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A record combined total viewership of 45.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the '10 NFL Draft on ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network -- up 16% from last year’s record of 39.0 million viewers. ESPN’s live three-day telecast averaged 3.717 million viewers, marking the most-viewed NFL Draft in the net’s 31 years of televising the event. Viewership for the 14.5 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 was up 27% from last year's two-day event. ESPN’s coverage of the second round from 6:00-7:00pm ET on Friday night averaged 3.152 million viewers, while ESPN2 averaged 3.369 million from 7:00-10:30pm. The nets’ combined viewership of the second and third rounds was up 6% from last year. The three days of coverage on NFL Network averaged 560,000 viewers, up from 463,000 viewers last year and 280,000 viewers in '07. Total NFL Draft viewership has nearly doubled over the past decade from 23.5 million for the '01 event (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
Media Members Disagree On Gruden's
Performance During NFL Draft Coverage
THE GOOD & THE BAD: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, along with NFL Network's Mike Mayock, "turned in one of the top performances on NFL draft coverage." But Gruden "seemed to like every draft pick, suggesting that maybe there's no point in riling up players he might end up coaching -- or coaching against" (USA TODAY, 4/26). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote Gruden is "supposed to be an analyst," but he "didn't even pretend to play one on TV during the draft." Shaw: "I just think people like Gruden who have extraordinary insight should, you know, maybe share some of it." But Gruden "wasn't the worst of ESPN's coverage, for sure." That distinction "goes to the packaged graphics accompanying the selections ... where players were forced to clown for the cameras" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/25). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones noted some complain that Gruden "likes everybody, that every team made a great pick in the draft, that every move by every team is the right move." But "if there's one analyst on any of the networks that makes you stop and listen, it's Gruden, who is interesting, funny and honest whenever he speaks." Gruden and Mayock "were the stars of the draft coverage." Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Steve Young "has fallen in love with his own voice" (TAMPABAY.com, 4/25).
EARLY EXIT: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Gregg Rosenthal reported Gruden was "scheduled to appear on ESPN's main set for day three, but ESPN called an audible" and replaced him with Todd McShay in N.Y. for rounds 4-7. ESPN Communications & Media Relations Dir Bill Hofheimer in an e-mail confirmed that Gruden was "scheduled to be part" of the coverage. Hofheimer said ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman "gave him the rest." Hofheimer: "It was a mutual decision. Jon could have gone but both he and Rothman knew that ESPN's coverage would still be in great shape with the existing teams in Radio City and Bristol" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/24).
Writers Feels Shots Of Players On Phone
Ruining Drama, Excitement Of Draft
RUINING THE SUSPENSE: The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones wrote the reporting during the draft "has ruined all the drama." Viewers "find out who teams are picking before the picks are announced ... because of the excellent work by reporters at ESPN and NFL Network," and cameras "cut to draft prospects as they are on the telephone with the team on the clock." Jones: "Don't you miss the good old days when the commissioner stepped to the podium and dramatically announced the pick?" (TAMPABAY.com, 4/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote the "drama has been killed by the ubiquity of cell phones and television cameras," which is "one huge problem with the NFL draft and it needs to be remedied immediately." Chase: "It ruined the excitement of the draft and it needs to stop. There's no reason a team needs to call a player before the pick is announced. If the league is interested in that, hold the draft behind closed doors. The draft is entertainment -- a television show -- and should be treated as such" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/25). SI.com's Peter King: "Every time when ESPN and NFL Network sees somebody over there in the green room or whatever on the phone, they assume they’re on the phone with a team. So they’re giving away the drama before every pick ends" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/23).
INFORMATION OVERLOAD: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes "after weeks of begging viewers not to miss its live NFL Draft coverage, ESPN disallowed just that; it was too busy selling ESPN or taking us here, there and everywhere else." ESPN's Friday coverage of the second and third rounds of the draft "looked and sounded like a satire of ESPN: screen-choking graphics, ESPN's cast of thousands, its poor sense of timing and its overall dependence on self-defeating and mindless excesses made ESPN's advertised intentions impossible." The moments "most tuned in to see -- live selections from the podium -- were shown only sometimes" (N.Y. POST, 4/26).
JOKE'S ON YOU: FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent noted ESPN analyst Matt Millen during Saturday's coverage of the draft was "engaged in an on-air conversation" with analyst Ron Jaworski, and the two "got into a conversation about fried bologna sandwiches." Millen said, "Ask any polack from Buffalo how they like them, right Jaws?" Jaworski "joked back about trying them with fried onions." Kent noted Millen "apologized for the crack ... about thirty minutes later" (FANHOUSE.com, 4/24). Millen said, "I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Ron Jaworski, very playful over the years, and we jab each other back and forth. ... I meant nothing by it" ("NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/24).
