Inside the Numbers: Tech's TV Ratings for the 2000 Season
by Will Stewart
TSL Extra, Issue #2

Recently, a TSL reader in the television industry offered to email me a spreadsheet of the television ratings for college football's 2000 regular season.

"What ratings?" I asked him.

"All of them," he answered.

"Okay," I said, not sure what he meant. "Send them to me."

He did. And he wasn't kidding - he had all the ratings.

The spreadsheet that my new best friend sent to me lists the television ratings for 126 college football games. That's every game played on a national network: ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, and ESPN2. FoxSportsNet and the ESPN+ Regional telecasts were not included in the information that my source sent to me. I imagine that both sets of ratings as a rule come in far behind the big 5 listed, so the fact that they're not available is not a big deal.

The original spreadsheet is a handful, so I'm not going to present it to you here, nor am I going to even offer it for download. What I will offer, both here and in the download, is a reduced set of the data.

In the case of this article, I will discuss Tech's ratings on CBS and ESPN, the only two networks that they appeared on this year (ESPN will actually be broken out into ESPN Thursday broadcasts and ESPN non-Thursday broadcasts, because they're two different animals).

Just for the record, Tech's preseason BCA game with Georgia Tech was supposed to be on ESPN2, but other than that, Tech did not have any games on ESPN2, just CBS and ESPN. When the BCA game was postponed by lightning, ESPN2 replayed the VT-Miami game from 1999 (and it got decent ratings, too).

At the end of the article, I will offer links where you can download the data either as an HTML file or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.


Understanding TV Ratings

Availability: Free over-the-air network TV (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox) reaches 100 million households. Cable and satellite networks (ESPN, ESPN2) reach 80 million households.

Rating: percentage of households that are watching a network out of those that could watch a network. For example, a 5.0 rating on CBS means that roughly five million households watched the game (5 out of 100). A 5.0 rating on ESPN means that roughly four million households tuned in (4 out of 80).

Share: the percentage of households watching a particular show out of the total number of households that have their televisions turned on at the time.

Households: the number of "houses" that were actually watching, in other words a raw, numerical measure of the number of viewing households, as opposed to Rating and Share, which are percentages.

Example: The Big XII Championship game aired in prime time on ABC, had a rating of 8.2, a share of 14.8, and the number of households was 8,366,000. This means that the total number of households that had a television on during that time was about 55,500,000 (8.3 million out of 55.5 million is about 14.8%), thus deriving an audience share of 14.8. (Exact percentages will be off due to rounding and actual number of households in the U.S.)

Data Presentation: I'm going to present data for CBS, ESPN, and ESPN-Thursday games independently, sorted by Rating. I thought about sorting it by Households, but Rating seems to be the favored number when discussing TV ratings.


The CBS Ratings

CBS showed games in 18 time slots this season. The information that I received was not ratings for individual games, but rather total CBS ratings for a time slot. So, if CBS showed a split national broadcast of two games during a time slot, then the ratings were for both games combined. But if CBS showed one game to the entire country during a time slot, then the ratings were just for that one game.

My own gut feeling is that split broadcasts will have higher total viewership, because they're regional in nature, so each one will have a higher appeal in its region than it might from a national standpoint. In the example given above, a lot of TV's in SEC country would tune in to watch LSU-Arkansas that otherwise might not tune in to watch WVU-Pitt, if the WVU-Pitt game were broadcast nationally by itself.

Having said that, here is the CBS data, sorted by Rating.

