Ratings Roundup: 2018 MLB Postseason Sees Low Numbers in NLDS; NFL Ratings Continue to Rise

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the 2018 MLB Postseason is through the Wildcard and Divison Series, NFL overall ratings continue to rise, college football reaches the halfway point, ESPN and RSN’s compile final ratings for regular season baseball, NBC Sports Network is on pace to create network history, viewership of all programs on MLB Network increased in 2018, and ESPN reports their September numbers.

2018 MLB Postseason At This Moment
The MLB Postseason is underway with the completion of both Wildcard games and Division Series. TBS’s exclusive coverage of the 2018 American League Wild Card presented by Hankook Tire — the Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees (8-11:30 p.m. ET) — led the network to win the night across all of cable television, based on overnight delivery. The live game telecast peaked with an average of 7.5 million total viewers from 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals, and delivered significant audience growth across all platforms.

Wednesday night’s A.L. Wild Card game telecast garnered an average minute audience of 6.4 million viewers across all platforms, an increase of 51% over the 2016 A.L. Wild Card game on TBS and a 45% gain when compared to last year’s N.L. Wild Card game on the network.

Additional highlights include:

  • Wednesday night’s Yankees/Athletics telecast on TBS is up double digits across all key demos, including a 37% increase in People 18-49 and 32% in Men 18-34 over the network’s A.L. Wild Card telecast in 2016.
  • Turner’s TV Everywhere platforms generated over nine million total streaming minutes, a 120% increase compared to the 2016 A.L. Wild Card Game on TBS.
  • The 2018 A.L. Wild Card Game generated over 11 million Twitter impressions on Bleacher Report’s MLB handle, a 13% increase over last year’s comparable Wild Card.
  • The Bay Area posted an 8.9 overnight rating, the best on record for an A’s game telecast on any network since 2014…

…According to SportsMediaWatch, Game 1 of the Brewers-Rockies NLDS matchup on Thursday, October 4 earned a 1.6 rating and 2.46 million viewers on FS1, up 24% in viewership from the same window on MLB Network last year (Red Sox-Astros: n/a, 1.99M) and up 23% and 32% respectively from 2016 on TBS (Blue Jays-Rangers: 1.3, 1.86M). Fs1’s Game 2 reached a 1.1 rating with 1.77 million viewers. According to Cynopsis Sports, the series-clinching game on Sunday on MLB Network drew an average of two million viewers, to rank as the channel’s fourth-best MLB game telecast ever(Cynopsis Sports)…

…In the other NLDS, Game 1 of Dodgers-Braves drew a 1.3 and 2.1 million on MLB Network — down 43% in ratings and 44% in viewership from last year’s aforementioned Yankees-Indians game and down 55% in both measures from 2016 on TBS (Red Sox-Indians: 2.9, 4.67M). The Dodgers win delivered the third-largest Major League Baseball audience ever on MLB Network, trailing last year’s Yankees-Indians Game 2 (3.20M) and Game 2 of Giants-Cubs in 2016 (4.61M) (SMW). Game 2 on FS1 had a 1.2 rating and 2.03 million viewers (-31%). Sunday night’s Game 3 increased slightly — with a 1.8 rating and 3.02 million viewers on FS1, down 40% in ratings and 43% in viewership from Indians-Yankees in the same window last year (3.0, 5.29M) but up 38% and 42% respectively from 2016 (Rangers-Blue Jays: 1.4, 2.37M). The game that saw the Dodgers return to the NLCS had 2.17 million on FS1 — down 23% from Nationals-Cubs Game 3 on TBS last year (2.83M) but up 42% from Nationals-Dodgers Game 3 on MLB Network in 2016 (1.53M) (SMW)…

