May 6, 2013

SKEDBALL: Weekend Sports Ratings — Horse Racing Still Matters Three Saturdays a Year

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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The first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown dominated the weekend sports ratings for Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5: NBC hit a 10.4 household rating during the 6 pm hour Saturday for coverage of the Kentucky Derby (up a solid 16% from last year’s rating).  The numbers are based on viewing in the 56 local markets measured by Nielsen (covering 70% of the USA’s TV homes).  The two hours leading up to the race (coverage of the ever-changing odds, the pomp and circumstance, and of course the wild lids worn by the ladies) were also up 11-15% from last year.  If Orb can manage to win the Preakness, the ratings for the Belmont will be astronomical, no matter who wins.


NBC Sat 4:00-4:30 pm Pre-Race 3.1 rating (+11% from 2.8 rating last year)

NBC Sat 4:30-5:00 pm Pre-Race 4.1 rating (+11% from 3.7 rating last year)

NBC Sat 5:00-6:00 pm Pre-Race 6.2 rating (+15% from 5.4 rating last year)

NBC Sat 6:00-7:00 pm Race Coverage 10.4 rating (+16% from 9.0 rating last year)


A rather ho-hum third weekend of the NBA playoffs — only three games Saturday and Sunday, down a collective 5% from last year’s comparable games and time periods.


TNT Sat 8:00 pm Chicago-Brooklyn 3.2 rating (-9% from Philadelphia-Boston 3.5 rating last year)

ABC Sun 1:00 pm Memphis-OKC 3.8 rating (even with LA Clippers-Memphis 3.8 rating last year)

ABC Sun 4:00 pm Indianapolis-New York 4.9 rating (-6% from Indianapolis-Miami 5.2 rating last year)

PLAYOFF WEEKEND #3 (3 games) 3.97 average rating (-5% for 4.17 average rating last year)


Rain interrupted the Sunday NASCAR race on FOX.  The first two hours of the race aired in the early afternoon, while the final hour or so ended up in the beginning of prime time.  Putting the three hours and fifteen minutes of race coverage together, NASCAR was down 6% from last year (but it still out-rated the average NBA playoff game this weekend).


FOX Sun 1:15-3:15 & 7:00-8:15 pm Aaron’s 499 4.4 rating (-6% from 4.7 rating  last year same day 1:45-5:15 pm)


Next, a rather inconsequential PGA tournament averaged a 2.0 rating for the weekend, slightly higher than last year.  Saturday’s third round was well ahead of last year, but the final round Sunday lost ground versus 2012.

PGA — Wells Fargo Championship

CBS Sat 3:00 pm Third Round 1.8 rating (+29% from 1.4 rating last year)

CBS Sun 3:00 pm Final Round 2.2 rating (-8% from 2.4 rating last year)

COMBINED WEEKEND COVERAGE 2.0 rating (+5% from 1.9 rating last year)


Kind of like Steve Martin exclaiming, “The new phone books are here!” in The Jerk, hundreds of thousands of hockey fans screamed, “The NHL playoffs are here!”  The average of the three first-round games on NBC this weekend tumbled -23% from last year and rated just below a very mediocre early-season MLB  Saturday afternoon game (a package of three regional games).  Total snooze time.

MLB — Regional Coverage

FOX Sat 4:00 pm 1.4 rating for BAL-LAA, STL-MIL or WAS-PIT (even with 1.4 rating last year for 3 regional games)


NHL — Playoff Weekend #1 Quarterfinals

NBC Sat 1:00 pm NY Rangers-Washington 1.2 rating (-20% from Washington-Boston 1.5 rating last year on Apr 14 at 3:00 pm)

NBC Sun 12:00 pm Pittsburgh NY Islanders 1.4 rating (-7% from Nashville-Detroit 1.5 rating last year on Apr 15 at 12:00 pm)

NBC Sun 3:15 pm Chicago-Minnesota 1.5 rating (-35% from Philadelphia-Pittsburgh 2.3 rating last year on Apr 15 at 3:00 pm)

COMBINED PLAYOFF COVERAGE (3 games) 1.37 rating (-23% from 1.77 rating for three games comparable weekend last year)



About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.