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Sports biz: Screen play


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If you have a spouse, significant other or disinterested cat around the house who fails to share your passion for sports, you may want to keep this column from view. Because we now have hard statistical evidence you’re not watching enough sports on TV.

According to a new report from The Nielsen Co., which tracks All Things Media, there were 42,500 hours of live sports televised in the U.S. last year. That’s 116 hours a day of everything from Nuggets games on ESPN to Sunday Night Football on ABC to NASCAR on TBS. And that doesn’t even include regional and local telecasts, like the Avs on Altitude TV or the Rockies on Root Sports.

If you’re paying close attention and are very good at math, you’ll note that 116 hours is more time than there is in a day. So obviously we’re going to have to divide and conquer here, sports fan. You take the prime-time shift, we’ll catch FIFA soccer in the wee hours. Weekends we’ll play by ear.

Whatever the allocation of responsibility, the big takeaway here is that sports are big and getting bigger still in the world of media and entertainment. Nielsen’s State of the Media: 2011 Year in Sports report is a mind-bending compendium of statistics that illustrate just how pervasive the world of sports has become on the electronic devices – from iPads to smartphones to HDTV sets – that populate our lives.

Here’s just a sample of findings:

• National advertisers spent $38 billion last year to promote their products and brands within live sports. The top-spending sponsor (at $423 million through the first none months) was AT&T, which apparently has reasoned that sports watchers are big fans of cell phone plans, digital video services and that big blue logo that looks like a globe. Coming in second: Bud Light. Because some of us also drink bad beer.

• Of local note, the Tebow factor played large in the 2011 sports scene, with Saint Tim’s book "Through My Eyes" ranking No. 1 among hardcover sports biographies (sales of 106,700 copies). Tebow’s "N Score," a general ranking of likeability and endorsement potential, was 184 – high enough to rank No. 5 among white audiences, but not lofty enough to crack the U.S. top five at large. That list was headed up, curiously enough, by the noted supermodel husband and part-time NFL quarterback Tom Brady. Coming in second: boxing phenom Manny Pacquaio, who, if I ever met him live, I would lavish with a really high N Score just to avoid that wicked left hand.

• Speaking of punch, apparently we’re not doing enough to keep the Colorado Avalanche top of mind. Counting "buzz mentions," or publicly available references on blog posts, message boards, Facebook pages and Twitter through October of last year, Nielsen came up with only 100,442 for your Avs, ranking the team 22nd among 24 National Hockey League teams. Let’s step it up with the tweets, eh?

While we’re at it, more of us need to gather ‘round the TV screen on Saturdays when the CU Buffaloes or any of their Pac-12 rivals are playing football. With an average of 2.1 million viewers of live televised games in 2011 (September through November), the conference ranked last among the five conferences measured by Nielsen for total viewers. The SEC was first, with 4.47 million. To be fair, however, it has two more schools than the Pac-12, and most SEC states require by law that people watch the games.

Nielsen says the number of people who watched sports on a mobile device rose 22 percent from November 2010 through November 2011. And in October 2011 alone, sports websites delivered 463 million video streams to 35 million people. Hopefully your boss doesn’t know you’re one of them.

Our favorite statistic, though, comes from Nielsen’s international research arm, which found that 40 percent of Russians said they were "optimistic and proud" about hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. And the other 60 percent were what? Sullen and ashamed? Nielsen didn’t say.

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Stewart Schley

Stewart Schley writes about sports, media and technology from Denver. Read this and Schley’s past columns on the Web at cobizmag.com and email him at stewart@stewartschley.com

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