TV figures ‘plunge’ at end of sporting events

Television audiences for sports matches show a tendency to plummet dramatically in the few minutes leading up to and after the final whistle, which has serious implications for broadcast sponsors according to new research.

The study, carried out by CIA MediaVision and revealed exclusively to Marketing Week, shows the number of people still watching the TV when the closing ten-second break bumper appears can drop to as low as half the audience’s original size.

CIA MediaVision tracked ITV and BSkyB audiences minute-by-minute during the England versus Australia, and England versus New Zealand rugby matches on November 15 and 22 respectively.

It found that the ITV audience for the game against Australia fell from 4 million to 2 million in the final three minutes. In the New Zealand game, the ITV audience fell from 5.5 million to 4.5 million in the same period of time.

The broadcast sponsor for ITV’s coverage was Heineken, which will also sponsor the network’s coverage of the Five Nations championship.

Nevertheless, in the last three minutes of BSkyB’s live coverage of the first game, England versus Australia, the audience went up an estimated 30,000 because the game was a 15-all draw and viewers continued watching.

In the last three minutes of BSkyB’s live coverage of the second game, CIA MediaVision tracked an audience which fell from 550,000 to 100,000, while pundits talked through the game. Ford was Sky’s broadcast sponsor for this game.

CIA MediaVision strategic communications manager Roger Randall says: “The price of the sponsorship should reflect the actual credit viewing not necessarily estimated average programme performance.”

The ITV sales house which broked the deal across the network is TSMS. Its head of sponsorship Tim Brady says: “We usually do cut to a break after the final whistle. But the break pattern can never be guaranteed in a live programme.”

CIA New Solutions says that unless a broadcaster cuts to a commercial break straight after the final whistle, where a break bumper can be aired, the sponsorship should be discounted by 20 per cent.

Media Analysis page 16

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