Ratings Roundup: 2019 NFL Hall of Fame Game Hits 22-Year Low; Yanks-Sox Grab Highest Number on YES

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 NFL Hall of Fame extends the streak of low numbers, last week’s Yankees-Red Sox matchup hits top spot on YES, NASCAR in Watkins Glen plummets to a two-decade low, Women’s British Open sets new 13-year high, ESPN’s racing coverage receives mixed reviews,  Fox PBC Heavyweight becomes most-watched event on Saturday, and ESPN sees increases in July.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Game Posts Lowest Number Since 1997
According to SportsMediaWatch, Thursday’s Broncos-Falcons Pro Football Hall of Fame Game averaged a 3.4 rating and 5.33 million viewers on NBC, down 17% in ratings and 21% in viewership from last year (Bears-Ravens: 4.1, 6.77M) and down 32% and 35% respectively from 2017 (Cowboys-Cardinals: 5.0, 8.25M).

The Broncos’ win ranked as the lowest-rated and least-watched Hall of Fame Game since it last aired on NFL Network in 2012 (Saints-Cardinals: 1.2, 1.97M).

Excluding the 2007 and 2012 games on NFL Network, it was the lowest-rated Hall of Fame Game since at least 1996. The previous low was a 3.9 for Vikings-Seahawks in 1997.

As noted by Sports Business Daily writer Austin Karp, it also ranks as the least-watched since that 1997 game (4.9M).

YES Finds New Ratings Summit With Yankees-Red Sox 
Friday night’s Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees telecast on YES averaged a 4.60 TV Household rating (431,000 average TV Viewers), making it YES’ highest-rated and most-watched Yankees telecast since its August 2nd, 2018 Red Sox-Yankees telecast, which did a 4.61 TV Household rating.

The game peaked at a 5.64 rating during the 9:45-10:00 pm quarter-hour (541,000 Total Viewers).

NASCAR at Watkins Glen Dips to 1999 Low
Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race from Watkins Glen (N.Y.) averaged a 1.7 rating and 2.72 million viewers on NBCSN, down 26% in both measures from last year on the NBC broadcast network (2.3, 3.67M), and down 15% and 16% respectively from 2017 on NBCSN (2.0, 3.25M).

Chase Elliott‘s win ranks as the lowest rated edition of the race since at least 1999 and the least-watched since at least 2001. The previous lows were set in 2017.

At the start of the decade in 2010, the race was significantly stronger at a 3.2 and 4.93 million.

Ratings and viewership were still respectable by 2019 standards. The race tied the highest rating of the season on cable and averaged the third-largest audience, behind New Hampshire two weeks earlier (1.7, 2.72M) and Bristol on FS1 in April (1.7, 2.81M) (SMW).

Women’s British Open Supercedes Success Seen in 2006
Last Sunday’s final round of the Women’s British Open averaged a 0.85 rating and 1.19 million viewers on NBC, marking the most-watched round of the tournament since 2006 on ABC (1.6M). The previous high was 1.10 million on NBC in 2017.

The telecast, which peaked with 1.33 million from 1:30-1:45 PM ET, earned the second-largest women’s golf audience of the year. The final round of April’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur was slightly higher (0.87 to 0.85; 1.194M to 1.186M).

Outside of the ANWA, no women’s golf event has had a larger audience since the 2016 US Women’s Open (1.31M). Ratings and viewership easily topped the final rounds of this year’s US Women’s Open (0.5, 728K), as well as the Women’s PGA Championship (0.5, 718K) and ANA Inspiration (194K, rating n.a.).

Compared to last year, ratings increased 20% (from 0.7) and viewership 23% (from 964K). Third round coverage did not fare as well, averaging a 0.54 (-5%) and 702,000 (-5%) (SMW).

