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E Van der Vliet

Falling TV ratings across most sports? Here are four reasons to explain drop during pandemic

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E Van der Vliet
Posted (edited)

Falling TV ratings across most sports? Here are four reasons to explain drop during pandemic

 

DAN WOLKEN | USA TODAY

 

When we were smack in the middle of the barren sports landscape of April and May, it seemed natural to assume that the hunger to watch big events would build to a crescendo when they finally came back. With no options other than classic games or documentaries, the only salvation was the promise of a fall cornucopia to give us our sports fix and then some. 

But the idea that sports coming back would automatically bring fans to their televisions in huge numbers has turned out to be inaccurate. In fact, it would be completely fair to say that the viewership for sports has been a bit disappointing.

There are lots of theories about why that has been the case. But the one that makes the most sense?

TV viewership of the NBA Finals has been down, which some have tried to attribute to players protesting social injustice, but ratings in nearly every sports have also decreased.

It turns out, there might be too much sports to watch. And when you combine that with the lifestyle changes so many people have made during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is both an explanation for the drop in numbers and somewhat of a long-term warning for sports. 

“Everyone is excited in the spring like, ‘Oh we’ll have this incredible fall with so much sports to watch,’” said Austin Karp, the managing editor/digital at Sports Business Journal who closely tracks ratings and the sports television industry. “But the problem is there is that tonnage. That’s why we spread this out over the course of the year. People are inundated with, ‘OK, I have football, do I really need to watch the NBA Finals? My mind is trained to watch that in June.”

 

The average fan should not care how many people are watching a particular game or sport. If you enjoy it, you should watch it. Generally speaking, television ratings are a niche topic that only matter inside the industry, and yet the coverage they receive in the news media often leads people to seize on them to further a particular narrative.

The most prominent example of that, of course, began in 2016 when right-wing political commentators tried to correlate Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem with a drop in NFL ratings as a way to validate their criticism of him personally. 

The same pattern has been repeated during the NBA’s restart with players highlighting social justice messages and the league's embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. Indeed, ratings for the bubble have been lackluster overall and viewership of the Finals thus far has been historically poor, with Game 1 registering 7.4 million viewers (lowest on record) and sinking to 5.9 million for Game 3. 

But the theory that fans are turned off by “wokeness” doesn’t hold up when you consider the following: 

Ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals were down 61% from last year, averaging 2.1 million viewers.

The final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament had 3.2 million viewers, by far the fewest going back more than 30 years.

The U.S. Open tennis tournament viewership fell sharply on ESPN, down 45% from the year before. The French Open is down 57% so far on NBC. 

The Kentucky Derby, which normally gets around 15 million viewers, only had 9.3 million at its rescheduled slot in September.

Even the NFL, which has had some bright spots in the ratings thus far and seems to be holding steady, has had trouble getting viewers in certain windows like Thursday night, which has recorded consecutive lows for prime-time games. 

In other words, the pattern is clear. And it should lead us to examine what’s really going on. 

There are four factors contributing to that. 

There’s a certain level of cannibalization on the calendar. As an example, Monday's Game 1 of the Rays-Yankees AL Division Series had 2.3 million viewers on TBS, which was one-third less than a similar time slot on TBS last year. Also a year ago, the baseball game was going up against a "Monday Night Football" broadcast, but this week's Rays-Yankees matchup was competing against two NFL games because one had been moved from Sunday due to a COVID-19 outbreak

It’s not part of our natural cycle to be watching sports on weekday afternoons or NBA Finals games in October or Triple Crown races on a college football Saturday. “We get used to watching certain things or having particular sports be part of our lives at certain times of the year,” said Dennis Deninger, a former ESPN production executive, who is now a professor in sports communications at Syracuse University’s Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “If you move sports from their natural positions to places that they’re unfamiliar, they’re competing with sports that are traditionally seen in those time periods and everyone suffers a little bit.”

Lack of fans in the stands is a psychological cue that these games don’t mean as much. “The crowd going crazy is part of the allure of watching sports on TV,” Karp said. “Crowd goes wild is an expression for a reason.”

There’s a presidential election going on in a highly charged political climate, which echoes some of the data Karp saw from 2016 when some news and commentary shows were up 30%. “Viewership in cable news networks is up significantly, and right now, especially once the president got COVID, that’s all anyone was watching,” Karp said. "It affected college football numbers (last weekend). It affected everything.”

