TV executives are still scratching their heads over 15% average declines across NFL programming -- and much bigger drops in NFL prime time. But now we see that it isn’t the same for all sports.
The first game of Major League Baseball’s World Series between Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians posted a Nielsen 18.7 million viewers -- up 12% versus a year ago. That's the highest number in seven years, since the first game of the World Series in 2009 between the New York Yankees/Philadelphia Phillies.
Not only are Cubs and Indians two of the oldest baseball franchises -- both haven’t won a World Series in a very long time. For the Indians, this is 1948; and the Cubs, 1908. That means one team will have a lot of celebration, far more general TV viewer interest.
For the NFL, a lot has been made about the lack of personalities -- as well the key match-ups. And for good reason. For the first weeks, New England Patriots’ Tom Brady was out because of his suspension, Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo had a injury, and Peyton Manning, legendary quarterback of the Super Bowl winning team Denver Broncos, retired.
Match-ups and big athlete brands do well -- in all sports. Think back to June and the NBA’s LeBron James and Steph Curry. The entire series posted over 20 million viewers -- the best numbers in 17 years since 1999.
The seventh game of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers/Golden State Warriors put up a rocketing 31 million viewers for ABC -- far and away the best results ever for a NBA Finals game for network.
Now to be fair regular season games of sports -- Major League Baseball, NBA, as well as the NFL -- can have plenty of soft periods
Maybe more so in recent years.
Off-field issues? NFL still has a bunch of them. And, by the way, are those harder hits on TV screens? Is the on-air analysts’ “concussion-protocol,” prompting TV viewers with different kind groans?
That NFL viewers figure, if they going to watch at all, perhaps more than ever, it’s about end of the season games and playoffs -- as well compelling franchise/player story lines -- that matter.
Content is king -- even for the NFL. But not all content is equal. Getting into the weeds, such as ever-pressing viewers’ TV time, means TV executives need to focus on the precise value of content for those bigger scores.