SBD/Issue 36/Sports Media

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  • World Series Game Four At All-Time Low, But Gives Fox Prime Win

    Fox earned a 10.4 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Giants-Rangers World Series Game Four, which aired up against NBC's "SNF" featuring Steelers-Saints (11.8 overnight). The head-to-head competition led to last night's telecast being the lowest overnight ever for a World Series Game Four. However, despite losing head-to-head against the World Series, Fox won the night in primetime among all nets (7:00-11:00pm ET), which included the net's 45-minute overrun on NFL national window coverage. Last year's Yankees-Phillies Game Four on Fox earned a 15.6 overnight, but it had no NFL game competition in the same time slot. Phillies-Rays Game Four in '08 earned a 10.7 overnight. Last night's Giants-Rangers game earned a 31.5 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth and a 36.3 rating in the S.F.-Oakland-San Jose market. The game peaked at an 11.0 rating from 9:00-9:30pm.

    Vikings-Patriots (89%)
    Vikings-Packers (91%)
    Giants-Steelers (89%)
    Red Sox-Rockies*
    Redskins-Patriots (82%)
    * = Series-clinching game

    : Fox earned a 6.7 fast-national Nielsen rating and 11.5 million viewers for Saturday night’s Giants-Rangers World Series Game Three from 6:30-9:52pm ET, marking the second lowest-rated World Series game ever. The previous low was for Phillies-Rays Game Three in '08, which started at 9:57pm due to a weather delay, earning a 6.1 rating (9.8 million viewers). Saturday night’s telecast is down 26.4% and 25.3%, respectively, from a 9.1 rating and 15.4 million viewers for Yankees-Phillies Game Three last year, which also started later (9:12pm) due to a weather delay. Fox did earn the win in primetime among all nets on Saturday night, even with the 6:30pm start marking the earliest start for a World Series game since '87. Saturday night was also the net's best Saturday night since Jan. '09. On Thursday night, Fox earned an 8.5 rating (14.1 million viewers) for Rangers-Giants Game Two, down 27% from Yankees-Phillies Game two last year, but up 5% from Phillies-Rays Game Two in '08. Fox also won the night in primetime on Thursday. Through three games, the World Series on Fox is averaging an 8.1 rating and 13.7 million viewers, down 25.7% and 23.6%, respectively, from a 10.9 rating and 17.9 million viewers for Yankees-Phillies at the same point last year, but up 5.2% and 11.2%, respectively, from Phillies-Rays in '08 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In N.Y., Benjamin Toff wrote under the header, "World Series Ratings Are Scary But Sufficient." The ratings for Game Two were "mediocre but … lifted Fox to No. 1 on Thursday" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote though Dallas-Ft. Worth and S.F.-Oakland-San Jose represent the fifth- and sixth-largest TV markets in the country, Rangers-Giants is "proving no ratings match for last year's Yankees-Phillies matchup, which featured the No. 1 and No. 4 markets" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/30).

    MORE TROUBLE AHEAD TONIGHT? ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said of the World Series, “Tonight they are up against a very attractive (‘MNF’) game. Peyton Manning, who is the biggest star in the whole NFL, is on 'Monday Night Football,' plus 'Dancing with the Stars.' They are going to get shellacked. … I'm sure there are a lot of people at the headquarters of Major League Baseball who are real unhappy with what's going on." ESPN's Mike Golic, on the World Series: "When you put it up against college football, the NFL, 'Dancing with the Stars,'… it's just going to lose. You have two huge names in Lee and Lincecum throwing and it's going to have bad ratings again" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 11/1). Chicago Tribune's Bob Foltman, on the World Series matchup between the Giants and Rangers: "I knew as soon as this series matched up we'd get the, 'Oh, nobody cares' because if it's not the Yankees, if it's not the Mets, if it's not the Phillies, then nobody cares in the country at all. That's just the way it is. What can you do?” ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 10/29). But's Ray Ratto wrote under the header, "No-Interest World Series? Please Ask Your Ratings To Shut Up." Ratto: "Ratings can't measure word of mouth, and not every point of interest requires a click for validity. The Giants and Rangers may not quantify well, but they qualify quite well" (, 10/29).

