Weekend Ratings Predictions


Ratings predictions for this weekend’s sporting events, including Week 1 of the NFL on NBC, FOX and CBS, college football games on ESPN, ABC and NBC, NASCAR on ABC and more.

First, the results of last week’s predictions

Sport Game/Event Net
College Football Connecticut/Michigan (48%), UCLA/Kansas State (34%) or Kentucky/Louisville (18%) ABC
Regional college football action featuring Connecticut/Michigan drew a 2.7 final rating on ABC last Saturday afternoon, down 23% from last year (3.5) and down a tick from 2008 (2.8).
College Football LSU/North Carolina ABC
ABC drew a 2.7 final rating for LSU/North Carolina last Saturday night, down 36% from Alabama/Virginia Tech last year (4.2) and tied as the lowest rated edition of Saturday Night Football since October 2006.
College Football Purdue/Notre Dame NBC
Last Saturday’s Purdue/Notre Dame game drew a 2.2 final rating on NBC, up a whopping 69% from Nevada/Notre Dame last year (1.3) — but the second-lowest rating for a Notre Dame home opener in over a decade.
College Football Oregon State/TCU ESPN
ESPN earned a 2.3 U.S. rating for Oregon State/TCU last Saturday night, down 18% from BYU/Oklahoma last year. Both games took place at Cowboys Stadium.
College Football Boise State/Virginia Tech ESPN
Boise State’s close victory over Virginia Tech drew a 6.3 U.S. rating on ESPN on Labor Day, up 24% from Miami/Florida State last year (5.1) and up 54% from Tennessee/UCLA in 2008 (4.1). The game ranks as the second-most viewed college football telecast ever on ESPN.
Golf (M) Deutsche Bank Championship, Third Round NBC
Deutsche Bank Championship, Final Round
Sunday’s third round coverage of the Deutsche Bank Championship drew a 1.5 final rating on NBC, down 12% from last year (1.7) and up a tick from 2008 (1.4). Ratings for Monday’s final round were not immediately available.
MLB Reds/Cardinals (44%), Rangers/Twins (37%) or Rockies/Padres (18%) FOX
Regional MLB action featuring Reds/Cardinals drew a mere 1.2 final rating on FOX Saturday afternoon, down a tick from last year (1.3) and even with 2008 (1.2).
NASCAR Emory Healthcare 500 ESPN
NASCAR returned to ESPN last Sunday with a 3.4 U.S. rating for the Emory Healthcare 500, down 3% from last year (3.5).
WNBA Storm/Mercury Game 2 ABC
The clinching Game 2 of the Storm/Mercury WNBA Western Conference Finals drew a 0.5 final rating on ABC last Sunday, topping four of the five games of last year’s WNBA Finals.

This week’s predictions:

