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SBD/Issue 211/Sports Media
ESPN Earns 2.6 Overnight Sunday For British Open In Cable Debut
Published July 19, 2010
|Oosthuizen's Seven-Shot Open Win
Hurts ESPN's Quest For Higher Ratings
ESPN earned a 2.6 overnight rating for yesterday's final round of the British Open from 8:00am-2:00pm, which saw South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen win the event by seven strokes. With the event's weekend coverage moving from ABC to ESPN this year, the 2.6 overnight marks the lowest final-round overnight ever. The previous low was a 3.5 overnight rating on multiple occasions, most recently in '08 when Padraig Harrington won his second consecutive Claret Jug. Last year's final round, which saw Stewart Cink win in a playoff with Tom Watson, earned a 3.9 overnight rating from 8:00am-3:15pm. On Saturday, ESPN's coverage of the third round earned a 2.7 overnight rating from 9:00am-4:15pm, which is up 12.5% from a 2.4 for last year's third round coverage on ABC from 9:00am-2:45pm. For the weekend, ESPN averaged a 2.7 overnight rating, down from a 3.2 for ABC last year (THE DAILY). YAHOO SPORTS' Brian Murphy wrote Oosthuizen was the "guy nobody knew, and the guy who whipped the field so badly, he maybe made most of America turn their TV sets off" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/18).
LOOKING FOR A PULSE: In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes while golf purists "marveled at Oosthuizen's expertise during his superb four rounds, ESPN had to be disappointed in the major's lack of drama ... during the final holes on the legendary course" (DENVER POST, 7/19). ESPN analyst Paul Azinger yesterday during the broadcast said he hoped viewers were not "bored to death by the blowout." ESPN host Mike Tirico, as a leaderboard graphic "aired over a camera shot of St. Andrews' streets," said, "The bus on the right is the only thing making a move" (USA TODAY, 7/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote, "The unknown South African bled the final day of the Open Championship of its drama as deftly as a plumber bleeding a pipe of its pressure" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 7/18). ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote, "It wasn't boring. It was a par 5 beyond boring. It was so maddeningly dull that you wanted to stick the sharp end of barbecue tongs in your eyes." It was "agony not because of Oosthuizen, nor because there wasn't an American in the top-5." It was because "nothing happened" (ESPN.com, 7/18).
DID ESPN CONTRIBUTE TO APATHY? In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes ESPN "played a big part" in contributing to reasons not to stay tuned to the tournament, as it "sure looked like the TV guys drifted off a few times out of sheer boredom." The "lack of interest had little to do with the absence of a thrilling finish," but instead had "more to do with the fact that leader Louis Oosthuizen wasn't on ESPN's star list." Zelkovich: "So unenthused were the TV guys when Oosthuizen lined up a key putt on the seventh hole, with Paul Casey still within shouting distance, they chose to show viewers Tiger Woods teeing off on the 17th instead" (TORONTO STAR, 7/19). SI's Farrell Evans wrote ESPN offered "too much moralizing about St. Andrews and not enough golf." The roster was "packed with major champions" -- Azinger, Andy North, Tom Watson, Tom Weiskopf and Curtis Strange -- but they "weren't as sharp as guys who do TV golf on a regular basis." SI's Jim Gorant wrote of ESPN's coverage, "Major fail. Too many voices." Gorant: "They spent so much time cutting back and forth to each other in different settings that they hardly showed any golf. ... I know they're somewhat limited by the BBC feed, but it was way too much blather and pre-produced features with purple prose and not enough golf shots." SI's Mark Godich: "If broadcasters were counted like golf clubs, I think ESPN would have exceeded the 14-club limit." Meanwhile, GOLF.com's Ryan Reiterman noted the HD broadcast was "amazing." Reiterman: "I've never seen a British Open look so good. ESPN had a lot of bells and whistles that were nice, especially the live ball tracker" (GOLF.com, 7/18).
|ESPN's Coverage On Sunday Only Showed
26 Minutes Of Live Action In First Two Hours
WHERE WAS THE GOLF? GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann writes during the "first two hours of Sunday’s broadcast, ESPN showed just 26 minutes of live action." Kaufmann: "When I say 'live action,' I’m being entirely too generous; that includes plenty of shots of players standing idly on the course. All told, ESPN showed just 63 total shots during that time frame, 30 of which were putts or tap-ins" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/19). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN's "massive effort from St. Andrews was hard to miss but easy to dismiss." During Saturday's round three coverage, "back from two minutes of commercials, ESPN didn't show a live shot before it presented four minutes that encouraged us to watch the British Open!" Mushnick: "Only yesterday, when ESPN paid close attention to the leaders, did ESPN's coverage not completely cover its coverage" (N.Y. POST, 7/19).
TALENT REVIEWS: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote, "Didn't it seem as if ESPN's coverage was a little flat? The main commentators -- Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange -- were heavy on cliches and light on analysis." Tirico is the "best golf host on television ... but he can only talk so much." Jones: "Plus, when you have someone that good, why are you having him split hosting time with Scott Van Pelt?" (TAMPABAY.com, 7/18). GOLFWEEK's Kaufmann writes the "first-string team of Tirico and Azinger disappeared for extended periods." Kaufmann: "That left us with a fair amount of Peter Alliss (a good thing), but way, way too much of Curtis Strange and Weiskopf." Strange’s "cliché-ridden commentary, in particular, seemed to rub viewers the wrong way" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/19). The N.Y. POST's Mushnick wrote, "Pleasant as he is, Tirico now seems eager to speak every media golf cliche he can" (N.Y. POST, 7/18). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Azinger "should be on television more, not less" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/18).