SBD/Issue 72/Sports Media

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  • Longtime Sportscaster George Michael Passes Away At Age 70

    "The George Michael Sports Machine" Ended
    Its 27-Year Run In '07
    George Michael, a "high-rated and hyperanimated Washington sportscaster whose extensive use of game highlights from across the country on his nationally syndicated show has now become the norm in the industry," died Thursday from chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 70, according to Adam Bernstein of the WASHINGTON POST. Michael's "boisterous style and unremitting hustle made him one of the dominant personalities in Washington for years." He "represented sports as entertainment, with what some regarded as a team-friendly approach, especially to the hometown Redskins." Michael in '80 began hosting "The George Michael Sports Machine," a "trendsetting show that made liberal use of action highlights from games in addition to interviews and other reports." Syndicated columnist Norman Chad: "George wasn't the first to make videotape the king --  Warner Wolf did it before him -- but his rise at Channel 4 coincided with better technology to provide the highlights, the greatest sports boom in U.S. history and a profitable local news operation willing to spend time and money on its sports segments. It's amazing to think 'The George Michael Sports Machine' somehow survived ESPN. It was like the corner mini-mart continuing to sell milk, bread and eggs after Wal-Mart moved into town." Bernstein noted the show, which was syndicated to "almost 200 stations at its peak," was "one of the first to recognize the growing appeal of NASCAR." WTOP radio anchor Frank Herzog: "He brought NASCAR to Washington, where it had been ignored. Rodeo, bull riding, even the terrier races at the International Horse Show. He changed the way we looked at sports" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25).

    SPORTS INNOVATOR: In DC, Lipscomb & Weber wrote Michael's death ended a "larger-than-life career marked by groundbreaking innovations and an outsized personality that loomed over a no-non sense sports town brimming with characters." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder called Michael a "consummate reporter and a valuable friend." Snyder: "I doubt we'll ever again see a sports reporter who was so admired by the people he covered." Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said Michael "always was well-prepared for any topic, fair in his commentary, opinionated in his comments and entertaining in his delivery." Leonsis: "He was a role model for sportscasters in D.C. and around the country." ESPN's Len Elmore said Michael was "never full of himself despite being the man around town." PBR CEO Randy Bernard said Michael was "one of the greatest friends the PBR could ever ask for." Bernard: "He was one of the first mainstream sportscasters to recognize and promote the competition of bull riding, and much of the PBR's success was due to his support early on" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/25).

    REMEMBERING MICHAEL: In DC, Mike Wise wrote before he was a "good person to know in influence-heavy Washington, George Michael was simply a good person, whom we all should have had the privilege of genuinely getting to know" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25). The WASHINGTON EXAMINER’s Jim Williams wrote Michael, a "former big-time disc jockey," knew "how to make sports entertaining no matter what the sport was." Michael, "in many ways, sparked the creation" of ESPN's "PTI," by pairing hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon "together and giving them a chance to spar on air" on two of his weekly shows (EXAMINER.com, 12/24). In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote under the header, "Michael Leaves Legacy In All The Lives He Touched." But Shapiro noted Michael "had his critics, present company included, particularly in his earlier days on the air." In the beginning, he had an "annoying tendency to shy away from tough questions and too often got far too close to some of the athletes, coaches and owners he was supposed to be covering, a habit he never was able to break" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/24).

    PIONEER IN THE FIELD: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, "Before cable TV was in millions of homes George Michael brought us the world weekly." Michael was "an American original," and he "outworked just about everybody, never conceded stories to newspapers like just about every other TV sportscaster." Wilbon: "By will and force of personality as much as anything, George Michael made himself must-see TV" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/25). ESPN.com's Jim Caple wrote Michael "delivered sports highlights to famished fans who didn't even realize their stomachs were empty." Caple: "We're so inundated with this sort of thing now that it's difficult to remember how captivating his 'Sports Machine' was at the time. ... 'Sports Machine' was better than owning your own satellite dish" (ESPN.com, 12/25). In N.Y., Bruce Weber writes Michael was "known as a hard-working reporter," but also a "large personality, a bravado interviewer and an irreverent commentator" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/25). NBC’s Bob Costas noted Michael’s passing during “Football Night in America” (NBC, 12/27).

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  • CBS' Earns Net's Second-Highest NFL Late Window Overnight Of '09

    CBS earned its second-highest NFL national window overnight rating of the season yesterday, with Broncos-Eagles in the majority of markets and Jets-Colts in about 40% of markets. CBS' 16.4 overnight was up 19% from Fox' 13.8 rating in the Week 16 national window last year, which featured Falcons-Vikings. NBC earned an 11.6 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Cowboys-Redskins "SNF," down 10% from Panthers-Giants in Week 16 last season. The telecast was the top-rated show on all of TV in primetime and won the night for NBC. Dallas-Ft. Worth earned a 34.4 local rating, while DC earned a 24.5 rating (THE DAILY).

