With record cable TV ratings for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League on US television, and the fact that ESPN no longer has rights to the world’s most popular sports league, ESPN tried a new tactic this past weekend by showing a live cricket match on ESPN2 from 9am-Noon ET. The impact? ESPN2 had a viewing audience of 217,000 for the Twenty20 final, which is quite an impressive number indeed for the first time the network has shown a cricket match live on US cable.
Both ESPN and NBC are trying to carve out programming in the morning hours, to generate greater TV ratings and, as a result, generate more significant advertising revenue.
In a recent interview with Hollywood Reporter, here’s what NBC Sports’ President of Programming Jon Miller said:
“The [Premier League] ratings continue to deliver and grow and we’ve uncovered a new daypart. Rarely has anyone gone out and attacked that daypart because most people didn’t think there was an audience there, but we’ve proven that there is from August to May.”
For ESPN2 to garner 217,000 viewers for a cricket match that was hardly promoted is impressive. ESPN is definitely paying attention to what NBC Sports is doing:
“We think cricket has the chance to get out to a broader audience and be on a bigger platform,” said Russell Wolff, executive vice president and managing director of ESPN International.
Now that ESPN has shown that cricket can generate impressive ratings during morning hours, can we expect to see more cricket shown on live US television in the near future? Let’s wait and see.
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning, the Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool was watched by an audience of 398,000 on CNBC.