SBD/Issue 244/Sports Media

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  • CBS Sees U.S. Open Overnights Up 18% Over '08 For First Three Days

    Nadal's Presence Helps Boost CBS'
    Sunday U.S. Open Ratings By 31%
    CBS is averaging a 2.0/5 overnight Nielsen rating for the U.S. Open through its first three days of coverage, up 18% from a 1.7/4 last year. Sunday’s coverage from 11:00am-6:00pm ET earned a 2.1/6 overnight, up 31% from a year ago, and also marks the highest-rated Labor Day Sunday for the U.S. Open since a 3.0/8 in ’06. That year included Andre Agassi’s final match at the tournament (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Bob Kimball notes CBS' telecast on Sunday was up over the comparable day last year due to the presence of Rafael Nadal and Venus and Serena Williams (USA TODAY, 9/9).

    FLIPPING CHANNELS: In L.A., Diane Pucin noted with John Isner leading Andy Roddick 4-3 in the first set of their third-round match Saturday, CBS "signed off for the day and sent viewers off to the Tennis Channel for the finish, which turned out to be the biggest upset of the men's Open" after Isner beat Roddick in five sets. USTA Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Chris Widmaier said that the move was "part contractual obligation and part prudence on CBS' part," as Tennis Channel "had to go on the air exclusively" at 7:00pm ET. CBS "realized it would not get the Roddick-Isner match to its conclusion and made the decision to go off the air" at 6:00pm as scheduled (LATIMES.com, 9/6). In N.Y., Marc Berman wrote the "switch-off was reminiscent of the infamous 'Heidi' affair in 1969" (N.Y. POST, 9/7). SI.com's Jon Wertheim wrote the move was a "boon to those who get" Tennis Channel, and "agony for those who don't." But Wertheim added, "The outrage should be with your cable operator" (SI.com, 9/7).

    WORKING WELL TOGETHER: The WASHINGTON EXAMINER's Jim Williams wrote, "What has become apparent to tennis fans throughout the country is that the working relationship between the team at ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel is a perfect match." The play-by-play and analysis have been "outstanding," and "since every top notch broadcaster who does tennis is at some point on the air what's not to like?" Tennis Channel has a "strong roster" of on-air talent, and the "talented duo of Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova has been very entertaining as well as informative" (EXAMINER.com, 9/8).

    STRIFE CONTINUES: Cablevision Saturday in a statement said it has "had a channel open and ready since before the U.S. Open" for Tennis Channel, with which the MSO has an ongoing carriage dispute. Cablevision said Tennis Channel "has continued to withhold their programming, because they are angry about being held to the terms of a contract they willingly entered into" with the National Cable Television Cooperative, which Cablevision recently joined. Cablevision: "We think it was a bad decision by the leadership of the Tennis Channel" (NEWSDAY, 9/6). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote, "It's absurd that every sports TV entity that comes down the pike believes it has a God-given right to distribution on basic cable or at least digital basic, regardless of whether a broad swath of the viewing public wants it. Cable companies have every right to hold the line in hopes of keeping their rates reasonably affordable" (NEWSDAY.com, 9/7). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes regardless of the "additional coverage that Tennis Channel brings to the Open, a substantial portion of people are naturally disenfranchised." USTA Chief Business Officer of Professional Tennis J. Pierce O'Neil said of U.S. Open carriage on Tennis Channel, "It was a concern, but when we considered the pluses and minuses of the three-way partnership, we thought it was one worth taking on. We know Tennis Channel is committed to expanding its distribution, and we think they'll succeed." Sandomir writes maybe Tennis Channel "will one day grow to the size of the Golf Channel," but until that happens, "having Tennis Channel televise parts of the United States Open carries the risk of riling fans who cannot find the same satisfaction, born of old habits, that they found during" USA Network's previous carriage of the tournament (N.Y. TIMES, 9/9).

