They say that all you need to do is to put sports on TV and men will find it. Well, it’s not always quite that easy.
In fact, lately it’s been the case that they find it quite a bit better on when it’s on broadcast television than when it airs on cable.
During Major League Baseball’s League Championship Series round, Fox’s broadcast of the 6-game ALCS dominated in average M25-54 ratings over TBS’ NLCS by 55%, over an equal amount of games. This is a rather marked reversal of baseball logic. The NLCS featured a team with a strong national draw (the St. Louis Cardinals) and featured two of the sport’s biggest stars in first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Considering that there was a strong likelihood that each might be taking his last at-bats with his respective team during the series – they were both off-season free-agents – it was unlikely that the ALCS would deliver stronger ratings purely due to the baseball storylines. (Pujols has since signed with the Los Angeles Angels, ending his time in St. Louis with his second championship with the team.)
Back in March, as the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament kicked into gear, CBS, TBS, TNT and TRU each aired 4 games, each day, of the second round. CBS’s coverage delivered a 1.8 M25-54 rating, 125% above the average demo rating for the cable networks. And the cable coverage was reasonably split – TBS had a 0.9 average rating, TNT a 0.7, and TRU a 0.6.
And it isn’t just major mainstream sporting events that show a distinction between broadcast and cable audiences. In November, Spike aired an Ultimate Fighting Championship event that had a 1.4 M18-34 rating, while a week later, Fox’s UFC event produced a 4.3 M18-34 rating – a 207% audience advantage. Spike’s decision to hold back airing the event until primetime – with its bigger potential audience – likely backfired as the event was available on Pay-Per-View as it occurred hours earlier, in Birmingham, England.
Incidentally, Fox’s broadcast was the highest rated televised fight since 2003, when HBO aired a Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight bout – a sure sign of the growing popularity of this mixed-martial arts sport with television viewers. This is certainly good news for Fox and their new $100 million annual investment for seven years of UFC telecasts.
Fox’s investment in an up-and-coming television sports event is just one more indicator that broadcast television is making a strong commitment to delivering male audiences – and the results of these events are proving them to be very wise investments, indeed. For proof, look no further than the most dominant sport in America today – the NFL. As Harry Jessell of TV News Check noted in his article breaking the news about the new nine-year, $28 billion deal the NFL signed with the broadcast networks – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed to be proudest of continuing to be on free television where “it’s great for fans.” And that it will “continue to allow us to grow our audience.”
Because in order to find male viewers – including those “elusive” 18-34-year-olds – finding them on broadcast television is an easy win.