Last week NBCSN sent a bit of a ripple amongst sports media wonks when they sent out a press release touting ratings gains since August 17th, 2013… the day Fox Sports 1 just happened to launch.  The competition between the two 24/7 cable networks has been something of a surprise over the course of the last year.  When FS1 launched, all the noise was directed at Bristol, Connecticut.  However, as it turns out, the real rival for Fox Sports 1 lies to the southwest in Stamford.

Earlier this year we tracked the primetime and total day ratings for Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN through the beginning of April.  Those numbers showed Fox Sports 1 ahead in primetime, but behind in total day viewers in large part due to the Winter Olympic bump given to NBCSN.

We’re back to track the battle for the #2 cable sports brand in the land (at least among non-Bristol based corporations, because ESPN and ESPN2 are the clear frontrunners in this category) with ratings from April-July.  Does NBCSN really have that much to crow about?  Have Fox Sports 1’s numbers improved?  The numbers tell what might be a surprising story to some…

NBCSN Primetime Average: 641,333 viewers
FS1 Primetime Average: 244,333 viewers

fnbcprimesum2014

* Chart in thousands of viewers

NBCSN trounced Fox Sports 1 in the last primetime ratings period and there’s one clear reason.

Hockey.  Hockey.  Hockey.

Thanks to the NHL Playoffs, which spanned from April to June, NBCSN more than doubled Fox Sports 1’s primetime viewership.  NBCSN had a record first half of the year thanks to Stanley Cup ratings continuing to climb.  The NHL saw their highest ratings on cable for the postseason in 17 years with 77 games on NBCSN and CNBC averaging 1.098 million viewers.

While Fox has had a potpourri of NASCAR truck series races, UFC fight cards, and Major League Baseball, none of them have reached the consistent heights of the Stanley Cup.  It still seems that FS1 is really still in the starting blocks waiting for their major rights packages (NASCAR Sprint Cup, MLB Playoffs, college football, etc.) to come and lift them out of the ratings doldrums.  Also, it is interesting to note that FS1 has beat NBCSN in primetime 5 out of the 6 weeks after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NBCSN Total Day Average: 183,266
FS1 Total Day Average: 107,200

fs1nbcsntotdaysum2014

* Chart in thousands of viewers

Again, NBCSN is well ahead of Fox Sports 1 in ratings, although the gap isn’t as large in total day viewers as it was in primetime from April-July.  Although NBCSN’s average viewership has dropped dramatically since the end of the Stanley Cup, they have still managed to jump back ahead of Fox Sports 1 this past month.  Both networks have seen cancellations litter their studio lineups so it’s hard to see any of FS1 or NBCSN’s original programming having an impact in ratings.

Combining this data with the ratings numbers from our post in April, here are the current year-to-date figures for both networks:

NBCSN Year-to-Date Primetime: 433,034 viewers
FS1 Year-to-Date Primetime: 260,689 viewers

NBCSN Year-to-Date Total Day: 196,344 viewers
FS1 Year-to-Date Total Day: 111,517 viewers

Through more than half the year, NBCSN is well ahead of Fox Sports 1 in the ratings battle.  We’ll see if Fox can turn it around with football season right around the corner.

(Data via AA’s Douglas Pucci)

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.