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Ratings Rise May Be Fleeting

Sep 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In the first season under its $3.6 billion contract with the National Football League, NBC drew an average of 17.5 million viewers with “Sunday Night Football,” up 2.5 percent from what ABC drew in its final season of “Monday Night Football.”
The NFL’s other licensees, Fox and CBS on Sundays, and ESPN, whose games shifted from Sunday to Monday, all experienced ratings gains, an unusual circumstance that some insiders and experts don’t think will be repeated this season.
“You’re hard-pressed to point to too many years when the ratings are up,” said John Mansell, who tracks the sports business at John Mansell Associates. He said it’s more likely that audience fragmentation will cause football ratings overall to drop by 2 percent to 8 percent.
NBC’s ratings could be higher, Mr. Mansell said, now that the public has absorbed the scheduling shift of the prime-time NFL broadcast from Monday to Sunday.
Fred Gaudelli, who moved from ABC’s “MNF” to produce NBC’s “SNF” last season, also is betting NBC’s ratings will be up.
“Last year America was still getting used to the fact that the big game is now Sunday and not Monday. And even though we never really had a game that went down to the wire, we exceeded the ‘Monday Night’ rating from ABC the year before,” he said.
The NFL’s flexible scheduling, which makes it possible for the Sunday night game to be changed to avoid an undesirable matchup, also helps NBC avoid a ratings disaster, Mr. Gaudelli said.
Mr. Gaudelli will be joined in the production truck by NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol, who promised the league he’d personally oversee broadcasts for the first year, but decided to travel to all the games again this season.

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