Ratings Roundup: First Night of AAF on CBS Tops Thunder vs. Rockets; ESPN’s UFC 234 Prelims Sit Second on Record

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 debut weekend of the Alliance of American Football received a favorable launch, UFC 234 Prelims on ESPN and ESPN Deportes finishes second as most-watched PPV prelims, last weekend’s PGA Tour Pebble Beach National Pro-Am nearly reaches a double-digit increase, Sunday’s PBA Tournament of Champions on Fox gets a massive bump from 2017, NBC Sports Philadelphia closed out 2018 as the third RSN in the nation, and Sportsnet’s Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada hits in the positive for the fourth straight year.

AAF Starts With a 1.9 — Over Thunder-Rockets, Behind Duke-UVA
According to SportsMediaWatch, the AAF scored a 1.9 rating and 3.25 million viewers on CBS. The debut was the most-watched non-NFL pro football telecast since 2001, when Week 6 of the XFL season had 3.67 million on NBC. It was also the highest rated since a 2004 Arena Football League telecast on NBC (2.1).

Comparing to other notable events on Saturday night, the first showing of the new league made some noise. On ESPN, the Thunder-Rockets NBA regular season game had a 1.7 with 2.67 million viewers. Earlier in the night, Duke vs. Virginia edged out the AAF opener with a 2.0 and 3.32 million. For the weekend, it ranked fourth behind Duke-Virginia and a pair of Sunday telecasts — Lakers-Sixers on ABC (2.4, 3.86M) and the PGA Tour on CBS (2.4, 3.73M). It beat the PGA telecast in adults 18-49.

UFC 234 PPV Prelims in Second Place
Saturday night’s UFC 234 main event saw undefeated middleweight prospect Israel Adesanya (16-0) defeat Anderson Silva (34-9-0) via unanimous decision. UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker had been expected to face Kelvin Gastelum in the main event, but in a last minute turn of events, Whittaker had to withdraw due to emergency surgery on his bowel and abdomen.

The ESPN and ESPN Deportes telecast of UFC 234 Prelims aired from 8-10 p.m. and averaged a 1.0 metered market rating. The telecast followed the Virginia/Duke game and peaked with a 1.7 metered market rating and during the Ishihara vs. Kang bout.

In addition to the telecast of the Prelims, ESPN and ESPN+ offered multiplatform coverage of UFC 234 including live press conference, weigh-in, pre, and post shows, Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show and Ariel & the Bad Guy.

Other highlights include:

  • UFC 234 PPV Prelims aired on ESPN and ESPN Deportes from 8-10 p.m. and averaged a 1.0 metered market rating
  • Based on preliminary ratings, ESPN’s transmission of the Prelims ties with several other PPV Prelims as the second highest-rated PPV Prelim on record, behind a 1.1 metered market rating for 11/12/16 UFC 205 PPV Prelim (McGregor/Alvarez)
  • Last night’s PPV Prelims were up 100% from the UFC 221 PPV Prelims (Romero/Rockhold) that aired on February 10th, 2018 (0.5 rating)
  • The telecast followed the Virginia/Duke game and peaked with a 1.7 metered market rating and during the Ishihara vs. Kang fight.

PGA Tour at Pebble Beach
Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Pebble Beach National Pro-Am delivered a 2.4 rating and 3.73 million viewers on CBS Sunday, up 9% in ratings and 7% in viewership from last year opposite the Olympics (2.2, 3.48M), but down 11% and 12% respectively from 2017 (2.2, 3.48M).

The CBS telecast, which included an hour-long weather delay, ended before the conclusion of play. Not surprisingly, the numbers were middling by Pebble Beach standards. The 2.4 rating is the seventh-lowest for final round coverage in the past 20 years.

As for the third round on Saturday, third round action delivered a 1.9 and 2.93 million on CBS — up 27% in ratings and viewership from last year (1.5, 2.31M) and up 6% and 10% respectively from 2017 (1.8, 2.67M). It was the highest-rated third round of the tournament since 2012 (2.6).

Lead-in coverage on Golf Channel delivered a 0.6 (-3%) and 946,000 (-1%) on Saturday and a 0.6 (-24%) and 963,000 (-25%) on Sunday.

For the weekend, Sunday’s CBS coverage ranked second among all sporting events, behind only the competing Lakers-Sixers NBA game on ABC (2.4, 3.86M) (SMW).

PBA Tournament of Champions Goes Up 75% From 2018
The 2019 Professinal Bowlers Association (PBA) Tournament of Champions on Fox delivered 1,131,000 viewers on Sunday, up +75% over last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The show ranks as the most-watched non-NFL adjacent bowling telecast since 2010.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Concludes Year at No. 3
NBC Sports Philadelphia posted its best finish ever in 2018, as the third most-watched RSN in total day and primetime households (HH), according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC Sports Philadelphia moved up three spots from 2017. NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Chicago also placed in the Top 10, ranking fifth and eighth, respectively.

As the number three RSN in the nation in primetime (M-Su/7-11pm), NBC Sports Philadelphia averaged nearly 41,000 household impressions a night in the market from January 1 through December 31, 2018.

2018 NBC Sports Philadelphia Highlights:

  • Following the 2017-18 season (which was the Sixers’ highest-rated since the 2011-12 season) Sixers ratings have continued to grow – pacing up 16% during the current 2018-19 season.
  • NBC Sports Philadelphia registered a 6.2 HH overnight rating on November 14, when Jimmy Butler made his Sixers’ debut against the Orlando Magic, making it the highest rated Sixers game since 2001
  • Sixers playoff ratings (April 14-14, 2018) averaged a 6.8 HH rating, the highest postseason rating since 2012
  • Sixers streaming uniques are up 63%, and average streaming minutes are up 77% versus last year
  • Sixers homepage views on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com are up 36%
  • Phillies household ratings are up 26% over 2017
  • Phillies streaming uniques are up 224%, and average streaming minutes are up 227%
  • Phillies homepage views on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com are up 54%
  • Flyers streaming uniques are up 44%, average streaming minutes are up 48%
  • Flyers homepage views on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com are up 31%

NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com Highlights:

  • Page views are up 30%
  • Video starts are up 41%
  • Unique visitors are up 10%
  • Visits per uniques are up 9%

Social Media Engagements:

  • Facebook are up 39%
  • Twitter are up 424%
  • Instagram are up 202%

In 2018, NBC Sports Philadelphia debuted new programs and products including – The Mike Missanelli Show, Sixers Outsiders, and the digital exclusive The Swipe, on Instagram, plus the new MyTeams app, and Philly Pass – a new Direct to Consumer product, targeting out of market Philly sports fans.

Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada Viewed By 9.6 Million Canadians
Airing live from Swift Current, the 19th annual Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada reached a total of 9.6 million Canadians on Sportsnet, Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet 360, Citytv, and CBC. This represents a 5% increase from the 2018 marathon broadcast.

Additional key audience highlights of the 2019 Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada include:

  • The game between the Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens was the most-watched program in Canada on Saturday with an average minute audience of 2.2 million viewers
  • Highlighted by stories of courage, the average minute audience for the Celebrating the Game pre-show was up 32% year over year
  • Saturday’s broadcast marked the fourth consecutive year of audience growth for Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada

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