    EARLY-BIRD SPECIAL: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig last night was noncommittal about pursuing a repeat of Saturday's early start time for Game Three of the World Series, with the game generating a 6.7 national TV rating. Selig said, "We'll have to wait and see. I want to take a look at everything once everything is all done." The move to a 6:57pm start for Game Three was further amplified with a 2:51 game duration that was the quickest World Series game since '01. Quarter-hour ratings for Game Three confirmed prior industry research typically indicating the later a game extends, the better a rating gets -- regardless of audience age and other demographics. The game began with a 3.4 rating and 7 share, growing to a 6.6/13 by 8:00pm, about when the first pitch normally would have occurred, and then peaking at a 8.7/16 just before the game's conclusion at 9:52pm. Industry sources suggested the earlier start amounted to a total erosion in the national ratings of 0.4 of a ratings point. Beyond ratings, however, general buzz regarding the earlier start, particularly within social media, trended positively. The shift was also buttressed by several youth-focused marketing initiatives, including the debut on Fox of a new Justin Bieber video and the conclusion of MLB's "World Series of Costumes" Halloween promotion. "We're going to look at everything and evaluate this in its entirety," said MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan. "You can't make a full evaluation when we have another game [Sunday]. We're going to do all of that, and [Selig] is going to be the one to make the call" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Chevrolet "committed to increased advertising ... to help offset potential revenue losses from the earlier Game 3 start" (AP, 10/31).

    MLB HAPPY WITH EARLY START:'s Tom Krasovic wrote MLB was "proud of itself" for starting Game Three early and the fact that the game "ended before 10 p.m. Eastern time." MLB Senior Advisor for Public Affairs Charles Steinberg: "It shows that baseball is listening to families who are asking to help make sure their kids can watch the game. ... There's always a way to make it work. And there was here because baseball, Fox and Chevrolet made it work out" (, 10/30). 

    THE BLIZZARD OF OZ: The MORNING NEWS' Horn writes Fox studio analyst and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen "needs to slow down," as he "has a lot to say and tries to say it all in 10 seconds or less." He "did offer a pregame gem" last night on Giants LF Pat Burrell, who was benched for Game Four "after striking out four times the previous night." Guillen said that when Burrell "asked him how he might improve at the plate," he suggested, "Don't swing anymore. You look like Zorro" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/1). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Chris De Luca notes Guillen's "long-threatened blog made its debut on the MLBlogs network" Saturday under the name "Ozzie Speaks." There also are "rumors a website ... will be unveiled in January" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/31).

    Former Presidents Getting Plenty Of
    Fox Airtime During World Series

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes, "You think maybe Fox can work in a few more shots of Rangers owner Nolan Ryan during its World Series broadcasts? Ryan is getting more air time on Fox than Homer Simpson." Also, Fox has "gone overboard with the shots of fans in general during the World Series" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/1). The MORNING NEWS' Horn writes if former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush got "any more face time" on Fox' coverage, the Democratic National Committee "would be petitioning Fox today for equal time this election season" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/1). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Fox' "World Series sensibilities are better, but we still get the feeling that for every camera shooting the game, three are shooting the crowd watching the game" (N.Y. POST, 11/1).

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  • NFL Week Eight: NBC's "SNF" Beats World Series Head-To-Head

    NBC earned an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Steelers-Saints "SNF" matchup, which beat out the 10.4 overnight last night for Fox' Giants-Rangers World Series Game Four. NBC did not air "SNF" up against the World Series in previous years. Steelers-Saints marks the second-lowest "SNF" overnight of the season, behind only Eagles-49ers from Week Six. The game earned a 48.7 local rating in New Orleans and a 52.2 rating in Pittsburgh, while peaking at a 13.1 rating from 9:30-10:00pm ET. Despite the head-to-head win against the World Series, NBC finished second for the night in primetime, as Fox used a 45-minute overrun from its NFL national window, which featured Vikings-Patriots, to earn the win among all nets. The national window itself earned a 17.0 overnight, down 7.1% from an 18.3 overnight last year, when Fox featured Vikings-Packers. That game marked Vikings QB Brett Favre's first time back at Lambeau Field since he left the Packers prior to the '08 season. The telecast also led into Yankees-Phillies Game Four last year. Each of the other NFL game windows yesterday also saw declines, as Fox' regional coverage was off 11.1% and CBS' singleheader was down 5% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

