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CBS earned a 26.2 overnight Nielsen rating for yesterday's Jets-Patriots AFC Divisional game, marking the best NFL Divisional Playoff overnight since Cowboys-Panthers earned a 28.5 overnight on Fox in '97. Jets-Patriots is also up 13.4% from the comparable Jets-Chargers game last year. The net also earned a 20.9 overnight on Saturday for the Ravens-Steelers AFC Divisional game, marking the best Saturday AFC Divisional game in 17 years, dating back to Raiders-Bills on NBC in '94 (23.9 overnight). Compared to the net's primetime Ravens-Colts AFC Saturday Divisional game last year, Ravens-Steelers is up 11.8%. The game is up 16.8% from Cardinals-Saints on Fox in the same time slot last year. Ravens-Steelers earned a 54.0 local rating in Pittsburgh and a 48.7 rating in Baltimore. Fox earned a 20.7 overnight for yesterday's Seahawks-Bears NFC Divisonal game, down 13.4% from a 23.9 overnight for Cowboys-Vikings last year. The telecast earned a 43.2 local rating in Chicago and a 38.2 rating in Seattle-Tacoma. The net also earned an 18.1 for the Packers' blowout of the Falcons on Saturday night, marking Fox' best overnight ever for a primetime NFC Divisional Game and best Saturday Divisional game in either window in three years. The telecast also gave Fox a win among all nets in primetime. The Packers-Falcons game is up 1.1% from the net's Cardinals-Saints telecast in the afternoon slot last year, but down 3.2% from the comparable Ravens-Colts telecast in primetime a year ago. The game earned a 51.0 local rating in Milwaukee and a 35.8 rating in Atlanta (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Philiana Ng wrote TV on Saturday was "dominated, once again, by playoff football" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/16). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes a "crystal ball isn't needed to predict what will happen" ratings-wise for Fox' coverage of Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6. The game "will produce the largest audience in the history of the hyped event" (DENVER POST, 1/17).NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAMES OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNETWINDOW'11 GAMERAT.NET'10 GAMERAT.CBSSat./4:30pmRavens-Steelers20.9FoxCardinals-Saints17.9FoxSat./8:00pmPackers-Falcons18.1CBS
HYPE IT UP: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes under the header, "AFC Matchup Might Bring Smiles At CBS." With the Jets-Steelers AFC Championship "in Sunday's marquee late-game time slot, getting a lead-in from Fox's Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game, CBS has a shot at producing its best AFC title-game rating ... since it reacquired the NFL in 1998." CBS' current record is a 26.6 rating for Jets-Broncos in '99 (USA TODAY, 1/17). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Don Walker wrote, "Whenever the Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs, the suits in the National Football League and their TV partners smile. ... It's because the Packers, one of the most storied franchises in sports, are a story line that never gets old." Fox Sports Media Group co-President & COO Eric Shanks: "I think there are really special stories about it. How many offices do you walk into around the country that have a framed share of the Green Bay Packers? That is a real special story. That's a connection. Then there are the spectacular pictures of Lambeau Field on television that piques people's interest." Walker noted "three times this season, the Packers played a game in which more than 25 million viewers nationwide tuned in" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/15).
ROUGH OUTING: In Baltimore, David Zurawik reviewed CBS' coverage of Saturday's Ravens-Steelers game under the header, "Dierdorf + Gumbel = Viewing Misery." He wrote of announcer Greg Gumbel and analyst Dan Dierdorf's interview with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger after the game, "On bended knee barely starts to describe how worshipful they were." Zurawik: "As angry as I am about the whole telecast, in fairness, I can't slam Gumbel too hard. He is a better than average network play-by-play guy. Because Dierdorf is such a gasbag, Gumbel has to be the one in the booth noting trends and patterns and constantly reminding Dierdorf of facts he forgot" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/15). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Dierdorf "blew hard after every play, often making sure to say at least twice what wasn't needed once, and just as often speaking useless 'Make no mistake about it' declaratives that often ended with useless superlatives" (N.Y. POST, 1/17). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes viewers "should not be subjected to out-and-out rooting from analysts." CBS analyst and former Ravens TE Shannon Sharpe at the end of the network's halftime show during Ravens-Steelers "yelled out for the Ravens to hang in there and that they had only 30 minutes to go to beat the Steelers." It "got worse after the game when Sharpe not once, but twice griped about the officiating" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/17).
WELL PLAYED: The ST. PETE TIMES' Jones wrote it was a "good move by Fox to put NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira in the booth for both of the network's weekend games and yet not force him into the broadcast." Pereira "correctly anticipated that a call in the Packers-Falcons game would be reversed and it was" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/17). SI.com's Peter King writes, "I like TV guys who say what they really feel. Like Terry Bradshaw on Rex Ryan: 'I wouldn't want to play for Rex Ryan. I don't like guys like that.'" King also writes ESPN's Trent Dilfer "was on fire Saturday night." King: "I mean, very good. On the vet Ravens wideouts not catching easy balls to catch: 'This is about guys with big mouths, big contracts, big expectations not making the plays'" (SI.com, 1/17).
