Ratings Roundup: Open Championship Drives ESPN to Network-High; Tour de France Up on NBC, NBCSN

Compiled by Jason Dachman, Managing Editor, Sports Video Group

ESPN scored its highest ratings since it began airing The Open Championship in 2010. ESPN’s Saturday (9 a.m. ET) and Sunday (8 a.m.) telecasts were the highest-rated Open Championship telecasts on cable and both saw large ratings gains over last year. In addition, WatchESPN and ESPN3 were up 140%.

Coverage of Sunday’s final round f8 a.m. – 1:55 p.m.) on ESPN earned a 3.6 household coverage rating, averaging 4.227 million viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals, with the rating up 38% over last year’s 2.6. Saturday’s telecast (9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.) earned a 3.1 rating, averaging 3.545 million viewers, up 48% from last year’s 2.1 rating.

ESPN’s telecasts of the opening rounds on Thursday and Friday also saw double-digit increases, with Thursday’s (7 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.) telecast earning a 1.2 rating and averaging 1.343 million viewers, the rating up 71% from last year’s 0.7 for the same time period. Friday’s (7 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.) coverage saw an even larger increase, earning a 1.6 rating, up 78% from last year’s 0.9, and averaging 1.771 million viewers.

Saturday and Sunday’s encore presentations airing on ABC (3-6 p.m.) were also up in metered market ratings, with Saturday’s telecast earning a 1.3 metered market rating, up from a 1.0 last year, and Sunday earning a 1.6, up from a 0.9 last year.

In addition, live coverage of The Open Championship on ESPN3 and WatchESPN generated 61.5 million minutes across computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox, up 140% compared to the event in 2011…

…In its first year with live telecasts on NBC, looks to have the Tour de France delivered solid numbers for NBC Sports Group. Through July 15 (the final stage took place on July 22), after 15 live telecasts (13 on NBCSN, two on NBC), the Tour de France averaged 409,000 viewers, up 29% from last year’s coverage on NBCSN (317,000). The two live NBC broadcasts on July 7 and 8, the first time the race was ever live on a broadcast network, each drew over 1 million viewers. The total audience for all Tour de France telecasts this year, including encores, is 17.1 million viewers, up 69% from last year’s 10.1 million viewers at this point in the Tour.

NBC Sports Group also saw gains on the digital side. Combined Tour de France LIVE and Tour de France LIVE Mobile live streams, averaged 10,000 unique visitors and 31,000 live starts per day in the second week of the Tour, up 31% and 201%, respectively vs. 2011…

…Heading into the 2012 MLS All-Star Game, Major League Soccer matches on ESPN and ESPN2 have been seen by an average audience of 345,000 viewers (261,000 household impressions), up 12% in viewers and 9% in television homes from the same period in 2011.  This marks the most-watched MLS season on cable television, thus far.

The top five markets for Major League Soccer on ESPN-ESPN2 are: Portland (0.5), New York (0.5), Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va. (0.5), San Diego (0.4), and Greenboro-High Point, N.C. (0.4)…

…Fox’s Regional Major League Baseball action on Saturday featuring Rangers/Angels in 64% of markets drew a 1.8 overnight rating on FOX Saturday afternoon, down 18% from coverage featuring Red Sox/Rays in week sixteen of last season (2.2), but up a tick from coverage featuring Mets/Dodgers in week sixteen of the 2010 season (1.7). The 1.8 overnight is the lowest for a Major League Baseball telecast on FOX since May 12 (1.7), the week before the network began a run of eight straight primetime telecasts.