    '10 TELECAST
    '09 TELECAST
    % +/-
    Vikings-Patriots (89%)
    Vikings-Packers (91%)

    : In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote NBC's "Football Night in America" is "in an awkward spot" with its 7:00pm ET start time. It "seems like every week" the beginning of the show is "up against an exciting conclusion of a 'late' tilt on Fox or CBS." Still, viewers should "attempt to watch the first 10 minutes of the show, each and every Sunday," as in that period, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels "bring some original perspective to the party." The "sincere give-and-take" between Costas and Collinsworth is "what these types of shows should be more about" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/31). In Denver, Dusty Saunders notes CBS' "The NFL Today" yesterday featured a segment in which analyst Shannon Sharpe "invited youngsters, dressed as NFL personnel, to his Halloween house." Sharpe "provided a few funny bits" (DENVER POST, 11/1). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted the same ESPN NFL analysts who previously "swapped belly laughs during the remorseless, colossally ill-advised 'He Got Jacked Up!' feature" now "soberly address the concussion epidemic" (N.Y. POST, 10/31).

    Fox Continues To Be Praised
    For Hiring Of Pereira

    EARNING GOOD GRADES: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote Fox' decision to hire former NFL VP/Officiating Mike Pereira as a rules analyst "qualifies not only as a good one, but a great one ... given Pereira's contribution" to yesterday's Packers-Jets broadcast. Pereira was "brought into the Packers-Jets telecast twice to explain challenge situations, each time making the issues clear to viewers, and each time correctly predicting the outcome of the challenge." Pereira "has been doing this kind of work all season long in other games" (, 10/31). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes Fox' Brian Billick's "know-it-all attitude helps make him a good broadcaster." Billick "knows his football, relays it well to the viewer, seems relaxed and has a quick, dry sense of humor as well" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/1).

    HAPPY IN THE BOOTH: ESPN "MNF" analyst Jon Gruden said the role has been "fun" for him. Gruden: "It's still football. I love football, man. ... It's 'Monday Night Football.' The venues are always great and the crowds are intense. We always seem to have good matchups. ... Plus I get to work with some good people. Mike Tirico is a great guy and Ron (Jaworski) is a pleasure to work with" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/31).

    UP CLOSE & PERSONAL: USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy notes NFL Network's "Sound FX" captured the moment when Giants LB Michael Boley last week "drove a miked-up" Cowboys QB Tony Romo "into the turf, breaking his collarbone." Romo "screams in pain." As a trainer examines him, viewers hear Romo ask, "Did he catch the pass?" (USA TODAY, 11/1).

    AMERICAN MADE: USA TODAY's McCarthy also notes NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen "took offense" to Fox touting Vikings-Patriots as "America's Game of the Week." Eisen tweeted Sunday: "Does that mean all other games are un-American?" (USA TODAY, 11/1).

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  • Astros, Rockets Reach Deal With Comcast For New Sports Network

    Rockets Games Will Begin Airing On Comcast
    SportsNet Houston For '12-13 NBA Season

    The Astros and Rockets announced Friday they have reached an agreement with Comcast "to launch a new Houston regional sports network that will air Rockets games" beginning in the fall of '12 and Astros games beginning in '13, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The teams, who have been television partners since '03, will "own just under 80 percent of the new network," to be called Comcast SportsNet Houston. The teams on Friday informed FS Houston "of their plans to terminate their agreements with the network" at the end of the '11-12 NBA season and '12 MLB season, respectively. Financial terms of the new partnership were not disclosed. The Astros and Rockets in '03 "valued their proposed network at more than $350 million, but that value likely has grown as the value of sports rights deals have increased over the last decade." Barron noted Comcast "will have a built-in audience for Comcast SportsNet Houston with its Houston cable operation but must negotiate carriage deals with other cable companies and satellite distributors." The new RSN ends Fox Sports' affiliation with the Astros, dating back to '83, and the Rockets, whose games have aired on FS Houston since its inception in '83 with the exception of the '02-03 and '03-04 NBA seasons. Fox in September signed a 20-year extension with the Rangers and "will continue to air the team’s games in Houston once the Astros leave Fox for Comcast." Fox Sports also will "continue in Houston as an outlet for Rangers games, Houston Texans-related programming and Big 12 football and basketball" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/30).

