March 31, 2014

NIELSENWAR: The Value of Giant Sports Events


Thanks to the NCAA Tournament, CBS had a strong week, while the continuing decline of the new dramas on ABC and NBC dragged them down.  CBS had the weekly win (Live + Same Day, 5 days actual + 2 days overnights) with 2.09, up 0.30 from last week.  ABC followed at 1.50 (down 0.02), NBC was next at 1.48 (down 0.16), and FOX at 1.27 (down 0.03).  CW brought up the rear at 0.60 (down 0.07).

There were a few tenths of change in the Season to Date numbers:

NBC:  2.54 (up 21% from last year because of the Winter Olympics, down 0.04 from last week)

FOX:  2.22 (up 3% from last year because of the Super Bowl, down 0.04 from last week)

CBS:  1.91 (down 24% from last year when it had the Super Bowl, up 0.01 from last week)

ABC:  1.65 (down 11% from last year, down 0.01 from last week)

CW:  0.53 (down 2% from last year, unchanged from last week)

Every week we make a point of noting that NBC, FOX and CBS numbers are affected by their coverage (or in CBS’s case, lack of same) of the Winter Olympics and Super Bowl.  But what exactly are those huge events worth?

Without this year’s Winter Olympics (with average ratings substituted for those 2+ weeks), NBC’s season average would be 2.21, and instead of being up 21%, it would be up around 6%–which is nothing to lightly dismiss in the current era of network TV, but not much to get excited about, an increase of about a tenth of a point.

Without this year’s Super Bowl (again, an average Sunday rating substituted in its place), FOX would be at 1.93 for this season, and instead of registering a 3% increase, the network would be down about 10%, a drop of two tenths.

If CBS hadn’t had the Super Bowl last year, its average would have been 2.26, and its decrease this year would be around 18%–still substantial, and reflecting the considerable erosion in the network’s longtime holdovers, as well as the complete failure of its Monday 10PM programming–but not as bad as the current 24%.

This is of course why the networks shell out billions of dollars for sports rights (NBC’s weekly coverage of Sunday Night Football also skews the numbers on a weekly basis all fall because of the huge disparity between its ratings and the profit–if any–it brings to the network), and it’s particularly worth noting that without this year’s Super Bowl, FOX would be just 0.02 ahead of CBS for the season as a whole, with the possibility of falling behind by May.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."