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Championship Sunday Presents Ratings Test For The NFL

Jason Barrett

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Usually the AFC and NFC Championship games are saved for the elite quarterbacks. The NFL is used to seeing Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger on Championship Sunday, but with three of the final four quarterbacks being Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles, what will that do for the league’s television ratings?

Entering the divisional round of the playoffs, the NFL had a chance to see Matt Ryan vs Drew Brees and Tom Brady vs Ben Roethlisberger on Championship Sunday. While the league enjoyed the exciting finishes the games provided, they have to be concerned with what the end results mean for next week’s ratings.

With a significant decline in television ratings for two consecutive years, Championship Weekend and the Super Bowl provide a chance for the NFL to rebound and reaffirm its popularity. For the NFC Championship, the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles bring with them the 15th and 4th largest local television markets respectively, according to Nielsen estimates. However, in terms of the larger audience, the quarterback matchup between Case Keenum and Nick Foles is one of the least attractive championship games the league has seen in recent years regarding their national popularity.

For the AFC game, New England and Jacksonville’s local markets are the 9th and 42nd largest in the country. The NFL is grateful to have the love ‘em or hate ‘em New England Patriots led by Tom Brady still playing and needs the polarizing franchise in the Super Bowl for all of their provided story lines.

Richard Deitsch of SI provided ratings from the previous six Championship Sundays in yesterday’s Media Circus article.

Date: Jan. 22, 2017
Early game: Falcons-Packers (Fox): 46.3 million viewers
Late game: Patriots-Steelers (CBS): 48.0 million viewers
Average viewership: 46.903 million

Date: Jan. 24, 2016
Early game: Broncos-Patriots (CBS): 53.3 million viewers
Late game: Panthers-Cardinals (Fox) 45.7 million viewers
Average viewership: 49.700 million

Date: Jan. 18 2015
Early game: Seahawks-Packers (Fox): 49.84 million viewers
Late game: Patriots-Colts (CBS): 42.14 million viewers
Average viewership: 46.151 million

Date: Jan. 19, 2014
Early game: Broncos-Patriots (CBS): 51.3 million viewers
Late game: Seahawks-Niners (Fox): 55.9 million viewers
Average viewership: 53.697 million

Date: Jan. 20, 2013
Early game: Niners-Falcons (Fox): 42.0 million viewers
Late game: Ravens-Patriots (CBS): 47.1 million viewers
Average viewership: 44.824 million

Date: Jan. 22, 2012
Early game: Patriots-Ravens (CBS): 48.7 million viewers
Late game: Giants-Niners (Fox): 57.6 million
Average viewership: 53.976 million

There is no consistent decline with these ratings, the numbers change based on the teams/markets involved and how close the game is late. The highest rated game was between two large markets, New York and San Francisco, a game that went into overtime. One of the lowest rated games had the Patriots and Colts, a blowout between the 9th and 28th largest television markets.

Last week Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wasn’t concerned about their ratings decline.

“We always want ratings to go up, but we’re 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever,” said Goodell . “We’re likely to be the No. 1 show on Fox — excuse me on all of television, the Fox Sunday afternoon game. Sunday night, prime time is for the seventh year in a row the No. 1 show. Thursday Night Football is No. 2. I think dominance of the NFL in television is still very clear.”

The league still generates higher ratings than other sports and television shows, but that doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing a decline that’s cause for concern. According to Sports Business Daily, the Wild Card Games had a double digit decrease from the previous year’s television ratings.

Early returns for the Divisional Round games showed a continued dip. Sportstvratings.com reported a 17.4 rating for the Falcons Eagles game, down from an 18.2 last season. Last year’s Packers Cowboys game was the highest rated divisional game ever, even with the fantastic finish to last night’s Vikings-Saints game the ratings are expected to show a large drop based on the teams’ national following.

The AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Jaguars on CBS has a 3:05 start time, with the FOX broadcast of Vikings vs Eagles getting the late window at 6:40pm ET.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

Fox Officially Unveils NFL Broadcast Teams

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In what has been considered a formality for some time, Fox today officially unveiled Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi as their number one NFL broadcast team Monday. Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to Fox’s top booth after the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football earlier this year.

There were some reports that Drew Brees could have been a possibility to join the network, but those discussions fell apart.

The network’s other teams include several familiar faces to football fans:

#2 team: Joe Davis, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Pam Oliver
#3 team: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
#4 team: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
#5 team: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
#6 team: Chris Myers, Robert Smith, Jen Hale

Olsen’s jump to the number one team with Burkhardt is a formality until the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner will ascend to Fox’s number one booth upon his retirement, whenever that may be.

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Ryan Clark, Mad Dog Get Into Heated Argument on ‘First Take’

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

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Former Pittsburgh Steeler, and current ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark and recent Radio Hall of Fame inductee Chris “Mad Dog” Russo squared off on Monday’s edition of First Take, with a heated exchange taking place between the two.

After a discussion about Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas meandered into a discussion about whether Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he never played another game, Clark said about Hall of Fame voters “they must be voting like you (Russo) vote for the Heisman, where you just vote on whoever the hell you want based off the fact that they play quarterback”.

Russo quickly took exception to the perceived slight.

“Ryan, hold on now,” Russo said, in a louder manner than normal. “You said something, now I’m going to comment. I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born.”

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

“You said something that wasn’t right,” Russo said.

“Lower your voice,” the former Steeler interrupted again.

“I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born,” Mad Dog reiterated, with a lower volume. “30 years.”

“I don’t care about that,” Clark rebutted.

“You’re saying I’m voting for the Heisman and saying I don’t deserve a vote. I’ve been voting for 30 years!”, Russo began to raise his voice again.

“I never said you don’t deserve a vote,” Clark replied before clarifying he disagrees with Russo’s sentiment about the college football award being only awarded to quarterbacks.

It’s not the first time Russo has clashed with First Take contributors. A discussion with J.J. Reddick went viral earlier this year after Reddick told Russo previous NBA players played with “plumbers and firefighters”.

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Sports TV News

Todd Frazier Joining ESPN Little League World Series Booth

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

Ricky Keeler

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When people talk about 11-year MLB veteran Todd Frazier, some of the things that are usually mentioned on broadcasts usually is that he is from Toms River, New Jersey and that he played in the Little League World Series in 1998 (won the championship). Now, Frazier will have a bigger connection to the annual event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As first reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati EnquirerFrazier will be in the TV booth (remotely) for ESPN for this year’s Little League World Series. He made his broadcast debut on Monday morning during one of the New England region semifinals between Maine and Massachusetts. 

Frazier told Nightengale that he wants to use this event to begin his second career in the broadcasting industry.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially for the Little League World Series since I’ve been a part of it. I know it and understand it really well. Kind of kickstart my second career here.” 

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

The Little League World Series begins on Wednesday, August 17 and ends on Sunday, August 28. It will be broadcasted on ESPN and ABC.  

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