    Writers Dissatisfied With Broadcasting
    Team Of Carillo, Enberg, McEnroe (l to r)
    MAC ATTACKS: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote, "Whoever thought it was a good idea to pair John McEnroe with Mary Carillo at the U.S. Open tennis tournament should be barred from working on television." Zelkovich: "Why do we need three people to tell us what's happening, especially when two are trying to top each other with clever lines?" (TORONTO STAR, 9/7). SI.com's Wertheim awarded ESPN a "B+" for its opening week coverage of the U.S. Open, as there is "lots to like about the debut coverage." But the John McEnroe-Patrick McEnroe announcing team "needs to be reconsidered," for as "strong as they are individually, when paired together it feels like they're both playing out of position" (SI.com, 9/7). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote John McEnroe, "normally alert and prepared, seemed to mail it in during the first week." Meanwhile, ESPN's Pam Shriver's interviews "have been superb -- relaxed, relevant and brief" (N.Y. POST, 9/8).

    TALENT REVIEWS: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote one of the "big networks needs to pay attention to the work being done by Martina Navratilova on the Tennis Channel." Navratilova is "respectful of players, but she also isn't afraid to offer brutally honest criticism," and she "doesn't do it arrogantly." Jones: "Bottom line: She tells it like she sees it. In the future, she needs to be calling Grand Slam finals for one of the major networks" (TAMPABAY.com, 9/6). In Daytona Beach, Michael Lewis wrote ESPN is "doing a great job overall on the Open," but host Hannah Storm is "mispronouncing names left and right." Lewis: "When you have 7 other people who could do what she does, and they're all sitting two feet away, why have her out there?" (NEWS-JOURNALONLINE.com, 9/8). Blogger Ken Fang wrote on his Twitter feed, “Mary Carillo has got to stop doing the puns. It's really annoying after watching this all year.” SI’s Richard Deitsch wrote, "I try to be judicious with the word 'brutal' but The Tennis Channel's Kevin Frazier is brutal as a studio host. Need an upgrade in '10” (TWITTER.com, 9/7).

    SO LONG, BUD? In N.Y., Bob Raissman asked whether ESPN's Bud Collins is "on the way out" with the net. Sources indicated that Collins, who is in the second year of a two-year deal, "likely will be ousted" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/6). SportsBusiness Journal's Daniel Kaplan wrote on his Twitter feed, "Just heard ESPN dumping Bud Collins after Open; are they nuts, he is the only analyst that in any way remotely different; their loss, and fans too" (TWITTER.com, 9/8).

    BEHIND THE SCENES: In N.Y., John Branch wrote the epicenter of the U.S. Open is an "obscure, windowless room" at Arthur Ashe Stadium where TV and tennis execs "come and go all day" as they work on the schedule of play. A meeting is held in the Zim Room, named for late Deputy Referee Jim Zimmerman, each day at noon, and reps from the ATP World Tour, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, CBS, ESPN, Tennis Channel and int'l broadcasters "strenuously voice their desires for the next day's schedule." Officials throughout the day "march in to request that certain matches be played at certain times on certain courts" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/6). Meanwhile, the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL's Lewis wrote, "How much does ESPN love this Melanie Oudin story?" Lewis cited sources as saying that ESPN officials "tried to get the Open schedulers" to put tonight's Oudin-Caroline Wozniacki match after the Roger Federer-Robin Soderling match so Oudin "could be on in prime time across the country" (NEWS-JOURNALONLINE.com, 9/8).



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  • Alabama-Virginia Tech Earns 4.2 Overnight Rating On ABC

    ABC earned a 4.2 overnight Nielsen rating for the Alabama-Virginia Tech Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff Saturday night, marking the highest-rated game during college football's '09 opening weekend. The rating is up 5.0% from a 4.0 for regional coverage last year that was highlighted by Alabama-Clemson. ABC's Saturday afternoon regional coverage, which featured Georgia-Oklahoma State in 78% of markets, earned a 3.4 overnight, up 6.3% from a 3.2 for regional coverage last year. Notre Dame's 35-0 defeat of Nevada earned NBC a 1.3 overnight rating, down 51.9% from Notre Dame's first NBC telecast last year against San Diego State, and down 45.8% from '07, when the team opened against Georgia Tech. ESPN's highest-rated game of the weekend was BYU-Oklahoma on Saturday night, which earned a 3.3 cable rating and 4.562 million viewers, up from a 1.9 cable rating and 2.585 million viewers for Illinois-Missouri, which was the net's first Saturday night telecast in '08 (THE DAILY).

