Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/23/13
Even though the Texans lost Sunday to the Ravens from the perspective of the Nielsen Co. they pitched a shutout in front of Houston television viewers. The Texans’ loss at Baltimore was seen by an average audience of 23 percent of Houston’s 2.28 million TV households or about 526553 households on KHOU (Channel 11). And the Astros’ noon game at Cleveland on Comcast SportsNet Houston? 0.00 Nielsen rating with an average audience of zero households. For the first time in the Astros’ history as one of the first Major League Baseball teams to distribute their games over cable they played a game Sunday afternoon and according to Nielsen nobody watched. There are a couple of asterisks involved here of course. For one thing Nielsen persists with the statistically supportable but still head-shaking concept that it can measure what millions of television viewers are watching by monitoring the behavior of hundreds. On Sunday for example Nielsen had reports from 581 meters in Greater Houston. In any given quarter-hour between noon and 3 p.m. Sunday anywhere from 47.6 to 52.6 percent of those meters (roughly 270 to 300) were in use by viewers watching television. But none of them – not a single solitary Nielsen household – tuned in to watch the Astros lose to the Indians for their ninth consecutive loss and their 105th defeat of the year. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race from New Hampshire had a 1.3 Nielsen rating on Sunday afternoon in Houston. A “Law and Order” rerun on TNT between noon and 1 p.m. had a 0.9 rating. NFL Network’s screen of NFL score updates had a 0.16 rating. Formula One racing from Singapore had a 0.14 rating on NBC Sports Network. A “21 Jump Street” rerun on Channel 57 from 1 to 2 p.m. had a 0.04 rating. A “Cosby Show” rerun from 2 to 2:30 p.m. on Channel 39 had a 0.5 rating. CNN and Fox News Channel combined for a 0.3 rating from 1 to 2 p.m. But Astros-Indians? According to Nielsen the game drew hash marks which is the Nielsen ratings symbol for a program that does not draw a measurable audience. Doubtless some people did tune in somewhere. I suspected that Sunday’s game would draw little or no audience against the Texans so I had CSN Houston on one of my deskside TVs just to ensure that it was in fact broadcast. It was by the way. Several Houston sports bars including Griff’s and Nick’s Place also had the game available to customers Sunday afternoon although the larger TVs in both locations were devoted to the Texans-Ravens and Rams-Cowboys games. Other sports bars including Big Woodrow’s and Lucky’s Pub said they generally show nighttime Astros games but did not show the Sunday afternoon game because of customer demand for NFL games. Sports bars however are not monitored by Nielsen so their audiences aren’t included in the company’s ratings totals. Back on Jan. 4 1983 when Home Sports Entertainment came to life as Houston’s first regional sports network Bill Worrell walked up to his boss Dick Barron (no relation to me by the way) and asked him “So how many people are going to see this?” Barron replied “My wife and seven others.” According to Nielsen that’s eight more people than watched the Astros on Sunday. It is at least from a ratings standpoint the lowest point in the long proud history of Houston sports television. It can’t get any lower.
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