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The highly anticipated regular-season debut of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing for the Heat will likely be TNT's most-viewed season-opening game in the 27 years Turner Sports has broadcast the NBA's Opening Night. Fast-national ratings will be released later today for the Heat-Celtics game, but the broadcast earned TNT a 5.6 overnight Nielsen rating, a jump of 75% from a 3.2 overnight for the Cavaliers-Celtics opener last year. The game also drew a 17.1 local rating in Boston and a 15.5 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale. The Cleveland-Akron market finished third with a 10.4 local rating. TNT also aired Rockets-Lakers as the second half of a doubleheader, and that game drew a 3.5 overnight. That is up 40% from a 2.5 overnight for the comparative Clippers-Lakers game last year. In addition to setting a record for Heat-Celtics, TNT also expects the doubleheader will set a ratings record for the network to start an NBA season (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
EVENT UNLIKE ANY OTHER: In Boston, Chad Finn writes Heat-Celtics was "an event unlike any other in NBA regular-season history." The "size of the media horde was unprecedented, with the Celtics issuing 500 press credentials," and Celtics observers said that it "had the vibe of an NBA Finals game." Celtics TV analyst Tom Heinsohn: "You'd look around at this crowd and all the reporters, and you'd think a Game 7 was going on here tonight. If I've ever seen anything like this, I sure don't remember it." Finn writes the ratings for the game "will justify whatever you choose to call it: buzz, overkill, or simply the anticipation of an intriguing sporting event." And that "seemed to be the consensus among those covering it." ESPN Radio analyst Jack Ramsay: "I can't say the coverage makes sense, but I understand why it's happening." Finn writes the "hour at which it began happening was a bit much." ESPN's Rachel Nichols "filed her first report nearly seven hours before game time." ESPN's Jon Barry said that he "did his first hourly live cut-in" at 2:00pm ET, more than five hours before the game began (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote the morning shootaround yesterday "resembled the scene at an NBA Finals, with reporters surrounding" Wade, Bosh and coach Erik Spoelstra. Photographers were "requiring ladders to get clear shots" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 10/26).
BROADCASTING GUIDE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch offered his NBA Broadcasting Guide for the '10-11 season, where he noted ESPN's Hannah Storm "will share hosting responsibilities" with Stuart Scott "in the ever-changing world that is ESPN's studio show." The show "has improved over the years," as Barry and analyst Jalen Rose "come prepared and speak their mind." Analyst Michael Wilbon "offers thoughtfulness and smarts, though he's much more genuflecting of the league in this forum" than on "PTI." Scott and Storm "could learn from TNT's Ernie Johnson, who understands that an ego-free host whose first priority is setting up analysts is rewarded with viewer and critic loyalty." Deitsch wrote something to watch "will be whether ESPN can be critical" of James, who was the network's "business partner" for "The Decision." Former Suns President of Basketball Operations & GM Steve Kerr rejoins TNT this season, and his pairing with Marv Albert makes up a "terrific top team." The net's studio show has a "new studio for the first time in five years, as well as new graphics and new music." Deitsch wrote TNT "does basketball very well, but there's always room for improvement," and the net "would be wise to employ a former ref for part-time duty when the officiating becomes newsworthy, especially given the NBA's new crackdown on player complaints." Meanwhile, NBA TV's hiring of former ESPN host Matt Winer in January was an "excellent move." And while Deitsch appreciates announcer Rick Kamla's "enthusiasm for the league, there is a fine line between passion and a screaming, over-the-top, shtick-filled highlight reader who makes us want to change the dial" (SI.com, 10/26).
ESPN earned an 11.2 U.S. rating and 17.953 million viewers for its Giants-Cowboys "MNF" telecast from 8:30pm-12:11am ET, marking the biggest audience on cable TV this year, ahead of the 17.454 million viewers for the Packers-Bears "MNF" telecast from Sept. 27. Giants-Cowboys also marks the fourth-largest audience in cable TV history, excluding breaking news. Compared to Eagles-Redskins in Week Seven last year, Giants-Cowboys is up 38.3% and 40.6%, respectively, from an 8.1 U.S. rating and 12.766 million viewers. Monday night's telecast was also up 6% and 12%, respectively, from the net's first Giants-Cowboys "MNF" telecast in '07. "MNF" led all programs for the night, broadcast or cable, among all key adult and male demos, and helped ESPN win the night among all nets in those same demos. Through seven weeks, ESPN is averaging a 9.4 U.S. rating and 14.962 million viewers, up 2.2% and 1.7%, respectively, from a 9.2 rating and 14.717 million viewers through the same point last season (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Dallas, Barry Horn noted Giants-Cowboys earned a combined 31.2 local rating and 809,515 HHs on ESPN and KXTA-Ind., marking the "worst Dallas-Fort Worth TV rating of the season" for a Cowboys game. A "new local season low should come Sunday" when the Cowboys play the Jaguars at noon CT (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/26).TOP FIVE MOST-VIEWED PROGRAMS IN CABLE TV HISTORYRKDATEPROGRAMNETU.S.
