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NY Times: The decline in sports ratings

Televised sports are suffering a steep ratings decline. The viewership for the 2020 NBA finals fell about 50 percent compared with last year. Golf’s U.S. Open, Major League Baseball’s division series and hockey’s Stanley Cup finals have all fallen by at least 40 percent.

What’s going on? In part, it’s a series of one-time factors that stem from the pandemic. Every major sports league has been playing simultaneously in recent months, creating more competition for viewers, John Koblin, a media reporter at The Times, told me. And without many fans in the stands, the games can also feel less exciting.

But there may be larger forces at work, too. Sports, after all, aren’t the only forms of programming with viewership declines. Ratings for talk shows and awards shows have also fallen. Which raises the possibility, as John points out, that broadcast entertainment is experiencing a fundamental shift — with people increasingly watching shows via streaming, rather than organizing their lives around a television schedule.

“It’s a trend that was happening anyway, and this may have accelerated it,” he explains. We will have a better idea starting next month, when network series begin airing new shows again and when the sports calendar becomes more normal. “This is the real unknown: How much our viewing habits have forever changed because of the pandemic,” John says.

What to expect with the viewers for the 2021 Olympic Trials and Olympics?

Is the trend going to sustain itself through 2021? 

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