    Corso Says He Was Nervous About Returning
    To "College GameDay" Broadcast Saturday
    GLAD TO BE BACK: ESPN's Lee Corso, who suffered a stroke in May, said his return as co-host of "College GameDay" Saturday "went all right." Corso: "I stumbled a couple of times. Getting what I want to say from my brain to my mouth is tougher now. A stroke affects your speaking, but I think the show went all right. I'll have to wait and see." Corso added, "I was really nervous. I was nervous because I didn't know if I would mess up or not. I was very, very nervous for this first show." However, Corso said he "never had a doubt that I would be here." Corso: "As a stroke victim, one of the things I found when I was reading about it is you've got to set a goal, or you won't pay the price that it takes to get through the speech therapy, the physical therapy and the occupational therapy" (SI.com, 9/7). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones noted "minor signs of his stroke are evident," as Corso "speaks a bit slower and with a slight slur." However, they are "barely noticeable because Corso's mind, enthusiasm and opinions remain as sharp as ever" (TAMPABAY.com, 9/6).

    LOSING SIGHT OF THE FIELD: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick dubbed the Alabama-Virginia Tech broadcast as the "Worst ESPN-like Telecast." The dominant theme of the game, which was "brought to you as 'The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game presented by Southwest Airlines as part of Dick's Sports Kickoff Week, followed by the Ford Wrap-Up Show,'" was that ESPN "had a NASCAR race the next day" (N.Y. POST, 9/8).

    STATING THEIR CASE: POYNTER ONLINE's Al Tompkins reported six of the "most important journalism groups" sent a letter Friday morning to the Big Ten Conference "protesting new restrictions on the media's coverage of college football." The organizations, which included the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the Online News Association and the American Society of News Editors, "argued that the new restrictions would prevent journalists from giving viewers and readers the sports coverage they have come to expect from news organizations" (POYNTER.org, 9/4).

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  • It's Just Lunch: Fox Sports Launching Five New Weekly Webcasts

    Billick's "Coachspeak" To Be Part Of
    Fox Sport's "Lunch w/Benefits"
    Fox Sports is launching its most ambitious digital play to date, setting up a digital entertainment division and rolling out five Webcasts that it will update weekly. Fox Sports Interactive Senior VP/Operations Jeff Husvar will oversee the Fox Sports Digital Entertainment unit, reporting directly to Fox Sports Chair David Hill. Fox beginning Monday will launch five webisodes each weekday at 1:00pm ET under the marketing banner "Lunch ­w/ Benefits." Fox is trying to appeal to office workers as they go on their lunch break, saying research shows that lunchtime is considered primetime online. The shows will be between 20-30 minutes long and will be updated once a week. The first show to launch will be "The Afterparty with Jay Glazer" (Monday), followed by "Coachspeak with Brian Billick" (Tuesday), "The College Experiment" (Wednesday), "Cubed" (Thursday) and "Inside Call" (Friday), with Fox NFL Sunday talent. There is a pipeline of about six other shows that are set to replace shows that do not perform well. Husvar said he expects about 50,000-100,000 concurrent streams for each show. "Not all will resonate," Husvar said. "We will continue to roll out more concepts. We're committed to this endeavor for the foreseeable future." The Billick show soft-launched yesterday and can be seen on FoxSports.com.

    RUBIK'S CUBED: The show likely to create the most buzz is "Cubed," where three "office drones" talk about sex and sports, often using foul language. Fox' release says, "Nothing is off limits as this show plans to push the line as far as it will go. ... The easily offended would be advised to surf elsewhere." Fox is selling ads to support the show and will integrate them using pre-roll and product integration. So far, three of the five shows have sold, though Husvar would not identify which shows or advertisers have climbed on board. Fox Sports' George Greenberg and Judy Hoang and FoxSports.com' Ed Bunnell will be part of the digital entertainment unit, reporting to Husvar.