    HOME ON THE RANGE: In Dallas, Barry Horn noted the "prospect of a Comcast RSN launch in Houston was, of course, the major reason" Fox Sports was "so eager to put up at least $1.6 billion for a new 20-year deal with the Rangers." That deal included "considerable upfront money that allowed the Chuck Greenberg-Nolan Ryan ownership group to outbid the Mark Cuban-Jim Crane group" in bidding to buy the Rangers from Tom Hicks. Fox was "worried that Cuban-Crane would bundle the Rangers with the Mavericks and pursue their own RSN," which would have "left Fox Sports Southwest with only the NHL Stars, Big 12 and high school programming" (, 10/29).

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  • Cablevision, Fox End Stalemate In Time For WS Game Three

    Cablevision Subs Were Able To Watch World
    Series After Deal With News Corp. Was Reached

    Cablevision and Fox Networks Saturday reached a carriage agreement that ended a "two-week stalemate marked by heated rhetoric, political pressures and missed sporting events," according to George Stahl of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The agreement ends "one of the longest and bitterest battles between a television programmer and distributor." But the "animosity continued even after a settlement was reached as Cablevision complained about agreeing to pay Fox 'an unfair price' and about 'the absence of any meaningful action'" from the FCC. The pressure "felt by television distributors was evident in Cablevision's emailed statement Saturday night announcing the agreement." The statement read in part, "Cablevision has agreed to pay Fox an unfair price for multiple channels of its programming including many in which our customers have little or no interest. Cablevision conceded because it does not think its customers should any longer be denied the Fox programs they wish to see." Stahl notes talks between the two sides "picked up after Fox and Dish Network Corp. announced a programming agreement Friday." The Dish agreement "undercut one of Cablevision's arguments that News Corp. was taking hard stances against all television distributors." A Fox spokesperson said that the network now "has no major negotiations in the near term" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/1). DAILY VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton reported the two sides "resumed negotiations on Friday and spent the day going back and forth by phone with the goal of getting a deal done" in time for Giants-Rangers World Series Game Three, which began at 6:57pm ET Saturday. The loss of World Series coverage on WNYW-Fox in N.Y. "put pressure on Cablevision to act, as did the retrans deal that Fox reached" with Dish (, 10/30). Jets Owner Woody Johnson, whose team's game against the Packers yesterday aired on Fox, "welcomed the deal." Johnson said on Twitter, "I appreciate that both sides were able to work out their differences in advance of our game" (Bergen RECORD, 10/31).

    NOT A HAPPY ENDING: In L.A., Joe Flint wrote neither side was particularly "happy with the outcome." Cablevision in a statement "blasted" the FCC "for not getting involved in the dispute and criticized Fox for heavy-handed demands" (L.A. TIMES, 10/31). In Newark, Julie O'Connor wrote Cablevision "begrudgingly ended its dispute." News Corp. "released a statement saying simply an agreement was reached," while Cablevision's statement was "considerably more disgruntled"  (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/31). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes, "Best. Press. Release. Ever" (USA TODAY, 11/1). In N.Y., Atkinson & Perone wrote, "Cablevision caved" (N.Y. POST, 10/31).

    Dish's Deal With News Corp. Allows
    Subscribers To Watch Games On RSNs

    GETTING THE BALL ROLLING: In N.Y., Brian Stelter notes News Corp.'s deal with Dish Friday restored Fox' RSNs "in Dish households after a four-week blackout." With the agreement, Dish also "averts what was an impending blackout of the Fox broadcast network." Fox Networks President of Affiliate Sales & Marketing Mike Hopkins "thanked Dish in a statement Friday afternoon," noting Dish "worked tirelessly to help us reach a successful conclusion" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30). In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce noted financial details "weren't announced, but the battle boiled down to how much Fox wanted per subscriber versus how much Dish was willing to pay." Dish claimed Fox was making "exorbitant" demands, while Fox claimed it wanted "fair market value." KSTU-Fox President & GM Tim Ermish said that KSTU was "asking for less than 50 cents per month per subscriber." News Corp. and Dish "had been battering each other in the press and online but, predictably, kissed and made up after the agreement was reached" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/30).

