SBD/Issue 64/Sports Media

Overnight Ratings For Heisman Trophy Ceremony Down 33% On ESPN

Newton's Heisman Win Lacked
Drama Seen During '09 Show

ESPN earned a 2.4 overnight Nielsen rating for the Heisman Trophy presentation show Saturday night from 8:00-9:00pm ET. Auburn QB Cam Newton won the trophy, more than doubling the number of votes second-place finisher Stanford QB Andrew Luck received. The show is down 33% from a 3.6 overnight for last year's telecast, in which Alabama RB Mark Ingram won the award over Stanford RB Toby Gerhart in the closest Heisman vote ever. Following the ceremony, ESPN earned a 1.8 overnight  from 9:00-11:00pm for the premiere of "Pony Excess," the laast installment in the "30 for 30" documentary series this year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the Heisman show "has become tedious to watch because it takes 50 minutes to get to the actual announcement." However, ESPN "did a decent job filling time and, best of all, did not shy away from the controversy that surrounded" Newton. The net "mentioned early in the broadcast" that Newton's father was not at the ceremony, and it "aired a short interview asking Newton about allegations that he or his father asked for money to play college football." There was "no need to dwell on it, but it couldn't be ignored, and ESPN handled it just right" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 12/13).

THE BEST OF AN AWKWARD SITUATION: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted ESPN "had a choice" with Newton -- ask "awkward, on-the-griddle questions in front of a live and enthusiastic audience Saturday, or interview him in advance." ESPN's Chris Fowler interviewed Newton Thursday afternoon and parts were shown during Saturday's show. ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria said it "fulfills the journalistic obligation that we have to viewers and allows the show to be as good a watch as it can be for viewers and recipients." Fowler indicated that he "told Auburn officials he would not restrict his questions or provide a list of them." Fowler also "told them he would ask Newton some of those questions at the Heisman presentation if he did not agree to the interview." Doria said that Auburn "was reluctant to expose Newton ... to ESPN's questioning." Doria: "But they came to see that these questions had to be asked, and if we asked them live in a show, they'd be awkward." Fowler said Newton "handled himself very well." Fowler: "He was more forthcoming than I expected him to be and didn't hide behind the shield of an NCAA investigation. ... He's not naive enough to believe that he has closed the door on questions. He knows he addressed them" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/11).

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