Ratings Roundup: NFL Week 2, CFB Week 3, ESPN’s US Open, NBCN’s IndyCar, and WNBA Playoffs

Ratings roundup is a rundown of ratings news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, we recap week 2 of the NFL season, week 3 of the college football season, ESPN’s US Open boost, IndyCar’s second best season ever on NBCSN, and the WNBA’s increased ratings heading into the Finals. 

NFL Week 2 Recap
ESPN Monday Night Football: ESPN’s Week 2 Monday Night Football game delivered a total live audience (TV + Streaming) of 12,741,000 average viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. On ESPN, Lions-Giants averaged a 7.4 US household rating and 12,287,000 viewers, which is up 1% from last year’s Eagles-Bears game.

The game peaked during the 9:15-9:30 p.m. quarter hour with an 8.6 US household rating and 14,465,000 viewers. On ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, Lions-Giants averaged a 0.3 Hispanic US household rating. Additionally, across Twitter and Facebook, MNF was the most social telecast of the night for the second week in a row. In Detroit, the game delivered an 11.3 rating on ESPN and a 17.4 rating on WXYZ-ABC, for a combined 28.7 rating in the market. In New York, the game delivered a 9.4 rating on ESPN and a 5.4 on WPIX-CW, for a combined 14.8 rating in the market.

NBC Sunday Night Football: Packers-Falcons earned an 11.3 rating and 20.2 million viewers on the Week 2 edition of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, down 11% in ratings and viewership from Packers-Vikings last year (12.7, 22.8M). The Falcons’ win was the lowest rated and least-watched Week 2 edition of SNF since Steelers-Browns in 2008 (10.8, 17.8M). (SportsMediaWatch)

NFL on FOX: The Week 2 NFL national window, primarily featuring Cowboys-Broncos, drew the largest audience of the season thus far with a 14.3 rating and 26 million viewers on FOX, up 17% in ratings and 22% in viewership from last year’s Colts-Broncos matchup on CBS (12.2, 21.4M). (SportsMediaWatch)

NFL on CBS: CBS’s Week 2 NFL single-header featuring Patriots-Saints delivered an 8.4 rating and 14.5 million viewers on CBS Sunday, down 24% in ratings and viewership from last year on FOX (11.0, 19.2M) and down 14% and 13% respectively from 2015 on CBS (9.8, 16.7M). The 8.4 rating is the lowest for the Week 2 singleheader since at least 1998. The first two NFL windows on CBS this season have both declined double-digits to multi-year lows. (SportsMediaWatch)

NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football: 2017’s Week # 2 Thursday Night Football game on NFL Network only (no OTA included), Houston @ Cincinnati, averaged a 4.9 HH rating and 8.1M total viewers on TV nationally, up +30% and +32% respectively versus 2016’s average across the 4 Thursday Night Football games on NFL Network only (3.8 HH and 6.1M viewers). NFL Network’s exclusive presentation of the game was also the most streamed regular season game ever across NFL Mobile by Verizon and the NFL’s digital properties (using NFL Network authentication), topping last year’s Baltimore @ Pittsburgh game on Christmas. Combining the digital and NFL Network only audiences, the viewership was up +3% versus 2016’s first NFL Network only game, Miami @ Cincinnati (8.0M viewers).

College Football Week 3 Recap
ABC/ESPN: ABC’s Saturday Night Football televised college football’s most-watched prime-time game in week 3 as Clemson’s 47-21 victory over Louisville (8 p.m.) delivered a total live audience of 5,206,000 viewers, outpacing the TV audience for Fox’s USC-Texas double-OT game (4,912,000 viewers). SNF also grew its own audience from 2016, as the Louisville-Clemson audience was up 79% from last season’s week 3 SNF game (USC vs. Stanford). ABC’s Saturday Night Football is averaging a total live audience of 8,630,000 viewers through the first three weeks of the season, the most-watched college football franchise on TV and up 51% from franchise’s first three games last season. While televising the top eight most-watched games on cable in week 3, ESPN/ESPN2 also experienced significant total live audience increases in key windows: LSU at Mississippi State (7 p.m. on ESPN) drew 2,581,000 viewers, up 20% from Texas A&M at Auburn’s 2016 matchup; Notre Dame at Boston College (3:30 p.m. on ESPN) drew 1,845,000 viewers, up 75% from last year’s Pittsburgh-Oklahoma State game; Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh (noon on ESPN) drew 1,621,000 viewers, up 62% from Miami at Appalachian State in 2016; and Colorado State at Alabama (7 p.m. on ESPN2) drew 1,653,000 viewers, up 35% from Mississippi State-LSU last year. In the season’s first three weeks, ESPN alone is averaging 2,157,000 television viewers a game (17 games), 21% higher than the average audience on FS1 and Fox combined (14 games) and 160% higher than the average viewership on FS1 (seven games).

