Ratings Roundup: Hideki Matsuyama’s Win at The Masters Finishes on An Up-Swing; ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball Up 33%

 Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, we take a look at numbers from The Masters, Sunday Night Baseball, the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, and MLS on ESPN.

The Masters

In the first test of how last year’s months-delayed sporting events will fare in their return to some semblance of normal, Masters Sunday bounced back in the ratings — somewhat.

Sunday’s final round of the Masters averaged a 5.5 rating and 9.45 million viewers on CBS, up 62% in ratings and 69% in viewership from last year, when the tournament set all-time lows airing seven months later than scheduled in November (3.4, 5.59M), but down 20% and 13% respectively from the previous April edition in 2019, won by Tiger Woods (6.9, 10.81M).

Keep in mind that both last year and in 2019, the final round aired earlier than usual, starting in the morning and concluding by mid-afternoon. Sunday marked the first time in three years that the final round aired in its traditional timeslot of 2-7 PM ET. Compared to that 2018 telecast, ratings fell 30% (from 7.9) and viewership 27% (from 13.03M).

Overall, Hideki Matsuyama’s win tops only last year as the lowest rated Sunday at Augusta since 1957 (3.0) and — per Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp — the least-watched since 1993 (9.41M). (SportsMediaWatch)

In the second round, ESPN attracted nearly 2.9 million viewers at its peak from 6:15-6:30 p.m. ET as some of golf’s biggest stars were on the course trying to improve their positions. The telecast, which aired from 3–7:12 p.m. ET from Augusta National Golf Club, averaged 2.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Fast National data, which does not include out-of-home viewing numbers.

Last year’s second round Masters telecast, which aired in November after the Tournament was postponed from its traditional April date due to the pandemic, averaged 2.6 million viewers (including out-of-home data) and aired earlier in the day (1-5:30 p.m.). (ESPN)

Back in the first round, the network averaged 2.3 million viewers, a 2% increase over last year’s Masters first round viewership.

First round coverage aired from 3-7:30 p.m. ET. The audience peaked between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. at 2.7 million viewers and remained at a consistent level throughout the telecast. Last year’s Tournament was played in November after the Masters was postponed from its traditional April date due to the pandemic. The first round aired earlier in the day, from 1-5:30 p.m., and averaged 2.2 million viewers.

The Wednesday at the Masters program, which aired on ESPN from noon – 2 p.m. on Wednesday with coverage of the final practice round, averaged 213,000 viewers. Viewership was up 31% from the 163,000 average viewership for a similar program in November. (ESPN)

Over on the Golf Channel, NBC Sports’ Live From the Masters was the most-watched daily Masters preview programming on any network from Monday, April 5 through Sunday, April 11, according to official national data provided by Nielsen.

Live From the Masters daily preview coverage averaged 437,000 viewers for the full Masters week from Monday through Sunday. For Thursday through Sunday coverage before each Masters round, Live From averaged 633,000 viewers, outperforming the closest competition by 67%.

Live From’s full-week average of 437,000 viewers topped by 46% the show’s average during November’s 2020 Masters (299,000) and was on par with the 2019 Masters (442,000), when Tiger Woods won his fifth green jacket and first major in more than a decade.

Additional viewership highlights from GOLF Channel’s Masters week coverage:

  • GOLF Channel’s average viewership for Masters week programming from Monday-Sunday (6 a.m.-3 a.m. ET) was up 50% vs. November 2020.
  • Extended Live From the Masters coverage on Thursday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. ET averaged 463,000 viewers – marking the largest audience for the show ahead of a Masters opening round since 2018.
  • Live From the Masters on Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. ET delivered an average of 697,000 viewers – ranking as the best figure ahead of a Masters final round since 2018. (NBC Sports)

Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN

Through two weeks, ESPN’s 2021 Sunday Night Baseball viewership average is up 33% from the 2020 full season average, according to Nielsen. Sunday Night Baseball is generating an average of 1,585,000 viewers, compared to 1,191,000 viewers in 2020.

Several key demos are experiencing double-digit audience increases, including P18-49 and P25-54, up 54% and 50%, respectively, from 2020. Additionally, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecasts have seen a 33% increase in viewership among women 18+, as well as a 74% increase in the young female demo of 12-17.

The April 11 edition of Sunday Night Baseball, in which the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-6, drew an average of 1,554,000 viewers, peaking with 2,110,000 viewers from 10-10:15 p.m. ET. It was up 30% from the 2020 Sunday Night Baseball season average and up 55% from the most recent Braves vs. Phillies Sunday Night Baseball telecast that delivered 1,000,000 viewers on August 30, 2020.

The 2021 season debut of Sunday Night Baseball on April 4 – the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Chicago White Sox 7-4 – averaged 1,611,000 viewers, up 35% from the 2020 Sunday Night Baseball season average. The telecast was up 99% from the most recent White Sox Sunday Night Baseball appearance and up 25% from the last Angels appearance. (ESPN)

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship

ESPN’s 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship coverage, from March 26-April 10, was the network’s most-watched since 2014, averaging 193,000 viewers for games across Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU). The tournament – which included a new record for the longest game in NCAA Tournament history with a five-overtime regional thriller – was also up 64% from the most recent championship in 2019. The tournament was canceled in 2020. Overall, more than 5.8 million viewers watched the tournament across ESPN’s platforms.

NCAA action culminated with the Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship Game on ESPN with Massachusetts defeating St. Cloud State 5-0 to secure UMass’s first men’s ice hockey national championship in program history. The matchup on ESPN was up 33% from the 2019 final on ESPN2, averaging 435,000 viewers. The top local markets included Boston (2.3), Minneapolis-St. Paul (1.8), and Providence (1.3).

The three-game Men’s Frozen Four (April 8-10) – National Championship and two semifinals on ESPN2, featuring a late third period, game-winning goal and an overtime victory – followed the positive audience trends throughout the tournament and was up a combined 13% from 2019, averaging 277,000 viewers. It also marked the second most-viewed Men’s Frozen Four since 2016, reaching a total of 3.7 million viewers. (ESPN)

Inter Miami CF -LA Galaxy on ESPN 

Sunday’s audience up 9%  over season-opening MLS doubleheader in 2020

ABC and ESPN Deportes broadcast of Inter Miami CF vs. LA Galaxy, a 3-2 come-from-behind road victory for the Galaxy, delivered a combined average audience of 558,000 viewers (P2+) – the largest audience for MLS on ESPN networks’ season-opening day action since 2011 (604,000 viewers, Seattle vs. LA Galaxy).

The 558,000 viewers (P2+) on ABC and ESPN Deportes reflect a 9% increase over the average audience (512,000 viewers) for last year’s ESPN-ESPN Deportes season-opening doubleheader.

ABC averaged 482,000 viewers, while ESPN Deportes 75,000 viewers. Boosted by interest in Mexican National Team players competing in the opener – Rodolfo Pizarro (Miami), Javier “Chichárito” Hernandez and Jonathan dos Santos (LA), ESPN Deportes’ audience surged 168% compared to the network’s 2020 season average (28,000, P2+ viewers).

Top markets on ABC: Birmingham, Ala. (1.2), Austin (1.2), Columbus, Ohio (0.9), Raleigh-Durham (0.9), Las Vegas (0.9), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (0.9), Los Angeles (0.8), Portland, Ore., Orlando (0.7) and Atlanta (0.7). (ESPN)

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