 

Rank

Date

Game

Rating

Share

Houses*

1

9/16

Florida-Tenn / Penn State - Pitt

4.5

11.4

4589

2

11/25

Georgia Tech-Georgia

4.1

11.4

4220

3

10/7

Florida State - Miami

3.7

10.7

3759

4

10/28

Pittsburgh-VT / Georgia-Florida

3.7

9.3

3785

5

11/4

Alabama - LSU/Florida-Vanderbilt

3.6

8.7

3726

6

11/11

South Carolina - Florida

3.5

8.0

3539

7

12/2

Army-Navy

3.4

9.4

3430

8

10/21

Alabama - Tennessee

3.2

8.4

3280

9

11/4

Virginia Tech - Miami

3.2

9.3

3240

10

11/18

Auburn-Alabama/Notre Dame-Rutgers

3.2

7.2

3257

11

9/30

Florida-Miss St. / VT-BC

3.0

8.0

3057

12

11/25

Boston College - Miami

2.7

6.3

2759

13

11/24

LSU-Arkansas / WVU-Pittsburgh

2.6

6.4

2700

14

9/23

Kentucky-Florida / Miami-WVU

2.5

5.9

2554

15

10/7

Auburn - Mississippi State

2.5

6.3

2505

16

10/14

Auburn - Florida

2.5

6.9

2575

17

10/21

Notre Dame - West Virginia

1.8

5.7

1870

18

10/14

Notre Dame - Navy

1.6

5.4

1661

*Note: multiply "Houses" by 1,000 to get total number of households.

You can see that Tech was a pretty good draw on CBS. The SEC dominates the Big East on CBS when it comes to ratings, and that's why CBS wasn't very interested in renewing their contract with the Big East. They like the SEC, and starting next season, when the Big East moves to ABC/ESPN, the Big Eye network can dedicate all the air time they want to the SEC.

Note that the VT-Miami game was the highest rated Big East in-conference game. Also note that of 10 games involving Big East teams, only 6 were in-conference games. Two games featured Notre Dame against Big East teams, another game was Pitt-Penn State, and the last game was FSU-Miami.

Also, and this is interesting, note that Syracuse did not appear on CBS this season. They were one of only two Big East teams (Temple was the other) that did not show up on CBS.

When you look at the averages, you can see that VT had above-average ratings for CBS, far above average.

Average Ratings

Rating

Share

Houses

CBS Season Averages

2.6

6.8

2650

VT CBS Average

3.3

8.9

3360

 

The ESPN Ratings

One of the things I like about ESPN from a ratings standpoint is that they donít do split broadcasts, so you can really compare game-to-game how many people are watching one game versus another. Sure, there are other factors that affect viewership, like time of day and the day of the week. But we're taking care of most of the "day of the week" problem in this article by breaking the Thursday games out separately from the other games, which are mostly Saturday games.

ESPN showed 26 college football games this year, and the Hokies were in two of them: VT-UVa and VT-Syracuse. And Tech did well in the ratings - very well. The UVa game came in #4 on the season, and the Syracuse game was #11.

Here is the ESPN data, sorted by Rating.

Rank

Date

Game

Rating

Share

Houses*

1

11/4

Clemson - Florida State

3.4

5.8

2695

2

9/30

Tennessee - LSU

3.0

5.5

2376

3

9/23

Michigan - Illinois

2.9

5.0

2281

4

11/25

Virginia - Virginia Tech

2.9

5.0

2293

5

9/2

S. Miss - Tennessee

2.8

5.5

2180

6

10/7

Tennessee - Georgia

2.6

4.8

2068

7

11/11

Georgia - Auburn

2.6

4.5

2095

8

9/9

Marshall - Michigan St.

