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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Preseason football churns up startlingly positive TV ratings

The Lions typically play the same preseason opponents year in, year out. Buffalo. Cincinnati. Cleveland. There it is. The battle for the barge trophy (assuming it's meant to imply garbage), took place Friday in the home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Tigers got the first win of a three-game sweep hosting the Indians at Comerica Park.
In a head-to-head battle, the Tigers had a slight ratings edge, but overall, the Lions game got more attention from fans. It makes sense the Tigers, embarking in a pennant race against their nearest division contender, would win the head-to-head battle. But the Tigers had the edge by just 1/10 of a percent (although I'm sure that means much more to advertisers than it does to me)! The Lions were playing their second preseason game, in which starters get a little more action than the first, but not as much as the third or fourth. And it was against the Browns, a franchise that, in its new life, has been as futile as the Lions.
The Tigers held just a 1 1/2 game AL Central lead entering Friday. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. The Lions have played the Browns in the preseason each of the past nine seasons. The Lions trailed 28-13 early in the second half, when starters have long been removed.
The Tigers' ratings peaked from 9:30-9:45 p.m., when the game was heating up. Again, the Lions' peak rating an hour later was higher than its baseball brethren.
The AL Central showdown should have been a clear-cut winner in the ratings battle. But it wasn't.
The only reason the Lions could have proven more watched may have been that the Tigers are broadcast on basic cable by Fox Sports Detroit, while the Lions were on WXYZ-7 locally. The thought being the 10 percent of Americans holding out on cable had access to to the Lions (and will continue to do so all season long).
If the locales were reversed, how would the ratings have shaken out? It was reported that more than 44,000 took in the game at the CoPa. A crowd of 56,000 was reported at Browns Stadium. Nearly 43,00 (the same night as a Kid Rock concert at Comerica Park) saw the Lions whip the Bengals in "Week 1" of the preseason and Saturday's kickoff with Tom Brady and the Patriots has been sold out and will be seen on national TV. The Tigers are at the Twins earlier in the evening, on regional TV. I don't think this week's ratings will be so close.

.... It should also be pointed out Lions receiver Nate Burleson had a salute Browns fans could identify with, slapping his hands together like LeBron James used to do before games in his time with the Cavaliers.


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