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ESPN Friday "will air a live town hall discussion about the current image of the black athlete" as part of "Content of Character," a "weeklong-multiplatform initiative tied to the 25th anniversary" of Martin Luther King Day, according to R. Thomas Umstead of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. The discussion will be hosted by ESPN's Bob Ley and ABC's Robin Roberts and will take place live from New Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The net indicated that panelists will include ESPN's Michael Wilbon, Univ. of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari, WNBA Shock G and former U.S. sprinter Marion Jones, former Univ. of Miami football coach Randy Shannon and director Spike Lee, "who will also serve as executive producer." The "Content of Character" initiative began last night "and will run through the official national holiday" next Monday. As part of the initiative, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" will discuss the role of African Americans in sports beginning Friday (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/10).
NOT LEAKING ITS GAMEPLAN: CABLEFAX DAILY noted writers Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour "got few clues about exactly what" ESPN's "Year of the Quarterback" initiative will be. However, ESPN Content Development VP & Exec Producer Joan Lynch-Owen said that the series will be a "12-month examination of quarterbacks on all of ESPN's platforms." She noted it will include documentaries, original content and "some series," and added ESPN talent and viewers "will be getting smarter about" the position by the end of the year (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/11).
ESPN averaged a 15.3 U.S. rating and 27.3 million viewers for Monday night's Auburn-Oregon Tostitos BCS National Championship from 8:33pm-12:17am ET, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed program in the history of cable television. Among BCS Championship games over the last decade, only the Texas-USC Rose Bowl from '06 earned a better rating among males 18-34 than Monday night's telecast. The previous cable viewership record was ESPN's Vikings-Packers "MNF" game on Oct. 5, 2009, which had an audience of 21.8 million viewers. Compared to last year's Alabama-Texas title game on ABC, Auburn-Oregon is down 11.0% and 11.2%, respectively, from a 17.2 rating and 30.8 million viewers. The viewership for Auburn-Oregon is higher than eight of the previous 12 BCS title broadcasts, all on network TV. For the five BCS game telecasts this season, ESPN averaged a 9.6 U.S. rating and 16.7 million viewers, down 11.9% and 13.2%, respectively, from last year, when the games aired on ABC and Fox. ESPN's BCS package was also down year-over-year among males 18-34 (-4%), 18-49 (-6%) and 25-54 (-11%), as well as among adults 18-49 (-10%) (THE DAILY).AVERAGE RATING, VIEWERSHIP FOR FIVE BCS GAMESYEARNET(S)RATINGVIEWERS (000)'11ESPN9.616,729'10Fox/ABC10.919,278'09Fox/ABC10.317,595'08Fox/ABC9.415,554'07Fox/ABC11.118,123BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RATINGS, VIEWERSHIPYEARDAYGAMENETRATINGVIEWERS
(000)'11Mon.Auburn-OregonESPN15.327,316'10Thurs.Alabama-TexasABC17.230,776'09Thurs.Florida-OklahomaFox15.826,767'08Mon.LSU-Ohio StateFox14.423,069'07Mon.Florida-Ohio StateFox17.428,795'06Wed.Texas-USC (Rose Bowl)ABC21.735,630'05Tues.USC-Oklahoma (Orange Bowl)ABC13.721,419'04Sun.LSU-Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl)ABC14.823,937'03Fri.Ohio State-Miami (Fiesta Bowl)ABC17.229,104'02Thurs.Miami-Nebraska (Rose Bowl)ABC13.821,559'01Wed.Oklahoma-Florida State (Orange Bowl)ABC17.827,240'00Tues.Florida State-Virginia Tech (Sugar Bowl)ABC17.526,962'99Mon.Tennessee-Florida State (Fiesta Bowl)ABC17.226,112
STRONG NUMBER NO SURPRISE: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote the viewership record was "not a surprise, given the game's move to ESPN, making it the most important U.S. sports championship to date contested outside a broadcast network" (NEWSDAY.com, 1/11). In L.A., Scott Collins wrote the numbers "will bring a sigh of relief to ESPN executive suites," as the net "aired the entire BCS lineup for the first time and earlier saw some lower-than-broadcast ratings for events such as the Rose Bowl" (LATIMES.com, 1/11). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes the game was a "huge success ... by ESPN's standard" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent: "There were those who questioned the wisdom of Disney obtaining, then moving, all of the Bowl Championship Series games off broadcast television and onto cable. Let the questioning cease" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/11). CABLEFAX DAILY writes ESPN's coverage of the BCS title game "turned out to be more eye-catching than losing side Oregon's neon socks." ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches: "We really feel like we're in the cross-hairs of greatness" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/12).