F1, Xfinity, NHRA Becomes Mixed Bag on ESPN
ESPN is averaging 667,000 viewers for Formula 1 coverage this season, up 19% from last year (560K) and up 21% from 2017 on the NBC family of networks (552K). Nine of the 12 races thus far have increased, including this past Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix — which drew a 0.34 rating (+13%) and 520,000 viewers (+18%) on ESPN2.

In other racing action, last weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Watkins Glen (N.Y.) pulled a 0.95 (-17%) and 1.47 million (-12%) on the NBC broadcast network. Though down from last year, it was the second-most-watched Xfinity Series race of the season. The Daytona opener had 1.53 million on FS1.

Meanwhile, NHRA racing is averaging 572,000 viewers on Fox Sports, according to Sports Business Daily, down 13% from last year (SMW).

Fox PBC Heavyweight Bout Punches Way to Saturday’s Best
Saturday’s Fox PBC Fight Night featuring Adam Kownacki defeating Chris Arreola averaged 1,727,000 viewers. The headliner would rank as the most-watched sports event of the day and peaked with 1,769,000 viewers from 10:45 p.m ET to the end of the fight.

The bout was up +38% over last year’s comparable PBC event that delivered 942,000 viewers on August 4, 2018. The entire three-fight telecast delivered 1,301,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ESPN Scorches Ratings in July
ESPN enjoyed a hot July with viewership rising 18% over 2018, from 440,000 to 518,000 on a total day basis, according to Nielsen. This follows a June where ESPN experienced a 5% increase. In addition, ESPN2 was up 7% year over year for the month, from 148,000 to 159,000.

The ESPN increase led to the network leading all of cable for total day in the key male demos – 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 – and to lead in primetime among men 18-34 and men 18-49. ESPN’s overall increase in primetime was 19%, from 745,000 to 883,000 including an increase of 33% for males 12-17.

Key drivers behind July’s success were:

  • Sunday Night Baseball was up 35% for the month including the most-watched game of the year (New York Yankees at Boston)
  • The NBA Summer League also saw a 35% increase on ESPN including the network’s most-watched game ever (New Orleans vs. New York)
  • ESPN’s most-watched Wimbledon ever was up 30% from last year
  • Formula One races in July were up 22% including the German Grand Prix which was its most-viewed in cable TV history (records go back to 1994)
  • The Home Run Derby was up 4% to an average of 6.2 million viewers
  • The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest was also up 4%

The positive viewership momentum for ESPN studio shows in recent months continued in July.

First Take led the way with a significant 32% increase over 2018 (including shows moved to ESPN2 for Wimbledon), making July the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year growth for the morning debate show. First Take is already off to a strong start in the new Nielsen month of August with Monday’s episode – featuring guest host Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin – seeing a 36% increase over last year’s comparable show.

The noon ET edition of SportsCenter also climbed in viewership for the third straight month with a 19% increase in July from last year’s comparable one-hour window. SportsCenter and First Take combined drove ESPN to lead cable across all key male demos on weekdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

For the fifth consecutive month, Get Up and the 7 a.m. SportsCenter successfully led off the day’s studio programming with monthly viewership increases. Get Up saw double-digit growth of 11% from the comparable two-hour window in 2018 with SportsCenter jumping 7% from last year. The two shows led ESPN to win cable from 7-10 a.m. among M18-49.

The midnight and 1 a.m. SportsCenter shows also saw increases – 9% and 1%, respectively. Outside the Lines, for the third consecutive month, saw year-over-year viewership growth, up 7% in July over 2018.

The 5-6 p.m. weekday hour on ESPN also enjoyed increases in July. Pardon the Interruption jumped 8%, marking the show’s fourth consecutive month of growth. Leading off the 5-6 p.m. window, Around the Horn’s audience average grew 2%, increasing the show’s streak of year-over-year growth to three months.

The success continued into the weekend as the Saturday and Sunday morning editions of SportsCenter combined to be up 13% year over year and driving ESPN to lead all networks from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. among viewers 18-49 and those 25-54.