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ESPN averaged a 8.6 U.S. rating and 13.574 million viewers for its two "MNF" football games featuring Ravens-Jets and Chargers-Chiefs, the highest-rated and most-viewed season-opening doubleheader since the format started in '06. Those figures are also up 4.9% and 4.8%, respectively, from an 8.2 average rating and 12.958 million viewers for last year's opening doubleheader. The early Ravens-Jets game earned a 9.4 U.S. rating and 14.973 million viewers, the net's best figures for a opening "MNF" telecast. The game also marks the second-best audience for any program on cable during the current Nielsen calendar year, trailing only the Dec. 28 Vikings-Bears "MNF" finale from last season that earned an 10.4 U.S. rating and 17.006 million viewers. Ravens-Jets is also up 5.6% and 6.9%, respectively, from last year's comparative Bills-Patriots game. The late "MNF" window saw Chargers-Chiefs earn a 7.6 U.S. rating and 11.889 million viewers, which is even with figures from the Chargers-Raiders telecast in '09. The doubleheader helped ESPN win the night among all nets in audience, as well as in all key male and adult demos (THE DAILY).
PROOF IN THE PUDDING: Fox earned a 16.5 final Nielsen rating and 28.0 million viewers for its NFL national window on Sunday featuring Packers-Eagles, which marks the net’s best-ever Week One national window. Both figures for the telecast are up 11% from last year’s Week One national window, which earned a 14.8 rating and 25.1 million viewers featuring Redskins-Giants. Fox’ national window is also tied with NBC’s Vikings-Saints NFL Kickoff last Thursday for the highest-rated broadcast on any network since the Academy Awards on ABC last March (Fox). YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell noted both Fox and NBC are "bragging about huge ratings for their NFL broadcasts over the weekend," and the ratings mean that the NFL's audience, "which is already mind-blowingly huge, is still growing." Darnell: "Even in today's fragmented pop culture atmosphere, with the number of entertainment options growing exponentially, the NFL manages to consume more and more of us" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/14).
LOCAL MARKET SUCCESS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik noted Ravens-Jets earned a combined 41.1 rating in the Baltimore market on ESPN and WJZ-CBS. Zurawik: "That's not two out of every five sets in use. That's two out of every five homes. That's huge" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/14)....The combined 37.3 local rating Chargers-Chiefs earned on ESPN and KFMB-CBS in the San Diego market means the game "was seen in more than" 406,000 HHs locally. The rating also marks the "highest local rating for a Chargers regular-season telecast since the 2008 season finale against Denver earned a 37.4 rating" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/15)....Philadelphia's WTXF-Fox earned a 32.7 local rating for Sunday's Packers-Eagles game, the "highest-rated Eagles season opener" since Eagles-Falcons earned a 33.2 local rating in primetime in '05. The rating "bested nine out of 10 season openers this past decade" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/15)....St. Louis' KTVI-Fox earned a 26.0 local rating and 328,000 HHs for Sunday's Cardinals-Rams game, up 37.5% from the net's highest-rated Rams game last season. The 26.0 rating marked the "highest rating for a Rams opener since a 28.1 figure" for Cardinals-Rams in '04, and is the "best Rams rating overall" since Rams-Cardinals earned a 26.2 local rating in September '06 (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/15).
CBS NFL studio analyst Shannon Sharpe in a statement said he has "decided to step aside from the NFL Today" until a situation is resolved in which he was served last week "with a temporary restraining order by an Atlanta Court per a petition" by a woman named Michele Bundy, according to the blog SPORTS BY BROOKS. CBS Sports Senior VP/Communications LeslieAnne Wade said in a statement, "We accept Shannon's decision and decline to comment further on a pending legal matter." SPORTS BY BROOKS noted Bundy was "granted a temporary protective order against Sharpe after accusing the CBS commentator of forcing her to have sex with him, making multiple threats on her life and stalking her." Sharpe "performed his regular NFL studio host duties on CBS on Sunday and did not comment about the case" (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 9/14). CBS indicated that it will not fill Sharpe's role on "The NFL Today" while he is out, instead proceeding with a four-man studio crew of James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason (THE DAILY).
BOGGED DOWN IN MINUTIA: FOXSPORTS.com's Brian Lowry wrote NBC NFL game analyst Cris Collinsworth is "fine with X's and O's," but the problem is that he "simply doesn't provide much color, in the sense that originally gave these jobs their name." Collinsworth "doesn't get in the way of the game, as some analysts do, and he can be economical, which is always welcome." But he "seems so preoccupied with recognizing such intricacies on every play he sometimes misses the bigger picture -- and doesn't seem terribly interested in pursuing meaty topics that deviate from picking up the next first down." Lowry wrote former NFL analyst John Madden's "gift was the ability to be colorful and shrewdly analytical" all at once (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/14).
