SBD/Issue 244/Sports Media

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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