There’s a new study published by Nielsen that shows that cable and satellite subscribers rate regional sports networks as their most essential non-broadcast channels.

The study commissioned by Fox Sports surveyed more than 1,500 pay TV customers across the country who also classify themselves as sports fans. They said that their local regional sports networks like Comcast SportsNet, Fox Sports Net, Root Sports, NESN, Altitude and others are ranked as their 5th most essential channel behind the four broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, but ahead of ESPN, FS1 and NBCSN.

In St. Louis, Fox Sports Midwest ranks ahead of the four broadcast networks and in Detroit, Fox Sports Detroit is the second most essential network.

In the official announcement, Fox Sports Regional Networks President Jeff Krolik said this was not a surprise to the company:

“We have long known that our RSNs are akin to the fifth broadcast network in their markets in terms of ratings, and Nielsen’s research confirms the remarkable importance of these networks to viewers. Local sports are tribal, and RSNs inspire the same loyalty and connection as the hometown teams they bring to fans.”

And Krolik told Sports Business Daily that baseball was the engine that drove the RSN’s to their position with subscribers:

“We think this is a story that hasn’t been reported anywhere. It is overlooked because it is a local story, not a national story.” 

During the 2016 MLB regular season, 23 of the 29 teams based in the United States ranked in the top five of all networks when they played in primetime. And nine U.S. MLB teams ranked first in all of primetime in their respective markets.

For the RSN’s to be in a position with viewers shows the power of local sports and how much loyalty fans have to their teams. And while baseball ratings may not do well nationally, they are doing well locally to the point where some outrank the broadcast networks.

It’s one reason why Fox and NBC pay so much for rights to retain local MLB rights as baseball provides so much programming during the summer months.

[Fox Sports/Sports Business Daily]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.