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Fox averaged a 4.7 final rating and 7.9 million viewers for the first two games of the Giants-Phillies NLCS. The net earned a 4.3 rating and 7.1 million viewers for Saturday's Game One and a 5.3 rating and 8.8 million viewers for Game Two Sunday opposite the Colts-Redskins "SNF" game. Those ratings are down 17.3% and 8.6% from the comparable Yankees-Angels ALCS on Fox last year. However, the 4.7 average rating for the two games is up 15% over a 4.1 average through the opening two matchups of the '08 Phillies-Dodgers NLCS, which also aired on Fox (Fox). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes of the rating for Game One, "It didn't help that the game faced competition from big-time college football and NASCAR in Saturday prime time" (USA TODAY, 10/19).
DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: In Dallas, Barry Horn notes TBS earned a 21.9 local rating and 568,217 HHs in Dallas-Ft. Worth for Friday's Yankees-Rangers ALCS Game One, followed by a 15.6 local rating and 404,758 HHs for Saturday's Game Two. The ratings are "hurt because the games can be seen" only on TBS. Meanwhile, KDFW-Fox drew 908,110 HHs in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market for Sunday's Cowboys-Vikings game (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19). Meanwhile, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" compared the popularity of the Cowboys and Rangers, noting the Oct. 10 Titans-Cowboys game earned a 34.09 local rating, while Game Four of the Rangers-Rays ALDS the same afternoon drew a 9.67 rating. Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor: "I don't know what the TV ratings are saying, but the people on the streets and in and around Dallas, they've definitely got Rangers fever" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 10/18).
LEAVING 'EM HANGING: In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes Rangers P Cliff Lee threw 109 pitches through seven innings in last night's Rangers-Yankees ALCS Game Three, but there was a "mystery" about whether Lee would pitch in the eighth inning. TBS analysts Ron Darling and John Smoltz "explained the situation" in the top of the eighth, and they "left it at that." Smoltz "had built the suspense, and produced drama, too," and it was "time for an answer." Raissman: "There was no answer. Nothing. Zilch. Smoltz left everyone hanging and so did Darling." Darling and Smoltz "have been strong throughout the playoffs, but on this one they failed." The analyst's job is to "offer definitive analysis, which often includes playing the role of manager." Meanwhile, after the Rangers scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning, "another question needed answering: Should A.J. Burnett start Game 4 or should Joe Girardi pitch CC Sabathia on three days rest?" Smoltz was "given no wiggle room." Ernie Johnson "asked him the question directly," and Smoltz "said he would pitch CC" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/19).
ESPN earned a 7.2 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Titans-Jaguars game from 8:30-11:30pm ET. The number is down 25% from the comparable 9.6 rating last year for the Broncos-Chargers Week Six "MNF" matchup. Last night's game earned a 12.4 rating on ESPN and a 21.3 mark on WKRN-ABC in Nashville, while the Jacksonville market drew a 17.9 rating on ESPN and a 11.9 rating on WJXT-Ind (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell reports NBC's "SNF" has "dominated another Sunday ratings race in key demos, thumping Game 2 of baseball's National League Championship Series, which once again was not available to a good chunk of the Philadelphia market due to Cablevision's dispute with Fox." NBC's Colts-Redskins "MNF" averaged a 6.5 rating in adults 18-49 and 16.9 million total viewers, compared to a 2.3 rating and 7.4 million total viewers for Fox' Giants-Phillies NLCS Game Two (DAILY VARIETY, 10/19).
BLOCKBUSTER SEASON: MEDIAWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote the current NFL season "has all the makings of a blockbuster." Primetime ratings are "booming," and it "can be argued that football is the only thing keeping NBC afloat." "SNF" was "averaging 21.8 million viewers through the first five weeks of the 2010-11 NFL campaign, marking the biggest turnout for nighttime football since 1996." Meanwhile, ESPN is "punishing the broadcast networks with its MNF juggernaut," as "MNF" is "averaging 15.2 million viewers, even to date versus 2009" (MEDIAWEEK.com, 10/17).
News Corp. officials said the company made "no significant progress" in a brief meeting with Cablevision yesterday morning, and another discussion is set for today, according to sources cited by Sam Schechner of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Fox Networks Group Chair & CEO Tony Vinciquerra: "I sent six people to New York last Thursday, and they've been sitting there, twiddling their thumbs. There's been no substantive negotiation." Cablevision viewers in N.Y. already have missed the first two games of the Giants-Phillies NLCS and Sunday's Lions-Giants game, and it is "possible the fight could drag on." Game Three of the NLCS is set for this afternoon, though a "game featuring a New York team isn't set to appear on Fox until at least Oct. 27, when it is possible the New York Yankees will play in the World Series" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/19). U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) yesterday asked the FCC to "exercise all of its available authority to promptly resolve the Fox and Cablevision dispute." On Long Island, Verne Gay notes WNYW-Fox averaged a 7.8 local rating in N.Y. for Lions-Giants, which was "significantly lower than usual." The first two Giants games on Fox this season earned ratings of 14.5 and 11.3 in the N.Y. market. Also, WCBS averaged a 14.0 local rating in N.Y. for Sunday's Jets-Broncos game. Horizon Media Senior VP/Research Brad Adgate said of the dispute, "It would hurt the local Fox ratings in New York significantly since their footprint of nearly 3 million homes are there" (NEWSDAY, 10/19). New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday said he would contact N.J. Board of Public Utilities President Lee Solomon, whose group regulates the cable industry, to express his "concern" Cablevision is "not fulfilling the obligation they have to ratepayers." Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Lou D'Ermilio said that News Corp. "welcomes Christie's assistance 'in the hopes that he can motivate Cablevision into serious business-to-business negotiations'" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/19).
