Sports Ratings: Unpredictable, Except For One Event

by , Jan 28, 2013, 12:50 PM
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What will be TV’s biggest sports event this year?  That's a layup, for sure. How about the biggest disappointment: Maybe those sports celebrity interviews?

For all the promotion for the recent Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o interviews, those events -- one on cable network OWN's "Oprah's Next Chapter," the other on the syndicated Disney/ABC Domestic Television's "Katie" -- wound up in a tie, for the most part.

The exclusive interviews each got around the same 3.5 million viewers on their first runs. (Cable and syndication TV supporters? Fight among yourselves.) OWN claims a lot more -- 12.2 million U.S. viewers counting repeats and 28 million viewers worldwide by including all digital and online viewing.

Flip the premise around: Nobody expected much from the return of NHL hockey -- the maligned national sports league that has now gone through two lockouts in eight years. Instead, ratings for NBC's regular games in this shortened season are the highest since 1999.

But then, there's the Super Bowl -- seemingly the only TV program to buck the commonly held belief that multi-decades-long shows show their age (Hello "60 Minutes" and "Wheel of Fortune”). In 2012, the game pulled in 111.3 million viewers, hitting another new record for the most watched individual TV show. It has done this every year since 2006.

I'd go another step. We shouldn't even call the Super Bowl a TV show -- since it surely doesn't behave like any show that has been on for 46 years. My colleague David Goetzl says the Super Bowl should be a national holiday. 

Super Bowl commercials also defy all logic. Nielsen research shows that Super Bowl commercials that had already been running on other programs for a month, actually wind up being more favorable when reaired in NFL's big event.

Why does that happen? Besides the usual stuff, I'm thinking it helps to have a beer in one hand, a  taco in the other, and lots of friendly people to talk with. Thinking about cost per thousands, cost per engagement, cost per whatever? Now try and arrange viewers into an annual party mode for your next media plan.

1 comment on "Sports Ratings: Unpredictable, Except For One Event".

  1. Chris Vinson from Vinson Advertising
    commented on: January 28, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.
    Thanks for the great article. I find it fascinating that ads in the Super Bowl that have been aired previously viewed are more favorable to viewers. I have always wanted to see brand new highly creative and funny ads in the Super Bowl. As important as the game? It depends on who's playing. That demonstrates the rule of don't just go by (buy) what you like.

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