Who’s Really Watching Sports? Q&A With Paulsen Of Sports Media Watch

Television ratings are discussed nearly as much as player statistics these days in sports media. They are also some of the most misunderstood statistics in the world. Debates rage about their accuracy, yet select ratings seem to move the meter more than others. Plus, when it comes to market sizes, hype machines and groupthink, the numbers are spoken of as a misguided declaration of quality, as Super Bowl 48 proved earlier this month.

Recently, Paulsen of Sports Media Watch published the “Demo Reel” series, which featured analyses on the viewership of several major non-NFL events in 2013. Included in the study were the NBA Finals, MLB’s World Series, the 2013 BCS games (played January 2013 after the 2012 regular season), the men’s NCAA Final Four, the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final and the U.S. Open (tennis) finals for both men and women. In explaining a clearer picture of viewership beyond the NFL, this three-part series focused on age and household income, gender and race.

TSFJ spoke with Paulsen about his findings, including thoughts on female fans still being underestimated, money to be found in the NHL and the lack of racial diversity in viewership outside of the NBA.

(You can also find the first edition of his Demo Reel here.)

TSFJ: So, let’s start with a simple question. Why the Demo Reel? Sports fans have heard more about television ratings than ever before, yet the majority doesn’t have the faintest idea on what they are and why they should actually care about them.

Paulsen: One of the primary reasons I do SMW is to clear up misconceptions people may have about television ratings. There is a lot of contradictory data out there, and a lot of mainstream sportswriters do not differentiate between an overnight and a final rating, between household and P2+ (persons ages 2 and up) viewership, etc. As a result, I think a lot of people are misinformed about TV ratings (granted, that’s not the worst form of media misinformation). “Demo Reel” was really just another way to go in-depth on the numbers and provide some actual data to reinforce or contradict people’s assumptions of just who is watching big-time sporting events.

TSFJ: Do you think some people will look at what isn’t included in the series — notably the NFL and, to some extent, NASCAR — and believe that these observed events aren’t truly important in the hierarchy of sports? 

Paulsen: No. I would hope most people understand that I just didn’t have access to those events. I would have loved to include every major sporting event — not just the NFL and Daytona 500, but also the Triple Crown and the golf majors.

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