The U.S. Open men's final Monday averaged a 1.8 final rating (2.5 million viewers) on CBS from 4:00-6:05pm ET, while ESPN2 earned a 1.2 U.S. rating (1.85 million viewers) from 7:52-10:15pm. The match, in which Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic to complete his career Grand Slam, marked the third consecutive men's final to take place on Monday due to weather delays. CBS' rating was down from a 2.3 rating (3.391 million viewers) from 4:00-8:41pm for Juan Martin del Potro's defeat of Roger Federer last year, and a 1.7 rating (2.317 million viewers) for Federer's defeat of Andy Murray in '08. Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters' defeat of Vera Zvorareva in the U.S. Open women's final Saturday night earned CBS a 1.7 final rating (2.609 million viewers) from 8:00-10:00pm (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS: FANHOUSE.com's Greg Couch wrote, "What does it say about a sport when its staple event in this country, the U.S. Open men's final, is treated like a hot potato by the networks?" Nadal was "on the verge of making history, as the networks kept telling us for two weeks." However, in the second set Monday, it started raining and CBS "decided it was done with tennis for the night, chucking history over to ESPN2, which was willing to show the match for a while." That net, though, was "minutes from dumping the match off on ESPN Classic, if Nadal hadn't finished up in the fourth set." Meanwhile, Nadal "rushed through his victory speech" -- he was "handed the trophy, and Nadal raised it over his head and, poof, we were outside a football stadium, the ceremony unceremoniously cut off" in favor of Chargers-Chiefs "MNF." Couch: "What an embarrassing moment for tennis. If tennis wants to be taken seriously, it just has to stop this stuff from happening" (FANHOUSE.com, 9/14). The N.Y. OBSERVER's John Koblin wrote, "It's great that the USTA has had a relationship with CBS for so long," as the net has aired the tournament for 43 years. However, with CBS "pulling the plug this should send a loud-and-clear message that they really shouldn't be the home for the tournament any longer. This is the showcase event for tennis in the United States and CBS won't bother finishing airing it. If the USTA wants a broadcast home, they should call up NBC, which already broadcasts the French Open and Wimbledon. Or just put the whole thing on ESPN anyway, since viewers hardly know the difference between cable and broadcast anymore" (OBSERVER.com, 9/13).
INTERVIEWS PACK PUNCH: SI.com's Jon Wertheim wrote pre-match interviews are "seldom the source of much insight," but he added, "Overall ... I don't mind these segments." Wertheim: "You get to see the players up close. You get to hear their voice. You get to see what they're carrying. There's some value there even if there's no nutritional value to the Q&A" (SI.com, 9/14).
World Golf Tour, a S.F.-based developer of online golf simulation games, has signed a partnership with Celtic Manor, the U.K. resort that will be the site of the '10 Ryder Cup, to create a virtual version of the Twenty Ten Course that will be incorporated into WGT games. Unlike prior event-driven partnerships with the LPGA and USGA, WGT's alignment with Celtic Manor will be a permanent alignment in which the digital representation of the resort will be used to help spur real-world golf travel there. Celtic Manor will also become one of the battery of courses within the regular fixture of WGT games. The deal does not include any involvement with the Ryder Cup itself, but WGT execs said the Celtic Manor deal will likely be the first of many as a new line of business with individual courses. Financial terms were not disclosed. "This is definitely a different sort of approach for us compared to our prior deals, but we've now grown to the point where we can be an effective tool to promote the course," WGT CEO YuChiang Cheng said. "We've established our strategy to run parallel to major events and build a virtual schedule. Now that we have credible scale, we can help golf courses expand their audiences, too."
TBS yesterday announced the on-air talent for its MLB League Division Series and AL Championship Series telecasts. The ALCS team will consist of play-by-play man Ernie Johnson joined by analysts Ron Darling and John Smoltz, who also will team up for some LDS games. Matt Winer will host studio coverage alongside analysts Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken and David Wells. Craig Sager, Marc Fein, David Aldridge and SI's Tom Verducci will serve as reporters during the ALDS and NLDS. See the chart below for additional LDS talent (TBS).
PHOENIX RISING: In Phoenix, Peter Corbett reports the city of Scottsdale is "working on a deal" to have ESPN broadcast "College GameDay" from the Scottsdale Waterfront on Jan. 3-7 before moving to Univ. of Phoenix Stadium for the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship game. ESPN will air the Fiesta Bowl, also played at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, on Jan. 1 (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/15).
WE GOT FREE APPS: CBSSports.com has released its new pro football application for the iPad. "CBS Sports Pro Football," a free application, will include live scores, a graphical GameTracker, news, standings, statistics, video previews and recaps, and other content, as well as full integration with CBS Sports' fantasy football leagues. The application has immediately risen to No. 7 among the most-downloaded free applications in iTunes' App Store (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
COMING & GOING: ESPN has hired boxer Juan Manuel Marquez as an analyst for "Golpe a Golpe," ESPN Deportes' weekly boxing news show that airs every Friday night (ESPN)....Juan Roque has "left his job as college football analyst" for FS Arizona. Roque said that he has "no hard feelings toward Fox, he just felt it was time to move on" (AZCENTRAL.com, 9/13).