Tale of Three Cities: Intra-Game Ratings in Winning, Losing, and Neutral Markets

Jie Xu
Hojun Sung
Scott Tainsky
and Michael Mondello

This research examines the within-game television ratings of regular season NFL games across three distinct viewership markets. Specifically, we operationalize our markets as follows—winning market denotes that of the team winning the game, losing market denotes the market of the losing squad, and all other markets where the game was broadcast were pooled in the neutral market category. Our modeling demonstrates that ratings changes attributable to scoring margin are essentially similar in neutral and losing markets, but different than winning markets. Implications related to the NFL’s policy on televising uncompetitive games in neutral markets are further examined, concluding that the relationship between final scoring margin and audience interest is nuanced.