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It’s “The Last Dance” for Traditional TV Ratings

May 14, 2020 • Aaron Goldman

Sending love from the Windy City. Hope you are well.

Last week we tuned in to TV trends during the pandemic but one area we didn’t talk much about is the impact of live sport – or lack thereof.

With all major sport leagues on hold, there’s been a massive gap in programming for many networks.

For its part, ESPN has given prime time treatment to “The Last Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls dynasty.

And, for their part, audiences seem to be responding well with record ratings and lots of Twitter chatter.

Whether it’s due to general nostalgia for a time when sports were alive or the new behind-the-scenes footage, this series has captivated fans and the shine has extended to brand partners boasting features beyond mere 30 second spots.

All this goes to show the impact of sport on our industry and why smart brands aren’t scared of sports TV ratings declines – especially not now.

As the NBA pointed out, “the audiences for the premieres only tell part of the story; a larger overall audience continues to consume the documentary through re-airs and on-demand viewing. After a record-setting initial audience, including all viewing, Episodes 1 and 2 now have an average minute audience of 13 million and 13.1 million, respectively, figures which represent more than a 100% increase from initial Nielsen reporting.”

Clearly, the value to brands from exposure around sport sponsorship extends beyond live airing and is truly cross-platform and multi-faceted.

And it’s not just a ratings game. As Nielsen advises, brands must go beyond viewership to holistically measure return on sponsorship investment.

Meanwhile, on the network side, the future comes into focus when you consider recent innovations from the likes of NBCU with Checkout and Product Sync along with CFlight for cross-platform measurement.

If nothing else, “The Last Dance” has proven the power of compelling storytelling and that’s something certain to stand the test of time.

My family moved to Chicago the year Michael Jordan was drafted by the Bulls. I was 6 years old at the time and 12 when they won their first championship. Over the next 8 years my room served as a shrine.

To be sure, my childhood was intertwined with the ups and downs of the team. Thankfully there were plenty of ups and it’s been great to relive it through the lens of “The Last Dance.”

Watching it again through the eyes of my children has served as a reminder of the enduring power of sport and seeing them clamor for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at each commercial break is a testament to the enduring power of advertising.

As sport begins to come back online (pun intended) we can expect more comprehensive measurement methodology to be adopted making “The Last Dance” a swan song for traditional TV ratings.

Take care and see you ‘round the Virtual Water Cooler.

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