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  • NASCAR.com Partnering With Speed On New Broadband Channel

    NASCAR.com is launching a new broadband channel today in partnership with Speed that will include three original Webisode series, event coverage and shoulder programming from the motorsports-centric network, as well as other original content. Turner Sports, which manages and sells NASCAR.com for the sanctioning body, is branding the broadband channel "NASCAR on Speed." In addition to being available on NASCAR.com, the new channel can also be accessed from the NASCAR section of Yahoo Sports as part of Turner's alliance with Yahoo. Programming features on "NASCAR on Speed" include:

    * "Victory Lane Fan Finish" with Speed's Kenny Wallace, Jimmy Spencer and John Roberts, who answer questions from viewers after the race.

    * "Speed's Race & Chase Preview" with Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle, Chad Knaus and Steve Byrnes, where they break down the upcoming Sprint Cup Chase race.

    * "Speed's Rutledge at Large," in which Rutledge Wood will be hamming it up with drivers at the track.

    Other Speed programming, such as NASCAR RaceDay, Trackside and NASCAR Live, will appear on the broadband channel as well. Turner Sports VP & GM of Sports Digital Matthew Hong called the partnership a "groundbreaking collaboration between two of the top brands in the sport." Turner owns the Web rights for any footage shot at the track during NASCAR event weekends.



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  • Say How: Former NFLer To Star In "Sports Jobs" Show On Versus

    Seau Attempts To Serve As Forrest Griffin's
    Cornerman On "Sports Jobs With Junior Seau"
    Versus formalized plans to launch a reality series starring former NFL player Junior Seau. The series, titled "Sports Jobs with Junior Seau," will launch December 2 and take up the 10:00-10:30pm ET time slot on Wednesday nights. The show will star Seau as he tries his hand at various jobs, including serving as a batboy for the Dodgers, a caddy for golfer Natalie Gulbis and a cornerman for UFC fighter Forrest Griffin. Versus has ordered 10 episodes; so far four have been shot. Seau said his show will be different from other reality shows starring athletes like Cavaliers C Shaquille O'Neal and Bills WR Terrell Owens. Seau: "This is not a reality show. It's a documentary. Their shows are basically about them. Our show is about finding a group of people that don't get credit and deserve credit." Seau described his time as a batboy for the Dodgers during a homestand against the Brewers, where one of his duties was washing Matt Kemp's car. "It was humbling," he said. "I can't remember the last time I washed a car" (John Ourand, Staff Writer). In San Diego, Nick Canepa notes Seau "sees this role as a kind of homage to the behind-the-scenes people who helped him along the way." Seau: "It gives me a chance to give something back. I've always embraced those guys. They never get any love and don't ask for it" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/9). DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine noted the show is "similar to Discovery's 'Dirty Jobs' with host Mike Rowe but not as grimy." Andy Meyer, Neil Mandt and Michael Mandt will serve as exec producers of the show (VARIETY.com, 9/8).

    FIGHT NIGHT: Last night's episode of ABC's "Shaq Vs." featured O'Neal boxing against Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya: "Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would want to box against me. I've been boxing since I was four-years-old." Former boxer Bernard Hopkins served as De La Hoya's corner man, while trainer Freddy Roach was in O'Neal's corner. De La Hoya won the five-round fight via unanimous decision ("Shaq Vs.," ABC, 9/8). O'Neal said the Cavaliers have expressed concern that he could be injured filming the series, but he said, "I just told them, 'Don't worry about it. I'm going to go out there and respect everybody and respect myself and not put myself or put the team in jeopardy.'" He did say Cavs GM Danny Ferry "wanted me to use headgear" against De La Hoya. ("PTI," ESPN, 9/8). O'Neal added a second season of the show has been picked up, in which he will challenge "seven more athletes, and I'm still talking" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/8). 

    TIME TO GET MORE POPCORN READY: VH1 today picked up the option for a second season of Owens' reality series "The T.O. Show" (VH1). VH1 President Tom Calderone in an e-mail said the net is "extremely happy with the ratings both in Buffalo and nationwide." Calderone: "The great thing about the ratings, besides the premieres, is that the repeats are holding up well too" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/5).

