U.S. Fans Abound For WWC Final LeBron Praised For Role In Apatow's "Trainwreck" MLS Eyeing St. Paul For Expansion Club Angels Bad PR Continues With Dipoto Exit NBA Free Agency Begins With Money Flying Expectations High For NASCAR On NBC NBC Lands New Advertisers For Race Coverage Going Off The Grid Steelers Exploring '23 Super Bowl Bid GT To Benefit Financially From Ireland Game
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CBS Earns 4.8 Overnight Nielsen Rating
For Last Night's NCAA Selection Show
CBS earned a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Selection Show from 6:00-7:00pm ET. The rating was flat with the show from last year. Meanwhile, ESPN's tournament selection special from 7:00-9:00pm earned a 1.4 metered-market rating, also flat from last year (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes CBS "turned in its usual predictable, workmanlike performance" during its coverage of the selection show yesterday, and "maybe that's not such a bad thing." The show was "concise" and "allowed casual fans to get basic information and move on." But Hiestand writes with the NCAA considering opting out of its deal with CBS, "imagine what else could change about overall coverage." If ESPN were to acquire the rights to the tournament, it is "not hard to imagine ESPN turning the selection show into a marathon yakfest ... that would go on and on across prime time." CBS "hardly milked ... the bracketology babble," as studio analyst Seth Davis "didn't exactly rage about the bubble team verdicts." But "not so" on ESPN, where its analysts "did more than quibble after CBS signed off." ESPN analyst Bob Knight said the tournament selection committee members "are not capable of judging basketball" (USA TODAY, 3/15). In Miami, Israel Gutierrez writes ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi "has created a franchise out of sports' best guessing game," and analyst Doug Gottlieb "gets to work that cool touch-screen thing on 'SportsCenter'" during the net's pre-selection show coverage. But all of that is "effectively nullified" should the tournament expand to 96 teams (MIAMI HERALD, 3/15).
Duke Given Easy Final Four
Path To Boost TV Ratings?
ULTERIOR MOTIVE? In K.C., Jason Whitlock writes the selection committee "treated Duke like the No. 1 overall seed rather than Kansas," as it provided Duke "a relative cakewalk to the Final Four." The "reality of why Duke was given a favorable draw" is that the NCAA is "desperate for television ratings." Whitlock: "Duke is television ratings gold, and the NCAA is in the process of negotiating a new TV contract for its prized tournament. ... No coach and no team moves the needle better than Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils" (K.C. STAR, 3/15). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes, "When it comes to Selection Sunday, the Blue Devils are the only sure winner, just about every year." Duke is the No. 1 seed in the South region, which "ended up with the weakest No. 2 (Villanova), weakest No. 4 (Purdue) and virtually no other legitimate national-title contenders." Kawakami: "You just can't beat Duke on Selection Sunday" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/15).
FINAL SWANSONG? DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote the tournament "possesses enough equity to ensure somebody will pay the NCAA billions for TV rights." CBS College Sports "will devote 80 hours of programming to complement the tournament," and CBS also is showing the Final Four in 3D in select theaters. Lowry: "If CBS is destined to lose the NCAA tourney to a rival bidder, the network looks determined to go down swinging" (VARIETY.com, 3/12).
MID-MAJOR TREATMENT: In Arizona, Greg Hansen wrote FSN's coverage of the men's Pac-10 tournament was "again so lifeless and uninspiring that you ache for Duke highlights narrated by Dick Vitale." By contrast, games at the Mountain West tournament seemed "important," and unlike "sourpusses Miles Simon and Don MacLean, the analysts at The Mountain don't rehearse how to smile." Hansen wrote FSN "failed to hire an authentic, national-level first team to call Pac-10 games, steal a recognizable face or two away from ESPN or CBS, and avoid opening the Pac-10's daily events with mystery guest hosts such as Michael Eaves." Hansen: "They treat it like the West Coast Conference" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 3/13).
