Nielsen estimates may not account for all live sports streaming viewers, but ESPN’s decision to move to the total live audience number has shown a significant millennial audience increase for live sports. Total live audience combines streaming and out-of-home viewing with traditional linear ratings.
According to Adweek, between September 25th and November 12th total live audience numbers increased ESPN’s ratings by 14% for day and primetime ratings. As streaming platforms become more prominent, tracking millennial viewing is one of the biggest reasons for the transition to the total live audience number. The 18-34 demographic increased by 28% for prime time programming and 23% in daytime viewership.
For individual sports, college football experienced the largest ratings increase among millennials for ESPN with a 33% jump. Millennial viewership increased 27% for the NBA and 26% for the NFL.
Still, the ESPN ratings numbers could be even higher. With Nielsen’s recent announcement that live sports ratings have not accounted for viewers streaming content with a delay, it’s crucial for them to provide a more accurate number.
“It’s really easy to beat up on Nielsen, but we came to the recognition that while Nielsen isn’t perfect, we they have overwhelmingly the greatest potential to get close to perfect than anybody out there who purports to do media measurement,” said Cary Meyers, SVP of fan and media intelligence, ESPN. “The potential accelerator for total live audience measurement, and improved measurement in general, is going to be when everyone who’s in media recognizes that working with them is probably the best path forward.”