    NFL WEEK 16 OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGS
    NET
    '09 GAME
    RAT.
    NET
    '08 GAME
    RAT.
    % +/-
    Fox
    (single)
    9.4
    CBS
    (single)
    14.3
    -34.3%
    CBS
    (regional)
    11.9
    Fox
    (regional)
    8.0
    48.8%
    CBS
    Broncos-Eagles (57%)
    16.4
    Fox
    Falcons-Vikings (64%)
    13.8
    18.8%
    NBC
    Cowboys-Redskins
    11.6
    NBC
    Panthers-Giants
    12.9
    -10.1%

    NET GAINS: The NFL Network's Christmas night Chargers-Titans game earned 6.9 million viewers, marking the network's third most-viewed telecast ever and second most-viewed this season. The game pulled a 3.3 U.S. rating (6.9 coverage area rating). Flush with a new carriage deal with Comcast, the NFL Net's eight-game package averaged 5.5 million viewers, up 49% from last season's 3.7 million average viewers and up 20% from the previous high of 4.6 million viewers in '07. In '09, NFL Network also had four of its five most-watched games ever (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

    ROOKIE EVALUATIONS: In Houston, David Barron wrote of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, "Perhaps not since Hank Stram's days as the gleeful, wise-cracking coach of the Kansas City Chiefs has a coach-turned-broadcaster brought such a clearly defined persona from sideline to broadcast booth" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/25). However, in DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote, "Wouldn't it be nice if  [Gruden] toned down the hyperbole and stopped praising every player and coach on the planet during 'Monday Night Football?'" Shapiro added, "Wouldn't it be nicer if I didn't always have to ask myself whether it's Gruden talking, or Ron Jaworski? They really do sound alike." Meanwhile, Shapiro wrote it is time to "sing the praises of NBC broadcast rookies Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison," who have been "outstanding additions" to NBC's "Football Night In America." Dungy and Harrison offer "strong and more than occasionally controversial comments" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/24). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote NBC "seems to have finally come up a winner with" Dungy and Harrison. Dungy is the "more low-key of the two, more X's and O's analytical," while Harrison has "blossomed in his role as a guy fresh from the field" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/26). 

    BOOTH REVIEW: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes while reports yesterday linked CBS studio analyst Bill Cowher with the Buccaneers coaching job, Cowher said "not a thing" about the reports during "The NFL Today." Jones: "One can respect Cowher's policy of not discussing a coaching job that is not open, but CBS dropped the ball. ... The fact that it was one of their own and he was sitting there available for comment made it more imperative for CBS to address it." Meanwhile, Jones writes while Fox play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert is "as solid as they get," he "just can't warm up to" analyst Daryl Johnston and sideline reporter Tony Siragusa. Johnston and Siragusa often "say things we already know" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/28).

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  • Christmas Day Rating Up For Celts-Magic, Down For Cavs-Lakers

    ABC earned a 3.8 overnight rating for its Christmas Day Celtics-Magic telecast, up from the comparable Spurs-Suns on Christmas Day last year. In the late slot on ABC, Cavaliers-Lakers was down 17% from the comparable Celtics-Lakers matchup last year. On ESPN, the 12:00pm ET Heat-Knicks matchup was up 33% from Hornets-Magic in the same time slot last year. ESPN aired only one Christmas Day game in '08 (THE DAILY).

    CHRISTMAS DAY NBA OVERNIGHT RATINGS ON ABC
    GAME
    RATING
    '08 GAME
    RATING
    % +/-
    Celtics-Magic
    3.8
    Spurs-Suns
    3.6
    5.6%
    Cavaliers-Lakers
    5.0
    Celtics-Lakers
    6.0
    -16.7%
    CHRISTMAS DAY NBA METERED-MARKET RATINGS ON ESPN
    Heat-Knicks
    2.0
    Hornets-Magic
    1.5
    33.3%
    Clippers-Suns
    1.1
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    Nuggets-Trail Blazers
    1.4
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a

    CHRISTMAS CHEER? Magic coach Stan Van Gundy prior to his team's game against the Celtics Friday said, "If I had my way, we'd take a five-day break at Christmas. I think we get a little carried away with ourselves in sports thinking we're so much more important than everything else. But that's the way it is: there's nothing more important than the NBA, and it has to be the focal point of your Christmas Day. I guess that's the way it is." Van Gundy added, " I know this: I won't watch one second of any of the other four games today. I have no interest whatsoever. I'm a big basketball guy, but this is a day to spend time with your family. ... I actually feel sorry for people that have nothing better to do on Christmas Day than watch an NBA game." Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of playing on Christmas Day, "It's gonna happen, so why fight it? I tend to try to look at it as a reward for good play and us doing our jobs well" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/25).

