Ratings for major television sports fell. You probably didn’t think it would be the case during a pandemic that keeps fans off the stadium and on the couch. But there is incontrovertible visual evidence, as broadcasters often say, of a drop in audience numbers.
According to Sports Media Watch, the Stanley Cup Final is down 61%, the NBA Finals are down 49%, the World Series is down 30% and the NFL is down 13% through Week 5.
Remember in spring, when sports are closed, how much we miss any live events? The exhibition golf match with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady drew 5.8 million views, making it the most-watched golf broadcast in cable TV history.
But the US Open golf finals had 3.21 million spectators. He had no chance after being moved from June to September, when he competed with college football and the NFL. The density of the exercise program is one of the reasons why major sports suffer in all areas.
Check out the NBA playoffs. Even with some fantastic series and amazing shows, the viewership numbers dropped 37% overall. Those numbers are likely to be hurt by the many early-half matches played in the afternoon, but more because of the playoffs that take place off-season. Final in October, against the MLB and NFL playoffs.
There are some who ignore that fact and politicize downgrades, claiming that calls for social justice by the NBA and its players are turning off viewers. The researchers said those people weren’t contributing as much as they thought.
But politics is another reason for the overall decline. It is an election year, and news viewers are rapidly increasing. This is not a new phenomenon. During the last presidential election season in 2016, the NFL also fell by double digits. Of course, the down year for the NFL will be a big one for everyone else.
Moreover, people’s habits have been disrupted during the pandemic. Many don’t keep up with the routine of coming home from work and sitting on the couch to watch the game. They’ve been home all day. Others may not fall for the fake crowd noise or fan-less gaming. Don’t forget, too, the growing crowd of cable cutters.
Still, live games were ranked among the most watched programs, even with decreased views and increased news consumption. Select the last week, and you’ll find the top events are live news or live sports.
Last week (October 19-25), CBS’s “60 Minutes”, featuring interviews with President Donald Trump and Democratic opponent Joe Biden, was the most popular program with 17.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The presidential debate coverage occupied the top five of the 10 spots, led by Fox News, which took second place with 15.47 million viewers.
The NFL game holds three places, led by Sunday night’s Seahawks-Cardinals game, which is third with 14.31 million spectators. Monday’s Cardinals-Cowboys match is fifth with 11.83 million, and the Giants-Eagles match, which was broadcast during Thursday’s debate, is 10th with 10.47 million.
The Rays-Dodgers World Series game is ranked 11-14, starting from 9.11 million to 10.06 million viewers. And while it finished as the least watched Series, Games 5 (10.06 million) and 6 (12.27 million) are the two most-watched non-NFL sports broadcasts since the sport closed in March, according to Sports Media Watch.
The sports TV industry has not experienced a decline. The network will continue to pay for broadcasting rights. Turner recently agreed a seven-year, $ 3.2 billion deal with MLB. NBC is expected to have competition for the NHL when its deal expires after next season. And the NFL figures to make a record with the next deal.
The drop in views, while their faces were worrying, was temporary. Eventually, the sports calendar will return to normal, and people’s viewing habits will follow. The question is, how long is it temporary?
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