Update 2: in the final numbers the event averaged 3.4 million viewers on NBC and peaked with 4.2 million viewers between 10:30p-11p.
Update: hard to project viewership from the overnight household ratings, but we’d guess in the 3.5 million to 4.5 million range, and even if that’s optimistic it’s going to be higher than 1.4 million viewers regardless.
Tonight at 8:30p on NBC the network will air professional boxing in primetime on its network for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Last week NBC aired what was reportedly the first regular season NHL hockey game in broadcast primetime in 30 years. That NY Rangers-Philadelphia Flyers matchup wound up averaging 1.4 million viewers. The most-viewed program on the broadcast nets that night was the 10p telecast of 48 hours which averaged 5.7 million viewers. For contrast the 7:21-9:08 telecast of Duke vs Syracuse on ESPN averaged 2.3 million viewers.
A lot of media will tell you that “TV is dead” and even the TV media itself will tell you that “Saturday’s are a dead zone.” Our opinion is that overall, TV is alive and kicking, and it’s the broadcast network model that has been decimated by fragmentation.
Unquestionably, Saturday is typically the least-watched night of the week, but lots of people still watch TV Saturday nights. In fact, for the week of Feb 23-March 1, the absolute difference between the most-watched night of the week (which was Monday that week) and the least-watched night (Saturday) was less than 9 percent (62.7 percent vs 54 percent).
We’ve seen a lot of stories this week that ponder whether a return to free TV can save boxing. We think there’s a lot more that ails boxing than availability on free TV. We’ve been regaled by Al Michaels reminding us how Sugar Ray Leonard rose to prominence on free TV. It’s a great sound bite, but…
As was the case for Cassius Clay before him, Ray Leonard was already famous before he ever through a punch professionally. Leonard rose to stardom during the 1976 summer olympics where he won a gold medal. Generally, we think this speaks to the larger issues for boxing – off the top of our heads we can still name at least four U.S. boxers from the 1976 olympics: Charles Mooney, Leonard, and the Spinks brothers, Leon & Michael. We can’t name a single person from the 2012 team without using Google.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t think it’s bad for boxing to be getting some exposure on NBC on Saturday night. But we think the 1.4 million viewers the NHL game drew last week is a better place to set the viewership over/under than say, the nearly 20-year-ago Tyson-Mathis fight on Fox which drew a 16.1 rating where 43 million reportedly saw at least part of the fight.
We hope we’re wrong and that tonight’s card does way, way over 1.4 million. That’d be good for boxing and sites that focus on sports TV ratings alike.
The fight from nearly 30 years ago on NBC? A heavyweight bout of Larry Holmes vs Carl “The Truth” Williams. We couldn’t dig up the ratings for that, but you can relive the magic on YouTube: