SBD/Issue 172/Sports Media

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  • Hit The Bricks: Indy 500 Overnight Rating Down 17.6% From '08

    ABC Earns 4.2 Overnight Rating For
    Castroneves' Indy 500 Win
    The 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, which featured IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves winning his third race at the Brickyard, earned a 4.2 overnight Nielsen rating on ABC from 1:00-5:00pm ET. The rating is down 17.6% from a 5.1 overnight for the '08 race, the first following the IRL-Champ Car merger. This was ABC/ESPN's first IndyCar broadcast of the season; the first three races of the season were on Versus (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the rating is the lowest since the race "got live start-to-finish TV coverage in 1986." He writes, "You have to wonder: What's left, theoretically, that could resurrect the Indianapolis 500's drawing power?" Danica Patrick, who finished third in the race, "was supposed to bring star power if she could also be a contender on the track" (USA TODAY, 5/27).

    ALPHABET SOUP: In St. Petersberg, Tom Jones wrote ABC's coverage "was solid, especially in the first half-hour of the race and of the controversial wreck in the first lap between Mario Moraes and Marco Andretti." The net "showed plenty of hustle by tracking down both drivers for emotion-filled interviews." However, while ABC's Jack Arute "does a good job" as a pit reporter, Jones wondered why he was "putting a Firestone cap on the head of Helio Castroneves and handing him the bottle of milk after Castroneves won?" Jones: "Completely inappropriate" (, 5/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote ABC milked Castroneves' "drama for all it was worth, focusing on his weepy, hand-holding family in the race's closing laps." ABC's Marty Reid alluded to Castroneves' recent acquittal of tax evasion charges, saying during the final laps of the race, "Five weeks ago, Helio Castroneves was staring at jail. An orange suit -- not a race suit" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote in an online chat, "ABC gets a C. I never thought I'd say this: Bring back Versus" (, 5/25). Meanwhile,'s live blog of the race wrote of Patrick, "She'll take third and the MASSIVE airtime given to her by ABC. Might need to add a 'D' to that network to account for the excessive coverage [of Patrick]" (, 5/24).

    EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote the best part of the Indy 500 was that viewers "didn't need (announcers) to explain the day's most dramatic stories," as it was what the "cameras, reporters and radio transmissions captured that told the best stories." ABC captured Moraes "stridently professing his innocence" in the wreck with Andretti, but later was "shown in tears at trackside." Meanwhile, when Dario Franchitti "pulled away from the pit with the fuel hose still attached after a misunderstanding, he was overheard in a surprisingly calm voice telling his crew, 'We need to be clearer on the hand signals'" (TORONTO STAR, 5/25). Meanwhile, Zelkovich wrote coverage of motorsports sometimes "provides way too much information." Zelkovich: "When the pit reporters are talking about wing adjustments, downforce, fuel position 3 vs. fuel position 4 and a whole lot of other gearhead stuff, millions of eyes are glazing over" (, 5/25).

    Castroneves Climbs Fence After Win Despite
    Official Trying To Keep Him In Car
    JUMPING THE FENCE: The INDY STAR's Cavin noted an on-track official tried to force Castroneves to drive to Victory Lane immediately after he won instead of allowing him to climb the fence, per his tradition after winning a race. Cavin: "ABC was running out of air time" (, 5/25). Castroneves said, "I was trying to get out of the car, and he was pushing me back. I'm like, 'Wait a minute.' I can hear the crowd going crazy. I just want to celebrate with the fans. ... Finally, he realized I really wanted to get out of the car and go climb the fence. Thank God they allowed me to do that" ("Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain," Speed, 5/24). 

    RUNNING TWO WIDE: In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis noted ABC utilized side-by-side coverage during commercial breaks in the broadcast, a strategy NASCAR does not use on a weekly basis. Willis wrote of NASCAR: "They tinkered with a similar idea a couple of years ago but it didn't score points with the advertisers, I guess. Imagine that" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 5/26).

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  • TNT, ESPN Both Seeing Double-Digit Aud Increases For NBA Playoffs

    Nuggets-Lakers Series Helping ESPN Record
    Viewership Gains For Playoffs
    TNT is averaging 4.310 million viewers through 40 NBA Playoffs telecasts through Sunday, up 18.7% from 3.631 million viewers for 39 telecasts at the same point in '08. Meanwhile, ESPN's 16 postseason telecasts have averaged 4.049 million viewers, up 10.1% from 3.679 million viewers for 18 telecasts at the same point last year. ESPN's 5.7 cable rating and 7.886 million viewers for Thursday's Nuggets-Lakers Western Conference Final Game Two also marked the net's second-most viewed basketball game ever. For the week of May 18-24, the five NBA Playoffs telecasts between TNT and ESPN marked the five most-viewed telecasts on all of cable (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand noted the ratings are "partly supporting the notion that superstars such as [Lakers G] Kobe Bryant and [Cavaliers F] LeBron James can deliver casual fans." ESPN/ABC and TNT "could get an unusually big pop" in ratings if Nuggets-Lakers and the Magic-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals "go the distance -- despite the Lakers being the only one of the four remaining teams from a top-10 U.S. TV market" (USA TODAY, 5/26). In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote there are "some scholars -- maybe even [NBA Commissioner] David Stern -- who might suggest an NBA Finals matchup featuring LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, in terms of healthy TV ratings, will be bulletproof." Raissman: "Don't be so sure. It's become hard predicting how many eyeballs the NBA product can consistently bring to the tube" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/24).

    HOOP DREAMS: In DC, Tim Lemke writes the NBA Playoffs thus far "have provided the league and its broadcasters with precisely what they root for: long series filled with tense, competitive games." The ratings "appear to validate Turner, which signed an eight-year extension of its broadcast deal in 2007 that included a takeover of the league's cable and digital operations." Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy: "When I travel around the country people are talking about the NBA and these games. ... The games have been terrific. If you're a sports fan, you're tuning in." ESPN Senior Dir of Programming & Acquisitions Doug White added, "What you've been seeing with these playoffs is really the best form of reality television. It's unscripted, you don't know what you're going to get from night to night, and it has all of the drama and suspense you could ever hope for" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/27).

    IN THE BOOTH: Syndicated columnist Norm Chad wrote ESPN/ABC announcers Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy are "as enjoyable of a three-man booth as I have heard in a long, long time," as they "combine sensible play-by-play with smart conversation and minimal shtick." Breen understands that a good game is a "crescendo and reserves his most emotive calls for the biggest moments." Jackson speaks in "no-nonsense language, with a clipped, succinct rhythm," and Van Gundy is "frank, refreshing and unassuming, with a sneaky sense of humor" (Mult., 5/25). But in Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote, "My major question regarding the ESPN-ABC telecasts of the NBA playoffs: Why is Mike Breen part of the broadcast coverage?" Three announcers is "one too many, particularly when telecasts feature outspoken broadcasters like Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, who mix play-by-play with ongoing, strong commentary." Breen "too often gets caught in a verbal no-man's land." Meanwhile, TNT announcers Marv Albert and Doug Collins are a "smooth, veteran twosome who are in sync most of the time" (DENVER POST, 5/25).'s Bill Simmons wrote the "difference in quality" for TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley before and after his December DUI arrest "has been jarring." Simmons: "In a good way. He even looks lively during TNT's integrated commercial spots when he's trying to seem excited about 'X-Men'" (, 5/22).

