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The NBC Sports Network’s Ratings Are In, And They, Well, Suck

Well, NBC Sports Network (FKA Versus) apparently has a long way to go to become the major player in the sports TV scene it set out to be. SportsBusiness Journal’s John Ourand reported yesterday on the nascent channel’s beginning spot on the ratings totem pole, and… it’s a low spot:

Despite heavy promotion on the NBC broadcast network and a focus on higher-quality shows, viewership for NBC Sports Network is down 21 percent on a total-day basis from January 2011 to January 2012. In January 2011, Versus averaged 78,000 viewers. In January 2012, the first month of NBC Sports Network, that figure dropped to 62,000.

Now, if you put on your cynic hat, you might say: “Despite a focus on higher quality shows? They’re probably pulling lower ratings because of that!” And you might be right. At least, that’s what NBCSN honchos seem to be betting on. There’s head of programming Jon Miller:

“We knew coming into this that if we were going to change this network and create, basically, a new sports network from scratch, we’re going to have some short-term issues ratings-wise. But understand at the end of the day, it’s a long race. And slow-and-steady wins it.”

And of course, no one could have expected this would be a smashing success right away. ESPN’s dominance of 24-hour televised sports programming is all-consuming (and as Those Guys Have All the Fun documented, it didn’t get that way especially quickly), and it takes a while to make a dent in that. Miller added, in a reference to Versus shows canceled for the re-brand:

“We had a lot of what I call empty rating points on our air. That means there are programs that delivered big audiences, but you couldn’t monetize them. You couldn’t sell them.”

What that sounds like to us: “We were catering to the lowest common denominator, and now we’re not.” Examples of the “higher-quality shows” Ourand talked about were Costas Tonight, starring renowned interviewer/scolder Bob Costas, and Cold War on Ice, a documentary. The ideal long-term plan seems to be: don’t pander for the most eyeballs, but keep the eyeballs you get coming back.

And it might work. Again, one month is too early to panic, and the network’s live programming seems to be working out (ratings for both NHL and IndyCar telecasts showed recent improvement). Even so, though, Ourand cited ad sales executives who asked to remain anonymous that the early struggles are a “concern.” As hard as it is to do, you’d always like to start strong – and if these early struggles continue for a few extra months, that “concern” over the network’s viability will get more and more serious.

[Awful Announcing]

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  • Anonymous

    Costas Tonight on the NFL was phenomenal loved it.

  • Josh Bigdaddy

    Fishing on the hour. Fishing every half hour. Fishing all morning long. There is nothing to watch on NBC Sports. The NHL isn’t going to save the channel. Although I have been able to watch the Rangers play occasionally. But I can get that with the NHL Network. NBC Sports could reach out and cover the sports missed by “the other network.” Running, track and field, cycling, triathlons, everything that deals with the Dew Tour… and they need more personalities talking sports. Anything else than fishing would be a good start.

  • al

    they show motocross, I love motocross, but show it in the middle of the night and they constantly move it, I set my DVR to record motocross and end up with something else

  • nouu

    Is there a email address for these fuckers? i’d like to tell them how much there ama motocross coverage sucks…



    Curling in preference to F1???????????????
    You people are total idiots that should be publicly humiliated, whipped and drawn and quartered after being set on fire in public. Did I mention in public???
    Your coverage of F1 is epically bad if you are given a huge amount of credit.
    I can’t believe Fox1 was was stupid enough to kill the speed channel, but when you “picked up” the coverage well you made it almost intolerable to watch with you total lack of respect and disregard for one of the most incredible displays of automotive technology on the planet.
    And to give curling preference?????
    You people are out of your collective idiotic minds.
    Any time I can find a way to support a channel other than NBCSports, it will happen.
    You are disgusting. Stupid on steroids.
    BURN IN HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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