The packaged drama and plot-lines of football continue to make the NFL a ratings juggernaut as Americans just can't seem to get enough football. During 2013, each of the five broadcasters carrying NFL games (NBC, FOX, CBS, ESPN, NFL NETWORK) saw an increase in viewership compared to last season. Peyton Manning's record-breaking season was a major story this year with the Broncos becoming "America's Team," as four of the six highest-rated NBC Sunday Night Football telecasts featured the Broncos.
Locally, the conference champions Broncos and Seahawks also posted strong regular season ratings. In Denver, 40 percent of homes turned into a Broncos regular season game, up to 23 percent over last season, and 34 percent of homes in Seattle watched, an increase of 31 percent from the prior year.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
The fast-paced nature, high scoring games and iconic global superstars of the NBA has younger fans continuing to tune in. When looking at the NBA's regular season viewing audience, NBA marketers have a lot to be bullish about as the viewers are still skewing much younger than other sports. The 34 and under viewers comprise 45 percent of the total audience, for nationally televised regular season games.
In addition to skewing younger, NBA fans are also some of the most social ones, too. Over 7.3 million Tweets were sent by 1.9 million Unique Authors about the June 20th airing on ABC of the final game of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs.
The Red Sox's incredible run to the World Series Championship was the story of the postseason, but the MLB regular season saw an incredible resurgence in the heartland. Towns like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Kansas City who haven't had recent success on the diamond each had strong local viewership compared to last season, as the Pirates (+31%), Indians (+45%) and Royals (+71%) all enjoyed a big jump in their local ratings. Detroit and St. Louis have had more consistent success, and led their leagues in local household ratings with the Tigers averaging 9.6 and the Cards 8.7 in 2013.
Nationally, MLB regular season viewers are continuing to get older with the 55+ audience comprising 50 percent of the viewers, versus 41 percent ten seasons ago. As the audience skews older, its also gotten wealthier with 21 percent of its viewing audience having household income of $100K+ versus only 13 percent of its audience ten seasons ago.
Absence definitely made the heart grow fonder for NHL fans in 2013. Despite a labor dispute that culminated in a lockout and a strike shortened regular season of only 48 games, the NHL regular season average viewership increased by almost 20 percent in 2013 versus the prior season, albeit over a shorter person of time.
Over the past ten years, NHL regular season viewership continues to skew more affluent. Over half (53%) of the NHL's viewing audience for nationally televised regular season games in 2013 came from households earning over $75k, compared to only 27 percent of its audience ten seasons ago.
One of the most well-known personalities in motor sports, Danica Patrick, has seemingly had an impact on TV viewership since she shifted from IndyCar series to NASCAR two years ago. Case in point: In 2013, Indianapolis 500 viewership declined 17 percent versus the prior year. On the other hand, the 2013 Daytona 500, where Danica became the first female driver to win a pole and ultimately finished eighth, saw a 22 percent increase in viewing compared to 2012.
Danica's presence certainly generates buzz among race fans, and the Sprint Cup Series has a long track record of attracting a strong female audience in particular. Over the past ten years, NASCAR's top series has consistently boasted the highest share of female viewers among any major sports property regularly aired on TV (37%).
With golf's biggest names turning in exciting performances this year, including Tiger Woods winning five tournaments and Phil Mickelson winning the British Open, golf fans had a lot of highlights to watch. The Final Round at the Masters, which is traditionally the most watched golf event of the year, was one of those highlights, as viewership for Sunday's round increased 9 percent over 2012.
Although a number of young rising stars such as Rory Mcllroy and Jordan Spieth have emerged over the past decade to challenge veteran champions Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, the young guns have not swayed golf's core viewing audience. Television viewership for golf tournaments on the broadcast networks (CBS and NBC) has remained almost the same over the past ten years: White (87%), older (63% aged 55+) and affluent (27% household income over $100k).
With the World Cup set to kick off in June 2014 in Brazil, there was a log of focus and excitement in the soccer world on a number of big World Cup qualifying matches that took place in 2013. In the U.S., the most-watched soccer match of the year was the qualifying match between U.S. and Mexico in March, which drew nearly 7 million viewers across the Spanish and English broadcasts.
Despite the retirement of David Beckham, the MLS still had strong viewership during its playoffs, which were up 9 percent compared to 2012. When looking at the MLS regular season TV audience, the viewership skewed young (40% under 34) and Hispanic (34%).
Maybe it's all those brackets and office pools for March Madness, but the viewing audience for the NCAA Tournaments definitely shifts from the NCAA Regular Season. During the regular season in 2012-2013, the female audience accounted for less than 29 percent of total viewers, but climbed to 35 percent of the audience for the 2013 Tournament. Additionally, the audience gets more affluent come tournament time, as those with a household income of $100k+ accounted for 23 percent of regular season viewers and 27 percent of the total March Madness audience.
The 2013 tournament also generated a significant amount of Twitter activity with the April 8 airing of Michigan vs. Louisville in the Championship Game on CBS, ranking as the most tweeted about telecast in the month of April.
Between the always-strong SEC, Florida State's BCS run in the ACC and strong seasons from Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big 10, college football aired a record 31 games nationally in 2013 (not including bowls), compared to only 22 games in 2012, which drew over 5 million viewers, on average.
ESPN's January 6th telecast of the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship between Auburn and Florida State had over 25 million viewers and generated substantial Twitter activity (4.4 million Tweets by 1.2 million Unique Authors), surpassed last year's BCS game by almost 400 thousand Tweets. According to Nielsen SocialGuide, we also know that those Tweets about the game airing were seen by a Twitter TV Unique Audience of 10.4 million people.
In collaboration with Eurodata, this year we highlight the diversity of sports fans and their passions around the world. In the United States, the NFL and the Super Bowl reign supreme in TV ratings and viewer buzz. But, in other parts of the world and equally celebrated in other cultures are a wide array of sports and sporting events that draw the most viewers.
Soccer (futbol) holds the most sway with viewers across a wide range of markets throughout the world and netted the majority of the hours fans spent watching sports on television. In markets as diverse as Russia, Indonesia, Italy, South Africa and Spain, soccer is by far the most popular sport.
About Sports on Cable
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Sports accounted for exactly half of the top 50 programs on basic cable this year and 21 of the top 30!
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