    Columnists Write '09 Playoffs
    The Best In Recent Years
    TRULY AMAZING: In Phoenix, Bob Young wrote the NBA is "going to have to come up with a replacement" for its "Where Amazing Happens" and "Where Will Amazing Happen This Year" campaigns. The NBA Playoffs "blew right through 'Amazing'" during the Celtics-Bulls Eastern Conference first-round series. The postseason "somewhere along the way ... became 'Where Ridiculous Happens,'" as evidenced by James' "game-winning buzzer-beater of a fadeaway 3-point shot" during Magic-Cavaliers Game Two. It then "morphed into 'Where Astounding Happens' when Kobe Bryant hit his own 3-point clutch shot that ultimately led to a Lakers victory" in Nuggets-Lakers Game Three. Young: "We would argue that these playoffs already are headed toward being the best we've seen since 1994" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/25). SI's Lee Jenkins writes, "Call the first week of the conference finals May Madness. ... The NBA's final four is matching the college version thrill for thrill, heartbreak for heartbreak." The first five conference finals games "all featured severe momentum swings, impromptu tactical adjustments and heart-in-throat finishes" (SI, 6/1 issue). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote the "Where Amazing Happens" slogan "actually turns out to be almost underselling the product we've seen so far." The Playoffs "couldn't be better for hoop junkies everywhere." Every game is a "thriller," and "every outcome can't be decided until the last tick of the clock" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/24). In Charlotte, Langston Wertz Jr. writes the NBA "hasn't been this good since Chris Webber's Sacramento Kings were pushing the Lakers to an exhilarating seven-game Western Conference finals during 2002" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27).

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  • NHLPA Wants TV Partners To Promote Game More; Ratings Still Up

    Versus' NHL Conference Finals Telecasts Have
    Averaged 1.598M Viewers, Up 24.5% From '08

    Versus' five NHL Conference Finals telecasts through Saturday have averaged a 1.4 cable rating and 1.598 million viewers, up 16.7% and 24.5%, respectively, from a 1.2 rating and 1.284 million viewers through their first five Conference Finals telecasts in '08. Versus was the highest-rated ad-supported net on all of cable among males 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 for Saturday night's Penguins-Hurricanes Eastern Conference Finals Game Three. For 55 total postseason telecasts to date, Versus is averaging 721,000 viewers, up 32.1% from 546,000 viewers for 46 games through the same point last year (THE DAILY). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Liz Mullen reports NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly is "calling for league TV partners Versus and NBC to do more to promote the NHL and NHL players, citing players' growing frustration over hockey coverage." Kelly said that the fact that Game Seven of the Hurricanes-Bruins Eastern Conference Semifinal series did not air nationally until the conclusion of Game Seven of the Red Wings-Ducks Western Conference Semifinal series is a "'source of great frustration' to NHL players as well as the union." Kelly said of Versus, "It is not ESPN. It doesn't have a sports highlight show. It doesn't have a lot of properties people want to tune in to, unless you are a hunter or a fisherman or you like turtle wrestling" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/25 issue). Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz said the one change he would make if he were NHL Commissioner would be to "find a way to get NHL games back on ESPN" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/24). In Miami, George Richards wrote recently fired Flames coach Mike Keenan "sure could add some spice to [Versus'] bland production." Richards: "If I'm Versus, I have already put in a call" (, 5/22).

    WHY LEAVE? In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand writes under the header,"With Treatment It's Getting On Versus, Why Would NHL Leave?" The NHL's cable TV contract with Versus expires after the '10-11 season, and the league's ultimate decision "will come down to money." Ourand: "All things being equal, I think the league should stay with Versus." The common thread from people "bashing the Versus deal ... is that ESPN has a greater ability to expand the sport." However, some hockey execs "should temper their expectations" about a return to ESPN. Ourand: "I'm skeptical that ESPN would give as much focus or care to the NHL as Versus currently does. ... The NHL is the biggest sports property on Versus, and the network treats it as such" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/25 issue).

    Should NHL Cater Schedule
    To Comply With NBC's Wants?
    AT THEIR MERCY: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote it would be one thing for the NHL to "bend over for a television network from which it receives massive rights fees, ... but genuflecting for NBC, whose deal nets approximately $100,000 per team -- is a scandal that demands inspection." Scheduled gaps during the conference finals have "derailed the momentum that followed the first two terrific rounds," while the scheduling of back-to-back games to open the Stanley Cup Finals, with a potential Game Seven "apparently set for June 16, is an absurdity." Brooks: "What strange form of obedience is it, exactly, that has prompted commissioner Gary Bettman to destroy the NHL's playoff scheduling in order to satisfy NBC's whims?" (N.Y. POST, 5/24). In Vancouver, Cam Cole wrote every time one thinks the NHL "can't possibly sink any lower in its subservience to the great god Television," the league "gives us fresh evidence that there is still plenty of grovelling room in the sub-basement" (VANCOUVER SUN, 5/23).