…In the American League, Game 1 of Indians-Astros had 1.91 million on TBS, up 17% from last year (Red Sox-Astros: 1.63M) and up 19% from 2016 (Blue Jays-Rangers: 1.61M). Game 2 had a 1.6 (-24%) and 2.50 million (-29%). As for Game 2, the telecast reached a 1.6 (-24%) with 2.50 million spectators (-29%). The defending World Series champions advanced in Game 3 on Monday afternoon in front of a television audience of 1.92 million on TBS, down 18% from Astros-Red Sox Game 4 last year (2.83M) (SMW)…

…In the final Division Series, Yankees-Red Sox Game 1 earned a 3.35 rating and 5.57 million viewers on TBS, up 59% in viewership from last year (Cubs-Nationals: n/a, 3.50M) and up 158% and 152% respectively from 2016 on FS1 (Dodgers-Nationals: 1.3, 2.21M). The second game of the series on Saturday night had a 3.0 and 5.06 million — up 82% in ratings and 80% in viewership from last year (D’Backs-Dodgers: 1.65, 2.81M) and up 19% and 10% respectively from Giants-Cubs on MLB Network in 2016 (2.5, 4.61M) (SMW). A lopsided Game 3 in favor of Boston earned 4.41 million viewers on TBS, down 2% from Indians-Yankees Game 4 on FS1 last year (4.49M) but up 9% from Indians-Red Sox on TBS in 2016 (4.03M). Due to the score, it was the first game of the series to decline in comparison to last year’s window with a 17% drop. Last night’s series-clinching ALDS Game 4 on TBS was the most-viewed LDS Game 4 on the network since 2007, with an average of 7.1 million viewers, and ranked as the top program of the night across all of cable television.  The telecast peaked with an average of 8.5 million viewers from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET. Locally, the ALDS Game 4 telecast generated a 23.9 HH rating in Boston, the highest-rated LDS game on any network in the market since 2008.

Week 5 of NFL Action
The Monday Night Football matchup — which featured New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees breaking Peyton Manning’s all-time NFL passing yards record in a 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins — averaged 10.6 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. ESPN won the night among all networks, broadcast or cable, in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54). Redskins-Saints was also the highest-rated telecast of the night across all broadcast and cable networks among those same categories.

Through the first five weeks of the NFL season, MNF has helped ESPN win the night all five Mondays. For the second straight week, the MNF audience has had a year-over-year increase from 2017 (10.4 million viewers, Vikings-Bears in week 5).

On ESPN, Redskins-Saints averaged a 6.3 US household rating and 10.5 million viewers. The telecast peaked from 9:15-9:30 p.m. ET with an 8.0 US household rating and 13.4 million viewers. On ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, Redskins-Saints averaged an additional 89,000 viewers.

In Washington D.C., the game delivered an 8.9 rating on ESPN and an 11.7 rating on WJLA-ABC, for a combined 20.6 rating in the market. In New Orleans, the game delivered a 16.5 rating on ESPN and a 37.0 rating on WDSU-NBC, for a combined 53.5 rating in the market. Redskins-Saints on ESPN is the highest-rated MNF game in New Orleans since 2014 (Saints-Bears delivered a 16.7 rating on ESPN).

The top metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): Richmond-Petersburg (14.5), Norfolk (13.9), Kansas City (9.6), Dallas-Ft. Worth (9.5), Baltimore and Denver (9.2), Charlotte and Dayton (8.8), Minneapolis-St. Paul (8.7), Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Seattle-Tacoma (8.6)…

…Packers vs. Lions in the early time slot on Fox earned a 9.2 in 40% of markets. Others received the Giants vs. Panthers in 38%, up 5% from last year (mostly Panthers-Lions: 8.8) but down 12% from 2016 on CBS (10.5). In the later window, an NFC Championship rematch between the Eagles and Vikings reached a 14.2 overnight rating — down 5% from Packers-Cowboys last year (15.0) but up 8% from 2016 on CBS (mostly Bengals-Cowboys: 13.1) (SMW)…

