Ratings Roundup: 2021 World Series Sees Year-Over-Year Increase; NBA Season Tips Off on ESPN, TNT

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, first two games of 2021 World Series see an increase, the NBA season tips off on ESPN, and more.

MLB Postseason

10,539,000 viewers watched the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves across Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports streaming services. The game on Fox averaged 10,280,000 viewers.

The telecast was up +13% over the last year’s Game 2 on Fox (9,105,000) and peaked from 8:45 to 9 p.m. ET with 11,753,000 viewers.

The game ranks as the most-watched telecast of the day on any network and was the second most-streamed World Series Game 2 in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 186,741. In local markets, Atlanta saw a 23.3/42 rating and a 27.4/50 in Houston.

In Game 1, 11,077,000 viewers saw the Braves win a road game across Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports streaming services. The game averaged 10,811,000 viewers on Fox.

The telecast was up +17% over the last year’s Game 1 on Fox (9,268,000) and peaked from 9:39 to 9:45 p.m. T with 12,704,000 viewers.

Game 1 ranked as the most-watched telecast of the day on any network and was the most-streamed World Series Game 1 in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 276,619.

Prior to the start of the World Series, 6,175,000 viewers watched the Houston Astros eliminated the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series across FS1, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports streaming services. The game averaged 5,812,000 viewers on FS1/

This telecast peaked from 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. ET with 6,827,000 viewers and was up +88% through last year’s Game 6 of the ALCS.

Overall, TBS scored its most-watched MLB Postseason coverage since 2018. With an average of 4.4 million viewers, the network’s viewership is up 95% vs. 2020 and 21% vs. 2019. TBS won the night across cable television 11 times during the MLB Postseason and garnered growth across all key demos and platforms.

Additional highlights from this year’s MLB Postseason coverage on TBS include:

Most-Viewed NLCS Game 6 on Any Network in a Half-Decade
Saturday’s series-deciding Game 6 telecast between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers is the most-viewed NLCS Game 6 on any network since 2016, averaging 6.9 million viewers – up 99% vs. last year’s LCS Game 6 coverage on TBS. The telecast peaked with an average of 9.3 million viewers from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET.

TBS’s exclusive coverage of the Braves’ pennant-clinching NLCS Game 6 win is the most-viewed Braves telecast in the Atlanta market on any network since 2005, with an 18.1 HH rating.

TBS’s NLCS Coverage Averages More Than Five Million Viewers
TBS’s exclusive 2021 NLCS coverage – Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves – is the most-viewed LCS coverage since 2018, with an average of 5.2 million viewers over six games (up 88% vs. 2020’s ALCS coverage through six games and up 30% vs. 2019’s NLCS four game coverage).

2021 MLB Postseason on TBS Produces Huge Gains Among All Key Demos
The network’s 2021 MLB Postseason game telecasts generated a 98% lift in People 18-49 and double-digit increases among all key demos, including a 76% lift among People 18-34 vs. last year.

Standout Performances in Local Markets Throughout the Postseason
NLDS Game 5 coverage between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants delivered the most watched LDS telecast this postseason and the best NLDS game telecast on TBS since 2017. The telecast set all-time records for an MLB on TBS game telecast in both the San Francisco (21.8 HH rating) and Los Angeles (18.5) markets.

The National League Wild Card game telecast – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Dodgers – on TBS generated a 23.0 HH rating in St. Louis, the best local performance for an MLB game telecast on any network in the market since Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

Turner Sports Streaming Platforms Shatter All-Time Records for Consumption
Turner Sports’ TV Everywhere platforms produced a record for streaming consumption on digital platforms, including an increase of 186% in minutes streamed vs. the same number of games during the 2019 Postseason, the last time the network carried NL games. This year’s Postseason produced each of the top-10, all-time best performing MLB games streamed through Turner Sports’ TV Everywhere platforms.

