SBD/Issue 248/NFL Season Preview

Jets "Hard Knocks" Finale Draws Biggest Viewership Since '02

Jets' "Hard Knocks" Appearance Drew Viewers,
But Will They Stay Once The Games Begin?

HBO averaged 1.009 million viewers Wednesday night for initial airing of the season finale of "Hard Knocks" featuring the Jets, marking the most-watched episode of the show since '02, when the Cowboys were featured. HBO averaged 4.4 million viewers per episode for the season, up 29% from 3.4 million viewers last season, when the Bengals were featured (HBO). On Long Island, Neil Best reports HBO "relished a hit in both critical and ratings terms" with the Jets edition of "Hard Knocks," but the "stakes are higher now ... as the networks wait to see whether the Jets at long last can become a consistent national attraction." CBS, which has the AFC package, "has the most to gain, followed by ESPN, which has three of the Jets' five scheduled prime-time games." CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus: "If you look at the elements that go into an attractive television team, they have got a lot of them." But McManus "cautioned that the Jets must keep winning to fulfill that promise." ESPN is televising the Jets' season opener Monday night against the Ravens, and analyst Ron Jaworski indicated that while he "found their approach refreshing, opponents will be primed to 'put them in their place.'" Best writes, "From New England to South Florida to a certain blue-clad group that co-owns the Jets' new stadium, a Ryan wreck would be a source of much amusement" (NEWSDAY, 9/10).

STARTING THE REX STREAK: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes it was Jets coach Rex Ryan's "huge personality that carried the show" on "Hard Knocks." Raissman: "Even in his coarser moments, Ryan was likable. A plain-spoken, excitable, charismatic schlub who transmits the love for what he's doing." Ryan is a "chip off the John Madden block," and the "similarities are there, including the cartoonish presence and tone of voice" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/10). Meanwhile, ESPN's Jim Rome said this year's edition of "Hard Knocks" was its "best season ever." Rome: "The Jets lived up to all the hype. So many great moments and so many great characters. ... The most compelling moments on the show and the reason the show works are the cuts. So awkward, so uncomfortable, yet so riveting" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 9/9). But SportsNet N.Y.'s Marc Malusis said, "It's the same. You knew exactly what Rex Ryan was all about. You knew that there were going to be some shenanigans. It's the same every single year whether it be the Cowboys, the Bengals, or this year as far as the Jets go" ("The Wheelhouse," SNY, 9/9).

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