NOT BACKING DOWN: News Corp. said in a statement, "It is increasingly clear that Cablevision's real intention is to continue making this their subscribers' problem in the hope that with enough inconvenience, politicians will intervene to protect Cablevision's huge profits -- nearly $795 per subscriber last year." News Corp. said that MSG Network "never sought arbitration after it went dark from Dish earlier this month," and the company also "called Cablevision's claim that it is seeking $150mln in fees, up from $70mln, untrue" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/19). Fox Cable Networks VP/Corporate Communications Brian Peterson in an e-mail said that the two sides "will likely resume talks Wednesday, but that any contact will be via the telephone" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 10/18).
PLAYING CHICKEN: DAILY VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton reports Fox officials are "convinced Cablevision -- with an eye toward a World Series in which the Yankees might participate -- is stalling at the negotiating table in hopes that the feds or FCC will take steps to force arbitration or muster a quick legislative rewrite of the FCC's retransmission consent rule." But the "wait-it-out strategy seems likely to cost Cablevision some subscribers in the short term" (DAILY VARIETY, 10/19). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote, "If the Yankees win the ALCS and this thing drags on into the World Series, which is on Fox ... Oy. Let's not even think about that" (NEWSDAY.com, 10/18).
Fox Sports Interactive Media (FSIM) has acquired blog network Yardbarker, expanding upon a prior content and sales partnership and solidifying FoxSports.com's presence in the blogosphere. The two entities first struck a content syndication deal in '08, significantly enlarging that relationship a year ago to include a sales component and deeper editorial collaboration. But FSIM Exec VP & GM Jeff Husvar said the purchase of the site was driven by a desire to bring Yardbarker's content, younger audience, technology and management team more fully into FSIM. "This is an important move for us," Husvar said. "This has been a great partnership that we can now further optimize." Financial terms were not disclosed. Yardbarker will remain based in S.F., and its team of roughly a dozen employees will stay intact. Yardbarker now features more than 850 blogs in its network from a wide variety of sources, but is perhaps best known for its blogs from star athletes such as Redskins QB Donovan McNabb. "We look forward to working even more closely with Fox and continuing to grow with them," said Pete Vlastelica, Yardbarker co-Founder & CEO. FoxSports.com, which has included Yardbarker traffic in its monthly numbers for the past year, ranked third behind Yahoo Sports and ESPN among sports sites in September according to comScore with 28.9 million unique users.
ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches said that Time Warner Cable and The Walt Disney Co. “plan to make ESPN channels available live on the Web for the cable company’s TV subscribers on Oct. 25,” according to Nat Worden of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES. The date coincides with ESPN’s broadcast of the Giants-Cowboys “MNF” game, which features two teams that “hail from Time Warner Cable markets.” The service “will be provided free to video subscribers of Time Warner Cable.” Worden wrote the move “marks a big step forward for the industry’s push to move its TV subscription model online and head off competitive threats from emerging online video alternatives that could lead some consumers to cancel their traditional pay-TV subscriptions with cable and satellite companies.” ESPN is “still working with various sports rights owners to put all its programming online,” but Bratches said that the company “has permission for most of its content and it has the technical ability to insert alternative content into its online broadcast in the cases where it does not.” Bratches added that the online channels “won’t show advertisements that are on TV during commercial breaks because ESPN plans to begin developing a new stream of advertising revenue by selling those spots.” The network also is “having discussions with other TV providers.” Verizon “reached a similar agreement with Disney” this month for its FiOS TV service and Bratches said that that service “is planned for launch on Jan. 18” (DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, 10/18).
THE LATEST CREATIONS FROM BRISTOL: ESPN recently reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and FiOS TV to carry ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater, and Bratches said, “I don’t think it gets much better than Goal Line. It’s the best of college football (and soon, college basketball with ESPN Buzzer Beater), all in one place. The decision to launch these channels grew from conversations with our affiliates, who often list growing sports tiers among their priorities.” Bratches said of ESPN 3D, "Consumers have been trending about where we thought they would when we announced the launch of this network last Jan. HD adoption also started with a slow, steady pace and we are seeing that 3D is about the same if not slightly faster than that. The benefit to us is that fans have seen 3D in the movie theaters so they know what 3D looks like." Meanwhile, ESPN "has been at the forefront of market segmentation ... through plays such as local Websites, ESPNU and now espnW," and when asked how important that focus is to future growth, Bratches said, "For affiliates, more opportunities to create value locally is critical. And for advertisers, more market segmentation means that we have the opportunity to provide an attractive audience to a local advertiser who may not need a national presence. We are many things to many audiences in many places, but as we embark on each of these products, we have to be resonant, authentic and relevant" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/19).
Startup secondary ticket outfit TiqIQ has partnered with blog network SB Nation to embed ticket purchasing functionality and ticket-related content within about a dozen of SB Nation's most popular sites. The pact, described as a test effort with options to extend into a more long-term alignment, represents a significant advancement in scale for TiqIQ's model, which blends a traditional e-commerce-based platform with an editorial-driven component in which blog postings are developed from TiqIQ's ticketing intelligence. TiqIQ is also aligned with popular Yankees blog River Ave. Blues, Phillies fan destination TheFightins.com and several other independent blog sites. "We've been looking at ticketing for a while and our options as to how best to incorporate ticketing into our sites, and TiqIQ seems to correspond really well with our model," SB Nation Chair & CEO Jim Bankoff. "What we liked about these guys is the opportunity to create some really interesting content." Financial terms were not disclosed, but generally the deal involves revenue sharing of advertising sold around the TiqIQ content as well as commissions from ticket sales generated through the listings. "We see SB Nation as having some of the premier fan communities on the web, and this represents a huge boost for us," said TiqIQ CEO Jesse Lawrence.