Waiting all day for Thursday night: New scheduling benefits NFL viewership
The NFL continued its reign as America’s favorite sport to watch on television in 2012. With nearly a full season of Thursday night prime time games, professional football continued to trump the college game and outdo the NBA with a 4.1 rating and an average of 6.4 million viewers. Those numbers were up 11 and three percent respectively.
To give you a look behind the numbers, the NFL Network’s lowest rated game of the season, an AFC West matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, still drew 4.8 million viewers. 4.1 million viewers tuned in to ESPN’s most watched college football game, East Carolina-Vanderbilt, which did not have competition from NFL Network on Aug. 30.
Coming off a lockout shortened season, the NBA is also facing stiffer competition from Thursday Night NFL action. The increase of NFL Thursday games from seven to 13 put the two leagues alongside one another for an additional month during the regular season. NBA on TNT has averaged 1.7 million viewers this season. A Thursday tip off between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks had 1.2 million people tuned in, while 6.8 million viewers decided to watch a Denver Broncos rout of the Oakland Raiders.
Media deals with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision this year have also expanded NFL Network’s audience. This is a likely a cause for lower Sunday afternoon ratings on Fox and CBS. Network executives don’t seem concerned yet however.
Michael Mulvihill, senior vice president of programming and research for Fox Sports Media Group, had this to say about a dip in ratings this season:
“In the larger picture, total NFL viewing is up and the NFL on Fox is still the league’s strongest package. We’re coming off our highest-rated season in 16 years, our third straight showing year-to-year growth, and this season’s ratings are still exceptionally strong. We’re really very comfortable with where we are right now.”
CBS meanwhile, will be hosting the largest television event of the year in February when they air Super Bowl XLVII. There’s sure to be a meteoric rise in ratings then.
Both networks have to know that they will get at least two home markets tuned in to a prime time or afternoon game. Plus they’ll gain a few neutral fans of the game who will tune in regardless of the matchup.