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Alan Pergament: Bills rating is highest ever for opener; WWKB switches to betting format

Alan Pergament: Bills rating is highest ever for opener; WWKB switches to betting format

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Bills Steelers third (copy)

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) evades a tackle attempt by Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) during the third quarter of Sunday's game at Highmark Stadium. 

This is a special edition of the old Sports on the Air column:

The Buffalo Bills may have suffered a 23-16 upset loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the field Sunday, but they were winners in one area – TV ratings.

The game drew the highest rating for a Bills opener since meters came here in 2000.

It had a 46.3 rating and a 76 share on WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate, which means 46.3% of all TVs in Western New York were tuned into the game and 76% of those with their TVs on were watching. The share is consistent with results of recent playoff games.

To further illustrate how high this year’s rating was, the Bills’ 27-17 win over the New York Jets in the 2020 season opener had a 38.9 rating and that had been the highest rated opener in five years.

However, Sunday’s rating didn’t approach the ratings for the three Bills playoff games earlier this year. They all had ratings in the 50s.

A rating point in Buffalo equals 5,285 households.

Sunday’s rating is even more impressive considering September games rarely hit the 40s because the weather is generally decent. In addition, there were 70,000 potential viewers at Highmark Stadium.

The only September game recording a higher rating was an ESPN/WKBW primetime simulcast in 2003 at Miami in a game the Dolphins won, 17-7. That game had a 52.6 rating and a 68 share.

In other NFL ratings news: Kansas City’s 33-29 win over Cleveland in the 4 p.m. game carried by WIVB had a 23.9 rating. Denver’s 27-13 win over the New York Giants opposite that game had a 2.3 rating on local Fox affiliate WUTV.

Philadelphia’s 32-6 rout of Atlanta had a 1.0 rating on WUTV opposite the Bills game.

Tampa Bay’s 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys in last Thursday's season opener had a 23.7 rating on WGRZ-TV, the local NBC affiliate.

The Los Angeles Rams’ 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears on “Sunday Night Football” had an 11.5 rating on NBC affiliate WGRZ, possibly because even Western New Yorkers can eventually tire of watching football.

Speaking of ratings, the regular Monday Night Football broadcast of Las Vegas’ 33-27 overtime win over Baltimore Monday carried by local ABC affiliate WKBW-TV and ESPN had a combined overnight national rating of 11.0, while the alternative Peyton and Eli Manning broadcast on ESPN2 had only a 0.6 rating. (The local rating is delayed by a day.)

Judging by the positive response to the Mannings’ broadcast on social networks, their viewership should improve the next time they work a MNF game.

ESPN reported the audience across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes made it the best MNF week 1 viewership since 2013 and the second most-watched Week 1 game since it began airing MNF.

In my preseason interview with MNF play-by-play announcer Steve Levy, he seemed unconcerned about the rating impact of the Mannings on the traditional broadcast he works with analysts Brian Griese and Louis Riddick. Levy illustrated his sense of humor when asked about it.

“I hope it impacts me in a positive way,” said Levy. “I know ESPN will take the cumulative rating of the two shows, ESPN and ESPN2, and on the app and sometimes on ABC and I hope people will say, ‘Hey, look at ESPN ratings they are so high that must be because of Steve Levy.' You and I know the truth, it will be because of the Mannings but I would be happy to take full credit for that. Obviously, I'm in favor of more eyeballs watching Monday Night Football, and that is on whatever format. So, this has to be considered a good thing. Obviously, everything Peyton touches turns to gold and I'm happy he’s on our team that’s for sure.”

Speaking of the Mannings, I hope they heard the postgame interview with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in which he heaped praise on the work ethic of former Bills receiver Zay Jones after he caught the winning touchdown.

After Jones caught the touchdown, the Mannings had some fun at Jones’ expense and indicated they had no idea who he was.

“Carr to Jones, one of the great tandems,” sarcastically cracked Peyton.

They should know who Zay is now.

Audacy, the owner of WWKB radio, has made a switch of its sports format and now carries its parent company's sports betting BetQL Network. Gone is ESPN 1520, replaced by "The Bet 1520.”

The station will continue to air Jim Rome from CBS Sports radio from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays. University at Buffalo football and basketball will still be carried. However, all the ESPN programming that the station used to carry is gone. 

Audacy also owns sports station WGR, which already had less competition for the sports talk market after 1270 dropped its sports format in favor of right-wing talk.

The BetQL Network was launched in January when Audacy was still called Entercom and carried on several of its AM stations.

As its name indicates, BetQL features sports gambling programming.

The programs reportedly include the daily shows, “You Better You Bet” with Nick Kostos and Ken Barkley and “BetQL Daily” with Joe Ostrowski and Ross Tucker.

At the time of its launch, Mike Dee, president of sports for Entercom, said in a release:

“With our acquisition of QL Gaming Group in November, we committed to leveraging our national scale to amplify the rapidly growing sports gambling landscape and deliver smart, data-supported sports-betting content to our listeners. By combining the BetQL brand and our deep collection of expert talent, this new network compliments our industry-leading local sports broadcast portfolio and will further enhance our position as a leader for sports betting programming.”

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TV Critic

Alan Pergament has had a variety of roles at The News since 1970, including as a news and sports reporter. He has been the TV columnist since 1982, with more than year off for good behavior. He is a member of the national Television Critics Association.

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