…CBS Sports’ Week 5 NFL single header coverage of The NFL on CBS scored with a +3% increase in ratings, earning an average national household rating/share of 8.0/19 (vs. 7.8/18 last year). Through five weeks, The NFL on CBS’ season-to-date household rating/share and viewership are both up +7% from a year ago (9.3/21 vs. 8.7/20 and 15.9 million vs. 14.9 million, respectively)…

…NBC’s Sunday Night Football drew a 12.4 — up 17% from last year (Chiefs-Texans: 10.6), up 22% from 2016 opposite a presidential debate (Giants-Packers: 10.2) and the highest for SNF in Week 5 since 2015 (49ers-Giants: 13.1) (SMW)…

…On Thursday Night Football, Fox and NFL Network earned a combined 8.0 rating and 13.2 million viewers for Colts-Patriots, down 15% in ratings and 14% in viewership from last year (Patriots-Buccaneers: 9.4, 15.4M) and down 25% in both measures from the second TNF simulcast in 2016, which took place in Week 3 (Texans-Patriots: 10.6, 17.5M) (SMW).

Red River Rivalry Top College Football Ratings in Week 6
Fox Sports’ presentation of the 2018 Red River Showdown, in which No. 19 Texas edged No. 7 Oklahoma, 48-45 on a game-winning field goal, drew 5,608,000 viewers on the Fox broadcast network.

Saturday’s thriller is Fox Sports’ most-watched college football game this season and was the most-watched sporting event on any network that day. It also stands as the most-watched Red River Showdown since 2011 and is up +55% in viewership over the 2017 event.

On Fox Sports streaming sources, the game pulled in an average minute audience of 86,765, ranking as Fox Sports’ most streamed game of the 2018 college football season and the best-performing Big 12 game ever on Fox Sports streaming platforms. It also ranks as the third best-performing regular-season college football game in Fox Sports streaming history behind last year’s deliveries for Penn State at Ohio State (107,983) and Ohio State-Michigan (100,427)…

…LSU-Flordia on the SEC on CBS and Notre Dame-Virginia Tech on ABC both received a 3.1 rating. The former increased 19% from the same matchup last year (2.6) but declined 23% from 2016 (Tennessee-Texas A&M: 4.0). The latter fell 21% from Michigan State-Michigan last year (3.9) and a tick from FSU-Miami in 2016 (3.2).

Regional Sports Networks and ESPN Wrap Up 2018 MLB Coverage
The St. Louis Cardinals’ local television ratings on Fox Sports Midwest ranked No. 1 among Major League Baseball teams in 2018, the 19th consecutive year the team finished in the top three in MLB (2000-2018).

The 145 Cardinals games on Fox Sports Midwest averaged a 7.3 household rating/87,000 households in the St. Louis DMA, up from a 7.2 in 2017, according to Nielsen Media Research. The Cardinals finished No. 1 in MLB for the third time in nine seasons (2010, 2014, 2018). They ranked third in 2017.

Cardinals games on Fox Sports Midwest were the No. 1 programming in prime-time during baseball season (March 29-Sept. 30), beating the prime-time averages of all other TV networks in the St. Louis DMA. The Cardinals on Fox Sports Midwest averaged an 8.1 in prime time, 56 percent higher than second-place KMOV-CBS (5.2)…

…Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast delivered the highest year-over-year (YoY) household ratings growth of any MLB team with the telecasts of the Atlanta Braves. The networks’ 3.20 average household rating in the Atlanta DMA represents a 76% uptick versus the 2017 season and is the highest average household rating since 2013.

Braves telecasts on the networks in the Atlanta DMA also rank No. 1 in primetime on cable TV during the MLB regular season, beating the average of all other cable networks. And among all television in the Atlanta DMA, Braves games on the networks rank No. 2 in primetime.

In addition to household ratings growth and wins, Atlanta Braves telecasts on Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast generated more viewing in the Atlanta DMA than the top fourteen primetime shows combined, with over 2 billion minutes consumed during the season.