Levy Says Turner Plans To Upgrade
March Madness On Demand
Turner Broadcasting System President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said that as his company assumes operation of March Madness on Demand from CBS Sports, the "plan is to upgrade it," according to Staci Kramer of PAID CONTENT. The CBS-Turner partnership for rights to the NCAA men's basketball tournament calls for MMOD to remain on CBSSports.com and NCAA.com, in addition to becoming available on Turner properties. Levy said, "We’re trying to figure out how we upgrade that product and make it better versus having it vanish. It’s not going to vanish.” He indicated that every game will be streamed live, and that the enhanced MMOD could "have a TV Everywhere component." Levy added, "We recognize, both CBS and ourselves, that particularly sports fans want that dimensional viewing, that experience across multiple platforms so March Madness on Demand is still going to be there. We’re now looking how to make it better and how to be a truly better experience for the viewer.” Kramer noted that is "one place Turner's digital expertise should come in handy." Levy: "We can take what works for the NBA, what works for NASCAR, what works for PGA, what hasn’t worked." Levy said that the partnership as a whole is a "landmark deal," bringing a "marquee sporting event that has no match to Turner." He noted that revenue is the "force driving all of this." Levy: "Whether the revenue comes from TV, from CBSSports.com, from TBS.com or the revenue comes from anywhere -- all of that revenue surrounding this tournament is going to be included in the partnership to be shared." Levy confirmed that revenue sharing between Turner and CBS is not equal, saying, "There are caps for CBS and that is part of the structure. We can monetize; there’s more upside for us than with CBS." Addressing tournament coverage on all platforms, Levy said, "If you have a television you can see all the games in full national coverage of each and every game across four networks. How it ends up going down and being distributed across different platforms, that’s a business model we’ll discuss down the road" (PAIDCONTENT.org, 4/23).
STICKING AROUND FOR MORE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Ourand & Smith note CBS' "identity is defined by its long-term relationships" with sports properties, including a partnership with the NCAA tournament dating back to the '80s, and so the network "didn't want to lose" rights to March Madness. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said, "That's when we started talking to Turner." The new pact keeps a "significant amount of games on CBS, while benefiting from Turner's dual revenue stream of advertising and cable subscriber fees." Sources indicated that Turner "will pay the bulk of the rights fee," and is expected to "charge cable and satellite operators much higher license fees when it begins carrying the Final Four in 2016." Ourand & Smith note the two networks also will "increase their ad inventory because all of the games will be televised nationally." McManus: "We are immediately turning around our financial situation. It immediately becomes a profitable event for CBS" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/26 issue).
EVERY SEASON TURN, TURN, TURN: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote TNT's Charles Barkley "must have a role" going forward in coverage of the NCAA tournament, "unless his contract prohibits." CBS and Turner execs are "going to have to brand this split package by bringing some 'new' voices into the mix," and Turner "already has a star in Barkley." CBS' coverage of the tournament "has been lacking in personality," and when it "comes to covering basketball, albeit of the NBA variety on TNT, Turner is far ahead of the competition." Barkley has "contributed mightily to the success," and his presence in the tournament coverage "would bring instant buzz and get Turner's brand of March Madness off to a flying start." Meanwhile, Raissman suggested that Turner may "make a big run at getting back in the NFL biz." At some point, "sooner than later, the NFL is going to expand its Thursday night" schedule to a "season-long package," and Turner -- once a "Sunday Night Football" broadcaster -- could get back into the fold (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/25).
NBC Sports Digital and the Daily Racing Form have struck a partnership to create a co-branded online venture in which the 115-year-old turf publication will provide digital content to support NBC Sports' thoroughbred racing coverage. The Daily Racing Form will host and program a customized horseracing section of NBCSports.com, located at drf.nbcsports.com, with material there including a wide variety of previews, analysis, real-time and historical results, features and video content. The move arrives as NBC ramps up for the 136th Kentucky Derby on Saturday (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
Athlon Sports' New Monthly
Magazine Will Debut In October
NEW MAGAZINE: Athlon Sports Communication, Inc. in October will launch Athlon Sports, a monthly sports magazine that is expected to debut with a circulation of 7 million via daily newspapers, making it the largest sports magazine in the U.S. Athlon Sports will profile athletes, provide preseason insights from sports editors and share sports stories from around the country. In connection with the new venture, former Alpha Media Group CEO Stephen Duggan is acquiring a minority stake in Athlon and assuming the role of Athlon Media President (Athlon).
STANDING HIS GROUND: In Boston, Julian Benbow reported Celtics radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande during Friday's Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Three "endured a verbal lashing from a Heat fan ... because he refused to sit during WEEI's broadcast." Grande and analyst Cedric Maxwell "called the game just above the lower bowl, about 20 rows above courtside ... because of the media crunch during the postseason." Grande "stood for the entire game and a female fan sitting above Grande claimed she could not see the action on the east side of the court clearly." The fan "complained to security and arena officials to no avail and screamed repeatedly at Grande to sit down," but Grande "refused." After Celtics F Paul Pierce hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer, Grande "sat down and the female fan doused him with a drink." Grande "did not respond and remained on the air" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/24).