Fox/FS1: Saturday night’s USC double-overtime 27-24 win over Texas was FOX’s most-watched college football game of the year. The contest drew 4,912,000 viewers on FOX and shattered FOX Sports GO’s regular-season college football record with an average minute audience of 41,310, a +13% increase over the previous mark of 36,718 set last year for Texas-Oklahoma. Earlier in the day, Ohio State’s win over Army attracted 2,506,000 viewers on the FOX broadcast network, while Northern Illinois’ win over Nebraska on FS1 drew 808,000 viewers, an +11% increase over the channel’s 2016 Saturday college football average. Overall, college football on FOX and FS1 is off to its best start ever, averaging 1,778,000 viewers per game across the two networks, including 668,000 in the Adults 18-49 demographic. FOX and FS1 have amassed 5.14 billion total minutes viewed this season, an 86% increase from this point last season. FOX Sports GO is also off to a fast start, up 48% year-over-year in average minute audience through three weeks.

SEC on CBS: Tennessee-Florida earned a 3.2 rating and 5.1 million viewers on the SEC on CBS Saturday, down 36% in ratings and 37% in viewership from Alabama-Mississippi last year (5.0, 8.2M), according to SportsMediaWatch. Compared to the teams’ meeting last season, which took place in week four, ratings dropped a tick and viewership 7% from a 3.3 and 5.5 million. Despite the declines, the Gators’ Hail Mary win was the weekend’s highest rated and most-watched college football telecast on any network.

ESPN Sees Increase for US Open
ESPN/ESPN2’s U.S. Open coverage averaged 949,000 viewers, up 8 percent from last year (881,000 viewers). However, 2017 was also down 25 percent in viewership from two years ago (1.263 million viewers). Sloane Stephens’s win over Madison Keys drew the best viewership for a women’s championship on ESPN since the network began exclusive U.S. Open coverage in 2015 and were up 26 percent (1.851 million vs. 1.464 million; up 16 percent from two years ago: 1.851 million vs. 1.601 million). The Sep. 10 men’s finals that earned Rafael Nadal’s 16th career grand slam title victory were down 11 percent (1.483 million vs. 1.669 million). (Awful Announcing)

NBCSN Earns Second-Best IndyCar Series Season Ever
The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series on NBCSN delivered the network’s second most-watched IndyCar season ever and was up 3% vs. 2016, producing a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 507,000 viewers across 12 races (according Nielsen and Adobe Analytics). This season’s viewership on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app exceeded the 2016 TAD of 492,000 viewers by 3%*, and was just 1% shy of NBCSN’s record TAD in 2015 (510,000). More than half of this season’s races on NBCSN (seven) produced a TAD of at least 500,000 average viewers, the most ever since NBCSN acquired IndyCar rights prior to the 2009 season. This year’s race at Pocono on Sunday, Aug. 20, averaged a TAD of 624,000 viewers to rank as the most-watched race of the season.

TV-only viewership on NBCSN averaged 502,000 viewers, also up 3% vs. 2016 (488,000), and produced a 0.32 household rating. Indianapolis led all local markets for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series on NBCSN with a 2.1 local rating. Digitally, the 2017 IndyCar season had its best season ever on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, delivering 124,000 uniques and 8.7 million live minutes, up 29% and 35%, respectively, vs. 2016. This season also saw the first two IndyCar races (Texas; 1.091 million and Sonoma; 1.014 million) eclipse one million live minutes on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

WNBA Playoffs Viewership Gains
Going into the WNBA Finals, ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of the WNBA Playoffs are averaging 224,000 viewers (P2+), up +6% from 2016, and have shown strong gains among the P18-49 demographic with a +8% viewership gain from last year (74,200 in 2017).

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