Ratings Roundup: Duke-Gonzaga Finishes Second in Maui Invitational History; Thanksgiving Games Escalate NFL Week 12 Slate

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, an early season juggernaut between No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Gonzaga escalates the Maui Invitational to a record showing, this year’s Thanksgiving games account for three of the top four spots in NFL ratings, Lebron’s return to Cleveland draws the largest NBA crowd thus far, and Ohio State’s 62-39 rout of Michigan accents Rivalry Week in college football.

Courtesy of USA Today

Duke-Zaga Showdown in Hawaii Nears Tourney Record
Gonzaga’s nailbiting win over the Blue Devils last week in the Maui Invitational made some noise in the ratings world. According to SportsMediaWatch, the championship game secured 2.3 million viewers on ESPN, which was up an astounding 366% from last year’s final (Wichita State-Notre Dame: 493K) and 142% from 2016’s edition (North Carolina-Wisconsin: 948K).

This matchup was the most-watched since Uconn-Kentucky in 2010 (2.39 million viewers) and ranks second behind this game as the most-watched in the history of the tournament. Overall, Duke-Gonzaga brought in the second largest audience of the college basketball season so far, after Duke’s season opener vs. Kentucky in the State Farm Champion’s Classic (2.85 million).

Thanksgiving Football Lead NFL Ratings
The NFL enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday, with three of the four top games being played on Turkey Day. Redskins vs. Cowboys at 4:30 on Fox averaged 30.4 million viewers and registered a 12.5 household rating, which is the most-watched NFL telecast across all networks this season. This performance is a 15% increase from Minnesota-Detroit’s 24.7 million in 2017 and +16% compared to last year’s time slot (LA-Dallas, 26.2 million).

CBS’ broadcast of Chicago vs. Detroit scored the highest rating/share of Thanksgiving Day on any network with a 15% increase and earned a 12.3 rating. The game rating/share peaked with a 16.1/41 from 3:30-3:45 PM, ET.

Top five rating markets include Chicago (27.5/58), Detroit (27.1/57), New Orleans (20.0/38), Dayton (19.5/41), and Norfolk (19.2/41).

The nightcap on NBC between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons was the most-watched Thanksgiving night game since 2015 (Bears-Packers). The game earned a 10.1 rating and 21.7 million viewers on NBC, per Nielsen fast-nationals — up 23% in ratings and 28% in viewership from last year (Giants-Washington: 8.2, 16.9M) and flat and up 4% respectively from 2016 (Colts-Steelers: 10.1, 20.9M). Overall, it was the third-most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game since the NFL expanded the holiday schedule in 2006 (13 telecasts) (SMW)…

…As for Sunday’s slate, Fox’s single header drew a 10.3/22 metered market rating, up +3% from last year’s week 12 single header (vs. 10/21).

The doubleheader on CBS scored its highest-rated game of the NFL season. The national 4:25 PM, ET game window earned a 17% increase with a rating/share of 15.5/29 in the metered markets highlighted by Pittsburgh-Denver. CBS’ regional 1:00 PM, ET game window earned an increase of 11% with a rating/share of 9.0/19 vs. last year (8.1/18) in the metered markets. Through 12 weeks, The NFL on CBS’ season-to-date ratings are up +5% from a year ago (10.8/23 vs. 10.3/21).

ESPN’s Week 12 Monday Night Football game (8:14-11:09 p.m. ET) – a Houston Texans’ 34-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans – averaged 9,822,000 viewers across ESPN and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. This is an increase of 17% vs. last year’s week 12 game (8,363,000 viewers). On ESPN, Titans-Texans averaged a 6.0 US household rating and 9,735,000 viewers. The telecast peaked from 9-9:15 p.m. ET with a 6.9 US household rating and 11,319,000 viewers. On ESPN Deportes, Titans-Texans averaged an additional 87,000 viewers. In local markets,  Nashville delivered a 6.4 rating on ESPN and a 15.1 rating on WKRN-ABC, for a combined 21.5 rating in the market. In Houston, the game delivered a 10.7 rating on ESPN and an 18.7 rating on KTRK-ABC, for a combined 29.4 rating in the market. The top metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): New Orleans (12.0), Austin (10.0), Phoenix (9.9), Denver (9.5), Kansas City and Portland (9.2), San Antonio (9.1), Dallas-Ft. Worth and Norfolk (8.8), and Seattle-Tacoma (8.6)…

Lebron’s Return Home Had Fans Watching At Home
Lebron’s long-awaited return to Quicken Loans Arena brought fans to their TV screens. According to SMW, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers regular season game earned a 2.1 rating and 3.69 million viewers on ESPN, up 11% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (Warriors-Thunder: 1.9, 3.28M) and up 200% and 232% respectively from 2016 (Spurs-Hornets: 0.7, 1.11M). The game, James’ first in Cleveland since leaving the Cavaliers, delivered the largest audience of the NBA season. The previous high was 3.36 million for Rockets-Lakers.

Rivalry Week in College Football
No. 10 Ohio State’s 62-39 win over No. 4 Michigan on Fox drew an 8.0 metered market rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. The matchup was the best-metered market rating for a college football game this season on any network and was the best-metered market rating for a regular-season college football game ever. Plus, this year was up +19% over last year’s matchup (vs. 6.7). Top five markets include Columbus (43.6), Dayton (32.7), Cleveland (32.4), Detroit (28.7), and Cincinnati (19.7)…

…ESPN and ABC delivered college football’s best prime-time audiences in back-to-back nights over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-24) and simultaneously outpaced all networks – including non-sports programming – in the coveted timeslot. ESPN also delivered one of its best Friday college football audiences on record, while ABC delivered a multi-year prime-time high across ESPN’s networks on college football’s final full weekend.

ABC’s Saturday Night Football featuring Notre Dame at USC (8 p.m. ET) delivered a total live audience of 7,809,000 viewers, the most-watched Fighting Irish game on any network since the then-record-setting opening weekend audience for Notre Dame at Texas on ABC (Sept. 4, 2016). Among all November prime-time games, the nearly eight million viewers is best on ESPN’s networks since the 2014 season.

ABC increased its audience 46% year-over-year from the similar time window (Notre Dame at Stanford), while outpacing the broadcast competition on the same night by 383%.

ESPN also reset the record books, as Oklahoma at West Virginia (8 p.m.) delivered one of the network’s top three regular season Friday viewerships on record, which dates back to 1993. The Nielsen total live audience of 5,630,000 viewers outpaced the broadcast competition showing college football the same night by 38% and grew ESPN’s audience year-over-year by 160%.

ESPN’s telecast of UCF at South Florida (4:15 p.m.) earlier on Friday delivered a Nielsen total live audience of 1,741,000 viewers, generating a 148% increase from the similar game window last season.

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