PHOENIX – Watching sports has always been one of America’s favorite pastimes. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary closure of games and leagues, the country seemed to suffer collectively.
So when live sports finally came back with a bang, fans should have been thrilled. But plummeting ratings tell a different story.
“After three months without any sport, the NBA, MLB and NHL all turned the taps back on at the same time, and for the fan it was like being asked to drink from a fire hose,” said Anthony Crupi, Sportico sports. media journalist.
According to a new study by the Marist Poll and the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College. About 46% of self-proclaimed sports fanatics say they have spent less time watching sports than in the past, according to the survey.
“I think there are several reasons for lower ratings. One of the biggest is how COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, including sports,” said Bill Goodykoontz, critic media for the Arizona Republic and AZCentral.
“When you watch the NBA Finals in October, it’s weird. The Masters in November? Really weird. quirky – not just with games, of course, but with everything.
The NBA Finals on ABC on average approximately 7.5 million viewers this year the lowest rated Finals since 1988 according to Sports Business Daily. Weeks after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series title in 32 years, but viewership was still at a level. historically low during all six games of the Fall Classic, according to Nielsen Media Research provided to Sportico.
Why were the ratings so low, especially at a time when many sports fans still stay close to home – and, presumably, close to their TVs or smart devices?
While it was the first time in history that the finals aired at the same time as the MLB playoffs, a survey suggested some viewers weren’t in favor of athletes and leagues taking a stand on social justice and become vocal supporters of current causes and events.
In the Marist Poll survey, 70% of Republicans said they were less likely to watch live sports, while 61% of Democrats said athletes speaking out on social justice issues were not a deciding factor if they were watching a game.
“I don’t buy the argument that it’s a political thing. I mean, everyone probably has an anecdotal example of a friend or relative saying they won’t watch the NFL because the players might kneel. But I think it was the combination of other factors that had a much bigger effect,” Goodykoontz said.
Goodykoontz, like many others, said he enjoys watching the NBA’s social justice efforts and believes the drop in sports ratings is because something bigger is happening in our society, affecting all of us.
“I also think you can’t ignore the fact that a lot of people are preoccupied with bigger things right now,” he said. “I love watching sports, but there’s so much going on in everyone’s life right now that it’s understandable if people don’t have the time or the interest, that they’re overwhelmed with the real life.”
In fact, one in three sports fans according to the Marist Poll said they watch fewer sports due to their concerns about the coronavirus, while one in five said they would rather watch coverage of the 2020 election.
Additionally, the games look different with stadiums and ballparks mostly empty or partially filled with fans – a far cry from a normal year.
“The fans had more of an effect on the viewing experience than I could have imagined,” Goodykoontz said. “It reinforces the feeling that this is just not normal.”
The coronavirus has impacted viewership in another way. The shared experience.
“One of my great joys watching sports is cheering and cheering on my friends, whether in my living room or in a sports bar,” said Chris Franklin, 31, a Scottsdale food-industry worker. “(Watching) alone somehow ruins the experience.”
Ratings for live sporting events are not the same as for scripted TV shows. Even though viewership has plummeted for the World Series, the baseball season is not in danger of being canceled.
“While it’s understandable that people particularly enthusiastic about a given drama or comedy series might keep an eye on the weekly ratings, similarly, some political junkies can’t help but watch the polls every two hours,” Crupi said. .
“Unless you’re in the business there’s really no reason to pay attention to any of this, but somewhere along the line it’s become its own weird little spectator sport.”