Cable's Thursday Night Sports Feast: Too Much of a Nielsen Thing?


Thursday is a very good night to be a sports fan. Remote, computer and tablet at the ready, there is live action from two top-ranked college football affairs, a pair of high-profile NBA games, a duo of MLS playoff matches and an NFL contest to choose from on national cable networks.

But too many good things on too many screens figure to crimp all of their Nielsen styles on Nov. 7 to some extent.

You can start on TNT at 7 p.m. (ET), when Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers dock at American Airlines Arena to face LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the defending champion Miami Heat.  Chris Paul and company, though, are coming off a 98-90 loss to the Orlando Magic, which were led by 30 points and 21 boards from Nikola Vucevic.

The nightcap of the “drama” network’s doubleheader features Dwight Howard’s former squad, the LA Lakers, visiting his new digs at Toyota Center. What kind of host will the talented, but temperamental Rocket Man be in Houston Thursday night. Check in at 9:30 p.m. or thereabouts.

NFL Network has the recovering RGIII leading Dan Snyder’s Washington Not Politically Tribe against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. Not exactly one of pro pigskin's best presentations, but it is the N-F-L after all.

For its part, Fox Sports 1 is in the huddle with high-flying, sixth-ranked Baylor battling with No. 10 Oklahoma in a Waco, Texas tilt that should be anything but Bearish offensively. The telecast kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

On ESPN at 9 p.m., No. 3 Oregon touches down (how often) in Palo Alto, where No. 5 Stanford tries to throw itself back into the national title equation. Riding a 13-game home win streak, the Cardinal last home loss came to Oregon in 2011. The Ducks, meanwhile, have won straight on the road, last falling at Stanford in 2009. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is a Heisman hopeful, who just might take his flock where Chip Kelly never did. 

For those who prefer futbol, MLS is serving up a pair of elimination playoff games Thursday night:  Real Salt Lake versus the two-time MLS Cup defenders, the Los Angeles Galaxy, on ESPN2 at 9 p.m., and the northwest knockout between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders on NBCSN and Univision Deportes Network at 11 p.m.

With BCS implications abounding, Oregon-Stanford is clearly the most important game on the evening’s docket and should do big Nielsens. But given the aforementioned competition – not to mention broadcast’s best – it will be interesting to play Friday morning (actually, afternoon) quarterback and see if Ducks-Cardinal can challenge ESPN’s top, all-time Thursday night college football audiences.

The numbers to beat: Texas-Texas A&M with 6.69 million viewers on Nov. 26, 2009; USC-Oregon State with 6.46 million on Sept. 25, 2008; and West Virginia-Louisville with 6.39 million on Nov. 2, 2006.