With the wife out of town last weekend and with a Saturday schedule full of compelling college football matchups, I performed my Al Bundy imitation - sitting on the living room couch, remote in hand, clicking to my heart's content from 11:00 AM until after midnight.
While the schedule was a fan's delight, it was a sports programmer's nightmare. With so many attractive games, audiences were divided throughout the day, and individual game ratings suffered as a result.
Preliminary numbers are out, the final tally won't be known till later in the week, but they shouldn't shift much.
Texas-OU started the day at 11:00 am central (more on the 11:00 am kick off later), with the game pulling a preliminary rating of 3.3 (one rating point equals 1% of all TV households in the US.), which roughly translates to a viewing audience of 5.2 million viewers. The game continues its slide from the last decade, but is still one of the better draws for the day.
For the first time in a long while the ABC telecast of Texas-OU had direct broadcast competition. CBS ran Georgia-Missouri in that time slot, and the 34-0 Bulldog blowout drew a preliminary rating of 2.1 - approximately 3.3 million households.
As expected, the most-watched game was the CBS afternoon broadcast of Auburn-Mississippi State. Overnight ratings indicated that it pulled approximately 6 million viewers. You might expect a game between top 5 opponents to draw a bigger crowd, but the audience was split among several other games.
Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU drew 4.2 million in the same time slot, while Notre Dame-North Carolina had approximately 3.6 million viewers on NBC. Fox had Oregon-UCLA which reports an overnight audience of 2.2 million.
The A&M-Ole Miss contest won the night for ESPN with around 4.2 million viewers as well.
Texas Tripleheader Ratings Deep in the Heart of Texas
The three marquee games involving Texas teams obviously dominated the Texas TV markets. In case you have forgotten why A&M was so attractive to the SEC or why Texas is still the first named whenever a reporter wants to talk realignment, market rankings will give you a clue.
Texas is home to four of the 40 largest TV markets in the U.S.
#36 San Antonio
That Austin number is startling, since the metro area was #45 just a year ago. It is easily the fastest growing market in the country.
Before giving an educated guess on number of viewers, let me explain my process. As noted one rating point equals 1% of the households in any market. In Dallas that amounts to just over 26,000 homes. In Houston it represents 23,000 homes, San Antonio 9,000 households and in Austin it is 7,300 TV homes.
Obviously many of those TV's will have more than one person watching the program. Nielsen uses a formula counting a household anywhere from a 1.57 to 1.69 persons watching. The most watched game this year so far is Florida-Alabama which had a 5.1 rating with 7.95 million viewers. That works out to 1.56 persons per household.
For simplicity sakes I gave each household a 1.57 formula to come up with viewing numbers. Later this week we will have the actual Nielsen numbers to compare.
Texas/Oklahoma on ABC rated 20.8 in Austin, 13.4 in D-FW, 6.6 in Houston and 10.3 in San Antonio.— David Barron (@dfbarron) October 13, 2014
TX-OU Preliminary Ratings
Dallas 13.4 - 546,990
Houston 6.6 - 238,325
Austin 20.8 -- 238,388
San Antonio - 10.3 - 146,507
Total estimated viewers in Top 4 markets: 1,170,210
Baylor-TCU Preliminary Ratings
Dallas 12.5 - 510,250
Houston 6.2 - 223,882
Austin 12.2 - 139,824
San Antonio 8.2 - 116,636
Total estimated viewers in Top 4 markets: 990,592
Texas A&M-Ole Miss Preliminary Ratings
Dallas 5.0 - 204,100
Houston 5.3 - 191,383
Austin 8.3 - 95,126
San Antonio 5.6 - 79,654
Total estimated viewers in Top 4 markets: 570,263
Texas-OU was the most-watched game among trio across the board in the top four Texas markets. Baylor-TCU was #2 also across the board. I suppose you could take into account that the Baylor game was on ABC while the A&M contest was on ESPN, but ESPN's prime time games have outperformed the afternoon slot several times.
About That 11:00 AM Kick-Off
Fans may grumble about the early kick off eating into their Friday night festivities, but TV wants it, and TV almost always gets what it wants.
ABC has placed the game in the early national window six out of the last seven years, basically because it has had the time slot with little or no competition. ESPN has a modest game on at that time, and that is it. Since 2000, the Texas-OU contest has kicked off at 11:00 AM or Noon nine times, and usually turned in the best audience of the day. Texas' 16-13 win in 2009 drew 8.7 million viewers, despite being hard to watch - with 8 turnovers and only one offensive touchdown. But it showcased two Top 20 teams with QB's Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, and it held the nation's attention.
The downhill trend since then is obvious, and even though the game is still drawing decent numbers, it is nowhere near what it was 6-10 years ago. CBS even felt bold enough to place the Georgia-Missouri game against it this year as a prelude to the Auburn-Mississippi State contest.
Later I will take a look at the Big 12 TV contract and its advantages and disadvantages (hint: the league needs a strong Texas and a strong Oklahoma to enhance its media presence).