Ratings Roundup: Possible AFC Championship Matchup on SNF a Hit for NBC; Warriors-Lakers Post Highest-Rated Preseason Telecast Ever

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, a 12.3 rating on Sunday Night Football highlights the latest week in the NFL, the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers headlines the most watched preseason telecast ever, Michigan’s defeat over Wisconsin spearheads college football’s Week 7, both AL and NL Championship Series start slowly, Top Rank boxing takes to the airwaves on ESPN, and Univision showcases an international soccer doubleheader featuring the United States and Mexico.

NFL Ratings Remain Even in Week 6
The New England Patriots’ down-to-the-wire 43-40 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, which featured a quarterback duel between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, and seven scoring plays in the final 16 minutes, averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 21.5 million viewers across NBC TV, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms – up 32% from last year’s Week 6 game (16.3 million) and marking the fifth consecutive SNF game with a viewership increase vs. 2017, according to official national live + same day data released by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

For the season, NBC Sunday Night Football is averaging a TAD of 20.2 million viewers – up 5% from last year (19.3 million), and the highest figure through Week 6 since SNF’s record 2015 season.

Sunday night’s Chiefs-Patriots game — which tied for the highest-scoring in NBC SNF history (83 points) — delivered NBC’s highest peak viewership of the season, as the final quarter hour (11:15-11:29 p.m. ET) registered 23.7 million viewers.

With an average of 21.1 million NBC TV viewers, Kansas City-New England topped by 37% the combined Sunday primetime viewership on the other broadcast networks (15.4 million on ABC, CBS, and Fox).

Football Night in America averaged 8.4 million viewers on Sunday night, an advantage of 38% over Game 2 of the ALCS (Astros-Red Sox, TBS) from 7:30-8:15 p.m. ET, and up 10% vs. last year. It was also the best Week 6 delivery for FNIA in six years (8.9 million in 2012). For the season, FNIA is averaging 7.3 million viewers — up 8% from the comparable 7:30-8:15 p.m. ET time window through last year at this point.

The Average Minute Audience (AMA) for Sunday night’s live stream via NBC Sports Digital and NFL Digital platforms was 434,000 viewers — NBC Sports Digital’s best-ever for an authenticated regular-season Sunday night game and more than tripling last year’s Week 6 game (136,000 for Giants-Broncos). Fans consumed 84.7 million live streaming minutes across 2.0 million unique devices, up 187% and 289%, respectively, from last year’s Week 6 game.

For the season, NBC Sports Digital’s AMA of 379,000 viewers is up 74% from last year through Week 6 (218,000).

Sunday’s game (8:23 p.m.-11:29 p.m. ET) registered a national TV household rating of 12.3/22.

Top metered markets include: Kansas City 49.6/67, Boston 34.3/51, Providence 31.1/48, New Orleans 21.7/30, Denver 19.5/32, Norfolk 16.8/27, Richmond 16.8/26, Greensboro 16.6/27, Dallas 16.3/27, and Pittsburgh 16.3/25…

…On Fox, metered market ratings for the Sunday afternoon delivered an 11.7/25, up 18% over last year’s comparable weekend (vs. 9.9/21)…

…The Week 6 NFL national window, featuring Jaguars-Cowboys in 85% of markets, had a 10.2 rating and 17.64 million viewers on CBS — down 15% in ratings and 14% in viewership from last year (mostly Steelers-Chiefs: 12.0, 20.6M) and down 35% and 37% respectively from 2016 on Fox (mostly Cowboys-Packers: 15.8, 28.0M). CBS also drew a 7.0 and 11.5 million for the first half of its doubleheader — up 6% in ratings and 5% in viewership from last year (6.6, 10.9M) but down 9% and 13% respectively from 2016 on Fox (ft. Philadelphia-Washington: 7.7, 13.2M) (SportsMediaWatch)…

…The Monday Night Football matchup (8:15-11:30 p.m. ET) — a Green Bay Packers’ last-second 33-30 victory over the San Francisco 49ers — averaged 12 million viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes. This is an increase of 40% vs. last year’s Colts-Titans week 6 game, which averaged 8.5 million viewers across the three ESPN networks.

ESPN won the night again among all networks, broadcast or cable, in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54). 49ers-Packers also helped ESPN become the most-watched network (broadcast or cable) in prime time among those same categories. Through the first six weeks of the NFL season (seven games), MNF has helped ESPN win the night all six Mondays.

Season to-date, Monday Night Football is averaging 11.5 million viewers, up 3%from last year’s average among total viewers (11.2 million) – and up s7% from last year’s full-season average (10.8 million).

  • On ESPN, 49ers-Packers averaged a 7.2 US household rating and 11.8 million viewers – an increase of 41% compared to 8.4 million viewers in week 6 last year, making it the best single-game increase across all NFL networks in 2018. The telecast peaked from 11:15-11:30 p.m. ET with an 8.9 US household rating and 14.6 million viewers.
  • On ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 49ers-Packers averaged an additional 128,000 viewers.

n San Francisco, the game delivered a 5.9 rating on ESPN and an 11.0 rating on KGO-ABC, for a combined 16.9 rating in the market. In Milwaukee, the game delivered a 6.9 rating on ESPN and a 26.8 rating on WISN-ABC, for a combined 33.7 rating in the market.

