Baseball has brought NBC some big numbers this fall, but at a price.
The Peacock has emerged from last week’s World Series with virtually no momentum, leaving NBC with a discouragingly slim victory margin for the Oct. 25-31 primetime Nielsens week.
The toll baseball disruptions have taken at NBC and Fox (which split prelim-round coverage with the Peacock) will no doubt play a role when baseball’s current contract runs out at the end of next season and future telecast rights go up for grabs.
While baseball numbers were generally solid and sometimes truly impressive this fall, both Fox and NBC have struggled to regain their primetime stride once baseball coverage ended.
For example, the World Series last week batted in NBC’s best Tuesday and Wednesday household ratings since the 1996 Summer Olympics, but the Peacock will still win the week by only about a 0.6-rating-point margin in both homes and adults 18-49 when Nielsen issues Oct. 25-31 averages today. In the 18-49 race, that’s NBC’s second-slimmest margin of the season to date.
On the plus side, NBC didn’t have to compete against last week’s Series games, which scored the two highest non-“ER” homes ratings of the season to date. As disruptive as baseball can be, it still may well be more beneficial to program post-season baseball than to program against it.
NBC’s latest post-World Series disappointment is Sunday’s “Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Alan Freed Story,” which performed before only about 8.67 million viewers. In adults 18-49, NBC hit “Rock” bottom with a 3.5 rating, 9 share, fourth in the slot and NBC’s second-lowest in-season Sunday-pic tally since Super Bowl Sunday last January.
It was also a tough shift for NBC’s “Third Watch” (a lowest-yet 10.59 million viewers, 4.0/10 in adults 18-49 in Nielsen prelims), which fell 8 shares in adults 18-49 behind a pair of “Simpsons” Halloween episodes (a prelim 13.83 million, 7.8/19 in adults 18-49).
NBC’s Sunday “Rock” slide follows a punchless Peacock performance Thursday, and Friday-Saturday disappointments from rookies “Freaks and Geeks” and “Cold Feet” (Daily Variety, Oct. 1). NBC canceled “Feet” Monday.
The result is a mediocre 5.2 rating average for the week in adults 18-49, according to projections based on prelim weekend results. That reps NBC’s second lowest 18-49 average of the season and a 10% drop from the same week last year. Other anticipated averages are: ABC, a projected 4.6 (down 8%); Fox, 4.4 (down 25%) and CBS, 3.6 (down 8%).
The week’s projections in households are: NBC, a 9.6 rating (up 2%); CBS, 9.0 (even); ABC, 7.8 (down 9%) and Fox, 6.0 (down 26%).
Despite its big numbers, baseball brought NBC a less-than-ideal promo platform, skewing older and more male than the net’s usual prime audience. The quick four-game World Series also hit NBC hard by forcing the Peacock to air a virtually unpromoted all-rerun Thursday the night after the Series ended.
Baseball also slows a network by preempting big chunks of the week at just the time the nets are trying hardest to establish new shows and schedules.
There was another baseball-related curve thrown at Sunday’s “Alan Freed” pic: An Oct. 17 extra-innings baseball overrun bumped “Freed” from its aggressively promoted original airdate.
Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. The share is also a percentage, but measured against only viewers watching TV during the slot involved.