Let me preface this post by saying this: There is absolutely nothing good that could ever come out of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. There can be no benefit at all after somebody takes over two dozen innocent lives, including twenty children.
Anyway, on Sunday night, just as the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots were about to kick off on “Sunday Night Football” in Foxboro, Massachusetts, some 150 miles away, President Obama was set to give a speech at a prayer vigil in Newtown for the shooting victims.
At that point, NBC directed viewers to watch the beginning of the 49ers/Patriots game on either CNBC or NBC Sports Network, while NBC carried Obama’s speech.
The fact that live sports programming aired on CNBC is nothing new – they carried Stanley Cup Playoff games earlier this year. And of course, both CNBC and NBCSN were widely-viewed outlets during this year’s London Olympics, where the channel formerly known as Versus saw some of its highest audience shares in network history.
And perhaps it was their Olympic coverage that helped engrain NBCSN – and more importantly, its channel position – into viewers’ minds, so that they would know where to go to punch up the network, especially in a locked-out season of the NHL, a league whose rights NBCSN has heavily invested in.
Numbers don’t lie: According to figures from Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, over 2.6 million viewers were tuned into either CNBC or NBCSN for the twenty-five minute period from the beginning of the game, to about 8:55 PM ET, when President Obama punctuated his speech by reading the names of the twenty innocent boys and girls that were senselessly killed on December 14.
And while CNBC had more viewers during this period, there was only a difference of 156,000 viewers betweem the two networks: CNBC, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, had 1,397,000 viewers, while NBC Sports Network, currently available in around 75 million households, had 1,241,000 viewers.
That has to be a promising sign for a network that is vying to become a worthy alternative to ESPN. They overcame a slow start in the first quarter, bouncing back in the summer with the aforementioned Olympics and NHL playoff games.
And don’t forget, they also reeled in Dan Patrick’s television feed of his radio show – so with the Olympics long over, I’m willing to bet that a large portion of those 1.2 million viewers that found NBCSN were likely “Dan Patrick Show” viewers. After all, it’s the only visible daily programming that’s on the network – well, at least until Michelle Beadle begins her new show on the channel next year.
Overall, the 49ers/Patriots matchup was the second most-watched edition of “SNF” this year, trailing the season opener with the Denver Broncos and their new (old) quarterback, Peyton Manning, battling the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the NBC broadcast network is tied up with an NFL broadcast package, I wouldn’t say that this will be the last time a live NFL game was shown on NBCSN. The league-owned NFL Network may be contemplating giving the rights to its recently expanded Thursday night football package to another network – maybe TNT, perhaps that new sports network Fox is constructing, or it might be NBC’s new sports network, which is a work in progress.
But the number of people that tuned into the network on Sunday night, who more than likely had no advanced notice of such a programming shuffle beforehand, has to be good news for NBC Sports Group.
Of course, I’m sure NBC and everyone else would have preferred that the bad news that prompted the temporary “SNF” move to NBCSN, as well as CNBC, never happened in the first place.