Fox Sports 1, Providence and How Far They’ve Come in Three Seasons Together

Before diving into Providence’s viewership numbers on Fox Sports 1 over the last 3 seasons, I think it’s important to take a jaunt down memory lane to regain some perspective on how the Big East began. I’d also like to remind people where Providence stood within the Big East conference 5 long years ago in May of 2011 as compared to where they stand after 3 short years in the current Big East. Recall that the Big East conference in May of 2011 consisted of 16 teams bloated by the focus on football. Many of the schools making up the 16 didn’t exactly fit the mold of what Dave Gavitt cooked up in the late 1970’s.

Gavitt envisioned East coast basketball schools coming together for each other’s benefit and that came to fruition in 1979 when Boston College, Connecticut (at the time, not a football school), Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse got together to form the original membership. Villanova joined a year later and then Pittsburgh was added in 1982. Georgetown won the Big East’s first national championship in 1984 but it was in 1985 that the little league of East coast schools announced itself as big time with 3 schools from the Big East making the Final 4. Georgetown beat St. John’s to advance to their second straight national title game but it would be Villanova winning in upset fashion over the vaunted Hoyas. Ah, those were the days.

Fast-forward to 5 years ago and the league’s membership consisted of Cincinnati, Connecticut (now a football school), DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s Seton Hall, South Florida, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia. Not exactly jiving with Gavitt’s enlightened dreams in 1979. In May of 2011, Providence was coming off a season that saw them finish 4-14 in league play and 15-17 overall. The Friars finished 14th in the final league standings after starting the year 11-2 in non-conference play. Their Big East schedule included a losing streak of 6 games to start the league calendar and a 7 game losing streak before beating Rutgers to finish the regular season with a win. That led to the firing of Keno Davis. Ed Cooley was hired in March of 2011.

Providence played a total of 9 games on national television that season, with 2 of those 9 being on the relatively unknown and lowly subscribed CBS College Sports channel. The other 7 games were spread among ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, including the final game of the year in a loss to Marquette in the Big East Tournament during which the ESPN commentators coined the name “Keno Avis” for Providence’s coach because his team had no D. The Friars lost that game, 87-60, and Davis was fired 3 days later.

Now that you have jogged your memory of the terrible times 5 years ago, let’s take a look at how Providence has fared since the Catholic 7 — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — took the Big East name with them to form the current league with new members Butler, Creighton and Xavier in 2013.

The Friars went 10-8 in Big East play in the first season and went on to win the Big East Tournament, something the school had only done one other time (1994). Providence won 23 games that season before falling to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, the first trip to the Big Dance for the Friars since 2004. The Friars played 31 games on national TV, including 22 on the new home of Big East basketball, Fox Sports 1.

Year 2 saw Providence go 11-7 in Big East play and advanced to the Big East Tournament semifinals where they would lose a very entertaining game to eventual winner Villanova. Providence won 22 games before losing to Dayton in the NCAA Tournament. It was Providence’s first back-to-back trip to the NCAA Tournament since Rick Barnes took the 1989 and 1990 Friar teams to the Big Dance. It was also the first time Providence received an at-large bid since the 2004 team led by Ryan Gomes. The 2014-15 Providence team was also ranked in the Top 25 of both the AP and Coaches’ polls during the season, which was the first time a Providence team was ranked in either Top 25 poll during a season since that 2004 team. Kris Dunn won Big East co-Player of the Year (sharing with Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono) and co-Defensive Player of the Year (sharing with St. John’s Sir’Dominic Pointer). The Friars played 27 games on national TV, including 1 on FOX.