TALENT REVIEWS: In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Knight in his third year on ESPN, "in addition to working as a studio expert, has moved comfortably into a courtside role." It is "probably too soon to anoint Knight as ESPN's best color analyst, because some fans may not appreciate a low-key lecturing style devoid of ongoing histrionics." However, Saunders writes, "Let's throw in that reserved cliché -- Knight knows the game" (DENVER POST, 3/15). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "Is ESPN kidding us or itself? It now needs to shove a 'bracketologist,' Joe Lunardi, down our throats, to tell us which teams are on the bubble?" Meanwhile, Mushnick writes ESPN and CBS analyst Jay Bilas "knows his stuff and shows up prepared, but he speaks college basketball as if it's a clinical diagnosis -- and it's not good news" (N.Y. POST, 3/15).
McManus, CBS Will Not Dwell
On Non-Golf Issues With Woods
CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf will be the "biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. McManus said, "It is hard to overestimate how much interest there will be. Woods is the most famous, most recognized, most accomplished athlete in the world, and his celebrity and prominence is even larger than it was. ... Whatever he does on the golf course for the first time since Thanksgiving will be of interest to almost every man and women in this country." Deitsch noted that "might not be hyperbole when you consider" the amount of interest in Woods' public apology last month. Fifteen U.S. networks aired the address live, including all broadcast networks, and "more than 6.5 million viewers tuned in to watch on the cable networks alone." An estimate that 20 million people watched the apology in some form is "probably low given social media." McManus said CBS will "primarily report on what is happening at the golf tournament" when Woods returns. McManus: "I don't think there is a lot of reason to dwell on what has happened in the past because it is one of the most exploited and overexposed stories in recent memory." McManus said that he initially told his broadcasters, including Nick Faldo, "not to speculate or give their opinion on what was happening with Tiger prior to the start of the PGA season." But he added, "That ceased as soon as the PGA Tour got underway and as soon as we did our first tournament. I told Nick: Say whatever it is you want to say about Tiger Woods. Having ... said that, I also said to other broadcasters unless Tiger Woods is a part of this story, I don't think there is a great need to give your opinion. ... But once we are doing a golf tournament, whether Tiger is in it or not, our announcers are free to express their opinion and there is no direction or advice on how and when to express that" (SI.com, 3/14).
SITTIN' ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY: Some reports have suggested Woods may make his PGA Tour return next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the event on NBC faces a "pretty high TV seed" airing opposite CBS' coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. But Woods' return "could turn TV viewing upside down that weekend." NBC's Johnny Miller argues that Bay Hill "would provide a sufficiently competitive tuneup and allow Woods to get 'all the hoopla ... behind him.'" Playing at Bay Hill could potentially "let Woods have a big impact on TV ratings in two sports" (USA TODAY, 3/15). Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year in just his third tournament back from knee surgery, and NBC earned a 4.4 Nielsen rating for its final-round coverage from 2:30-8:00pm. CBS averaged a 6.0 rating from 2:10-7:18pm for the Michigan State-Louisville and North Carolina-Oklahoma regional finals (THE DAILY). WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno: "I'll tell you one thing: If it's Bay Hill, if it's the Masters, the ratings are going to be off the charts" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/12). Golf.com Deputy Editor Dave Dusek said Woods' comeback "will get nearly Super Bowl-type ratings and attention. For golf in general, the buzz will be instantaneous" ("Today," NBC, 3/13).
READY FOR THE CIRCUS TO ROLL INTO TOWN: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem appeared on NBC’s coverage of the WGC-CA Championship yesterday and discussed Woods’ return, which several reports last week had at either the Arnold Palmer Invitational or The Masters. Finchem said, “I get this question about 300 times a day, and I think that's good because since his statement, that's what everybody's talking about. Everybody's done looking back at the circumstances that resulted in him stepping away from the game and they're focused on when he's going to play golf and I think that's really good.” Finchem said Woods’ apology last month shows the “extent of the media show that this will be when he first steps back, and so he recognizes that and his people recognize that and we will get some good notice (as to his return date).” Finchem: “I think if he's going to play at the end of March we'll hear pretty soon because he recognizes we need time to deal with it, although we feel like we're prepared in any particular week that he comes back. … I’m as excited as anybody else to see him back. I hope it's this spring, but my sense is we'll know pretty soon" ("WGC-CA Championship," NBC, 3/14).