    NORTH OF THE BORDER: TSN through 36 telecasts of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is averaging a record 651,000 viewers, up 35% from 482,000 average viewers last season. TSN2 aired five additional playoff games (TSN). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich noted the first weekend of the CBC's coverage of the conference finals produced audiences that "didn't even match the average for a regular-season Saturday night." Ratings in Canada typically "decrease until the final ... as long as there's no Canadian team involved," but there is "hope for solid ratings" for the Stanley Cup Finals. Zelkovich: "The thought of the kind of hockey that could be produced in a Detroit-Pittsburgh series should have hockey fans salivating, or at least breathing heavily" (, 5/26).

    NEW HOME FOR HOCKEY? The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor wrote, "I have to count myself among those saying this spring that TSN has outscored" the CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada." MacGregor: "This is said in part to compliment the growth of TSN in hockey." TSN play-by-play announcer Gord Miller has "grown nicely into the job," while analyst Pierre McGuire is "enthusiastic, has turned his between-the-benches stunt into industry standard and -- most significantly -- sees the game through 21st century eyes." MacGregor wrote that is "not said in order to slag 'Hockey Night in Canada' -- merely to beg the CBC to take it into the same century in which the rest of us live" (, 5/26). Meanwhile,'s Bruce Dowbiggin noted CBC analysts were "almost apoplectic" after the hit from Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall briefly knocked out Blackhawks RW Martin Havlat during Game Three of their Western Conferene Finals series. Kronwall was given a major penalty and a game misconduct, and the reaction from the CBC's studio panel of Kelly Hrudey, Mike Milbury and P.J. Stock was "livid." Dowbiggin: "That Kronwall's hit was a 'hockey play' was never in doubt." Milbury, as video of Kronwall hitting Havlat was shown, said, "They should put [referees Dan O'Halloran and Dave Jackson] on a bus tomorrow morning, get them out of the playoffs" (, 5/25).

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  • Fox Execs To Meet With Bud Selig To Address MLB Ratings Slump

    Ratings for Fox' Saturday afternoon MLB telecasts are "off 9% to date from last season, and 23% from 2000," and Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Lou D'Ermilio indicated that network execs "will head to Milwaukee next week to strategize with [MLB] Commissioner Bud Selig about reversing the downward trends," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. With MLB attendance "down about 4%, one might assume that television ratings would be up." But renewed interest in the NBA and NHL playoffs "might have postponed the general sports fans' usual springtime turn of attention to baseball." D'Ermilio said the purpose of the meeting with Selig is to "find a way to boost the ratings for the All-Star Game and the World Series." Futterman noted plans include "showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox's sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver." Fox said that it is "less concerned with the shrinking Saturday audience, since the regular season games represent about 10% of the value of the $255[M] annual rights fee the network pays." MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan "called the meetings routine and said it was too early in the season to draw any conclusions" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26).'s Rob Neyer wrote Fox' problem is that MLB "has become more parochial with each passing season." Neyer: "Twenty or 30 years ago, you watched games between teams you didn't love because those games were often all your had. ... But with the proliferation of the local team's games on cable and satellite and the Web, you can now watch almost every single game your favorite team plays, if you like. So why bother with some Saturday afternoon game between the Giants and the Phillies?" (, 5/26).

    EAST VS. WEST: In Boston, Bob Ryan addressed the start times for NLCS and World Series games on Fox this season being moved to 7:57pm ET. Ryan: "For decades upon decades, people from the East Coast have made all the viewing sacrifices. Those West Coast dilettantes haven't been asked to make any. It's time those pampered PDT/PSTers had to live with World Series, baseball playoffs, NBA Finals, and Final Four starting times that either a) prevent normal working people from seeing the finish of games or b) preclude the youth of America from watching these games at all. That's the reality of life on the East Coast" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/24).

