Demo Reel: Final Thoughts on Sports TV Demographics

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A few thoughts on sports TV viewership after the “Demo Reel” series.

The NBA is in Great Shape

  • The NBA Finals was the youngest-skewing event of those examined and the most diverse. No other event had a larger percentage of Hispanics, Asians, kids 2-17, or adults 18-34, and only the WNBA Finals attracted a comparable percentage of African Americans. On average, more than a quarter of the audience for the series was made up of minority viewers under the age of 35. Overall, the NBA Finals was the second-most viewed event of those examined, trailing only the Final Four — which had an older, less diverse audience (more on that next). The only downside? The NBA Finals had the second-smallest median income of any event examined, ahead of only the WNBA Finals.

The NBA/College Hoops Divide

  • It is striking to see just how different the audiences are for the NBA Finals and Final Four, two events that on the surface are fairly similar. The median age for the Final Four was nearly a decade older than that of the NBA Finals, and the audience for the games was dramatically less diverse — just 23% of the Final Four audience was African American, Hispanic or Asian, compared to 58% of the NBA Finals audience. The Final Four also attracted a more affluent audience than the NBA Finals. Despite the obvious divide between the two events, they averaged similar numbers in 2013 — 18.3* million for the Final Four and 17.7 million for the NBA.

The NHL is Advertiser Friendly

  • The NHL may not have the numbers of the other leagues, but it skewed younger than every event but the NBA and had the most affluent audience of the events examined. Advertisers thirst for young audiences with disposable income, and the NHL would be in great shape if it could attract more viewers. One problem — 2013 was an unusually good year for the league, and the numbers may drop back to Earth this season. Another problem — the Stanley Cup Final had the least diversity of any event examined.

Tennis, or at Least the U.S. Open, is More Diverse Than Thought

  • Despite the perception of tennis as not being particularly diverse, only the NBA and WNBA Finals had a larger percentage of minority viewers than the U.S. Open singles finals among the events examined. More than a third of the audience for the singles finals was African American, Hispanic or Asian. For the Serena Williams/Victoria Azarenka women’s final, a full 41% of the audience was made up of minority viewers. For the Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic men’s final, the percentage was a smaller — but still impressive — 27%.

Maybe the World Series Really Has Lost a Generation

  • It is almost cliche to suggest that Major League Baseball has lost younger viewers, but the numbers for the 2013 World Series were still notable — nearly half the audience was over the age of 55, and the series’ median age hovered in the mid-50s. Combine that with a fairly non-diverse audience, and the Fall Classic does not appear to be in great shape.

Sports TV is Not a Man’s World

  • Yes, men watch sporting events in greater numbers than do women, but female viewers consistently made up more than a third of the audience for the events examined. Considering the virtual absence of women in substantive roles on sports telecasts — only a select few have moved beyond the sidelines — it would seem that the networks are out of touch with their viewers.

* 18.3M viewers for the Final Four is approximate, not official. CBS/Turner Sports does not release averages for the three-game Final Four.

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  • JakeFrankie

    I know lots of people who love College Basketball as they do the NBA. Maybe 10 years ago you had a big devine between the 2 fanbases. I really really don’t see it anymore. I think the fanbases are close to each other as every. One thing that makes the Final Four age viewership maybe more than the rest is that you gotta remember some people just watch it cause there school is in it. For example someone who is a passionate Michigan supporter will watch anything that Michigan is apart any sport. But regardless I love College Basketball and NBA a lot as do majority of the audiences.

  • Tati

    Always fascinating to learn how the NBA skews younger than college hoops. You would think that college hoops would be younger, because of all the college association, but no. I’d think as people get older, they continue to be attached to their schools and institutions they went to.

  • DjDeF

    Overall the NHL saw inflated ratings this year due to the lockout/strike effect. Many believe that those events will hurt ratings but in reality it only hurts ratings if you lose a complete season. With shortened seasons (see NBA 2011), ratings get inflated because fans flock to watch the games because each game becomes more important than during a traditional full season.

    The Stanley Cup saw big numbers for 2 reasons. First and foremost the match-up was one of the best the league could have had. Having teams from Chicago and Boston really helped drive the ratings. In addition, another major factor was that the Blackhawks had a historic winning streak earlier that year that created an incredible amount of buzz around the team and the league. People wanted to tune in to see if they could complete the truly historic season by winning the Cup.