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ESPN earned a 10.0 U.S. Nielsen rating and 16.533 million viewers for the Patriots' 45-3 rout of the Jets on "MNF," figures which were still good enough to rank the telecast as the fifth most-viewed cable TV program of the year. Jets-Patriots is also up 20.5% and 22.7%, respectively, from an 8.3 rating and 13.478 million viewers for Ravens-Packers in Week 13 last year. "MNF" won the night among all programs on TV, including wins in all key male and adult demos. The game also led ESPN to a primetime win among all broadcast and cable nets. Through 13 weeks, "MNF" is averaging an 8.9 U.S. rating and 14.365 million viewers, down slightly from a 9.0 rating and 14.478 million viewers through the same point last season (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter reported WAGA-Fox earned a 31.3 local rating for Sunday's Falcons-Buccaneers game. Ledbetter wrote the "high numbers are likely a signal the Falcons will be getting more national exposure down the stretch and more national games next season." The 10-2 Falcons currently are tied for the best record in the league (AJC.com, 12/7).
NO LAUGHING MATTER: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted ESPN "MNF" analyst Jon Gruden offered "pointed criticism" of Cardinals QB Derek Anderson during the net's telecast of the Nov. 29 49ers-Cardinals game after Anderson was shown "laughing with" OT Deuce Lutui as the team was losing. Deitsch wrote ESPN's cameras "should be the eyes for fans at home and MNF had every right to show Anderson," but whether Gruden was "fair with his criticism without knowing the conversation is open to debate." ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman said, "It is our job to document the game and part of that are the emotions and things that go on, not just on the field. It is not our [intention] to dig dirt...In the case of Derek Anderson, it is unusual to see that type of emotion." Rothman noted Gruden "did preface it by saying we don't know what they are talking about," though he added "as a coach, Jon gave you an opinion from his point of view based on what we showed them from the truck." Gruden said his comment was "based on the entire football game." Gruden: "I wasn't trying to dig dirt or be too negative at all, but that was a reaction on the field that I don't recall seeing given the circumstances of the entire night" (SI.com, 12/7). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent wrote "journalistically speaking, the worst and relatively underreported part of the Anderson kerfuffle is that the shot of the quarterback and lineman smiling was aired on tape." Rothman noted that it aired "about 60 seconds after it happened." Kent wrote as a result, Rothman could have sent either of the sideline reporters, Suzy Kolber or Michele Tafoya, "over to the Arizona bench to ask the media relations person on duty to ask Anderson what was so amusing" (FANHOUSE.com, 12/7).
FREEDOM OF THE AIR: In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote ESPN Radio 980 DC, which is owned by Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder, "seems to pull very few punches in what it allows its broadcasters to say on the air about anyone even remotely associated with the team, particularly Snyder himself." Shapiro: "Snyder, so far in his radio stewardship, has not interfered much with the people he pays to yakkety-yak about the Redskins. Good for him" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/7).
The MLB Rangers yesterday announced that that they have entered into a multiyear agreement with ESPN Radio 103.3 Dallas and ESPN Deportes 1540 for the exclusive English and Spanish radio play-by-play rights in Dallas-Ft. Worth beginning next season. The stations will complement game coverage with live pre- and postgame shows as well as Rangers-themed daily programming, including interviews with players, coaches and front office personnel. Some regular-season Rangers game will be carried on KSKY-AM due to programming conflicts on ESPN Radio 103.3 (Rangers). ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett reported the "four-year agreement includes all Rangers regular season and postseason games as well as select spring training games." Announcer Eric Nadel and analyst Dave Barnett will call the games on ESPN Radio while Eleno Ornelas "will handle the play-by-play for the Spanish broadcast team" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 12/7). In Dallas, Barry Horn notes ESPN Radio replaces KRLD-AM and KRLD-FM as the team's flagship station. KRLD-AM "had broadcast Rangers games since 1995," while KRLD-FM "began sharing the schedule in 2009." The Rangers in moving to 103.3 "concede they will lose some audience penetration due to signal issues but promise to 'work like heck' to solve the problem." Meanwhile, there is "no straight rights fee in this deal as there is in traditional television contracts." The Rangers and ESPN "will each sell commercial time with the team controlling most of the advertising slots," and the Rangers "will also control all of the elements of the production" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/8).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "believes the league is poised to become a major player in the North American media market," according to Steve Keating of REUTERS. With talks on a new TV deal underway, the NHL is "looking for something more substantial than its revenue-splitting arrangement with NBC, which expires at the end of the season." The league also could "profit from a bidding war for its U.S. cable rights, currently held by Versus, if ESPN and Fox enter into the competition." Bettman yesterday said, "We're in a good place. There's more interest in us than there has ever been." Keating noted the Winter Classic outdoor game is a "ratings mega-hit for the NHL," and this season's Capitals-Penguins game at Heinz Field is "sure to attract even more interest with the help" of HBO's "24/7" mini-series that will follow the teams leading up to the New Year's Day contest (REUTERS, 12/7). Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke said, "We think we have a great story to tell to anyone who's interested in our rights. The game itself and the ratings, it's a very positive story" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/8). Bettman said, "In the final analysis, Versus and NBC have been terrific partners and over the last 5½ years I don't think anybody could've been a better partner and given us better promotion and scheduling for what we need" (AP, 12/7).
TECHNICAL DETAILS: The NHL has struck a multiyear deal with Cisco that includes installation of six-figure TelePresence units into the league offices in Manhattan, Montreal and Toronto. Cisco also will produce Flip video cameras branded with logos from all 30 teams. “In terms of doing business and not traveling as much, (TelePresence technology) is terrific,” Bettman said. “I’m hoping Bill Daly and myself can do more business this way than having to get on a plane” (Fred Dreier, SportsBusiness Journal).
ESPN had a larger total-day audience in November than any month in its history, averaging 1.189 million HHs, topping the previous mark of 1.164 million HHs set in September '09. ESPN also saw it best average total-day rating for any month on record (since '92), tied with September '09 and September '10. The network also posted a record 1.512 million viewers in November. ESPN saw a 20% ratings increase over November '09, the previous best November. ESPN2 (+5%), ESPNews (+18%) and ESPNU (+97%) also saw larger audiences in November this year than last year (ESPN).
CHICAGO BORN AND BRED: Just a day after he wrote his goodbye column after 30 years in The Washington Post, columnist Michael Wilbon has agreed to write for ESPN.com and ESPNChicago.com. A Chicago native, Wilbon also will do a weekly segment on ESPN Radio's "Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago. ESPN.com and ESPNChicago.com posted Wilbon's first column today. He also hosted an online chat (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
KEEPING HIS OPTIONS OPEN: Former MLB manager Joe Torre yesterday said that "although he has a number of options as far as what to do now," he will "wait until after the first of the year to make a decision." Torre: "I have had some inquiries about broadcasting, which certainly is tempting because I did it for six years and I enjoyed it." Torre added that he "hasn't ruled out the possibility of remaining with the Dodgers in a front-office capacity." He and GM Ned Colletti "have spoken periodically since the end of the season, but only in general terms" (ESPNLA.com, 12/7).
NO BULL: In Las Vegas, Jeff Wolf reports the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announced yesterday that "for at least the next two years," exclusive National Finals Rodeo telecasts "will be on cable network Great American Country." Eight of this year's first nine "go-rounds are being shown live on ESPN Classic," and next year will mark the "first year since the mid-1990s the rodeo will not be shown on an ESPN network" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/8).