ESPN’s afternoon lineup returned yesterday after months of adjusted scheduling due the pandemic. Most notably, it meant the return of PTI, the top-rated sports show, as a standalone program. PTI had been airing inside the 5 p.m. SportsCenter.
Here were the ratings for the sports programs that ranked inside the top 150, via ShowBuzzDaily:
- PTI — 424,000
- First Take — 316,000
- Around the Horn — 269,000
- 6 pm SportsCenter —255,000
- NFL Live – 244,000
- 1 pm SportsCenter — 241,000
- Noon SportsCenter — 234,000
- Highly Questionable — 214,000
- The Jump — 198,000
- Get Up — 178,000
- Jalen & Jacoby —158,000
- Undisputed — 153,000
- The Herd — 100,000
The primary topic yesterday was the Redskins’ decision to drop the team’s nickname.
To no surprise, First Take’s reign as the top-viewed show came to an end the moment PTI returned to the ratings book. Yes, that same, goofy PTI show you watched 15 years ago hasn’t been knocked off yet. It’s also still the genre’s best.
Perhaps, one day, when Tony Kornheiser or Michael Wilbon retire, a different show will take the mantle. By then, though, the market for sports TV shows might truly be dead. (“You mean 424k isn’t dead??”)
NFL Live, again, held up well.
As Outkick has reported, ESPN is discussing moving NFL Live, which currently airs at 2 pm, to 4 pm. ESPN struggles in that block as Jalen & Jacoby has so far been a dud and Highly Questionable doesn’t fit in ESPN’s lineup. It’s also the network’s weakest program quality-wise.
NFL Live quietly performs well but is undergoing drastic changes with a new cast that I have doubts about. The revamped NFL show will feature Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spears, Dan Orlovsky, Keyshawn Johnson, and Mina Kimes. ESPN didn’t make the move because the viewers wanted a change, they were watching. The change was made for the show to create more buzz on social media. That it will do — but who cares? Social media is the reason High Noon and SC6 were created; both are now canceled after horrific runs. The new NFL Live won’t rate that bad, but I’m expecting a decline.
With the NBA postseason and NFL season overlapping this year, the traditional NFL Live could’ve experienced viewership growth. The audience will prefer the NFL, but based on the hosts of the general shows, the NBA will be pushed hard. Thus, viewers will turn to the exclusive NFL shows.
The other NFL show to watch this fall is Total Access. NFL Network is looking to overhaul its nightly program with Nate Burleson, as Outkick reported yesterday. Burleson would give the show a refreshing boost. Burleson is yet to make a decision if he will take the job and leave Good Morning Football.
Speaking of this fall, if these shows continue to push social topics and ignore the sports fans, these numbers won’t increase to the level executives hope. The brutal ratings are not just because sports are off. Most of the talk shows only discuss the NBA and NFL, two sports that never air in July.
Oh, before we wrap up, no one in the cable news department is complaining about yesterday’s results: Tucker Carlson Tonight — 4 million; Hannity — 4 million; The Five — 3.3 million; The Ingraham Angle — 3.1 million; Rachel Maddow Show — 2.8 million.
Disclosure: Outkick’s founder Clay Travis is an on-air personality at FS1.