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Sports games ratings down

Couch-potato sports fans, especially those in New York, were in no hurry to return to their games over the weekend, as ratings were down across the board.

One week after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington prompted all major sporting events to be canceled, ratings for college football, baseball and NASCAR showed noticeable ratings declines upon their return. Pro football held up best, but even it was no match in New York, where the Twin Tower Prayer Service out-rated the city’s football teams, who were playing on the road.

According to Nielsen overnights for the New York market, the Giants’ game at Kansas City (1:10-4 p.m. EDT) averaged an 8.8/19 on Fox, down 27% from the team’s 2000 Fox average. And in the late game on CBS (4:25-7:30 EDT), the Jets’ contest at New England delivered a 9.0/16, a 28% drop from the team’s 2000 CBS average.

In New York, both football games lagged local coverage of the prayer service from Yankee Stadium (2-6 p.m. EDT), which combined for roughly 17 ratings points on four Gotham stations.

Overall for the day, the NFL’s 31.2 combined ratings points were off 4% from last year (31.2 vs. 32.6) and 16% from 1999 (37.3). Biggest local overnight scores came from Jacksonville, where the Jaguars’ game against Tennessee earned a 32.1/54 on CBS, and in Kansas City, where the Chiefs’ game against the Giants grabbed a 30.8/54 on Fox.

CBS and Fox did see ratings spikes of more than 20% on Sunday for their NFL pregame shows, which can be attributed mostly to special pregame ceremonies in every league host city that ran past the usual start times of 1 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. ET.

Also on Sunday, NBC’s coverage of a Winston Cup NASCAR race averaged a 4.1/8 in overnights — down 20% from the net’s average for its three most recent telecasts.

Things weren’t much better on Saturday, where ABC and CBS were down a collective 27% year to year with college football (3.0/7 vs. 4.1/10).

And Fox’s Major League Baseball earned a season-low 2.7/6, down 10% vs. the same week a year ago. Again, the New York market was key, as the Yankees-Orioles contest (seen primarily in the Northeast) rated a lowly 1.8/4, while the other regional contests (4.9/14 for Seattle-Oakland; 4.3/10 for Cleveland-Minnesota; and 3.6/8 for Arizona-Los Angeles) each rated much higher.

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