FILE: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry holds his head in his hand after losing to the Toronto Raptors 112-110 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

On Sports Media: Local stations win big with live sports

Live sports has been a big primetime winner for local stations and national networks.

Jim Williams

Special to The Examiner

The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose television market has been a driving force in seeing live sports programming win in the primetime ratings. KGO-ABC7, KNTV NBC 11, and KTVU FOX 2 all have seen great numbers and ratings wins all due to live sports.

All three stations also benefited from having local programs and extended newscasts to beef up the ratings for non primetime slots. ABC 7 with the Warriors, NBC 11 with the Sharks and FOX 2 with the U.S. Open.

So far, this late spring and early summer, when it comes to bankable ratings, live sports continue to be the king. ABC/ESPN — featuring the NBA Finals — as well as the NBC family (NBC/NBC/NBC Sports Network) and FOX/FS1 have all have posted winning numbers, driven by the combination of streaming, free local TV and pay TV services.

Let’s start with the with the NBA Finals between Golden State and Toronto on ABC 7 (also streamed on the Watch ESPN app). As you might expect, the Bay Area led the way all six games in local ratings even though the Warriors ended up losing.

ABC/ESPN national ratings on Game 6 came in at 18.34 million viewers, slightly ahead of the 18.22 million viewers who watched Game 5.

Okay now here is where things get a bit tricky. The NBA Finals averaged 15 million viewers for the series, down about 15% year to year. Because Toronto is of course in Canada the ratings were down. But two major takeaways were that ABC/ESPN won all six nights that they aired the Finals while Game 6 was the most watched English broadcast show thus far on Canadian TV in 2019.

So, yes the numbers were down but it was a clear rating winner for ABC/ESPN, not to mention the broadcast partners in Canada.

The Sharks run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs scored big numbers for NBC 11, but even the Stanley Cup Finals between St. Louis and Boston was good for the local outlet, as they were consistently in the top 10 in the Nielsen-metered markets for all seven games.

Nationally, NBC and NBC Sports Network got a network’s dream, with two hockey-crazy cities and a series that went down to a dramatic winner-take-all seventh game.

According to the numbers, the Blues’ Game 7 win over the Bruins was the highest-rated NHL broadcast in 23 years and gave NBC a ratings win for the night. The broadcast of St. Louis’ first Stanley Cup win averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of nearly 9 million viewers (8.914), making it the most-watched NHL game on record and propelling the seven-game Stanley Cup Final and 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs to numerous viewership and streaming milestones, according to Fast National data from Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

Just a week ago, KTVU FOX 2 could not be happier that the 2019 U.S. Open being played at Pebble Beach. Just like the NBA Finals, FOX 2 had a hometown advantage and clearly crushed everyone else in the market both on Saturday and Sunday.

Again the national trend was to watch live sports over reruns or summer programming, as Saturday belonged to FOX in primetime. There was no doubt that with the beautiful Pebble Beach golf course as the backdrop FOX saw a 0.6 rating and 4 share giving them a combined 3.42 million viewers.

Sunday night’s final round brought another win for FOX as Gary Woodland clinched his first career major at the 72nd hole of the 119th U.S. Open Championship.

The final round on FOX averaged 7.312 million viewers and peaked at 10.167 million viewers from 9:15 to 9:30 p.m. ET, the best final-round performance since 2013, according to Nielsen Media Research. Sunday’s coverage was up +44% year-over-year (2018, 5.088 million) and projects to be the most-watched event of the weekend.

Again, the Bay Area led the way on local ratings, as nationally FOX/FS1’s fifth presentation of the U.S. Open Championship averaged 3.673 million viewers across all four rounds. It was the most-watched U.S. Open since 2013 and a jump of 28% over 2018 (2.863 million).

Overall, 31.737 million viewers tuned in for all or part of FOX Sports’ presentation of the 2019 U.S. Open Championship, a +11% jump over 2018 (28.577 million). The 2019 U.S. Open accounted for 8.282 billion minutes consumed on the FOX broadcast network and FS1, making it the most-consumed golf event on television, up 30% year-over-year.

For those wondering what happened to KPIX CBS 5 in this run of good ratings luck for local stations, the simple answer is they didn’t have a primetime sporting event. We have to go back to March Madness to find a primetime win for them.

CBS 5 will make up for it coming in August, as they are the preseason home to three of the four San Francisco 49ers telecasts. The 49ers open at home on Aug. 10 against the Dallas Cowboys, play the Kansas City Chiefs on the road on Aug. 22 and finish the preseason on Aug. 29 against the Los Angeles Chargers. The second game of the preseason (Aut. 19) is on the road against the Denver Broncos, and it will air nationally on ESPN.

Jim Williams is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and broadcast executive. His Stream On with Jim Williams podcast is available on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and his Stream On Column appears four times a week as part of Apple News.

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