Wednesday, 7 June 2023

International Volleyball

NCAA beach volleyball TV ratings up 208%, men’s better, too: Analysis, what it means for indoors

NCAA beach volleyball TV ratings up 208%, men's better, too: Analysis, what it means for indoors

Action from Sunday’s NCAA Beach final between USC and UCLA in Gulf Shores, Alabama/Matt Smith photo

The boffo TV ratings recorded in the NCAA’s National Beach Volleyball Championship final Sunday afternoon on ESPN should validate to the NCAA’s cable TV partner that the women’s sand game does indeed deserve prime placement on its flagship channel.

The tense title dual between red-hot rivals USC and UCLA, won by the Women of Troy 3-2 for a three-peat when their 3s pair prevailed in a third set, rang up a whopping 208% increase in total-average viewership over the 2022 final on ESPN2 between USC and Florida State, with 380,000 tuning in compared to 123,000 last year.

The demographic that advertisers (and thus TV networks) most covet is the 18-49 age group. In the prime demo, the final on Sunday posted a 300% jump over 2022, rising to a .12 rating from a .03.

The final climbed to 36th on the day on the highly influential Showbuzz cable TV chart that tracks performance in the 18-49 demo, up from 113th the previous year (full chart below). In 2021, the most-watched dual of the NCAAs was the semifinal between UCLA and Loyola Marymount. With 189,000 viewers and a .07 18-49 rating, it finished 101st on the Showbuzz chart, and the final between USC and UCLA ranked 147th with 152,000/.03.

While the move from “the Deuce” to the more prestigious ESPN cannot be discounted, these massive year-over-year gains came during a period of migration by viewers to streaming platforms that has cut deeply into the number of TV households with access to traditional cable channels. ESPN, for example, was available in 73.3 million homes in April, down from 79.75 million in January of 2022.

Harder hit than the total-average viewership, listed as “P2” on the charts, has been the 18-49 demo. Younger viewers have been far more likely to ditch cable than the loyal 50+ “geezer” group. So when a show on contemporary cable TV shows any increase year over year in the key demo during these cord-cutting times, that’s significant news to advertisers and network bean-counters.

Looking deeper at why the performance in the demo might be important for beach volleyball’s TV future, consider that of the 380,00 who tuned into the three-hour telecast on ESPN, 153,000 were from the 18-49 group. That’s 40.2%. Now compare that number to the percents of viewers from 18-49 vs. P2 in other sports events last weekend: Sunday Night Baseball on Fox, 22.9%;…

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