Reviewing the predictions made on this site last January 1, on a “Nostradamus scale” of 1 to 10.
“The NFL earns big numbers on Wild Card weekend. Lions/Cowboys on FOX earns the best Wild Card rating since 1999 (23.0), while Steelers/Broncos on NBC scores the best Saturday Wild Card rating over that same span (19.3). The Cowboys/Packers Divisional Round game is the highest rated for that round since 1997 (24.9). The Steelers/Patriots and 49ers/Packers Conference Championship games are the highest rated in their respective timeslots since 1997 and 1996, respectively. The Packers/Steelers Super Bowl rematch sets another all-time TV viewership record, with just over 112 million viewers.”
Nostradamus Scale: 5 — One does not exactly have to go out on a limb to predict huge NFL playoff ratings. The 2012 postseason included the most-viewed Wild Card game since 1995, the most-viewed Divisional Round game ever, and the second-most viewed Conference Championship game since 1982. To the surprise of no one, the Giants/Patriots Super Bowl set an all-time record for U.S. television viewership. With that said, there were a few whiffs here — NBC’s Saturday night Wild Card game and CBS’ AFC Championship Game were actually down from 2011.
“The BCS is a mixed bag on ESPN. The Rose Bowl (12.1) and Fiesta Bowl (10.9) are both up from last year, with the latter hitting a six-year high. However, the Sugar Bowl (7.3) and Orange Bowl (5.2) are both down, and the National Championship Game – owing to lingering anger over the controversial LSU/Alabama rematch – earns a 14.2, the lowest in ten years.”
Nostradamus Scale: 7 — The Fiesta Bowl (8.4) was up from last year, but not nearly as big a draw as predicted. The Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowls were both down as well, though again the predicted rating was a bit higher than the actual result. The National Championship Game earned a 14.0 rating, just two-tenths off the predicted 14.2. The one miss was the Rose Bowl, which contrary to increasing from 2011 hit a record-low 10.2 rating.
“Despite the shortened season, ratings for the NBA on ABC (3.1) and TNT (1.6) are either up or flat compared to last year (burdened by an onslaught of Saturday games, ESPN’s 1.1 average is down 15%). While the Lakers and Celtics again make a quick exit from the playoffs, the presence of the Knicks, Heat, Bulls and Mavericks help keep the ratings afloat. In particular, the seven-game Knicks/Heat Eastern Conference Finals on ESPN is the highest rated NBA playoff series (other than the Finals) since 2002, while the Spurs’ four-game sweep of the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals earns decent numbers for TNT. In a flashback to the last lockout-shortened season, the Spurs beat the Knicks in the NBA Finals, with the five-game series averaging a decent 9.0 rating on ABC.”
Nostradamus Scale: 8 — Despite the owners’ lockout, regular season NBA ratings did increase on ABC (3.3, +10%) and TNT (1.7, +6%). ESPN avoided a decline in ratings, holding steady at 1.3. The seven-game Heat/Celtics Eastern Conference Finals averaged a 6.2 rating on ESPN, tied as the best for an NBA playoff series since 2002, and the six-game Thunder/Spurs West Finals averaged a more-than-solid 5.0 on TNT. The NBA Finals did last five games, but Heat/Thunder was a better draw than predicted, averaging a 10.1.
“FOX sets a new record low for regular season baseball ratings (1.7). In the playoffs, TBS has its best ever Division Series thanks in large part to a five-game battle between the Yankees and Angels, and then its best ever League Championship Series thanks to the Yankees’ six-game win over the Red Sox. The Yankees/Giants World Series goes seven games and earns baseball’s best World Series rating (12.6) since 2004.”
Nostradamus Scale: 3 — This prediction was dead-on in the regular season. FOX did average a record-low 1.7 rating. However, the playoff prediction was way off. Despite all five Division Series going five games, the round averaged a mere 2.2 rating on TBS and MLB Network — down 19% from 2011. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ four-game loss to the Tigers in the ALCS averaged a 3.8 on TBS — up from the network’s coverage of the NLCS in 2011, but the lowest rated ALCS ever. Finally, the four-game Giants/Tigers World Series was easily the lowest rated and least-viewed ever, averaging just a 7.6 rating on FOX.
“By the end of the year, ESPN will have established itself as the favorite in MLB’s TV rights negotiations.”
