HomeMediaBread And Circuses: Sports Events Account For All But Six Of The Top 100 Telecasts Of 2022
Bread And Circuses: Sports Events Account For All But Six Of The Top 100 Telecasts Of 2022
February 9, 2023
Sports continued to show why they are the most valuable programming on television in 2022, making another strong statement at a time when the entertainment industry faces challenges with attracting viewers to scripted programming.
The NFL and college football continued to draw the most viewers of any form of programming as viewers watched sports in record numbers. Overall, sports accounted for 94 of the 100 most-watched telecasts for the year. That was down just one number from last year, but up from 75 during the election-heavy 2020 docket, and from 92 telecasts in 2019.
The NFL put a record number of telecasts in the top 100 in 2022, with a stunning 82 games cracking the list. That figure is up from 75 in 2021, 72 in 2020 and 78 in 2019. Those numbers came even as the league’s “Thursday Night Football” package moved from linear television to Amazon this season. No Amazon “TNF” games cracked TV’s top 100 in 2022. In comparison, six of the Fox/NFL Network “TNF” games in 2021 made the top 100.
Showing its growing strength, college football was No. 2 in terms of sports in the top 100 with five games, led by last season’s Georgia-Alabama title game. That impressive showing fueled the desire by college conferences to expand the football playoff format, which will grow to 12 teams in the 2024-25 season.
Facing time zone challenges and coming only a few months after the COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Games, the Olympics put a record low number of telecasts into the top 100 last year, with only two nights from the Beijing Winter Games making an appearance (the opening ceremony, and Night 11, which piggybacked off the Super Bowl).
Four years ago, the Pyeongchang Winter Games had 12 nights in the top 100. In 2021, the Tokyo Summer Games had 11 nights in the top 100. While the record low number in 2022 will cause many to question the strength of Olympic programming, NBC executives expect to regain their Olympics ratings mojo during next year’s event from Paris.
The NFL’s popularity kept the NBA or MLB off the top 100 for the third straight year, including the NBA Finals and the World Series. However, soccer and college basketball did make the cut. The FIFA World Cup and March Madness joined the Olympics with two telecasts apiece. The one sports outlier was the Kentucky Derby, which returned to the top 100 for the first time since 2019.
Entertainment continues to lose its influence on the linear TV business. For the second consecutive year — and second time in history — not one scripted TV show made the top 100.
The Academy Awards made its way back to the list last year following a 2021 when no entertainment awards shows cracked the top 100. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was another non-sports program on the list.
Four political telecasts were among the Top 100: The “megacast” of President Biden’s State of the Union address, two telecasts from the Jan. 6 congressional hearings, and an address to Congress from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Even without NFL, sports dominates
Even if the NFL were to disappear, sports would continue to have a dominant position among the 50 most-watched telecasts of the year.
The Beijing Winter Games and college football would each have eight telecasts, while the NBA Finals and World Series would each place six games on the list. March Madness would have five games on the non-NFL chart, and the FIFA World Cup would have four. The only other sports event would be the Kentucky Derby.
No majors from tennis or golf would have made the top 50, minus the NFL, nor would any hockey events. Despite one of the strongest years ever for women’s sports, no women-led telecast would crack the list either. Even the NCAA women’s basketball championship, which saw South Carolina-UConn deliver the game’s best audience since 2004, would be around 6 million viewers short of cracking a non-NFL top 50.
Beyond sports, political telecasts would place seven broadcasts on the list (five from the Jan. 6 House Committee hearings). Then there would be Rockin’ New Year’s Eve (ABC), an episode of “60 Minutes” piggybacking off the NFL playoffs, the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving, the Oscars and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.