2.2

5.7

1714

9

10/28

Florida State - NC State

2.1

3.9

1686

10

9/16

LSU - Auburn

2.0

3.7

1623

11

10/21

Virginia Tech - Syracuse

2.0

3.7

1621

12

11/11

Ohio State - Illinois

1.9

4.0

1544

13

10/21

Purdue - Wisconsin

1.8

5.2

1438

14

11/4

Michigan State - Ohio State

1.8

4.9

1455

15

11/11

Penn State - Michigan

1.8

4.5

1435

16

10/14

Mississippi - Alabama

1.7

3.1

1320

17

9/23

Minnesota - Purdue

1.4

3.6

1091

18

10/14

Purdue - Northwestern

1.4

4.1

1088

19

9/16

California-Illinois

1.3

3.7

1052

20

11/24

BYU-Utah

1.3

2.4

1044

21

9/2

BC - WVU

1.2

3.4

962

22

11/18

Miami - Syracuse

1.1

2.0

915

23

11/25

Wake Forest - NC State

1.1

2.7

849

24

11/18

ECU - West Virginia

1.0

2.4

788

25

9/30

Illinois - Minnesota

0.9

2.7

741

26

10/28

Illinois - Michigan State

0.9

2.3

689

*Note: multiply "Houses" by 1,000 to get total number of households.

It's interesting to note that both Tech broadcasts fared better than Penn State-Michigan, and way better than Miami-Syracuse.

Here are the averages for ESPN and VT - once again, VT beats the average handily:

Average Ratings

Rating

Share

Houses

ESPN Season Averages

1.9

3.7

1495

VT ESPN Average

2.5

4.2

1972

 

The ESPN Thursday Ratings

The Hokies are somewhat of an oddity, namely, a Top-10 team that plays on Thursday on ESPN, and plays often (twice this year).

The good news? Out of 12 ESPN Thursday broadcasts, the Hokies finished 1-2 in the ratings. The VT/ECU game on September 7th ran away with the Thursday night title this year, despite the fact that it was a blowout (blowouts drag down ratings because people turn off the TV before the broadcast is over).

Rank

Date

Game

Rating

Share

Houses*

1

9/7

Virginia Tech - East Carolina

2.7

4.4

2137

2

10/12

West Virginia - Virginia Tech

2.3

3.6

1836

3

8/31

Auburn-Wyoming

2.3

3.8

1767

4

9/21

Georgia Tech - NC State

2.3

3.7

1828

5

11/23

Miss State - Mississippi

2.2

4.2

1790

6

9/14

Mississippi St. - BYU

2.1

3.6

1699

7

9/28

Florida State - Maryland

1.7

2.8

1350

8

11/9

Virginia - Georgia Tech

1.6

2.4

1300

9

11/2

BYU - Colorado State

1.5

2.3

1168

10

11/16

Wyoming - Colorado State

1.5

2.3

1217

11

10/5

Western Michigan - Marshall

1.2

2.0

971

12

10/26

Wyoming - BYU

0.9

1.3

687

Let's be honest, though. The sad fact is that the Thursday night games are dogs. There simply aren't many Thursday games with national appeal, so the highly-ranked Hokies do well in the Thursday night ratings. Try throwing matchups like Tennessee-Notre Dame into that Thursday night mix, and you'll see a whole different ratings dynamic.

The only Top-10 team other than Tech to appear on Thursday this year was FSU, and their game was a yawner against Maryland. Hence, low ratings. Meanwhile, get a load of Wyoming -- three Thursday night games, but only their game with Auburn drew a decent audience.

A Thursday night broadcast involving VT soundly thrashes the average Thursday night rating:

Average Ratings

Rating

Share

Houses

ESPN-Thu. Season Averages

1.4

2.4

1148

VT ESPN-Thu. Average

2.5

4.0

1987

 

Conclusions

When it comes to TV ratings, the Hokies aren't Notre Dame, Michigan, or Florida, but they did pretty well this year. A lot of that can be attributed to the presence of Michael Vick, but there's no doubt that the Hokies have a growing national appeal as a team, coming off their national championship appearance in 1999.

With Vick coming back near year, and hopefully staying healthy, TV ratings for the Hokies should continue to be relatively high (at least, for a small market team with no national appeal - that's sarcasm there, folks).

I hope you have enjoyed this view of the Hokies' TV ratings. I think it's interesting stuff. To view the ratings for all 127 games appearing on ABC/CBS/NBC/ESPN/ESPN2, you can visit:

http://www.techsideline.com/tslextra/issue002/footballratings2000.htm

On that page, you can view the data, or you can download it as a Microsoft Excel 97 spreadsheet.

 

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