Nostradamus Scale: 2 1/2 — This prediction was woefully incomplete. Yes, ESPN retained rights to MLB coverage, but FOX and TBS held onto their packages as well.
“The presence of Danica Patrick lifts Daytona 500 ratings to a record-high (11.3).”
Nostradamus Scale: 0 — Marred by multiple rain delays, a Monday night edition of the Daytona 500 drew just an 8.0 rating on FOX — the sixth-lowest for the race dating back to 1979.
“Gary Bettman flirts with disaster, but the NHL just barely avoids yet another owner-imposed lockout.”
Nostradamus Scale: 0 — Nope. As is standard practice in the NHL, Bettman and the owners imposed a lockout of players and canceled huge chunks of the season.
“While the NHL no doubt hopes and prays that the Rangers and Blackhawks (leading their respective conferences as of December 31) meet in the Stanley Cup Final, the league will have to settle for a pretty good consolation prize. The six-game Bruins/Red Wings Stanley Cup Final averages a 3.7 rating in four games on NBC, with the Game 6 clincher earning a 5.3 final rating – the highest for an NHL game since 1974.”
Nostradamus Scale: 0 — The NHL came to within a hair of the biggest of all big-market series, New York-Los Angeles, in the Stanley Cup Final. The Devils, however, dashed those hopes. The six-game Kings/Devils Stanley Cup Final was a bust in the ratings, averaging the lowest rating for the event since 2007.
“With all events available live as they occur, NBC’s tape-delayed primetime coverage of the 2012 London Olympics averages a 15.2 rating – down 6% from Beijing in 2008.”
Nostradamus Scale: 0 — This was a reasonable expectation, but the 2012 Olympics was a much bigger draw than anyone anticipated. Primetime coverage on NBC averaged a 17.5 rating, up 8% over Beijing in 2008, and the highest average rating for a non-U.S. Olympics since 1994.
“NBC Sports Network’s new studio shows (an 11 PM ET edition of NBC Sports Talk and a new NFL studio show, as recently reported by USA Today) simply cannot compete in the ratings with ESPN.”
Nostradamus Scale: 10 — The new NFL studio show never came to fruition, but other studio programming on NBC Sports Network failed to attract much of an audience this year.
“Over the course of the year, sportswriters will complain about ‘late’ start times for the NBA Finals and World Series that are only late in the Eastern Time Zone, lack of intensity in exhibition games, athletes who are too selfish to play a team game, athletes who can’t win games by themselves, big market teams winning too much, small market teams being too boring, players being too violent, players being too chummy, and the list goes on.”
Nostradamus Scale: 7 — A sampling: “Tonight’s first pitch for Game 3 airs at 8:07 ET and Sunday’s is at 8:15 ET. Both of those games will end after 11 ET, well past junior’s bedtime, especially on a school night” (Sherman Report, 10/27/12). “They might as well play flag football due to the lackadaisical tackling as players understandably don’t want to get hurt in an exhibition after banging bodies for 16 games” (Baltimore Sun, 1/26). “No matter [Carmelo] Anthony’s comments yesterday to explain his decision to not play, the choice was more about him than about his team” (NY Post, 1/28). “LeBron did what he felt he had to do, but what he did, and what his fellow tag-along, shortcut-seeking, entitlement-drunk superstars continue to do with their AAU-ization of the NBA, is to thumb their noses at the spirit of sport” (The Morning Journal, 12/4). “The NBA title is an equal opportunity, at least for the three or four teams good enough to win it” (Cleveland.com, 10/28).
So why just a 7 on the scale? Examples from this year were actually much more difficult to find than anticipated. In addition, some of the complaints — though certainly not all — were fairly reasonable.
“Sometime around July, a controversy will erupt involving ESPN, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, or some combination of the three. Sportswriters will pound out articles rife with moral outrage and righteous indignation. They will complain about having to write about the controversy, and then write about it every chance they get. Some will try to connect the controversy to an aspect of society with which they are unfamiliar (‘today’s entitled punks,’ perhaps). There may even be a Twitter hashtag or two. In short, the controversy will be the most important story ever – right up until the Olympics and the NFL start.”
Nostradamus Scale: 9 — Ahh, it was actually Dwight Howard. Missed it by that much.