SBD/Issue 126/Sports Media

CBS' 4.8 Overnight Rating For NCAA Selection Show Flat With '09

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).

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