 

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/5913720002

 

Yup, this numb-nuts doesn't think it has anything to do with these athletes and their social justice warrior-ship on full display.  Nope, it's because of us, the fans have changed, or are inundated with sports. I mean, other sports aren't down, right?

 

But, then there is this.... CNN shows us, in pictures, just how woke sports is

Yeah, it's not because just about every sport has gone woke, it's because, well, anything other than that!  

 

Morons, the lot of them. They just need to shut up and entertain!

Edited by E Van der Vliet
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USNRETWIFE
TV viewership of the NBA Finals has been down, which some have tried to attribute to players protesting social injustice, but ratings in nearly every sports have also decreased.

Maybe it's because almost every sport he mentioned have had a protest of some sort or another.  I knew when I saw USA Today though.  I'll stick to the Professional Bull Riders, they kneel for God and stand for the anthem.  And if they change that, they will be gone too.

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USNJIMRET

Heck, even college football has become somewhat consumed by the "ain't we all massively woke and all" disease.

 

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Tikk
Posted (edited)

I think the ratings drop are a combination of multiple factors:

1 - Having entertainers/athletes who have a much much higher standard of living speaking down to their audience.  And doing so by claiming to have a higher moral authority when they, in fact, do not have any authority on morality whatsoever.  And this was done in all sports to varying degrees.

2 - Lack of socialization.  Many use sports to bond with one another.  Why use that when you're required to isolate from others?

3 -  Lack of fans in the stands.  It's just weird to hear a silent venues. 

4 - The delays and changes in schedules and seasons.  This disrupted another pattern that was normal, thus making it more obvious that we are in a pandemic.

5 - Competing schedules between different sports being performed that same time.

(The latter three the author pointed out.)

I think the biggest factors are the first, the second and the fourth are the primary sources.  And the fifth would be the least impactful.

 

Edited by Tikk

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MontyPython
2 minutes ago, ThePatriot said:

Exactly.

But the those on the looney left can't handle that simple truth.

It hurts their widdle feewings.

 

Yep. I gave up on the NFL a couple years ago, including my formerly-beloved Seahawks. Now I see the other sports are doing it too: MLB, NBA, even college teams. I won't support any of them anymore.

<_< 

 

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AntiObama

I don't even own a TV. I haven't watched TV in about 16 months. It was a waste of time.

All sports can go bankrupt if they support BLM/ANTIFA

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RedSoloCup

:biglaugh:

Get woke,  go broke losers.

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RedSoloCup
21 minutes ago, ThePatriot said:

Exactly.

But the those on the looney left can't handle that simple truth.

It hurts their widdle feewings.

:exactly:

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kestrel
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, MontyPython said:

I think the author is wrong. Sports viewership is down specifically because of the "Social Justice Warrior" pandering. People are just plain sick and tired of it. Antifa are worthless thugs, BLM is based on outright lies, and both are vicious and violent. Nobody in their right mind wants to see sports teams going all political over such trash.

<_< 

 

But Professional Wokeness from Celebrities has such a powerful effect!..I think this self destructive crap started with a marginal Q/B named Colin Kaepernick and has meandered here and there all the way to Talladega with Bubba (Noose-y) Wallace and illustrates the total disconnect that these idiots have from regular everyday folks who just want a couple of beers and a decent sports distraction. Save the Sermons for Church.

Kestrel...

Edited by kestrel
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zurg

After having read everyone’s opinion here, ooooh this is a tough one, let me think for a long while about this one .... <110 milliseconds later> .... yup, y’all are correct, it’s the SJW’s doing their in your face thing about how racist we all are. 

Well, since I’m a racist, I take it they don’t want my money and would reject my support, so it only makes sense that I withdraw voluntarily. 

But I do wish to say farewell to the sport stars: see you never, you ungrateful bastards! 

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MontyPython
1 hour ago, kestrel said:

But Professional Wokeness from Celebrities has such a powerful effect!..I think this self destructive crap started with a marginal Q/B named Colin Kaepernick and has meandered here and there all the way to Talladega with Bubba (Noose-y) Wallace and illustrates the total disconnect that these idiots have from regular everyday folks who just want a couple of beers and a decent sports distraction. Save the Sermons for Church.

Kestrel...

 

Yup. They need to look back to Laura Ingraham's book "Shup Up And Sing" (or "Act" or "Play Football" or whatever.)

:yes: 

 

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