Sport Game/Event Day/Time Net Prediction
NFL Cowboys/Washington 8 PM Sunday NBC
Coming off of a record Kickoff Game, NBC continues its NFL coverage with the season debut of Sunday Night Football. After an offseason that brought a high profile new coach (Mike Shanahan), a high profile new quarterback (Donovan McNabb) and a high profile offseason drama (involving Albert Haynesworth), Washington may be among the most talked about NFL teams at the start of the season. With the team facing the always high-profile Cowboys, expect another big number for the NFL on NBC. Last year’s Bears/Packers game drew a 12.6.
NFL Packers/Eagles, 49ers/Seahawks or Cardinals/Rams 4:15 PM Sunday FOX
The highest rated NFL telecast in a given week is the 4:15 PM national window, and don’t expect that to change during Week 1. The main game on FOX features the Packers against the new look Eagles in a battle of playoff teams from last season. Last year’s comparable telecast featured Washington/Giants and drew a 14.8 rating; the year before, coverage featuring Cowboys/Browns drew a 13.0.
NFL Panthers/Giants, Falcons/Steelers or Lions/Bears 1 PM Sunday FOX
FOX opens its NFL coverage with a slate of fairly low key games. Do not expect the ratings to match last year (8.6), when the early window featured both the Cowboys’ season opener and the Vikings debut of Brett Favre.
NFL Bengals/Patriots, Colts/Texans, Raiders/Titans, Broncos/Jaguars, Dolphins/Bills or Browns/Buccaneers 1 PM Sunday CBS
The NFL on CBS debuts with a high profile battle on Sunday afternoon as Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and the Bengals take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. Between the reality TV exploits of Owens and Ochocinco and Brady’s contract negoations, all three players have been big stories during the offseason. CBS’ Week 1 singleheader drew a 7.1 last year and a 9.4 in the two years prior.
NFL FOX NFL Sunday 12 PM Sunday FOX
The NFL Today CBS
The FOX NFL Sunday pregame show typically outdraws CBS’ The NFL Today. Expect more of the same this season. In Week 1 last year, the FOX pregame drew a 3.5, while the CBS pregame drew a 2.6.
College Football #18 Penn State/#1 Alabama 7 PM Saturday ESPN
Though this weekend will surely be dominated by the NFL, college football features a wealth of high-profile matchups. Saturday’s Penn State/Alabama game is the highest profile of all, featuring two storied programs, two of the best known coaches in the sport, the #1 ranked defending national champions and the restoration of a dormant rivalry. The ratings will no doubt be large, but can the game surpass last year’s 6.3 for USC/Ohio State? Coming off of a 6.3 for Boise State/Virginia Tech just days earlier, the answer is likely yes.
College Football #12 Miami/#2 Ohio State 3:30 PM Saturday ESPN
Another high-profile Top 25 battle takes place earlier in the day, as Miami faces Ohio State. There could be some ratings cannibalization, as this game airs directly opposite ABC’s regional Florida State/Oklahoma telecast. Still, Miami/Ohio State should vault past last year’s UCLA/Tennessee game, which aired in a similar timeslot (1.9).
College Football #17 Florida State/#10 Oklahoma (92%) or Iowa State/#9 Iowa (8%) 3:30 PM Saturday ABC
The vast majority of the nation gets yet another battle of big-name programs as Florida State takes on Oklahoma. ABC should earn strong numbers for this regional telecast, though the network will be very hard pressed to match last year’s 5.2 for Notre Dame/Michigan — especially considering the competition from Miami/Ohio State on ESPN.
College Football Michigan/Notre Dame 3:30 PM Saturday NBC
On a crowded Saturday, perhaps this battle between longtime rivals — and unranked teams — does not stand out that much. That said, the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry is usually a strong draw. Even against heavy competition, the game should easily outdraw Notre Dame’s season opener against Purdue (2.2).
NASCAR Air Guard 400 7:30 PM Saturday ABC
The last three Saturday night NASCAR races on ABC have drawn a 3.5 rating, including last year’s edition of the Air Guard 400 (then known as the Chevy Rock & Roll 400). Last year’s race aired opposite tough competition from USC/Ohio State; can this year’s race hold steady against another big NCAA matchup (Penn State/Alabama)?
Golf (M) BMW Championship, Third Round 12 PM Saturday NBC
BMW Championship, Final Round 2 PM Sunday
PGA ratings are generally down from last year, when Tiger Woods was frequently in contention, but up from 2008, when Woods missed the second half of the season. Expect more of the same this week. Last year’s BMW Championship, won by Woods, drew a 2.1 on Saturday and a 2.3 on Sunday. The ’08 edition drew an awful 0.8 on Saturday and 1.2 on Sunday.
MLB Cardinals/Braves (58%), Phillies/Mets (21%) or Giants/Padres (20%) 4 PM Saturday FOX
In each of the last two weeks, FOX has drawn just a 1.2 rating for MLB coverage. Do not expect the network to break the streak this week. Last year’s comparable matchup also drew a 1.2 rating, and also featured the Cardinals against the Braves.
Int’l Basketball World Championship Gold Medal Game 2:30 PM Sunday ESPN
Assuming the United States makes it, expect solid numbers for the FIBA World Championship Gold Medal Game, even opposite the NFL. The game may not be able to match ESPN’s average for regular season NBA games last season (1.1), but the numbers should at the very least top Game 1 of the WNBA Finals airing at the same time on ABC.
WNBA Dream/Storm Game 1 3 PM Sunday ABC
It’s been seven years since the WNBA had either New York or Los Angeles in the WNBA Finals, a longer streak than in any of the Big Four sports (if you consider the Devils and Ducks to represent New York and L.A., respectively). The league came close to ending that streak this year, but ends up with an Atlanta/Seattle series instead. WNBA ratings are tiny on any network, but a broadcast television platform should make Game 1 of this series one of the highest rated WNBA Finals games in recent memory. Last year’s Game 1 drew a 0.4 on ESPN2.
Tennis U.S. Open Women’s Final 8 PM Saturday CBS
U.S. Open Men’s Final 4 PM Sunday
Merely by virtue of airing in their scheduled timeslots, the Women’s and Men’s Finals of the U.S. Open should increase from last year. Last year’s Women’s Final drew a terrible 1.1 on a Sunday night on ESPN2, while the Men’s Final drew a slightly-less-terrible 2.3 on a Monday evening on CBS. The last time the events aired on their regularly scheduled days and times (2007), the Women’s Final drew a 2.1 and the Men’s Final drew a 3.7.

(Ratings from Sports Business Daily)