Friday, December 19, 2003

Bengals' victories breed ratings, sales



By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Fans are happy, and the city has regained its pride in its NFL team, but there are more tangible effects of the Bengals' 2003 success.

Television ratings and merchandise sales are up, and the team is on the verge of setting a new single-season attendance record.

• Ratings of game telecasts have increased 27 percent in the local market, consisting of Cincinnati, Dayton and Lexington, Ky.

In 2002, Bengals games had a 20.8 rating, the percentage of households in a market tuned to a program. This year, the number is 26.4, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The Bengals' past five games - starting with the upset of previously undefeated Kansas City on Nov. 16 - have had a 30-plus rating, a level not reached even once in 2002.

• In the eight-month period April 1-Nov. 30, sales of Bengals merchandise on NFLShop.com are up 51 percent over the same span in 2002. And sales in November doubled October sales, though the Bengals remain in the bottom third of team sales, according to the NFL.

• Bengals home attendance is up an average of 6,400 a game over last year. Home attendance for 2002 was 422,235, the smallest of the three seasons in Paul Brown Stadium.

Attendance in seven home games - with one remaining - is 414,126, an average of 59,161. The Browns game Dec. 28 is a sellout, meaning an estimated 64,000 more fans will pass through turnstiles and bring the eight-game number to roughly 478,126.

That figure will set a new Bengals home attendance record, eclipsing the total of 473,288 in 1990.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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