Sporting News Still Offering Fantasy Content,
Advice, But Discontinuing Games Operation
Sporting News is discontinuing its fantasy games operation and will offer no new games, the latest significant move to occur with the brand under new President and Publisher Jeff Price. In a letter sent to Sporting News fantasy customers late Friday, Price said, "The fantasy industry is changing, and we feel it's best to devote our resources to providing the best fantasy content and advice on the Internet, and beyond." Questioned further about the decision, Price said Sporting News will relaunch Fantasy Source, its premium fantasy content service on sportingnews.com, this summer in time for fantasy football. Traditional, commissioner-style fantasy gaming remains dominated by Yahoo, CBS Sports and ESPN, making it more difficult for other outfits to achieve significant market share. The marketplace for fantasy games content, however, involves many more players with a wide range of information available. "Funny enough, this is the same decision I made at Sports Illustrated five years ago," Price said. "But by creating a brand new and much better experience with Fantasy Source, something we believe will be really special and unique, we have a great opportunity to best serve our avid fans." Strat-O-Matic games offered through Sporting News have been excluded from this decision.
DEAL REACHED WITH CBSSPORTS.COM: Sporting News last June, prior to Price's arrival a month ago, had struck a multi-year deal with L.A.-based RotoHog to develop a series of free and fee-based fantasy games across numerous sports that will now be discontinued. As part of the fantasy gaming shutdown, Sporting News has also struck a short-term partnership with CBSSports.com to allow fantasy baseball players to shift their leagues over there at a 50% price discount. But no decisions have been made as to any such long-term partnerships. "With baseball season about to start, we felt it was important to make sure our players were still taken care of," Price said. "As for anything else in this area, we'll take an open look." RotoHog will continue to offer a variety of fantasy games through its Web site and other media and distribution partners. "Jeff's got a laser focus on what he wants to do, and I understand," said RotoHog CEO Kelly Perdew. "We know our games work and generate revenue, and we'd love to work with them again." Sporting News is owned by American City Business Journals, parent company of THE DAILY and SportsBusiness Journal.
Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia bought the popular Philly sports blog The700Level.com for an undisclosed amount. The site will maintain its own URL, but will have much of its content featured on CSNPhilly.com's site. The deal furthers Comcast SportsNet's strategy of building up the news and analysis operations of their RSNs. The Philadelphia-based RSN has hired former NHL VP/Editorial & Production Rich Libero to oversee its digital expansion. He has hired former Philadelphia Inquirer Flyers reporter Tim Panaccio and Phillies reporter Jim Salisbury to write for the Web site. The700Level.com is one of Philly's top sports blogs, with 100,000 uniques and 500,000 page views per month.
New Jersey-based mobile broadcast software developer Roundbox Inc. has acquired interactive content developer Jacked Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal. Jacked, formed in '06 in L.A., quickly made a name for itself by striking a series of deals with NBC, the NBA, NHL, Comcast, Versus, the Big 10 Network and other sports broadcasters to create customizable, online companions to televised sports events that provide a steady stream of real-time statistics, news, photos, social media, merchandise links and other data, synchronized with the game action on TV. The company last year began a search for a round of venture capital, and meetings with potential strategic partners and minority investors soon morphed into negotiations for an outright acquisition of the company. Ultimately, there were 10 bidders for Jacked, with Roundbox's offer, not publicly disclosed, winning out. Roundbox will seek to integrate Jacked's technology into its mobile broadcasting platform, with products for upcoming tablet-style devices such as the iPad that blend mobile TV with the second-screen-type companion experience of particular interest. "We've known about Jacked for some time, and they've got a very interesting experience that we can't wait to roll out with ours," said Roundbox co-Founder Jim Nelson. Jacked CEO & Founder Bryan Biniak will join the Roundbox advisory board but will not have a day-to-day role with the company. "I didn't want to come east. I think the world of these guys and after four years with my head down building up this company, I'm really looking forward to taking some time and figuring out my next move," said Biniak, who is soon expecting his third child.