The top metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): Sacramento (14.9), New Orleans (14.8), Minneapolis-St. Paul (13.4), Norfolk, Va., (12.5), Chicago (11.1), Seattle-Tacoma (11.1), Richmond-Petersburg (10.9), Denver (10.8), Tampa-St. Pete (10.3), and Buffalo (10.1)…

Thursday Night Football Presented by Bud Light on Thursday, October 11 featuring the Philadelphia Eagles’ 34-13 win over the New York Giants in Week 6 was seen by an average audience of 15.3 million viewers across all platforms, including Fox, NFL Network, Fox Deportes, NFL Digital, Fox Sports Digital, Amazon, and Yahoo Sports — up +8% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average and up +2% versus last year’s Week 6 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Eagles and Carolina Panthers (TV + digital).

The Nielsen-measured audience was 14.7 million viewers — up +7% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average on CBS/NBC and NFL Network (13.8 million) and +1% versus the 2017 Week 6 Thursday Night Football game (14.6 million). Additionally, Eagles-Giants scored an 8.9 HH rating — up +6% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average (8.4 HH rating).

Digital streaming across Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, NFL digital platforms, Fox Sports digital platforms and Yahoo Sports produced an average minute audience of 773K — an increase of +76% vs. the 2017 10-game average (439K) and +55% vs. last year’s Week 6 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Eagles and Panthers (498K).

Amazon Prime Video and Twitch reached a total of 2.4 million combined viewers worldwide for the Fox NFL Thursday pregame show and the Eagles-Giants game. For the Eagles-Giants game alone, 2.1 million worldwide viewers initiated a stream on Prime Video or Twitch. The average worldwide audience watching Thursday Night Football for at least 30 seconds on Prime Video or Twitch was 535K.

ESPN Captures Highest Rated Preseason Telecast in History
The Wednesday night matchup between the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers delivered a 1.6 metered market rating, making it ESPN’s highest-rated NBA preseason game ever, according to Nielsen. The telecast peaked with a 1.9 rating on ESPN from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET.

The 1.6 metered market rating tops ESPN’s previous record for an NBA preseason game telecast – a 1.1 rating, which most recently occurred for a Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls game last year. Last night’s rating was up 129 percent from last preseason’s comparable game between the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies, which drew a 0.7 rating.

Last night’s game generated a 6.2 rating in the San Francisco/Oakland market, while it drew a 3.5 rating in the Los Angeles market. The remaining top markets included Las Vegas (3.3), Birmingham (2.6), and New Orleans (2.6).

Michigan Wolverines-Wisconsin Badgers Contest Shines Bright on ABC
ABC’s Saturday Night Football set the pace among college football games and all sporting events on Saturday, Oct. 13, when the signature weekly franchise aired most-watched game of the day on any network and one of the most-viewed college football games of the season. Focusing on college football games in week 7, ESPN/ABC aired three of the top four games and five of the top seven, while simultaneously delivering the two highest audiences in prime-time and two biggest audiences in the noon ET window.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring Wisconsin at Michigan (7:30 p.m.) delivered a total live audience of 6,103,000 viewers, a top five college football audience this year on any network and up 88% from last year’s SNF week 7 game.

As a result of Saturday Night Football, ABC “won-the night” on Saturday among all broadcast and cable competition – sports and non-sports programming. This is the seventh time this season either ABC or ESPN have “won the night”, delivering the highest ratings among all key male and adult demos and earning the most overall viewers from 8 to 11 p.m…

…Minnesota-Ohio State drew a 1.5 rating and 2.41 million viewers on FS1, marking the outlet’s most-watched regular season game since Oklahoma-Oklahoma State last November (2.49M) (SMW)…

…On NBC, the network scored a 1.8 rating and 2.82 million viewers for Pittsburgh’s near-upset of Notre Dame, up 13% in ratings and 7% in viewership from Notre Dame’s fifth home game last season, against NC State (1.6, 2.63M)…

…The SEC on CBS hosted Georgia-LSU and the matchup scored a 3.3 rating and 5.54 million viewers, up 47% in ratings and 54% in viewership from last year (Auburn-LSU: 2.3, 3.60M), but down 15% and 16% respectively from 2016 (Alabama-Tennessee: 3.9, 6.58M) (SMW).

