Cutting Down the Local Market Nets


Defining Local Passions Key to Ratings Success

The truth is “my old Kentucky home” should be a gymnasium.

Because the people of Kentucky – at least the leading Nielsen representative of Kentucky viewing, Louisville – are about as rabid over college basketball as the people in Pittsburgh are for the NFL.

It certainly helps that Kentucky was so well represented in the tournament this year – half of the Final Four teams were from the Bluegrass State, so there were plenty of opportunities for viewing. And throughout the tournament, other Kentucky and other strong regional schools created a geographic hotspot for delivering ample basketball audiences.

The local market ratings were remarkably strong. Redefining the metaphor strong. The Final Four game that had Louisville losing to eventual champion Kentucky outdelivered the Super Bowl. That Final Four game delivered a 48.4/74 household rating/share, besting the Super Bowl’s 48.1/66. The championship game, Kentucky over Kansas, surpassed them both with a 51.1/66 with Households in Louisville. You’re in rarefied territory when you top the Super Bowl – you know, that event that keeps breaking its own “most watched” viewership record every year.

A quick look at all the tournament games aired in all of the markets reflects this local market fervor: of the 25 top-rated broadcasts, 11 were games that aired in the Louisville market. Four of the top five telecasts belonged to Louisville.

This can be seen in many other local markets with a strong NCAA Basketball presence, as a look at the Top 10 highest-rated markets for the Championship Game looks like a Who’s Who of college basketball:

Championship (Kentucky over Kansas)

Homes Rating Share
National 12.3 20
Louisville 51.1 66
Kansas City 39.2 55
Cincinnati 29.8 44
Indianapolis 19.7 32
Knoxville 19.7 28
Nashville 19.6 28
Memphis 18.9 27
Dayton 17.9 29
Columbus, OH 17.6 27
Greensboro-HP 16.7 26

Two key takeaways come from this analysis:

First, a pure national buy of big event programming will generally give you uneven results. By adjusting your weight to markets that significantly overdeliver your target audience, you will be able to create a much more effectively targeted strategy. NFL football is more than just the Steelers in Pittsburgh. NFL coverage there goes through the roof. Steeler coverage there hits the moon. College sports are red-hot in many metered markets, but thermonuclear in others. Knowing the passions of local markets will allow you to better isolate high-impact local events for a more efficient audience delivery and a more effective marketplace association.

Secondly, a side-by-side comparison of the delivery of tournament viewers reveals just how dominant network coverage was over cable. Average household ratings in local markets were often between 300 to 400% higher on CBS than the coverage on cable. This underscores just how important it is to consider the availability of a big event — it’s often very likely that the audience won’t follow the coverage to cable. In fact, depending upon the network and the market, it might just be that cable network might not be available at all. But broadcast is.

Big events need to be available where their passionate audience can find them, and that’s on broadcast television. Local broadcast television is available to best find that passionate audience.

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