Bulls of the Week
The NFL and its broadcast partners kicked off the 2019 Super Bowl tournament with one of the best-rated wild-card weekends in the past quarter-century. The average U.S. TV audience for the four wild-card games was an impressive 28.35 million.
Those bullish TV numbers bode well for Super Bowl LIII. The math typically shows that the bigger the wild-card audiences at the start of the post-season, the higher the count come the NFL championship game on the first Sunday in February.
It began with ESPN’s one kick at the playoff can, an Indianapolis Colts’ win on the road against the Houston Texans that scored a Nielsen rating of 13.5 (up four per cent over the same game last year) and an American audience of 22.77 million. The television numbers rose proportionately to the drama that the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks provided for FOX on Saturday night. The 15.9 rating was up a whopping 24 per cent over last year’s comparable game.
The TV sweepstakes continued Sunday when the Los Angeles Chargers eliminated the hometown Baltimore Ravens before an average U.S. audience of 29.38 million on CBS, with the rating of 15.4 up a couple of points over last year.
Yet NBC saved the best for last, a stunning road win for Nick Foles and the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The closely contested game — one that went down to the last tick on the clock and what would have been a game-winning field goal that bounced off both the left upright and the crossbar — delivered a scorching rating of 19.7, with an average national audience of 35.89 million and total audience delivery averages of 36.4 million when live streaming is included.
The strong TV run should continue this weekend given the attractive line up of divisional matchups.
Consider the audience potential of a last-possession game between the visiting Cowboys and hometown L.A. Rams in the NFC, not to mention the curiosity around whether Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints can use their home-field advantage at the Mercedes Benz Superdome to oust the Eagles.
Another big TV magnet will be Philip Rivers and the Chargers visiting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC. Throw in the young quarterbacks on display in the other AFC matchup between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Andrew Luck and the Colts and the weekend should be another big winner for the NFL.
Bears of the Week
A combination of SEC fatigue, a no-show by the Alabama Crimson Tide and the resultant lopsided score produced predictably mediocre TV numbers for the NCAA college football championship (especially when compared to last year’s incredible OT win by Georgia over Alabama).
The silver lining in the crowd was a huge performance by freshman Trevor Lawrence (three touchdowns and 347 yards on 20 completions).
Yet the business impact of that was not only “a star is born,” it was “when will the players be paid.” That’s because Lawrence is still a full two years away from pro eligibility. The pressure on the NCAA to modernize its business model and make it more athlete-friendly will only continue with Lawrence as the poster child for change.
The Sport Market on TSN 1040 rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.
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