The networks’ social media platforms also delivered substantial gains year-over-year, with Braves content on Fox Sports South’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts; engagement was up 585%, total impressions increased 480% and video views were up 80% versus the 2017 season.

Additional ratings highlights for the 2018 season (Atlanta DMA):

  • Highest-Rated Game: Wednesday, August 15, vs Miami Marlins (5.99 HH rating) on Fox Sports Southeast.
  • Highest-Rated Braves Live Pregame Show: Wednesday, August 15, vs Miami Marlins (2.06 HH rating) on Fox Sports Southeast.
  • Highest-Rated Braves Live Postgame Show: Wednesday, August 15, vs Miami Marlins (4.86 HH rating) on Fox Sports Southeast.
  • Highest Peak Rating: Wednesday, August 15, vs Miami Marlins (7.29 HH rating) on Fox Sports Southeast.
  • Highest-Rated Series: Three games vs Miami Marlins on August 13-15 averaged a 5.38 HH rating on Fox Sports Southeast.
  • Sunday, July 29, versus Los Angeles Dodgers (3.32 HH rating) on Fox Sports South outperformed TBS’ telecast of the same game by 538%…

…On the west coast, the Los Angeles Angels on Fox Sports West finished the 2018 MLB season with the third highest year-over-year (YOY) household ratings growth of any MLB team. The network wrapped-up the Angels season with a +47% lift over vs. the 2017 season, yielding the third highest rated season since 2007. Angels telecasts on Fox Sports West generated more viewing in the LA DMA than the top seven primetime shows combined, with over 2 billion minutes consumed during the season. When the Angels play in primetime (6-10pm), Foxx Sports West in Orange County ranks No. 1 in primetime on cable TV and No. 2 overall, during the MLB regular season, beating the average of all other cable networks…

…In the New York Tri-state area, the YES Network garnered its best New York Yankees ratings in six seasons in 2018 (3.60 TV rating). The network’s Yankees games ranked No. 1 in the New York market this season in Primetime and beated the Primetime average of all other TV networks in the New York DMA.

Furthermore, Yankees games on YES generated more viewing (6.6 billion minutes consumed) in New York than the top 11 Primetime entertainment shows combined (6.1 billion minutes consumed). YES is on pace to be the most-watched regional sports network in the country for the 14th time in 16 years.

YES’ 2018 Yankees Highlights:

  • Generated more viewing in New York than the 2018 Winter Olympics
  • Achieved six-year highs in key demos such as Males 25-54, Persons 25-54, and Females 25-54
  • Studio shows also were extremely popular this past season:
    • Yankees Pre-Game Show enjoyed its best ratings (0.79 average TV Household rating) since 2009
    • Yankees Post-Game Show notched its best ratings (1.38 average TV Household rating) since 2011
    • Yankees Batting Practice Today had its second-highest ratings (0.40 average TV Household rating) since the show debuted in 2006
    • Yankees Extra Innings post-game show had its best ratings (0.54 average TV Household rating) since that show launched in 2010.

Digital numbers include:

  • Averaged 17 million video views per month this Yankees season on YES’ various digital platforms, a 42% year-over-year increase
  • Delivered 102% more video views on Instagram thus far in 2018 than in all of 2017
  • Delivered 54% more video views on Twitter thus far in 2018 than in all of 2017
  • Delivered more digital video views thus far in 2018 than in all of 2017…

…On a national scale, Major League Baseball game viewership on ESPN was up from 2017, according to Nielsen. ESPN finished the season with an average of 1,074,000 viewers across its 94-game telecasts, (including the full regular season slate and the National League Wild Card Game presented by Hankook Tire). The audience was up 2% from 1,048,000 viewers in 2017, according to Nielsen.

Included in the overall average was ESPN’s Holiday Baseball package, which featured game slates on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. These games averaged 746,000 viewers, up 11% from 2017.