Year 3 was Providence’s most successful campaign in the current Big East conference. The Friars went 10-8 in league play and advanced to the Big East Tournament semifinals for the third straight season before falling again to eventual national champion Villanova. Providence defeated USC in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament for their first NCAA Tourney win since 1997. They would go on to lose to eventual national runner-up North Carolina in the Second Round. Providence’s trip to the 2016 NCAA Tournament marked the first time the Friars made three straight trips to the Big Dance since Gavitt coached 1972, 1973 and 1974 Providence teams. It should be noted that Providence has only made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances one other time in school history and that was 1964, 1965 and 1966. They have never been to four straight NCAA Tournaments. The Friars were ranked in the Top 25 of the AP poll for 12 straight weeks and 13 straight weeks in the Coaches’ Poll, the longest streaks since 1978. Kris Dunn won Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Ben Bentil was also named to the Big East First Team and was the league’s Most Improved Player. The Friars played 31 games on national TV, including 2 on FOX.

Ok, now that you have full perspective on Providence in the 2010-11 Big East vs. Providence in the 2013-16 Big East, let’s dive into some viewership numbers for the Friars on FS1.

Providence has played a total of 89 games on national TV the last 3 seasons with 58 of those games being aired on FS1 as part of the Big East’s TV deal with Fox Sports. The average viewership in the 58 games aired on FS1 is 116,884. Perspective on that number is a little harder to find because there are plenty of factors that need to be considered for a new sports network and not all of them are definitive. To give you some idea, Providence’s average viewership for games on ESPN networks — ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU — over the last 3 seasons is 230,429. That average is comprised of 7 games between the three networks and is skewed a bit by Providence’s game on ESPN2 against Kentucky in November of 2014 when the viewership was 685,000. Small sample size is one of the complicating factors mentioned above. The next highest viewed game in that subset is 333,000 for Providence vs. Arizona this past November as part of the Wooden Legacy Tournament on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

In terms of a viewership trend, Providence actually had an average viewership dip from Year 1 to Year 2. However, Year 3 outclassed the other 2 years and there was a 6.24% increase from the previous high in Year 1 to the new high in Year 3. The increase from Year 2 to Year 3 was a more dramatic 63.67%. Some key games that helped numbers in Year 1 were Providence playing Kentucky and the Friars making it to the championship of the Big East Tournament. Those continue to be the two most-watched games for Providence on FS1 with the championship game against Creighton garnering 702,000 viewers.

Season

Games on Natl TV

Games on FS1

Avg Vwrs/Gm on FS1

2010-11

9

N/A N/A

2013-14

31

22 129,318

2014-15

27

18

83,944

2015-16

31

18

137,389

Providence Games on National TV 2010-11 Compared to 2013-16

Providence’s most-watched regular season Big East game on FS1 was their game against Villanova on February 6, 2016 when 221,000 viewers watched the Friars and the Wildcats in a 2:30pm matinee. Providence has played in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament all three seasons the games have been on FS1. Year 1 had 150,000 viewers when Providence beat Seton Hall to advance to the finals against Creighton. Year 2 had 250,000 viewers watch Providence take Villanova down to the wire before the Wildcats sealed the victory with free throws. Year 3, again pitting Providence against Villanova, had 353,000 viewers. The Year 3 game was played at 6:30pm, while the previous two were tipped at 7:00pm.

Big East Tournament Semifinal Total Viewership 2013-2016

The viewership numbers may not look overly pretty through 3 seasons with Fox Sports, but having the sheer volume of games televised nationally and easily accessible to fans is a huge upgrade over Providence’s prior arrangement as part of the football first Big East. I’m not sure you’d total 89 nationally televised games for the Friars if you went back to the days when Boston College was a league member. So, while the viewership exposure numbers may be down from what they were prior to this TV deal, the volume of viewership is much higher than before.

Do you have an opinion on the Fox Sports TV deal? I’d love to hear from you in the comments here, on Facebook, Twitter or email. Might as well also give you a poll to vote in too:

Viewership numbers are courtesy of a number of sources: PaintTouches.com, sportstvratings.com, SportsMediaWatch.com.

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One thought on “Fox Sports 1, Providence and How Far They’ve Come in Three Seasons Together”

  1. Nice article. TV is now relevant to All of the BE Teams. Gotta luv the volume of games. IMO the consistency of televised games throughout the league beats higher numbers on roughly 66% less volume on other networks. Plus the Fox numbers are rising annually. We got a great deal with Fox and the BE content is actually getting BETTER!

    Long Live the Big East!

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