Coverage of the coronavirus-delayed start of the Major League Baseball season boosted prime-time viewership on ESPN by 228% and Fox’s by 26% over the previous week, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.
ESPN averaged 4.075 million viewers, the largest audience for a regular-season MLB game on any network since 2011, for its telecast of the season’s first game, the New York Yankees’ weather-shortened 4-1 interleague victory over the World Series champion Washington Nationals Thursday.
The game was sixth among prime-time cable programs between July 20 and Sunday — trailing three episodes of Fox News Channel’s political talk show “Hannity” and two of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — and 12th overall.
ESPN aired six MLB games in prime time between Thursday and Sunday, including games between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants Thursday and Sunday. The Dodgers 8-1 victory Thursday averaged 2.829 million viewers, 23rd among cable programs and 50th overall. Figures were not available for their 3-1 loss Sunday.
ESPN averaged 1.091 million viewers, sixth among cable networks. It averaged 333,000 the previous week, 27th among cable networks.
Fox’s broadcast of Washington’s 9-2 victory over the Yankees Saturday was 52nd for the week, averaging 2.79 million viewers, its most-watched prime-time program of 30 minutes or more since the May 20 season finale of “The Masked Singer” that averaged 9.005 million viewers.
(The 10-minute post-race show following Fox’s afternoon coverage of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Cup Series auto race June 7 averaged 2.916 million viewers.)
Viewership was up 331% from the reruns of the game shows “Beat Shazam” and “Ultimate Tag” which averaged 705,000 and 589,000 viewers the previous Saturday.
Fox averaged 1.58 million viewers for its 15 hours, 40 minutes of prime-time programming, sixth among broadcast and cable networks. It averaged 1.25 million viewers for its 15 hours of programming the previous week, ninth among broadcast and cable networks.
With NBC airing a rerun of “America’s Got Talent,” the most-watched program seven of the eight previous weeks — a streak only interrupted by a rerun — an episode of “60 Minutes” finished first for the week, averaging 6.515 million viewers for a edition with three repeat segments updated for the rebroadcast .
In a week the Top 10 consisted of six reruns and four Fox News Channel political talk shows, only two other programs averaged more than 5 million viewers — a rerun of the CBS action drama “NCIS,” which averaged 5.356 million, and the “America’s Got Talent” rerun which averaged 5.083 million viewers.
The 1-2 finish by “60 Minutes” and “NCIS” gave CBS its third consecutive first-place finish in the network race, 21st in 26 weeks and 26th in the 44-week-old 2019-20 season, averaging 3.13 million viewers.
Fox News Channel was second, averaging 3.045 million, followed by NBC, which averaged 2.8 million, ABC, which averaged 2.21 million, MSNBC, which averaged 2.039 million, and Fox, which averaged 1.58 million for its 15 hours, 40 minutes of programming.
CBS, Fox News Channel, NBC, ABC and MSNBC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
With less first-run programming because of the coronavirus pandemic, the combined four-network viewership was down 9.2% from the corresponding week one year ago when “America’s Got Talent” was the most-watched program, averaging 10.128 million viewers, four programs averaged more than 5 million viewers and millions of potential CBS viewers were not able to watch the network because its owned-and-operated stations in more than a dozen markets, including Los Angeles, were absent from DirecTV and other AT&T-owned television packages because the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow their continued carriage.
ABC’s viewership was down 28.5 percent, NBC’s 17.2 percent and Fox’s 1.3 percent while CBS’ was up 10.2 percent.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for the 27th consecutive week, averaging 3.045 million viewers. It had each of the week’s five most-watched cable programs and eight of the top nine — four episodes each of the political talk shows “Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
The week’s most-watched cable program was Thursday’s edition of “Hannity,” which featured an interview with President Donald Trump, which averaged 4.348 million viewers opposite MLB’s season opener. It was fifth overall.
MSNBC was second among cable networks for the seventh consecutive week, averaging 2.039 million viewers. CNN was third for the seventh consecutive week, averaging 1.357 million and HGTV fourth, averaging 1.304 million.
The most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was the Wednesday episode of the Univision telenovela “Te doy la vida,” which averaged 1.965 million viewers, 52nd among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 34th consecutive week and 36th time in 37 weeks, averaging 1.35 million viewers.
Telemundo was second, averaging 880,000 viewers, followed by UniMas, which averaged 390,000, Estrella TV, which averaged 170,000 and Azteca America which averaged 40,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 34th consecutive week, the 85th time in 86 weeks and the 137th time in 139 weeks, averaging 8.822 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 7.553 million viewers, followed by the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” which averaged 5.208 million viewers.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were reruns of “60 Minutes” and “NCIS”; a rerun of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”; a rerun of ABC’s “Celebrity Family Feud”; the Thursday and Wednesday editions of the Fox News Channel political talk show “Hannity”; the July 22 edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News Channel; the Tuesday “Hannity” episode; and reruns of CBS’ “FBI” and “Young Sheldon.”