Additionally, the two spring training games that aired on ESPN in March averaged 390,000 viewers, up 36% from last season.

NBC Sports Network’s Third-Quarter Report Reveals Historic Pace
Buoyed by record viewership for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games and a strong lineup spanning all dayparts with exclusive coverage of the NHL, NASCAR, Premier League, IndyCar, Tour de France, rugby, horse racing, and Olympic and college sports, NBCSN has delivered the network’s best ever Total Day and primetime viewership through the end of the third quarter, according to live plus same day data for the year’s first three quarters (January 1-September 30) released by Nielsen.

NBCSN Highlights:

  • NBCSN is the No. 2 sports cable network in Total Day and primetime viewership through the first three quarters. This marks NBCSN’s highest ranking among sports cable networks in Total Day viewership through the third quarter.
  • NBCSN is averaging a record 480,000 primetime viewers (8-11 p.m.) through three quarters — up 36% from the same time period last year (354,000), and up 8% from the network’s prior record set in 2016, which featured the Rio Olympics (445,000).
  • NBCSN is averaging a record 206,000 Total Day viewers (6 a.m.-6 a.m.) through the end of the third quarter – a 46% increase from last year’s corresponding time period (141,000), and up 12% from the previous record set in 2016 (184,000), which featured the Rio Olympics highlighted by far more favorable live daytime event hours.

MLB Network Programming Excels in Calendar Year
According to @MLBNetworkPR, all studio shows on MLB Network were positive in terms of audience reach:

  • High Heat with Christopher Russo — 53% (best year in show history)
  • The Rundown — 28%
  • MLB Now — 18%
  • MLB Central — 13%
  • Intentional Talk — 6%
  • MLB Tonight — 6%
  • Quick Pitch — 3%

MLB Network’s coverage of live games and the 2018 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony were up as well. All games received a 3% uptick, including a 10% rise in all Showcase games. The HOF was up 31% compared to last year’s edition (SportsMediaWatch).

ESPN Captures Male Demo for 12th Consecutive Year in September
ESPN led cable television in September among the key male and adult demographic groups for the 12th consecutive year, boosted by Monday Night Football, college football, and Major League Baseball’s pennant races. In addition, recent changes to the weekday studio show schedule have produced early positive results.

ESPN was the top full-time cable network in the month (September 4–30) for Men 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54, as well as Adults in the same three age ranges. Overall, ESPN was the third most-watched network, behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

In prime time, ESPN led in all six of those groups for the 13th consecutive year. Overall, ESPN trailed only Fox News Channel.

In addition, since the start of the football season and including ESPN on ABC’s Saturday Night Football, ESPN has “won the night” — led all networks, cable or broadcast, in overall audience (P2+) — 11 times. Six times it was college football, four times it was NFL (all four weeks of Monday Night Football) and the latest is the MLB Wild Card game with Milwaukee defeating the Chicago Cubs.

Studio Show Successes with New Schedule

  • Now airing at 8 a.m., Get Up! grew its audience 3% vs. SportsCenter a year ago (Sept. 3-28, 2018 vs. Sept. 4-29, 2017).
  • Now starting with High Noon, the 4-6 p.m. block of discussion programs was up 5% since the change on September 11, compared to the same two hours a year ago.
  • High Noon is averaging 43% more viewers than it did its last month airing at noon (341,000 vs. 239,000).
  • The SportsCenter edition at 6 p.m. and the late-night edition at midnight continue to grow. For the month, the two shows were up 14% and 7% vs. last year, respectively.
  • Scott Van Pelt’s edition of SportsCenter continues to lead late-night television in delivering young men. It has led all shows at that time of day — broadcast or cable — among M18-34 for eight consecutive quarters, and 11 of the last 12 (since he began hosting).

For the third quarter (July 2 – September 30), ESPN grew its total-day audience 2% over last year.