San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) before playing the Cleveland Browns at Levi’s Stadium on October 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)

On Sports Media: Niners becoming ratings hit

San Francisco 49ers could see multiple games flexed into primetime if winning continues

By: Jim Williams

Special to The Examiner

At 6-0 the San Francisco 49ers are the best team in the NFC West, and while we know that locals are breaking out the Niners gear and heading to Santa Clara, the team is also pulling strong ratings on television.

Six weeks into the season, ratings on FOX 2 have been very strong locally with 49ers games averaging a solid 21 share of the Bay Area audience, according to Nielsen ratings. That’s a three-point bump from last year’s numbers, with the bandwagon effect likely to boost them even further if the team continues to win.

In this week’s ESPN Power Rankings, the network pundits have San Francisco in the No. 3 spot, right behind the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. CBS Sports and NBC Sports rank the 49ers as the best team in the NFC, trailing only the Patriots as the league’s top team.

This week’s home game against Carolina is the rare sole late game on FOX, and will have the broadcast team of Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth in the booth. With the game serving as the lead-in to a possible Game 5 of the World Series, it will have a larger-than-normal national audience.

A successful season, however, does mean at least some inconvenience for fans headed to games from both near and far, as game times can change as networks shift the unexpectedly competitive 49ers into more high-profile broadcast slots. The league is now in the portion of the schedule where they can flex Sunday afternoon games to NBC for primetime coverage, or to FOX or CBS for a better slate of national doubleheader games.

Looking at the remaining games on the schedule, San Francisco plays on an ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast set for Nov. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks, which is locked in. That means the Nov. 24 game against the Packers could be flexed to NBC, and the Dec. 1 game in Baltimore — currently set for 10 a.m. — could either get slotted into primetime or moved to a 4:30 p.m. ET spot — 1:30 p.m. local time — on FOX 2 as a national doubleheader game. The Dec. 8 game in New Orleans, as of today, looks like a total lock to be in primetime, as long as both teams keep winning.

While the 49ers bask in the national glory, the Warriors opened their season this week to solid ratings on TNT for the Thursday night opener against the Clippers. If the overnight ratings hold then the game will rank in the top 10 programs that aired on cable Thursday.

Channel Surfing

NBC Sports Bay Area has the Warriors all week, starting this afternoon as Golden State heads to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder at 3:30 p.m. The Suns come to San Francisco for a Wednesday game at Chase Center with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff, and the Warriors close out the week against the Hornets with a 5:30 p.m. tip Saturday night.

The Raiders game against the Texans in Houston airs at 1:25 p.m. on KPIX CBS 5. The broadcast crew of Andrew Catalon, and James Lofton will do the honors.

College football fans have a must-see showdown in the SEC at 9 a.m. Saturday on KPIX CBS 5, with number one Alabama hosting number three LSU. The game will almost certainly have an impact on the 2019 race to be college football champion.

Meanwhile, of local interest, Cal hosts Washington State in a game that airs on the Pac-12 Network, but the time is TBA and will be announced on Monday, so check for game time details.

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