Commentary

Networks Cope With Viewers Who Follow Vs. Watch Sports

Traditional TV networks and new digital media companies continue to bet the house on sports, for various reasons. But to what end?

Speaking at a TV industry event in New York on Wednesday, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports, said things are changing in a way that is somewhat less than monetized for TV networks: “We’re training people to follow sports, not to watch sports.”

What exactly does that mean? TV Watch understands this all too well: It means watching tons of sports highlights on ESPN and other TV networks, but less viewing of TV sports in real-time.

TV Watch is surely in the minority here. But Lazarus speaks to the challenges of greater fractionalization of traditional media when it comes to all sorts of content -- even supposedly premium, live TV-like sports.

Some of this content is from highlight shows, or from consuming news/opinions of big-time sports -- NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA or NHL -- from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. That’s the "following" part.

Lazarus' remarks would seem to shine light on more than a few clouds in the sports TV business -- with billions already spent by TV networks, and increasing sports rights fees to come.

No matter what, results of that high spending on sports have shown top-line results heading in the right direction: high viewership. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is still the highest-rated TV series overall; with ESPN’s "MondayNight Football" the highest-rated cable TV series.

More broadly, sports TV programming comprises the greatest share of viewing for virtually all broadcast networks.

But down the road, there could be trouble. NBC’s Lazarus points out that younger viewers 18-34 aren’t exactly lighting up Nielsen ratings when it comes to sports.

Here is a somewhat silver lining: Analyze almost all networks’ median ages when it comes to their respective digital media platforms in running any TV content -- sports or general entertainment.  Those older-skewing broadcast networks will reveal much younger median-age viewers than on traditional TV platforms.

Will that be a home run for sports TV growth in future? Get your ace pitcher on the mound and hope for the best.

1 comment about "Networks Cope With Viewers Who Follow Vs. Watch Sports".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, October 25, 2017 at 2:28 p.m.

    Lazarus has no idea what sports are all about. As long as he's in charge, NBC should drop every sport it covers.

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