed MLB telecast of the season on any network, and the most-viewed telecast on ESPN since 2007 (Yankees-Red Sox 5.304M).

Fox’s regional coverage of the series on Saturday aired in 81% of TV markets earned 4.10 million viewers, up 59% from last year (Cubs-Cardinals: 2.583 million). It was the most-viewed afternoon MLB telecast on the network since 2008 (Red Sox-Yankees: 4.538 million). Friday’s matchup pulled in a season-high 533,000 viewers for MLB Network, marking the network’s second-most viewed game ever (second only to Stephen Strasburg’s debut) despite being blacked out in Boston and New York.

Last year, the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry failed to deliver on ESPN and Fox Sports, with ratings for the rivals’ nationally televised Saturday afternoon and Sunday night games routinely finishing in the low 2.0 range…

…Overall, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball is averaging 2.53 million viewers this season, an increase of 9% season-to-date over last season (2.32 million). The corresponding 1.89 million households are up 7% over 1.77 million last season and the 1.9 rating this year is up 6% compared to a 1.8 rating in 2010…

…Meanwhile, Fox Saturday Baseball is averaging 2.97 million viewers, which is up 5% versus last year’ 2.83 million viewers after 19 weeks…

…NFL Network scored its best-ever audience for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, as an average of 513,000 viewers tuned in – a 16% increase from last year’s ceremony. In addition, the one-hour NFL Total Access Post-Enshrinement was up 72% in viewership over last year with an average of 381,000 viewers. Online, NFL.com saw a 56% increase in unique users on Hall of Fame induction Saturday versus the same day in 2010…

…ESPN’s second NASCAR race of the season was unable to overcome a two-hour rain delay, as Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam RV Insurance 500 from Pocono earned a 3.4 U.S. rating and 5.485 million viewers, down 11% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (3.8, 6.202 million). Excluding 2009, when the race was postponed due to rain, this marks the lowest rated and least-viewed edition of the race over the past decade (from 2001 to 2011). Nonetheless, the race finished as the week’s most-viewed sporting event on cable, topping Sunday night’s Yankees/Red Sox game on ESPN…

…Spike TV’s “UFC Prelims” special for UFC 133: “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” on Saturday, Aug. 6, averaged 1.4 million viewers, up slightly from the 1.2 million it scored for the UFC 132: “Cruz vs. Faber 2” undercard offering back on July 2. The telecast notched a 1.0 household rating.