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  • CCTV-IMG Partnership To Debut At Tennis Tournaments This Fall

    Beijing's China Open In October Will Be
    First Event Of CCTV-IMG Partnership
    IMG said that it has "received the necessary clearance to operate a joint venture" with China Central Television (CCTV) and will "kick off its 20-year sporting-event partnership with the state broadcaster by organizing two tennis events," according to Loretta Chao of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The CCTV-IMG venture was announced last August, but did not hold its first board meeting until yesterday. IMG officials Monday said that it took "longer than they expected to receive the licenses needed to begin operations." Chao reported CCTV Sports Dir Jiang Heping "will be chairman of the partnership, which is majority-owned by the broadcaster." The partnership intends to create sports events across the country that "could be broadcast on CCTV, which has the biggest daily audience in the world, with 740 million daily viewers." Financial details of the partnership have not been disclosed, but IMG Chair & CEO Ted Forstmann said that it was a "'modest' investment by the company." Forstmann added it is an investment "that can lead to nothing, or something really very important." An IMG spokesperson said that CCTV-IMG "will target sports covering various demographics, including polo and sailing in the luxury category, tennis and golf for the white-collar category, and American football for younger fans." Chao noted the "first events of the partnership" are Beijing's ATP World Tour/Sony Ericsson WTA Tour China Open in October and the ATP Champions Tour Chengdu Open in November (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26).

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  • Media Notes

    Millen Reportedly Upset He
    Isn't Replacing Kornheiser
    PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cited sources as saying that when former Lions President & CEO Matt Millen joined ESPN as a football analyst, he "did so with the understanding that if/when a spot opens in the ['MNF'] booth he would be given the assignment." A source said that Millen is "not happy about the fact that he didn't get" to succeed outgoing "MNF" analyst Tony Kornheiser, whom ESPN replaced with Jon Gruden. Millen reportedly "has tried to resurrect discussions" with NFL Network for the net's vacant game analyst position now that he "has been stiffed for a spot" on "MNF." But Florio reported it is "expected ... that the league-owned network will pass" (, 5/22). ESPN Exec VP/Production Norby Williamson said that "neither Millen nor anybody else besides Gruden was considered for the gig." In Miami, Barry Jackson writes the "loquacious Millen is better suited to a two-man booth." Meanwhile, Jackson wrote Kornheiser's decision to leave the show is the "best move for both parties -- and viewers, too." As "talented as Kornheiser is as a writer and sparring partner for Michael Wilbon" on "PTI," his time on "MNF" had "run its course" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/23).

    MAKING A PLAY? BROADCASTING & CABLE's Atkinson & Weprin report Turner's TruTV will feature a program tentatively titled "NFL Full Contact," which offers "some grid irony in behind-the-scenes looks at pro football." The show, which will be produced in conjunction with NFL Films, "may represent Turner's attempt to play up an interest in NFL rights." But Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy noted that the NFL is "extending deals with existing partners and there won't be an opportunity until 2013, making the notion premature" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 5/25 issue).

    ON THE DL: In Detroit, Tom Gage reports Tigers radio announcer Dan Dickerson missed last night's Tigers-Royals game and "will miss more after a jogging injury near the team hotel." The extent of his injuries was "not immediately known, but it's expected he will return home to Detroit today for surgery on his left leg, forcing him to miss the upcoming four-game series in Baltimore." FS Detroit announcer John Keating "joined Jim Price in the booth" for last night's game, but it is "not known if that makeshift team will continue" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/27).

    NOTES: In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote of Spike TV's "4th and Long" reality series, "This show is starting to exceed my expectations. It's really no nonsense football that has yet to go for theatrics" (, 5/26)....Outdoor Channel Holdings' aerial camera company Skycam has "inked a multi-year contract to provide services for ESPN sports coverage," including "MNF" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 5/27).

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