I've been poking around the web looking at the Nielsen Ratings for U.S. Nationals. Brace yourselves...these are not good numbers.
Last year, NBC grabbed an impressive 12.5 million viewers for the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Nationals in St. Paul. This year, NBC expanded it's coverage of Nationals actually showing some of the short programs as well as the Pairs and Ice Dance Free's. The result...they tanked!
According to Sports Business Daily, the expanded coverage brought in disappointing ratings, with the ladies free skate (Saturday night broadcast) coming in with the best numbers with 2.7 percent of U.S. television viewers tuning in. The men's free skate (Sunday afternoon) brought in 2 percent while the Dance and Pairs telecast (Saturday afternoon) 1.8 percent. When top rated shows and broadcasts are bringing in between 8 and 15 percent, you can see the disparity.
NBC is going to have to do something special to get people to tune in for the World Figure Skating Championships, which might get it's broadcast time cut after these disappointing numbers.
The even scarier part, next year there will be two weekends of Nationals in Spokane instead of the usual one. That's a tough road to hoe...especially if the U.S. market is struggling generating interest in figure skating.