(000)110/5/09"MNF": Packers-VikingsESPN13.221,839211/30/09"MNF": Patriots-SaintsESPN12.921,40239/15/08"MNF": Eagles-CowboysESPN11.318,608410/25/10"MNF": Giants-CowboysESPN11.217,953512/3/07"MNF": Patriots-RavensESPN11.117,522
FAVRE'S STILL GOT SOMETHING LEFT: In Baltimore, David Zurawik noted NBC's broadcast of the "SNF" Vikings-Packers game was "No. 1 in viewers, households and demographics" for the night. Zurawik: "Brett Favre might be a broken-down, pathetic looking, obnoxious, self-absorbed old guy who doesn't know when to retire. ... But apparently, he is still pretty good box office" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 10/26).
MAX COVERAGE TOO MUCH? In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote "instituting a new rule for the league's television partners, one that would follow a policy the networks have used for years in other major sports," would be a way to "curb the number of dangerously flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL." Shapiro: "Whenever an overzealous fan runs out on to the field in baseball, for example, the cameras almost always focus elsewhere. ... So why not do the same for dangerous hits." There is "no way to avoid airing those hits in the normal live telecast of the action," and "in a perfect world, one replay would also be permissible, if only to show the audience exactly why the guilty player was flagged for unnecessary roughness." NFL studio shows "also would be allowed to air the play once in order to inform viewers who may not have seen the play live." But Shapiro wrote, "Anything beyond that surely would have to be considered gratuitous and would not be allowed" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/26).
There are "few indications" the Rangers-Giants World Series "will be a television ratings bonanza" for Fox, including the fact the two biggest markets in the U.S. "present problems," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. The News Corp.-Cablevision dispute means "about 3 million viewers in New York won't get the Series," and "because Dodgers fans hate the Giants, the L.A. market might be even worse." But N.Y. and L.A. "are not the only challenges." Sunday's Game Four will face off against the Steelers-Saints "SNF" game on NBC, and Game Five, if necessary, will be up against ESPN's Texans-Colts "MNF" broadcast. Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chair Ed Goren said that it is "not a secret the network needs a long series." Goren: "We saw in the NLCS, ratings in Game 6 were 70% higher than in Game 1. There is a direct relationship in the number of games and overall ratings. Initially ratings will be lower. As the Series builds, we'll be fine" (L.A. TIMES, 10/27). Goren added, "There's no question that there is a direct relationship with the number of games you get and your overall ratings. If we go six or seven games, we're going to come out of the World Series with strong ratings." Fox officials predicted that Sunday's Game Four "will actually benefit" by having Fox' NFL national window featuring Vikings-Patriots start at 4:15pm ET. The NFL game "should end about the time Fox's baseball game gets under way," and Fox Sports President Eric Shanks said that the "ability to tell Vikings-Patriots fans to stay tuned for baseball will benefit the network." Meanwhile, filmmaker Ken Burns "has written a special Game 1 open" (MLB.com, 10/26).
SERIES WORTH WATCHING: CNBC's Darren Rovell discussed World Series ratings and said, "Everyone talks about, 'Oh, it's not a great matchup, it's not what people want.' What baseball really wants and what Fox wants is the casual viewer to get engaged. What you've seen is sometimes when it's not even the best teams, if it goes six or seven, that's when someone who doesn't normally watch baseball tunes in" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 10/27). ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote, "Watch. Don't watch. It's not like Joe Buck will send me a commission check if you do. But this World Series has yee-haw thrill ride written all over it" (ESPN.com, 10/26). In Dallas, Barry Horn writes, "We don't care if you don't watch the World Series. ... Don't watch the World Series. Your loss" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/27). In N.Y., Kevin Kernan writes, "Welcome to the people's World Series. The Rangers and Giants are a reality TV version of the World Series. Real teams with real players, some with real problems. It's not a superstar matchup, but it is a matchup worth watching." Rangers P C.J. Wilson, referring to the main character on HBO's "Eastbound & Down," said, "If there was a real life Kenny Powers, he'd be playing on one of these teams." Rangers RF Jeff Francouer: "Our success couldn't come at a better time than right now with the Cowboys being 1-5." Francouer noted Cowboys fans during the team's "MNF" against the Giants started chanting, "Let's Go Rangers." Rangers P Darren Oliver: "Everybody likes to see the Yankees in the World Series for some reason. I think it's good that people get to see a lot of other players this time" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).
EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM: Tonight’s game begins at 7:57pm ET, and MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "is committed to making our sport family-friendly, and family-friendly means putting games on at a time when families can view." Brosnan: "The start time dictates the end time, and expecting people to stay as late as they may have for a game wasn't happening. We're experimenting with these start times as an attempt to bring families into the television viewership of the World Series" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/27).
NEW VIEW: In Ft. Worth, Ray Buck reports Fox will introduce MLB CableCam for its coverage of the World Series. Shanks: "We're installing a football-style CableCam camera that can fly out over the field. You'll get a video-game view during certain points of the game." CableCam will debut tonight at AT&T for Game One, and MLB and Fox "established a few ground rules for CableCam, which will concentrate on the infield area between the pitcher's mound and home plate, plus foul territory near the dugouts." Shanks: "You'll see (CableCam shots) during dead-ball situations, when you know you're not going to interfere with anything in-play." Including CableCam, Fox will use 25 cameras for tonight's game (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/27).
SOCIAL STUDIES: USA TODAY's Jon Swartz notes Giants and Rangers fans "intend to get their fill of the 106th fall classic through Facebook groups, tweets and text messages." The MLB.com At Bat app, available on iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry devices, is "being opened 1.9 million times a day." MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman said that "approximately 12 million people are either fans of MLB or one of its 30 teams on Facebook -- triple what it was a year ago." Three million people "have signed up to follow baseball-related tweets via MLB and its teams" (USA TODAY, 10/27).INSIDE THE NUMBERS: TBS, led by coverage of the Rangers-Yankees ALCS, ranked as the No. 1 primetime cable net for the week ending Oct. 24 in average viewers (4.8 million), as well as among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54. TBS' ALCS coverage concluded Friday with Game Six, which ranked as the No. 1 program on all of TV for the day and the No. 1 cable program for the week. TBS' overall coverage of the LDS and ALCS saw increases in viewers (9%), adults 18-34 (7%), adults 18-49 (5%) and adults 25-54 (8%). TBS now ranks as the No. 1 basic cable network in primetime delivery of adults 18-34 year-to-date (TBS). CABLEFAX DAILY notes TBS "easily conquered the cable competition" in primetime last week. Not only did the net "rout all channels" in ratings and viewership, but the net's Rangers-Yankees Games Four and Six "topped all cable telecasts" for the week. The games outperformed ESPN's Titans-Jaguars "MNF," which ranked No. 3 last week (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/27).
Tonight's Game One of the Rangers-Giants World Series "will not be available in Cablevision homes in the New York area ... barring a restart of talks and an unlikely last-minute agreement" between News Corp. and Cablevision, according to Georg Szalai of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (10/27). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes "rabbit ears, satellite dishes and Verizon FiOS are now the alternatives for fans in New York and New Jersey who want to bypass the inconvenience" of WNYW-Fox' removal from Cablevision's systems. Some cable customers in South New Jersey also "have been doubly victimized," as they are currently not receiving either WNYW or Philadelphia's WTXF-Fox. The Trager Group Principal Mike Trager: "I'm positive there's never been a time when a World Series was unavailable to viewers who wanted it." Sandomir notes "being unable to count Cablevision customers for the Rangers-Giants matchup amounts to perhaps 0.2 of a rating point," which is "not a critical fraction." MLB's contract with Fox "requires the network to make all reasonable efforts to get all of its affiliates to carry the games," and once that is done, Fox "cannot then guarantee distribution by cable, satellite or telephone operators." MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said Fox is "in compliance with the contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). In N.Y., Corey Kilgannon notes the blackout "seems to have energized the holdout Giants fans in the New York area." The fans have "sought out bars and other public places that subscribe to Verizon's Fios or to DirecTV, or that are outside Cablevision's coverage area" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
MLB WEIGHS IN ON DISPUTE: MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said of the Cablevision/News Corp. dispute, "Baseball always wants our fans to be able to see our games but … this is a private dispute between Fox and Cablevision. The fact is the Fox signals in New York are on, they're up in the air, and viewers have an opportunity to see the games. They just may not be able to see the games through their Cablevision set top boxes." When asked if MLB can do anything more to facilitate the dispute, Brosnan said, "Fox is in compliance with our contract and, again, their commitment to us is to have the signals in the air and the signals are in the air" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/27).