    SHOULD FCC BE INVOLVED? The AP's Ryan Nakashima noted Cablevision called "early and often" for the FCC to "step in and force News Corp.'s Fox to keep providing its broadcast signal while it pressed for arbitration." But the FCC said that "its hands were tied." FCC Chair Julius Genachowski said in a letter to U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), "Under the present system, the FCC has very few tools with which to protect consumers' interests." Nakashima noted the Cable Television Consumer Protection & Competition Act of 1992 "heavily favors broadcasters in such negotiations because they have the ability to black out signals." The "united front among distributors did not hold" as Dish reached an agreement with News Corp. Friday, and RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said that the deal "greatly undermined Cablevision's position." Bank added that "likely Republican gains in the upcoming election could also cloud prospects for FCC-led reform" (AP, 10/31). The FINANCIAL TIMES' David Gelles writes the outcome of the Cablevision-News Corp. dispute "will serve to set the tone as, in future, deals come up to be renewed." With the FCC "declining to intervene, cable companies may go on the defensive, while networks may feel sufficiently emboldened to increase their fees." The dispute "could also affect the regulatory approval process for Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/1).

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  • Parent Company Changing Blog Format In January

    Deadspin Going Away From Chronological
    Format In Favor Of A Top-Story Model

    Gawker Media Founder Nick Denton is "overhauling his sites to broaden their appeal, an attempted transformation that could ripple through the online media industry," according to Jessica Vascellaro of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The company's nine blogs, including, beginning in January "will abandon their reverse chronological format for one dominated by a single story, with other posts relegated to a stream of headlines on the right side." Denton said, "I'm out of blogs. I don't want to be the No. 1 blog network anymore. That's like being king of the playground." He added, "I can't bear to look at the current site. It is so constricting." Denton indicated that the new design, which "resembles a newsmagazine, aims to emphasize original work and the growing number of videos on his sites, visited by 17.3 million unique U.S. visitors in September." Gawker Chief Technology Officer Thomas Plunkett said that he "believes the new design will double the network's monthly page views to one billion a year after launch" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/1).

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  • Media Notes

    Koufax Gives Rare Media Interview As Part
    Of New "Jews And Baseball" Documentary

    The N.Y. POST noted Baseball HOFer Sandy Koufax "rarely does interviews," but he agreed to take part in Ira Berkow's baseball documentary "Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story." Berkow "reached out to the Brooklyn native through an intermediary and convinced him to talk to him for the film." But "not satisfied with his first sit-down, Koufax later called the filmmakers and asked if he could do it again." Berkow said, "If you're doing a film about Jews and baseball, you need Koufax in the film." He noted that the movie is "about an ethnic group -- Jews -- attempting to assimilate through baseball" (N.Y. POST, 10/31). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted the last time Koufax spoke to a national TV network was in '99, when he "gave an hourlong interview to ESPN for the 'SportsCentury' series chapter on him." HBO has been "turned down by Koufax several times over the past 30 years" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/31).

    FIGHT FOR ATTENTION: YAHOO SPORTS' Steve Cofield noted Versus' "The Daily Line" getting canceled is a "lousy break for MMA and its fans." ESPN is "getting more consistent with its MMA coverage on the television side but [it's] not all the way there yet," and the net "still doesn't send the 'MMA Live' crew to every big U.S. event." Using "The Daily Line" for postfight coverage, Versus "was doing a terrific job of covering the sport on fight nights." Cofield: "MMA deserves to be covered just like the other major sports with immediate reaction from experts" (, 10/29).

    HERE'S THE PITCH: ESPN launched “Virtual Pitch” technology during its “Baseball Tonight” series last week. The technology incorporates Sony’s “MLB 10 The Show” video game, with all the league’s stadiums featured. The game developers recreated the motions from all MLB pitchers, which ESPN now is using on screen. This allows ESPN analysts to break down specific pitches (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

    NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: Syndicated radio show "The Dan Patrick Show" recently began TV simulcasts on Fox- and Comcast-affiliated RSNs, and Dan Patrick said, "The key is I can't 'out-local' local. But I can bring a national perspective to a local story, and that's what I've tried to do. It's tricky doing a national show and bringing it to a local market" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/31).

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