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  • People & Personalities: Recently Retired Tedy Bruschi Joins ESPN

    Former NFLer Tedy Bruschi has joined ESPN as a football analyst, debuting tomorrow on "NFL Live" at 4:00pm ET. Bruschi also will provide analysis on ESPNBoston.com, "Monday Night Countdown" and several other ESPN platforms, including ESPN Radio and "SportsCenter" (ESPN). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the "hiring season never ends at ESPN, where there seems to be an endless budget for the addition of former football players and coaches." ESPN currently employs approximately 23 former players and coaches for its NFL coverage, making it "hard not to wonder whether ESPN's goal is quantity not quality" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/7).

    Kerrigan Will Provide Video
    Reports From '10 Games For Stats
    SHARPENING THE SKATES: Stats LLC has signed Olympic silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan to provide exclusive video reports from the '10 Vancouver Olympics. Kerrigan's analysis and feature pieces from Vancouver will be licensed out to a select portion of Stats' battery of online and mobile clients on a premium-level basis. The effort furthers an ongoing strategy by Stats, co-owned by News Corp. and the AP, to expand beyond its traditional base of statistics, news updates and other similar content and develop more feature-oriented, and personality-driven forms of information. Stats also pursued a similar alignment in Beijing with several former Olympic medalists represented by Arluck Promotions. Stats signed Kerrigan through the Lynnfield, Mass.-based StarGames LLC, which represents her (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    THE BIGGER, THE BETTER: The Washington Post and sports columnist Michael Wilbon Monday launched "World Wide Wilbon," a new section on the paper's Web site offering Wilbon's "insights, thoughts and opinions." Wilbon wrote, "Some posts here will be a lot like the pieces people traditionally associate with my work. ... Some might remind you of mini-columns, and some will play with new forms of storytelling. Some will also give me a chance to report and write about things I wouldn't otherwise get into the newspaper" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/7)....SI.com's Peter King is launching a new weekly NFL column, posted every Friday throughout the '09-10 season and running between 1,000-1,200 words (SI.com, 9/7).

    NOTES: MLB agent Gregg Clifton said that P Tom Glavine is "unlikely to attempt a comeback next season," and Clifton has "begun fielding calls for broadcasting opportunities" for Glavine (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/6)....ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y. has added former ESPN and CBS reporter Bonnie Bernstein to "The Michael Kay Show," effective Monday. Bernstein also will contribute to 1050espn.com and ESPNNewYork.com, which launches in '10 (ESPN)....Baltimore-area sports broadcaster Ted Patterson has retired after a 45-year career in which he worked "just about every sports gig around" (Baltimore SUN, 9/7).

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  • Media Notes

    ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper indicated the net plans to bid for the U.S. TV rights to the '14 and '16 Olympics, saying ESPN is "having discussions" with the IOC. Skipper: "We'll be there." Meanwhile, Fox Sports VP/Communications Dan Bell indicated that Fox also will bid for the rights. Bell: "The Olympics are one of the premier sporting events in the world and we will absolutely be a part of the bidding process when the time comes." USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy wrote, "You'd think NBC would have the inside track on TV rights to the 2014 and 2016 games. But ESPN/ABC will likely be a strong competitor" (USA TODAY, 9/8).

    CATS' CRADLE: In Charlotte, Mark Washburn reported WFNZ-AM is "said to be closing in on a contract to broadcast" Bobcats games this season. The team's games last season "were marooned on a Spanish station when WOLS-FM flipped formats from oldies in January" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/5).

    NOTES: NBC Sports has launched a Notre Dame Central App for iPhone and iPod touch users allowing access to live MobiTV-powered coverage of all Notre Dame home football games (NBC)....Cox Communications has launched the Big Ten Network in the Omaha, Nebraska, market. The move is a "boon for Iowa Hawkeye fans as the Omaha DMA spills into western Iowa, part of the conference's footprint" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 9/5).

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