Bleacher Report Connects with Large Audiences Across Social and the App
The 2021 MLB Postseason generated massive engagement and video views for Bleacher Report, with highlights including:

  • October ranking as B/R Walk-Off’s most engaged month since its launch on social platforms with over two million total engagements;
  • B/R recording five million cross-platform engagements with its MLB-related content, up 43% vs. the comparable time period in 2020;
  • MLB streams in the B/R App recording 18.9 million page views (+9% vs. 2020) and nearly 900,000 app engagements (+91% vs. 2020);
  • Over 44 million video views on Bleacher Report and Bleacher Report Walk-Off social handles including some of the following content highlights:
  • A fun studio visit with Major League Wiffleball
  • A new episode of Untold Stories with Pedro Martinez
  • The debut of the B/R Walk-Off chain
  • A notable Charles Barkley prediction
  • Behind-the-scenes access to series clinching celebrations

NFL Week 7

ESPN’s Monday Night Football Week 7 presentation added to the franchise’s season milestones and multi-year weekly viewership highs, as an average of 12.9 million viewers tuned in for the New Orleans Saints at the Seattle Seahawks on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes (Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET). The Seahawks-Saints viewership of 12,866,000 represents the most-watched MNF Week 7 game since 2014, while also delivering 17% and 14% viewership increases, respectively, from MNF Week 7 matchups in 2020 and 2019.

Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (ESPN2) returned for the first time since Week 3, and, in doing so, delivered 1.6 million viewers, resulting in the Super Bowl-winning brothers now fronting ESPN’s three most-watched alternate telecasts. The audience (1,606,000 viewers) joins the Mannings’ Week 3 (1,890,000 viewers) and Week 2 editions (1,860,000 viewers each) to complete the top 3.

Viewership reported by Nielsen for ESPN and ESPN2 includes streaming audience across ESPN, NFL, and Yahoo Sports properties.

For the season, ESPN’s Monday Night Football is now averaging 13.6 million viewers through seven games, up 17% from 2020 and 15% from 2019. MNF has been up over 2020 in six of seven weeks this season and has delivered multi-year highs in several weeks, including Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3.

ESPN’s NFL studio shows are mimicking the success of Monday Night Football, with each driving year-over-year increases. Sunday NFL Countdown (2%), Monday Night Countdown (29%), NFL Live (20%), and NFL Rewind are each delivering higher audiences overall and in key demos. More information is here.

Additional Highlights for Saints-Seahawks:

Monday Night Football was the most-watched telecast of the night among households, viewers and all key demos: Men 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and 55+, as well as persons 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 on ESPN.

Monday Night Football also helped ESPN become the most-watched network (broadcast and cable) in primetime among households, viewers and the same key male and people demos, including P55+.

On Fox, afternoon coverage drew an 8.2 and 15.74 million for singleheader coverage featuring Washington-Green Bay or Eagles-Raiders — down 6% in ratings and 1% in viewership from last year (ft. Buccaneers-Raiders: 8.7, 15.88M), but up 3% and 19% respectively from 2019 on CBS (ft. Raiders-Packers: 8.0, 13.24M). (SportsMediaWatch)

Last week’s Thursday Night Football, featuring the Cleveland Browns’ 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos, was seen by an average audience of 13.1 million across all platforms, including FOX, NFL Network, FOX Deportes, NFL digital, FOX Sports digital, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and Yahoo Sports mobile properties.

The 13.1 million viewers for Broncos-Browns across all platforms is up +23% versus last year’s Week 7 Thursday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles (10.6 million).

Season-to-date, Thursday Night Football tri-cast games on FOX, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Video are averaging 14.2 million viewers across all platforms – up +10% vs. the comparable point last season (12.9 million).

Digital streaming across Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, NFL digital, Broncos and Browns mobile properties, FOX Sports digital and Yahoo Sports mobile properties produced an average minute audience of 1.3 million – up +26% versus last year’s Week 7 Thursday Night Football matchup (996K).

Amazon Prime Video and Twitch reached a total of 2.4 million combined viewers worldwide for the Fox NFL Thursday pregame show and Broncos-Browns game. For the Broncos-Browns game alone, 1.9 million worldwide viewers initiated a stream on Prime Video or Twitch. The average worldwide audience watching the Thursday Night Football game for at least 30 seconds on Prime Video or Twitch was 691K.

