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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

Miami Marlins Continue Broadcast Changes, Drop J.P. Arencibia

The former big league catcher worked the club’s opening road series and more than 60 games for Bally Sports Florida.

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After announcing last week that Miami Marlins play-by-play announcer Glenn Geffner wouldn’t return to the booth next year, the club continues to make changes. J.P. Arencibia won’t return as an analyst for the club in 2023.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Arencibia was informed he will no longer work on either the team’s television or radio broadcasts next season. The former big league catcher worked the club’s opening road series and more than 60 games for Bally Sports Florida. It was his first season as a television analyst. According to Jackson, the reason for Arencibia’s departure is “unclear”, adding a reason “was not offered”.

The club will continue to use a rotation of analysts in 2023, with Jeff Nelson, Gaby Sanchez, Rod Allen, and Tommy Hutton working in the booth.

Arencibia was brought on for the 2022 season after the Marlins dropped former Rookie of the Year Todd Hollandsworth from the clubs televisions broadcasts after the previous season concluded.

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Rebecca Lobo Signs Extension With ESPN

She has served as the analyst for the network’s coverage of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the National Championship Game.

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ESPN and Rebecca Lobo have signed an extension to keep the women’s basketball legend with the network.

Lobo joined ESPN in 2004 as a WNBA and women’s college basketball analyst. She has served as the analyst for the network’s coverage of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and the National Championship Game.

“I am thrilled to continue doing what I love, calling women’s basketball games,” said Lobo. “It is an honor to be a part of the soundtrack for the games played by these incredible female athletes.”

Lobo had a storied career at UConn before winning an Olympic Gold Medal. She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

“Rebecca is one of the best in the business. She excels on both game coverage and studio coverage,” said Patricia Lowry, ESPN Vice President, Production. “Her knowledge, history, and passion for the game and its growth continue to make us better.  She is a true asset and a highly valued member of our team.”

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ESPN Reaches Extension To Remain Home of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

“It’s a sports calendar and Fourth of July staple, one of those classic, timeless events we know fans look forward to every year.”

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ESPN and the International Federation of Competitive Eating have agreed to a deal that will see the network remain the home of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on the 4th of July.

The Major League Eating contest has aired on the network since 2004. The new contract will see the event take place on ESPN through the 2029 event.

“You can’t beat the spectacle that is the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest,” said ESPN Director of Programming & Acquisitions John Suchenski. “It’s a sports calendar and Fourth of July staple, one of those classic, timeless events we know fans look forward to every year. It has had memorable moments over the years, and we’re ecstatic that many more will be on our platforms for the foreseeable future.”

The event has risen to prominence during its tenure with the Disney-owned network, seeing the rivalry between Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut grow into one of national prominence. The rivalry even sparked an ESPN documentary on the subject. Chestnut has grown into an American celebrity for his performance during the contest, winning his 15th mustard-yellow belt in 2022.

“We’re thrilled to extend our agreement with ESPN and ensure that viewers will continue to join in this great July Fourth tradition. ESPN is a fantastic broadcast partner and they capture the spirit of the event perfectly.”

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