STILL A DROPOFF FROM NETWORK: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes under the header, "ESPN's Bowl Ratings Are No Bonanza." ESPN "notes Auburn-Oregon drew cable TV's biggest-ever audience -- which it will remind cable operators the next time it jacks up those operators' subscription fees -- but the BCS has also cut off about 16 million U.S. TV households that don't get cable TV." The net's ratings for the BCS "faced other drags." Oregon and Auburn "come from states with relatively small populations," and "big names such as Florida, Penn State, Texas and Alabama were absent" from the BCS (USA TODAY, 1/12).
VEERING OFF COURSE: The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir writes ESPN's Brent Musburger, who called Auburn-Oregon, "has veered from the factual precision needed to maintain his status as ESPN's No. 1 college football announcer." Musburger, who also worked the Rose Bowl, called the games "with characteristic brio as well as a strange propensity for not routinely stating where the ball was spotted or giving the yardage gained on a play." Sandomir: "Based on my notes on both bowls, Musburger gave that information 25 percent of the time when it should probably have been more than 50 percent. ... Musburger relied on dodges that helped him avoid making errors but also perpetuated a lack of precision you would never encounter with, say, Al Michaels." Musburger's voice is "still the best in the ESPN stable," but the "details add up to inattention to his job or an odd attempt to be the master of a new paradigm of announcing where emotion trumps fact." Meanwhile, Musburger's performance during Auburn-Oregon "will be remembered most for his silly recasting of himself as a marketing man" for his "This is for all the Tostitos" line (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the Tostitos line "may become Mr. Musburger's most famous Musburger-ism," and fans "shouldn't be the least bit surprised." Musburger is "loopy (see his recent steroid rant?)," and "a pleaser." But while "plenty of college fans dislike his style, he fundamentally gets it." His now-infamous phrase is "just the crazy bus driven to its next logical stop" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/12).
CONFLICT OF INTEREST? In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce writes under the header, "Can We Trust ESPN To Report On The BCS?" Pierce: "Polls show a large majority of college football fans want a playoff system, but can fans expect ESPN to be anything other than a cheerleader for the biggest roadblock to a playoff when it's in bed ... with BCS?" ESPN "College GameDay" host Chris Fowler said, "We've not been told by people in management or programming to shape our opinions based on the company's financial agenda." ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit: "We're not all, 'The system is wonderful. Hail to the BCS!' It's not like that at all" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/12).
Yahoo Sports and SportsFanLive.com, a social networking and blogging site, last night produced the first issue of ThePostGame.com, a "daily magazine that will publish lengthy articles (and 140-word rants), and reports on athlete style, sports technology, travel, fitness and betting lines," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The publication "will also be packed with blogs from its partners, Twitter messages from athletes and polls." The home page of the first edition "features a design that looks a bit like that of The Daily Beast." The day’s "major feature article, 'Tom Brady’s Guru,' is in a block across the top, with four columns beneath it, two with photos that roll over into headlines, and two that link to articles and blogs." Creating ThePostGame is a "lateral move," but one that Yahoo "felt it was time to make." Yahoo Exec Editor of North American Audiences Dave Morgan said, “This is the logical evolution of Yahoo Sports. ... Yahoo is very much about what’s going on right now in sports. A magazine can give a greater shelf life to the breadth of content we have and the talent on our roster.” Morgan and SportsFanLive CEO David Katz said that 90% of ThePostGame's content "will be original" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). Katz on the site wrote, "ThePostGame.com is our attempt to re-architect the sports magazine for the Internet generation. ... With a mixture of interviews, investigative pieces, commentary, humor, blogs, and video, we will look at stories from every angle." He added, "We will take risks. We will innovate. And we will evolve with your feedback and support" (THEPOSTGAME.com, 1/12).
Purdy thinks golfers should at least try wearing a microphone
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? In California, Marc Figueroa notes the Tour at the Jan. 27-30 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines will allow fans to “carry their mobile devices as part of a testing process that began last year.” Tournament Dir Tom Wilson said that spectators “will be able to use their devices in designated areas.” Phones “must be set to silent mode.” The Wyndham Championship in August '10 “conducted the first test, and subsequent tests were held at the Frys.com Open in San Martin and the unofficial Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks.” Figueroa notes there “were major disturbances reported.” Wilson said that the Tour “wanted to conduct further tests at larger events with stronger fields and chose" Farmers and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 1/12).
