Network press releases are very rarely the source of anything interesting or exciting, but eyebrows were certainly raised around the industry when the latest announcement from NBCSN reached inboxes earlier today. NBCSN has had a lot to brag about this year, whether that be high ratings for the Winter Olympics, EPL, or NHL Playoffs. In fact, the network had a record setting first half of the year, which is a nice change in the narrative from where NBCSN was in the first half of 2013. That boasting continued with their latest presser, entitled “NBCSN Is TV’s Fastest Growing Sports Network Since Debut Of Premier League On August 17, 2013.”
Hmmm… what else could be significant about that date August 17th, 2013? I mean, the fine folks at NBC’s PR department could have just left it at “debut of Premier League” and not been so weirdly specific about that date, right?
Hmm… what could it be?
Oh yes! That’s the date that Fox Sports 1 launched!
Yes, NBCSN is throwing a Sharknado sized amount of shade across the country to their friends in Los Angeles at Fox Sports 1 with this very specifically-worded announcement.
NBCSN says the network is up 80% versus last year in total day viewership compared to the same time period a year ago thanks in large part to their massive tonnage of EPL inventory. Furthermore, even if you exclude the Sochi Games, NBCSN still registers as the fastest growing sports network in television.
Now, this does come with a caveat in that NBCSN’s ratings weren’t much to cheer about in past years. However, they have seen ratings rise everywhere from the NHL and EPL to IndyCar Racing recently. And as far as Fox Sports 1 goes, when the network was known as Speed Channel last year it was still pulling in decent ratings on par with other sports networks not named ESPN.
However, this is a clear message from NBCSN to Fox Sports 1 that we’re growing and you’re not. It’s another move in the expectations game. FS1 has had some ratings successes and ratings failures in Year 1. Realistically, they are probably at or near where they should be after the first year of a complete sports rebrand. However, by creating the expectations that they were going to be the newest, biggest, and baddest kid on the block before launch, they invite taunting like this from competitors. While the reality is that NBCSN and Fox Sports 1 are really close in terms of viewership, the perception is that NBCSN is in a better place in the editorial and business sense at the moment.
Last we checked in April, NBCSN was beating Fox Sports 1 head to head in total viewers, but losing the battle in primetime. There’s no question NBCSN has earned more critical acclaim than Fox Sports 1 in the past year for their excellent coverage of the EPL and other niche sports they’ve invested in.
Make no mistake though, the battle for the #2 cable sports brand is heating up. And as long as there is serious competition between the two, hopefully that means sports fans as a whole will be the real winner.