We’re accustomed to writing about NBCSN ratings in Olympic years. Whenever the peacock’s cable sports network televises the Olympics, the ratings tend to go up. This year in broadcasting the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, NBCSN was propelled to a record first quarter in ratings.
NBCSN’s ratings successes this winter came in spite of the broadcast network NBC’s ratings falling precipitously for their own Olympic coverage. The cable outlet saw its best first quarter in total day and primetime and February was a record month for the network.
The best news of all for NBCSN though might be what’s happening now. Even though the Olympics are over, the network posted its best April on record averaging 168,000 viewers over the course of the month thanks to the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the climax of the English Premier League season.
Buoyed by the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and a full slate of Premier League matches, NBCSN delivered the most-watched April in the network’s history in both Total Day and primetime, according to live plus same day data released by Nielsen.
NBCSN, which also ranked as the #2 sports cable network in both metrics for the month, averaged 168,000 Total Day viewers in the month (April 2-29), up 11% from April 2017 (151,000), and 515,000 primetime viewers, up 20% from last April (430,000).
Year-to-date, NBCSN’s Total Day performance (271,000 viewers) is up 151% from last year at this point (108,000). Excluding the Winter Olympics, NBCSN’s year-to-date Total Day viewership (123,000) is up 14% from 2017.
Again, that last point may be what is most important. NBCSN’s ratings always tend to ebb and flow with the Olympics. Of course that is going to lead the network to a certain amount of growth when that season is in full swing. But if the network can show regular growth outside the Olympics (and especially in non-Olympic years) it will do wonders for the network’s long-term future.
The positive ratings growth comes at a crucial time when sports networks all over the place are struggling to reach their audience. (See: ESPN and Get Up for an example on one end of the spectrum and the NFL’s decline on the other.) NBCSN has always taken the slow and steady approach, focusing on sports that they have exclusive relationships with like the NHL and EPL. It might not create all the controversy that FS1’s Embrace Debate lineup does or receive the same amount of scrutiny and attention as ESPN. But right now at least, it seems to be working for NBCSN.