ESPN Networks Win the College Football Weekend, Airing Four Most-Watched Games of Week 8

ESPN networks had one of their strongest weekends of the 2021 college football season as ESPN and ABC aired the four most-watched games of Week 8, including the top game in the noon, afternoon and primetime windows. Overall, ESPN networks were responsible for two-thirds of all college football game minutes watched in Week 8.

The most-watched game of the weekend was Tennessee at Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), averaging 4.7 million viewers to become the most-viewed college football game on cable this year. The primetime presentation is also the most-viewed game of the rivalry since Oct. 15, 2016, when both SEC teams ranked in the top 10.

ABC’s afternoon action featuring Oregon and UCLA registered 3.8 million viewers, ranking in the top five of most-viewed Pac-12 conference games since 2017 across all networks. The audience peaked with five million viewers and is the most-viewed Pac-12 regular season matchup since Nov. 23, 2019 (Oregon/Arizona State).

The 9OT thriller between Illinois and Penn State in the ABC noon window recorded 3.8 million viewers, peaking with 7.4 million viewers in the final overtime. In primetime, ABC Saturday Night Football  notched 3.35 million viewers as Ohio State defeated Indiana in Bloomington. All six games on ESPN and ABC on Saturday surpassed two million viewers, just the fourth time in the past three seasons ESPN networks reached that milestone.

ESPN boasted its most-viewed week of games of the 2021 season, averaging 2.5 million viewers across four games in Week 8 (Thursday and Saturday). Viewership is up 137% year-over-year for Week 8 and up 4% from 2019. Additionally, ABC was up 15% year-over-year and ESPN2 was up more than 40% from Week 8 in 2020 and 2019.

College GameDay Built by The Home Depot‘s first-ever visit to the UCLA campus registered 1.7 million viewers, landing on top Saturday morning among college football pregame shows with more than two million viewers in the final hour.


ESPN’s opening week of NBA game coverage was its most-watched since 2017, according to Nielsen. Its four-game slate, which included doubleheaders on Wednesday, October 20, and Friday, October 22, averaged 1,817,000 viewers. It was up 18% from 2019,3% from 2018 and 46% from 2020’s single-game opener (excludes Christmas Day).

The ESPN NBA doubleheader on Friday, October 22, averaged 1,893,000 viewers, up 26% from its opening week Friday doubleheader in 2019. The doubleheader was led by the matchup between the defending NBA Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers, which averaged 2,093,000 viewers. The early Friday matchup – the Brooklyn Nets vs. the Philadelphia 76ers – averaged 1,681,000 viewers.

In addition, ESPN’s season-opening doubleheader on October 20, included its most-watched season-opening Wednesday game in 18 years for the New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics double overtime thriller.

More recently on TNT, Tuesday’s Sixers-Knicks NBA regular season game averaged 1.43 million viewers on TNT, up 71% from Bucks-Heat on the comparable night of last season, which began in December (837K). Compared to the previous traditional season two years ago, viewership increased 117% from Heat-Hawks on a Thursday night opposite the NFL (658K). TNT this season is shifting its NBA doubleheaders from Thursdays to Tuesdays to avoid the NFL.

The Nuggets-Jazz nightcap averaged 1.24 million, up 8% from last year’s December game (Pelicans-Suns: 1.15M) and up 59% from 2019 opposite the NFL (Nuggets-Pelicans: 784K). (SportsMediaWatch)

F1 United States Grand Prix Scores Big Increase Over Previous Edition

Last Sunday’s Formula 1 United States Grand Prix averaged a 0.7 rating and 1.23 million viewers on ABC, marking the largest live F1 audience since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix on NBC (1.44M). Ratings increased 26% and viewership 42% from the last time the race was held in 2019 (0.6, 861K).

F1 races are now averaging 945,000 viewers for the season, up 54% from the same number of races in last year’s delayed, shortened season. (SportsMediaWatch)

NASCAR Cup Series in Kansas

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event on NBCSN earned a 1.26 rating and an average of 2.11 million viewers, ranking as the #1 motorsport of the weekend. At peak, 2.6 million viewers were tuned in. Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event earned a 0.78 rating on NBC, with an average of 1.31 million viewers tuned in, ranking as the No. 2 motorsport of the weekend. At peak, 1.7 million viewers were tuned in .

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