ESPN Friday "will air a live town hall discussion about the current image of the black athlete" as part of "Content of Character," a "week-long, multiplatform initiative tied to the 25th anniversary" of Martin Luther King Day, according to R. Thomas Umstead of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. The discussion will be hosted by ESPN's Bob Ley and ABC's Robin Roberts and will take place live from New Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The net indicated that panelists will include ESPN's Michael Wilbon, Univ. of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari, WNBA Shock G and former U.S. sprinter Marion Jones, former Univ. of Miami football coach Randy Shannon and director Spike Lee, "who will also serve as executive producer." The "Content of Character" initiative began last night and will run through next Monday. As part of the initiative, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" will discuss the role of African Americans in sports beginning Friday (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/10).
NOT LEAKING ITS GAMEPLAN: CABLEFAX DAILY noted writers Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour "got few clues about exactly what" ESPN's "Year of the Quarterback" initiative will be. However, ESPN VP/Content Development Production & Exec Producer Joan Lynch-Owen said that the series will be a "12-month examination of quarterbacks on all of ESPN's platforms." She noted it will include documentaries, original content and "some series," and added ESPN talent and viewers "will be getting smarter about" the position by the end of the year (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/11).
ESPN has officially re-signed college basketball analyst Dick Vitale through the ’14-15 season. Vitale has been at ESPN since ’79, broadcasting his first game on the net less than three months after it launched (ESPN).
HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE PAST: ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews in an interview with GQ's Rafi Kohan said her "outlook is a little different" after being stalked and receiving death threats. Andrews: "Unfortunately, you're not as carefree and easy-going as you were, and you're very guarded." Meanwhile, when asked about Vikings QB Brett Favre allegedly sending inappropriate messages to a former Jets employee, Andrews said, "I look back at what people thought about me when this all came out (my hotel-room incident), and they thought I did it for publicity -- that I did it to myself. People like Christine Brennan said that I deserved it. So I would like to reserve judgment" (GQ.com, 12/29).
SWING AND A MISS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman cited MLB sources as saying that ESPN offered former Dodgers manager Joe Torre "a seat in its 'Sunday Night Baseball' booth and he turned it down." ESPN instead named Bobby Valentine to the "SNB" crew, and as a result the net "must find a body to fill the studio chair Valentine occupied." Raissman wrote Torre would be a "good fit in the 'Baseball Tonight' studio if the faculty decided to go in that direction" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/9).
HEAVY HITTERS: Tennis Channel has signed Martina Navratilova and Lindsay Davenport to multi-year extensions to continue as analysts on the net. Navratilova will resume her role as the net's lead analyst for the Australian Open and will again pair with announcer Bill Macatee during the tournament. Navratilova will cover all four Grand Slams for the net. Davenport will handle sideline and interview duties during the Australian Open. Davenport will appear during coverage of all four Grand Slams, the Olympus U.S. Open Series and the Fed Cup, in addition to other competitions (Tennis Channel).
AFOUL OF THE LAW: In Seattle, Geoff Baker reported the Mariners "have no plans to discipline broadcaster Mike Blowers for his DUI arrest" last month. Mariners VP/Communications Randy Adamack: "We know his record is clean except for that incident and we told him it's not acceptable and it better not happen again" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/8)....WMAQ-NBC sportscaster Mike Adamle "is facing DUI charges after being arrested" in Evanston, Ill., early Monday morning. Adamle "appeared on weekend newscasts and the station's 'Sports Sunday' show" (SUNTIMES.com, 1/12).
PERSONALITIES: Bucks TV analyst Jon McGlocklin "is taking some planned time off this week," and former NBAer Sidney Moncrief "will take his place." Moncrief is scheduled to call tonight's Spurs-Bucks game as well as Bucks-76ers on Friday (JSONLINE.com, 1/11)....MLB Network analyst Sean Casey said that he has "signed on to do 15 games for the Reds this year as a color guy" (CINCINNATI.com, 1/11)....Martin Brundle "has been confirmed as the lead commentator for the BBC ahead of their TV coverage of the new F1 season." Brundle will partner with David Coulthard (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 1/11).