Why TV Sports Programming Matters So Much To Networks

TV executives will make a lot of hay when it comes to the value of sports programming in these trouble entertainment times.

Evidence suggests they are right.

Through five games of the regular NFL season, ratings are higher. Not crazy high. But it is up 6% to 16.8 million Nielsen viewers. That’s a big result.

Even Major League Baseball -- which in recent years hasn’t posted anywhere near the best TV metrics among top U.S. sports -- has seen growth. For example, for the post-game season so far, Fox Sports is up 17% to 3.6 million viewers.

Specifically, Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” -- into its second year of its contract -- has shown the best gains of any of the NFL TV packages, up 16%.

Then think about the new NBA season, which is soon to start. The massive amount of big talent, high-profile moves in a number of teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, will mean keen interest, not only in the post-season, but early regular-season contests.



Even at slightly lower sports-viewing levels -- considering cord-cutting or other media erosion -- monetizing sports programming though advertising and/or subscription fees will continue to be a big deal.

Take NBCSN’s the Tour de France in July. It grew 11% to an averaged 359,000 viewers on NBC and NBCSN, up 8% from 2017’s 331,000, and the highest average since 2015: 395,000. This comes even with any notable U.S. cyclist competing for any big results -- overall or any of the 21 daily stages.

Now consider esports programming, which attracts not just at-site live fans, but slowly improving TV ratings -- as well as obvious higher digital media consumption.

That's why the XFL, an NFL wannabe competitor, is trying again to take on the big sport franchise -- even after dramatically falling the first time around.

Growing legalized sports gambling is also a factor.

If you are a national TV brand advertiser, or a newby sports TV marketer, you’ll be happy to have a place to go for live, premium TV content, thus avoiding the faster declines that nonsports, scripted/unscripted programming has seen in recent years.

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