With Seton Hall's 2014-15 non-conference schedule freshly released last Monday and SouthOrangeJuice.com's Men's Basketball Preview Series set to start previewing schools next week, let's take a look back at how the Pirates fared TV ratings-wise on Fox Sports and how that may project for the 2014-15 season.
First off, major credit to Marquette blog Paint Touches for originally bringing this data to my attention in April. I highly recommend the read, although it's not required to follow along below, to see how the entire Big East's viewers/game and total viewers compared to their last season prior to the new Big East. The author also labels Seton Hall and three other Big East schools as "winners" from this past season. Here is a direct link to the data (Google Docs) used in the Paint Touches article and below.
2013-14 non-conference viewer data:
Niagara @ Seton Hall - Saturday, 6pm FS2 - 15,000 viewers
Kent State @ Seton Hall - Wednesday, 7pm FS2 - 2,000
Monmouth @ Seton Hall - Wednesday, 8pm FS2 - 1,000
Fairleigh Dickinson @ Seton Hall - Sunday, 2pm FS1 - 24,000 (NFL weekend)
Long Island @ Seton Hall - Thursday, 7pm FS1 - 29,000
Seton Hall @ Rutgers - Sunday, 8pm ESPNU - 58,000
N.J.I.T. @ Seton Hall - Tuesday, 9pm FS1 - 12,000
Eastern Washington @ Seton Hall - Sunday, 5pm FS1 - 38,000 (Dec. 22nd)
Lafayette @ Seton Hall - Friday, 8pm FS1 - 42,000 (Dec. 27th)
Here's a look at the above data in graph form meant to show how viewers per game fluctuated over time:
Data unavailable: (Oklahoma/Virginia Tech on truTV; Mercer not televised; Saint Peter's on SNY)
Compared to the league schedule (21 total games had data available due to games on CBS Sports Network):
- Seton Hall's ratings were dismal for two of the three games televised on Fox Sports 2 and not that impressive for the third game: opening night on a new network in a new conference (15,000 vs. Niagara). This trend mostly echoed across the 16 games on Fox Sports 2 with data available as each game averaged 12,625 viewers and only two games saw more than 25,000 viewers. This shouldn't be much of a surprise as not as many cable subscribers receive FS2 compared to FS1 and many (like myself; Verizon) don't receive it in high definition, a potential turn-off. There's also a small portion of the nation that was/still is acclimating itself to the channel, which was added last fall when the network launched (FS1 was formerly the SPEED channel).
- There appears to be a slight spike in viewers around Christmas (Eastern Washington, Lafayette) even though both opponents were touted as weak and Seton Hall was coming off of losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter's in a two-week early-December span. This increased viewership is likely due to family-bonding-in-the-TV-room that you see typically see around winter break and not solely an increase in Seton Hall fans watching.
- Overall, Seton Hall received 221,000 total viewers during their non-conference slate (not including Coaches vs. Cancer or Saint Peter's; real total around 300,000), or 24,555 per game. While not spectacular, factoring in Seton Hall's poor non-conference performance, their unattractive schedule, and the knowledge that the Pirates played just once on national TV (vs. LSU, ESPNU) during their 2012-13 non-league schedule, and this appears to be a clear-cut win. Outside of LSU, games against Washington, Rhode Island, and Wake Forest were shown on ESPN3.com while SNY aired games against North Carolina A&T and Stony Brook locally in December of 2012. Not much exposure or chance for growth.
- Seton Hall's most-watched regular season game last season came when Xavier traveled to the Rock late in the season with the Muskies squarely on the bubble - 118,000 people tuned in on Monday night. While it may be apples-to-oranges, a late season period with Seton Hall on the bubble (not unlikely) could possibly do wonders for late-season ratings.
Looking ahead toward the 2014-15 non-conference schedule, how do you think Seton Hall's viewers on Fox Sports will differ? Outside of the three Paradise Jam games, which are set to air on CBS Sports Network if the Pirates advance in the bracket, here are some logistics for the non-league lineup:
Sun., Nov. 16 Mercer - Newark, N.J.
Sat., Nov. 29 George Washington - Newark, N.J.
Tues., Dec. 2 Mount St. Mary's - Newark, N.J.
Sat., Dec. 6 Rutgers - Newark, N.J.
Tues., Dec. 9 at Wichita State - Wichita, Kan. (ESPN Network)
Sun., Dec. 14 Saint Peter's - Newark, N.J.
Thurs., Dec. 18 at South Florida - Tampa, Fla. (ESPN Network)
Sun., Dec. 21 at Georgia - Athens, Ga. (ESPN Network)
Sat., Dec. 27 Maine - South Orange, N.J.
On the surface, Seton Hall appears poised to shatter their TV ratings from last season. While an intrastate rivalry game, their trip to Rutgers last season brought in 58,000 viewers on ESPNU on a Sunday night during the NFL season. Last season's average viewership on ESPNU was between 120-160k, depending on the month. In comparison, ESPN2 averaged between 359-501k viewers during the 2013-14 campaign. It looks like a safe bet that at least two of the trips to Wichita State, Georgia, and South Florida will air on ESPN2/U with ESPN3.com as a last resort. This may come down to how well Seton Hall and its opponents are playing at the time.
It's tough to project how Seton Hall's freshman class (they moved in on Sunday, no longer "incoming recruiting class") will boost viewers during the non-conference schedule, but I can't foresee totals less than last season, which was arguably equal to or better than 2012-13 with ESPN. Coupled with two more attractive ESPN games (Georgia, Wichita State) and five of the six Fox Sports games taking place on a weekend (Seton Hall's non-conference viewers on weekends last season weren't that bad) and there appears to be many reasons to predict an increase in viewers this campaign.