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  • Comcast, MASN Reach Settlement In Carriage Dispute

    Comcast and MASN have "reached a settlement" in their legal fight over carriage of the sports net, according to John Eggerton of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. The parties have "jointly asked, and been granted, dismissal of MASN's program carriage complaint," which was being considered by FCC Chief Administrative Law Judge Richard Sippel. That means certain unspecified Comcast markets will start carrying MASN as soon as the upcoming MLB season. MASN had alleged Comcast discriminated against it by refusing to carry the RSN in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Tri-Cities region of southwestern Virginia, and Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, as well as "in various cable systems in smaller communities where Comcast has cable systems within MASN's territory" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/23).

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  • Hachette Audio Proceeds With Plans To Release Woods Book

    Tiger's '01 Best Seller Set
    For Audio Book Release
    Hachette Audio in May will release Tiger Woods’s '01 best seller, “How I Play Golf,” as an audio book, according to Andrew Adam Newman of the N.Y. TIMES. Hachette Audio’s spring-summer '10 catalog, which was mailed recently to bookstores and journalists, promoted the Woods book. Hachette Audio and Digital Media Publisher and Dir Anthony Goff wrote in an e-mail, “The catalog went to bed months before the scandal unfolded. We had no idea he’d be all over the news for anything other than his golf game.” The catalog states the book will be promoted with “Father’s Day promotions,” which Adam Newman writes is “awkward, perhaps, since the fact that” Woods has two children and is dealing with marital infidelities. Goff wrote, “We feel any marital infidelities wouldn’t impact his solid golf advice in the least. We were selling this title into stores for Father’s Day promotions not for personal relationship advice, but for tips on the game, which are still completely valuable to anyone who knows golf.” The audio release “was originally scheduled to coincide with a paperback edition” of “How I Play Golf,” which has now been postponed, according to Rick Wolff, vice president and executive editor of Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette. But Wolff wrote in an e-mail the decision was made because the hardcover “still sells well. …This was postponed long before Tiger ran into his current troubles” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/28).

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  • TMZ Boss Hopes Planned Sports Side Provides Outsider Coverage

    SI Golf Editor Calls TMZ' Sourcing On
    Tiger Woods Story "Beyond Flimsy"
    TMZ Exec Producer Harvey Levin confirmed plans to launch a sports Web site, bringing a "new phase for TMZ’s advertising sales, which have not kept up with the site’s popularity," according to Brian Stelter of the N.Y. TIMES. Levin "sees a lot of what he calls agenda reporting in sports," and he "sees an opening for coverage by an outsider, free of potential conflicts of interest, like league licensing deals." Levin: "I don't really see a difference between a sports star and a celebrity." Stelter notes SI Golf Group Managing Editor James Herre in an interview on Golf.com "called TMZ's sourcing on recent pieces about [Tiger] Woods 'beyond flimsy.'" But Levin "defended the reporting," saying TMZ "has the same rigid standards as any operation in America" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/28). Magic C Dwight Howard said of the launch of a TMZ sports site, "I don't know what the world is coming to, that's all I can say." Howard: "I don't want to get on TMZ's bad side. Seems like people want to hear more about bad stuff than good stuff, which is supposed to be the opposite way around." In Orlando, Tania Ganguli noted Magic GM Otis Smith "wasn't really surprised" by the plans for the site. Smith: "We are in the entertainment business. Unfortunately you can't segment your life. The only thing you can control is your house. Once you're in your house. When you go to the Internet and Twitter and Facebook and MySpace, then you're inviting outside in" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/24).

    WAVE OF THE FUTURE? In Detroit, Mitch Albom wrote over his years in the business, "when the game was over, when the quotes had been gathered, when the story had been written, I felt the job had been done for the day." Albom: "It wasn't my obligation to then follow the athlete into a bar or sneak around outside his hotel room. But I fear soon that's where 'sports news' may begin." Albom added, "Sex sells. Gossip sells. Bad behavior sells. The TMZ approach of capturing your worst moments and splashing them around the world will be a hard thing for more conservative news outlets to ignore" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote, "As the new decade begins, athletes are now grist for the paparazzi, and the food chain of sports journalism is scrambled beyond recognition" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 12/25).

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