Without Olympics, Sports Viewing Dips, But Basketball Up

For the current TV season starting in September, sports TV on national media is down slightly -- 1%, according to Pivotal Research Group.

This follows some of the same results when looking at calendar year 2016 for regular scheduled sports programming.

While overall sports TV in 2016 grew 5% in Nielsen live program-plus-same day, time-shifted viewing and live-plus-seven days of time-shifting, this includes the Summer Olympics. Without the Olympics, it declined 3%.

Over the past decade, 2006 through 2016, sports programming viewing grew by nearly 7% -- with about half of this growth coming from Summer and Winter Olympics. 

For 2016, Walt Disney TV networks -- primarily ESPN, accounted for 32% of total sports viewing. NBCUniversal channels generated 20% of viewing -- with more than one-third coming from the Olympics. Fox, 16% of total viewing; CBS, 13%.



During the most recent week, for example, total basketball viewing (college and NBA) was up by 10% -- with college basketball growing 13% and NBA, 7%. Basketball dominates all sports viewing at this time of year, with a 36% share. College basketball is nearly 20% of the total, with NBA games nearly 17%. 

Sports analysis/commentary and highlights -- such as ESPN’s “SportsCenter” -- commanded the next highest share of sports viewing, 17% -- a slight decline versus the same period a year ago, when it was at 19%.

Soccer accounts for a 9% share. Brian Wieser, senior research analyst of Pivotal, expects it to increase 10% or 11% this year, partly due to Nielsen measurement changes.

Golf is at a 9% to 10% share of sports viewing, with motor sports at 8% -- dropping from 12% and 10%, respectively, from the same period the year before.

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