Rating Decline Overshadows Deep Runs in ALCS, NLCS
Through Monday, all five MLB LCS games have declined from last year. In Game 1 of the NLCS, the series opened with a 2.7 (-23%) and 4.64 million (-27%) last Friday, marking the lowest rated and least-watched NLCS Game 1 since the Brewers’ previous appearance — in 2011 against the Cardinals (2.1, 3.35M). Overall, ratings and viewership were the third-lowest on record for any LCS opener, ahead of the 2011 game and Blue Jays-Indians in ’16 (2.5, 4.12M). Saturday’s Game 2 had a 2.8 rating and 4.65 million on Fox — down 24% in ratings and 31% in viewership from last year’s NLCS on TBS (3.7, 6.76M) and down 32% and 36% from the 2016 NLCS on FS1 (4.1, 7.31M). As for Game 3, 4.21 million viewers watched on FS1, down 30% from Dodgers-Cubs on TBS last year (6.01M) and down 35% from Cubs-Dodgers on FS1 in 2016 (6.51M) (SMW). Brewers-Dodgers Game 4 had a 2.5 and 4.09 million on FS1 — down 38% in ratings and 40% in viewership from last year on TBS (Dodgers-Cubs: 4.0, 6.79M) and down 26% and 30% respectively from 2016 on FS1 (Cubs-Dodgers: 3.4, 5.83M) (SMW).

The story is more positive in the ALCS, but not by much. Saturday’s Game 1 between the Astros and Red Sox earned 5.82 million viewers on TBS, per Nielsen fast-nationals — down 5% from Yankees-Astros on FS1 last year (6.16M) but up 41% from Blue Jays-Indians on TBS in 2016 (4.12M) (SMW). Game 2 earned a 3.1 rating and 5.67 million viewers on TBS Sunday night, down 18% in ratings and 9% in viewership from last year’s Yankees-Astros Game 2 on Fox, but up 82% and 117% respectively from 2016 (Blue Jays-Indians: 1.7, 2.61M). Tuesday’s  Game 3 earned a 3.0 rating and 4.87 million viewers on TBS, down 3% in ratings and 5% in viewership from Astros-Yankees on FS1 last year (3.1, 5.11M) but up 11% and 13% respectively from Indians-Blue Jays on TBS in 2016 (2.7, 4.30M) (SMW).

NLCS Game 5 and ALCS Game 4 numbers are yet to be released.

Terrence Crawford’s 12th Round TKO Win Propels Top Rank on ESPN
Saturday night’s Top Rank on ESPN (10:25 p.m. ET to 12:36 a.m. ET) scored three major victories. The overall event delivered a 1.6 metered market rating according to Nielsen, making it the highest-rated boxing telecast in 2018 across all broadcast and cable networks. The main event, featuring Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) vs. Jose Benavidez, Jr. (27-1, 18 KOs), averaged a 1.8 metered market, making it making it the year’s highest-rated Top Rank bout and main event on ESPN.

The featured co-main event, a battle between Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs) vs Viorel Simion (21-3,9 KOs), also delivered big for ESPN, scoring a 1.3 metered market rating, making it the year’s second highest-rated Top Rank on ESPN event. Stevenson, a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, knocked Simion down three times en route to a first-round TKO in the scheduled 10-round co-feature.

Other highlights include:

  • Saturday night’s entire Top Rank on ESPN telecast averaged a 1.6 metered market rating, making it the highest-rated boxing telecast in 2018 across all broadcast and cable networks and the highest-rated Top Rank on ESPN telecast, behind Manny Pacquiao vs Jeff Horn in July 2017
  • The Crawford vs Benavidez, Jr. main event averaged a 1.8 metered market rating, making it the highest-rated Top Rank bout and main event in 2018. The fight averaged 80% higher rating than the Crawford-Indongo fight in August 2017 (1.0 metered market rating)
  • Stevenson vs Simion co-main averaged a 1.3 metered market rating, making it the second highest-rated Top Rank fight in 2018, besting Lomachenko vs Linares (1.0 metered market rating, May 2018) which was this year’s highest-rated Top Rank fight until last night
  • Saturday’s event is ESPN’s second highest-rated Top Rank telecast since ESPN acquired the rights in 2017.

The top local markets include Birmingham 11.9, Norfolk 5.5, New Orleans 4.5, Memphis 3.6, and Kansas City 3.3.

International Friendlies on Univision
On Thursday, Univision’s doubleheader broadcast featuring the U.S. and Mexican Men’s National Teams defeated ESPN’s telecast of Texas Tech-TCU. Despite a competitive game (a Texas Tech 17-14 win), both soccer matches out-delivered ESPN’s broadcast in many key categories, including Total Viewers 2+ and Adults 18-49.

  • United States Men’s National Team-Colombia
    • USMNT-Colombia on UNI at 730 p.m. averaged 1285K P2+, up +4% from College Football Prime Texas Tech/TCU on ESPN at 730p (1233K P2+). The match averaged 968,000 in Adults 18-49 (vs. 402,000 on ESPN).
  • Mexico National Team-Costa Rica
    • MNT-Costa Rica on UNI at 945 p.m. averaged 1840K P2+, up +49% from College Football Prime Texas Tech/TCU on ESPN at 730p (1233K P2+). The match averaged 598,000 in Adults 18-49 (vs. 402,000 on ESPN).

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