Live TV Sports Is Back, NASCAR Races To Higher Viewing

More standard live TV sports flickered on screens this past weekend. No, not any pinball or dart competitions. More along the lines of what sports TV viewers want: soccer, car racing and golf.

One NASCAR race might indicate some pent-up sports demand was in force: On Saturday, Fox’s “The Real Heroes 400” posted an eye-opening 6.3 million viewers, almost double the industry average of 2019.

Other weekend sports: On Saturday, Fox, Fox Deportes, UniMas and TUDN had Germany’s live Bundesliga football league. NBC and Golf Channel had PGA golf tour on Sunday. All this followed ESPN, which has been airing live late-night baseball from South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization.

No, it doesn’t necessarily mean a return yet to high viewing postseason NBA or regular season U.S. Major League Baseball.  But I’m guessing it’s a start. 



And there’s the inertia factor. Even without live sports, around 50% of loyal TV sports viewers have kept watching their favorite networks, according to media researcher Alphonso.

The biggest shows are ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” ESPN’s Michael Jordan-themed limited documentary series “The Last Dance, and ESPN/ABCs “2020 NFL Draft.” When they weren’t watching this, Alphonso says other high viewing went to “South Park,” MTV’s “Ridiculous” and TruTV’s “Impractical Jokers.”

(Is this all about young-sport viewers?)

But wait there’s more, less obvious stuff. On the top list for heavy sports viewers was news content: ABC’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today,” “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir.” (Which should include 25-54 sports viewers.)

Still, sports networks overall had a tough time. ESPN was down 29% in viewersip in April; ESPN2, 26% lower; Fox, 20% less; TNT, down 15.8% and CBS lost 15.7%. The last two networks -- CBS and TNT -- also had losses in March, due to the cancellation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Know this for sure: Near-term live sports won’t have live fans in the stands, by the 18th hole, or at the race track. Will that alter the quality -- dare we say excitement -- of the event? Perhaps a newfound appreciation for these sports will be revealed. NASCAR could be the tip of the iceberg.

On top of this, Draft Kings, the sports gambling site, has seen growing usage, from esports as well as adding some live streaming (Table Tennis!). Draft Kings is up 16% year over year to 720,000 monthly users.

So heavy sports viewers are finding the long shots at home-alone viewing. But alas, many potential high fives are left hanging.

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