SBD/Issue 51/Sports Media

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  • Drama For Sprint Cup Finale Gives ESPN Overnight A Boost From '09

    ESPN Earns 3.3 Overnight Rating For Ford 400,
    Up From A 3.2 For Last Year's Race On ABC

    ESPN earned 3.3 overnight Nielsen rating for yesterday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson won his fifth straight Sprint Cup championship. The overnight is up slightly from the 3.2 overnight on ABC for the finale last year, and marks the best overnight for a race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Viv Bernstein wrote under the header, "NASCAR Has The Finish, If Not The Viewers, It Has Craved." The sport got "exactly what it desperately needs" with yesterday's season finale, yet the "television ratings have been down significantly throughout the 10-race playoff" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21).

    TRYING TO MAKE THINGS BETTER: NASCAR plans to meet with ESPN officials during the offseason to discuss everything from race times to promotion in an effort to reverse ratings declines, NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said Friday. NASCAR shifted to consistent 1:00pm ET start times this year, which was coupled with a shift from ABC to ESPN for many race broadcasts. Ratings during the Chase for the Sprint Cup have declined more than 20%. France said, "Obviously, we would like our TV ratings on an upswing. We're looking at all kinds of things to see what's a better formula for us." France declined to outline any specific changes NASCAR might consider. He said the sanctioning body would look at shortening some races, but it would not consider having mid-week races because of the size of the events and the distance many fans travel to attend races (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). France indicated that the governing body could "make changes" to the Chase for the Sprint Cup in '11, and those "could potentially include an expansion of the Chase from its current 12-driver field." When asked if ESPN would be in favor of an elimination-format Chase, ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski said, "If there was a way -- and it doesn’t necessarily have to be elimination -- to ensure that this type of drama (three drivers racing for the championship) happens every year in the Chase, where the emphasis on winning is enhanced throughout the Chase, then that’s certainly something we would support" (, 11/19).

    STOP GOING AGAINST NFL: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette noted the drama surrounding yesterday's finale provided a "pretty good setup for viewers to be clicking to ESPN’s telecast in big numbers." But the "problem is, trying to compete with the NFL is a proven formula for failure." Frenette: "There are two viable solutions for racing to reel in more TV viewers: Tweak the schedule so the Chase isn’t going head-to-head as much with the NFL, or pray that Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes relevant again" (, 11/20).

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  • NFL Week 11 Overnights: Colts-Pats, Giants-Eagles Score Big Gains

    Each NFL Sunday TV partner saw overnight Nielsen ratings increase year-over-year for Week 11 coverage. CBS led all NFL telecasts windows yesterday with a 16.7 overnight rating for its national window featuring Colts-Patriots, marking the net's second-best NFL rating this season behind Colts-Eagles in Week Nine. The net's early window coverage was flat compared to '09. NBC earned a 15.9 overnight for its Giants-Eagles "SNF" telecast last night, marking the net's fifth best NFL regular-season overnight since re-acquiring NFL rights prior to the '06 season. The game also marked the NFL's best November primetime telecast in 12 years, dating back to Packers-Steelers on ABC in '98. "SNF" was the top-rated show for the night for the 11th straight week, giving NBC a primetime win among all nets. The rating peaked at a 16.9 from 11:30-11:45pm ET in the fourth quarter. In Philadelphia, the telecast earned a 38.1 local rating, while in N.Y., the game earned a 20.1 rating. On Fox, the net's singleheader saw a slight increase from Week 11 last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

    '10 GAME
    '09 GAME
    % +/-
    Colts-Patriots (96%)
    Jets-Patriots (62%)

    BOOTH REVIEWS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote he "listened to the non-stop chatter of the CBS Sports team of Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots for three mind-numbing, tedious hours" during the Ravens' 37-13 win over the Panthers yesterday, and he still does not know whether they think Panthers QB Brian St. Pierre "belongs in the NFL or not." Instead, the "story line that Wilcots and Harlan were locked into from the opening moments of their broadcast was the possibility of the game being a blowout." But Zurawik noted until "two late-in-the-game interceptions, they were dead wrong on that." Zurawik: "It is astonishing how some announcers come into a game with a story line in their head, and they just can't give it up even if the action on the field contradicts it" (, 11/21). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes Fox NFL analyst Kurt Warner "has the makings of a pretty good television analyst." Warner during yesterday's Buccaneers-49ers game "avoided two common mistakes new analysts tend to make," as he "didn't talk too much, and he didn't talk over viewers' heads with a bunch of technical football-speak." Viewers also could tell Warner "did his homework and had a good grasp on both teams and their personnel." Jones wrote a few times Warner was "rather obvious in his analysis, but overall, he gets a 'thumbs up' for the job he did Sunday" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/22).  

    POWER RANKINGS: In Albany, Pete Dougherty ranked the networks based on their NFL game coverage this season, with NBC ranking No. 1, ESPN No. 2 and CBS No. 3. With just "one game a week, NBC pours all of its resources into the Sunday-night telecast," and "the same with ESPN on Monday nights." CBS "gets an edge over Fox based on better graphics." Meanwhile, ESPN was ranked as having the best pregame show, as the shows "are for the junkies, and ESPN gives those fans the most." NBC announcer Al Michaels ranked as the top play-by-play announcer, as he has "mastered reading the viewers' minds, covering contingencies before we've had a chance to wonder about them." ESPN's Mike Tirico and CBS' Jim Nantz "are close." Dougherty also ranked CBS analyst Phil Simms as the best game analyst, as Simms is "similar to Michaels in his ability to tell us what's not immediately obvious" (Albany TIMES-UNION, 11/19).

