Sports viewing, which has held up over recent years as ratings of other programming has eroded, is down just 1% so far this year, according to an analysis by Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.
With the football season over, basketball is dominating the sports scene, representing 36% of the sports hours viewed in the week ended March 5. Total viewing was up 10%, with college basketball up 10% and the NBA up 7%.
Basketball’s good ratings have helped ESPN, which gets about half of all hoops viewing.
“Sports programming remains an important source of viewing of traditional TV networks,” Wieser said in a research note Tuesday. “As a genre, it represents an outsized source of costs, revenues and strategic leverage between networks and distributors.
Sports commentary shows like ESPN’s SportsCenter were down 7% in viewership. Ratings for ESPN were down 7%, and ESPN2 was down 34%, while Fox Sports 1 showed a 34% increase.
Wieser said that soccer was an important sport, with its share of sports viewing up nearly 11% year over year. Univision properties showed 20% growth in viewing so far this year.
Among other sports, golf accounted for 10% of viewing and motor sports about 8% so far this year. Both were down 2 percentage points.