LATEST SALVO: In N.Y., Carter & Stelter note Cablevision yesterday "tried a new tactic to get the government to intervene" in the dispute. Cablevision President & CEO James Dolan in a letter said that he would come to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski's office today and "promised to bring with him 'new, constructive offers,' designed to reach an agreement" before Game One. But the effort was "met with a swift and stinging rebuke from a senior" FCC official. The official "wasted little time in criticizing the efforts" and "dismissed the move as a stunt." Carter & Stelter note Cablevision and News Corp. "have held no talks at all to resolve the dispute since last Wednesday," and "no new talks between the sides have been scheduled" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Szalai writes Dolan in the letter "made an eleventh-hour play in a possible attempt to sway public opinion or gain momentum in the dispute" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 10/27). In L.A., Joe Flint noted Dolan in the letter said that he would meet with Genachowski and News Corp. President & COO Chase Carey so that the three "can hammer out a deal." But Fox in a statement in response to Dolan's letter said the company "once again calls on Cablevision to return to the bargaining table and resume constructive negotiations." Flint: "In other words, no one is fueling up the News Corp. private plane for Chase Carey to go to Washington." The FCC official said it is "encouraging that Cablevision has a new 'constructive offer,'" but added they "should spend less time writing publicity-seeking letters to the FCC and more time at the negotiating table." Flint noted both News Corp. and Cablevision "have been spending more time taking shots at each other and lobbying politicians than they have trying to cut a deal" (LATIMES.com, 10/26).
DETAILING ILLEGAL SITES? In N.Y., Richard Huff reported a Cablevision rep "told a customer complaining about missing Fox to catch his favorite games on websites -- even though the broadcasts are illegal." The representative added that Cablevision "has an internal 'team' trolling the Internet for similar ways people can watch Fox for free." The conversation came to light after a Fox employee "who is also a Cablevision customer taped his conversation with a customer service rep" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/26). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Farrell & Eggerton noted the Daily News report "did not identify just what sites" the Cablevision customer service reps were "allegedly directing customers to" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 10/26). In N.Y., Atkinson & Crowley report News Corp. yesterday sent a "cease-and-desist letter" to Cablevision over the claim that its reps are "directing customers to illegal Web sites to view Fox shows." Meanwhile, two Long Island residents have filed a class-action suit against Cablevision for "failing to provide Fox programming and for not giving customers a rebate for cable bills that are paid in advance" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).
WHAT'S AT STAKE: On Long Island, Verne Gay writes the dispute is part of a "struggle over the future of the television industry and who pays for it." Industry analysts and execs said that what has "made the outcome of this particular dispute so difficult to predict" is that "neither entity can agree on what different kinds of programming cost and who should pay for it." Former N.Y. Time Warner Cable President Richard Aurelio: "It's clear that the rest of the cable industry is kind of rooting for Cablevision and that this has become a defining moment in this whole issue of retransmission" (NEWSDAY, 10/27). DAILY VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton notes it is "unclear what, if any, steps the FCC can take to prod the sides to a resolution, other than imposing fines if one or both are found to be violating the good-faith clause that governs retransmission consent negotiations" (DAILY VARIETY, 10/27).
UFC President Dana White's "most notable goal" is "finally taking his sport into broadcast television for the first time, a move he says his organization is finally prepared for in the coming year, as well as launching his own channel," according to Ben Grossman of BROADCASTING & CABLE. The UFC's current cable deal with Spike "expires next year and White is already said to be shopping that as well." The following are excerpts of Grossman's Q&A with White:
Q: What's next for your television strategy?
White: A lot of people don't realize we are in a half a billion homes around the world. ... We are working on a couple moves now and should be in a billion homes around the world in the next couple months.
Q: What about here in the U.S.? You have said you'd only do a broadcast deal when the time was right? Are you there yet? Do you expect to be on broadcast TV for the first time in 2011?
White: Yes, we will. We are working on some things right now. I just can't talk about it at all because we are right in the middle of it.
Q: I have heard you have had some back and forth with News Corp., and Fox has a hole on Saturday late nights and that would seem like a perfect fit for UFC.
White: I don't disagree with that. We're in the middle of this stuff, we can't talk about it, but it's all common sense.
Q: How about Comcast-NBC. You have a relationship with Versus already, so what does this deal mean for you?
White: It could be our way into NBC. Everything you're saying makes sense. Fox on Saturday nights, Comcast merging with NBC.
Q: What about launching your own UFC network? That has to be in your plans?
White: That will happen within the next couple years.