    Vick A Major Focus Of
    NFL Pregame Shows

    GOING WILD OVER VICK: The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones writes it feels as if "more folks are willing to forgive" Eagles QB Michael Vick, "who actually broke the law, than Tiger Woods." CBS studio analyst Shannon Sharpe and Fox studio analyst Michael Strahan "both spent significant time during Sunday's NFL pregame shows praising Vick for turning his life around, and praising the NFL and Eagles for giving him a second chance." Strahan "even encouraged everyone to forgive Vick." Meanwhile, Jones writes NBC's Bob Costas "nailed" his interview with Vick on the net's "Football Night in America." Costas "asked Vick what his darkest moment was in prison," which was "particularly interesting" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/22). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes under the header, "Winning Casts A New Light On Vick" (USA TODAY, 11/22). In Philadelphia, John Gonzalez writes of the nets' coverage of Vick, "They squeal about Vick like teenagers reading about him in Us Weekly. ... 'The Michael Vick Story: How He Caused a National Media Meltdown.' The real-time, real-life version has been fun to watch. Slobbering, lobotomized talking heads are always entertaining" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/22).

    STILL APPOINTMENT VIEWING? The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER's Gonzalez wonders if Sunday night and Monday night games are "still special, or have they lost some of their significance because of the NFL's expanded exposure." Gonzalez writes the games "don't have quite as much cachet as they once did," and they also "mess with my appointment TV schedule." The Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick writes he would "rather watch a 1 p.m. Sunday game than a prime-timer." Fitzpatrick: "I can't stay up that late." Meanwhile, the Inquirer's Ashley Fox writes she thinks the "SNF" and "MNF" games are "still special," as the Eagles were "especially jacked up" for last Monday's 59-28 win over the Redskins. Fox: "But there is a little oversaturation going on, that's for sure" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/22). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote the NFL "might consider gifting the NFL Network its live games in the first half of the season, before first and second-string quarterbacks are out, injured" (N.Y. POST, 11/21).

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  • Jon Miller Leaning Against Taking Sunday Night Gig On ESPN Radio

    Miller Could Call Giants Games
    On Weekends For First Time

    MLB announcer Jon Miller said that he "needs time to contemplate ESPN's offer to continue calling the Sunday night games on radio, though he is inclined to say no," according to Henry Schulman of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Miller said he was non-committal about the offer because "it's still being talked about, and I'll hear out their offer," though he did add he is "not likely" to accept it. Miller and broadcast partner Joe Morgan earlier this month were not retained by ESPN as the announcers for the "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast, but Miller noted that there is "no bitterness toward ESPN for letting him go." Miller: "I never would have expected 21 years when I started. We were in a prime-time slot every Sunday for 21 years. That might be unprecedented in our particular business." Schulman reports Miller, 59, did acknowledge that he "might have declined to accept a new ESPN contract if it had been offered," as his dual jobs -- Miller also serves as the MLB Giants' radio announcer -- "required exhausting travel almost every weekend during a season." Turning down ESPN means Miller "could land in the Giants' broadcast booth on weekends for the first time since joining the team before the 1997 season." Miller "expects his status to stay on the back burner until the Giants complete negotiations with broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/22).

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  • Media Notes

    In N.Y., David Carr examines Rupert Murdoch’s plans for The Daily, an "iPad-centered newspaper” that will launch early next year and incorporate some material from News Corp. units. Fox Sports "will provide some video, according to people putting together the prototype." But the "plan is that a vast majority of the content will be original" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/22).


    SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: NBC Sports has launched an iPad app centered around its ProFootballTalk and associated blogs. The app, NBC Sports Talk, is available for free. It also incorporates content from other parts of NBC's Sports Talk business: Hardball Talk, Pro Basketball Talk, Pro Hockey Talk, College Football Talk and Inside the Irish. NBC plans to launch Pro Golf Talk soon. Officially released on Nov. 18, the NBC Sports Talk app was the No. 2 free sports app on iTunes as of this morning. “NBC Sports Talk is unique and represents a majority of the visits to, so we felt it was vital to offer it to the powerful, ever-growing platform of the iPad,” said NBC Sports Digital VP & GM Rick Cordella (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

    YES, AND IT COUNTS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes YES Network's Marv Albert and Mike Fratello "did the impossible, late Friday night," when they made the Nets-Kings game "interesting, even entertaining." Fratello's "scold of the Kings as a team that fouls 'as if everyone (on the other team) is going to make every shot' was dead-on." Albert and Fratello "proved that tough-to-watch TV can be salvaged by what amounts to good radio" (N.Y. POST, 11/22).

    DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: In Dallas, Barry Horn noted Saturday's Florida Atlantic-Texas football game aired on FS Southwest Plus, the latest move in the "impending emergence" of the channel as a "real player in the coming months." FS Southwest is scheduled to air 64 Mavericks games and 61 Stars games, while the number of Rangers broadcasts in '11 is expected to be around the 127 that aired in '10. However, with the "addition of games comes more and more scheduling problems for a single cable network." FS Southwest "hopes to alleviate the headaches by gaining carriage on all local cable and satellite providers for a full-time second network" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/20).

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