IMPRESSIVE DEBUT: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote former Browns coach Eric Mangini was "stunning" in his guest appearance on ESPN's "NFL Live" on Friday. His analysis was "not over-the-top with jargon," and the "fact he's fresh off the field left the impression viewers were getting relevant insight, not warmed over stuff from another over-the-hill mouth." Mangini "didn't smile much but had plenty to say." He also was "smart enough to hold back and not interrupt his partners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/16). In St. Pete, Jones writes of Mangini, "Anyone else surprised at just how good he was? ... You wouldn't guess that Mangini would make a good TV analyst because he doesn't seem to have a dynamic or charismatic personality. But Mangini was really good." He "isn't prone to hyperbole," and he "makes quick, thought-provoking points and speaks with confidence." Jones: "Keep an eye on him because he could turn into one heck of a broadcaster" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/17).
TELL IT LIKE IT IS: SI.com's King writes he has "one quibble with the FOX-NFL marketing campaign for the Jan. 30 Pro Bowl, with the 'Super Bowl week kicks off with the Pro Bowl' marketing thing." King: "I know FOX has to do it because of the broadcast contract with the NFL, but we're not buying it, FOX. Nobody cares about the Pro Bowl. It might get some ratings, because of general week-before-the-Super-Bowl boredom, but the game ... meaningless" (SI.com, 1/17).
The USTA and CBS have reached an agreement in principle for the U.S. Open to remain on CBS through '14 for a "slight increase in rights payments," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The deal that expires after this year's event pays the USTA $20-25M annually; CBS and USTA officials "declined to say exactly what CBS is paying" for the three-year extension. The net paid $33.7M in '04 and $30M the next four years. The new deal "maintains the current schedule," including the Saturday primetime women's final. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus: “We have a really good lineup of events that are spread throughout the calendar and the U.S. Open fits perfectly into our schedule.” He added that one of the benefits of the U.S. Open deal is that half the ad time bought on CBS comes through on-site USTA sponsors. McManus: “They don’t undertake any significant sponsorship talks without including CBS. Most sponsors realize if they’re going to have identification on-site, it make sense to advertise on CBS.” USTA Chief Business & Marketing Officer Harlan Stone: “The key for us, and they agreed, was to keep the women’s finals in prime time.” While the deal was done during CBS’ exclusive negotiating period with the USTA, ESPN had "voiced its interest to the USTA about expanding its current cable deal" and held internal talks about "possibly moving the men’s singles final from Sunday afternoon to Monday night" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/15).
Showtime is teaming with MLB Productions and the Giants for a new series chronicling the team's '11 season. The soon-to-be-titled series is currently in production and will be shot over the course of 10 months in numerous locations. Showtime will feature the Giants during their offseason and Spring Training, and the network will be embedded with the team during the regular season. The series is set to premiere with a preview episode timed to the opening week of the '11 season, followed by regularly scheduled episodes during the second half of the season (Showtime). Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins said that he "started talks with a small group of baseball clubs toward the end of last season with the aim of doing an in-depth behind the scenes series." Nevins: "It became clear the Giants had the right selection of players and personalities and later when they won the World Series, it was a compelling choice." Nevins said that he "hoped to interest other baseball teams in the future ... if the show is a success." Nevins: "Ideally it's the beginning of a franchise with a different team every year." Showtime indicated that camera crews will be "embedded for 10 months with the team, its management and wives and girlfriends of the players" (REUTERS, 1/14).
GAINING EXPOSURE: In S.F., Henry Schulman wrote the series "could benefit the Giants by providing exposure to an entertaining cast of characters and a franchise that gets little national publicity, World Series or not," but that "comes with a potential cost." The "show could prove to be a distraction" as the notion of "what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse goes out the window." Giants President & COO Larry Baer said that there "will be a 'trust factor' with producers that will allow them to shoot compelling insider video without compromising players' privacy or fomenting internal strife." However, Giants P and player rep Matt Cain said that the players "had not signed off on the show yet." Cain: "Honestly, they announced it early. They weren't supposed to do that, and we aren't very happy about it. We're still trying to figure out all the small details." Still, Cain "likes the idea." Cain: "It will be great publicity for the team and the guys on the team. ... It'll be great if it's done right." Schulman noted the show's creators "broached the idea during the winter meetings in December," and last week "several players met with producers in Arizona to discuss the idea" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/15).
MAKING A MISTAKE? In California, Lowell Cohn wrote the Giants are making a "big mistake." They "obviously ... are trying to strengthen their brand so people all over the country and the world will buy their jerseys and caps and they can make a bundle of dough." But the Giants "do not require a reality show to become a national story or any kind of story." Their "most gripping story is on the field, not behind the clubhouse door" (Santa Rosa PRESS DEMOCRAT, 1/16). In Oakland, Cam Inman wrote the Giants are "creating a mass-exposure phenomenon." But while it "might be must-see TV, it won't replace the genuine admiration of what the 2010 Giants produced: baseball's ring-of-flags hardware" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 1/15). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote the Giants are "trying to make themselves into the West Coast version of the Boston Red Sox fan-intensity/marketing phenomenon and they don't care if they look a bit strained and puffed up while they do it." Baer and Giants Managing General Partner Bill Neukom are "trying to build an empire, flat out." It was "kicked off by the 2010 World Series championship and continued by the parade, the videos, the marathon trophy tour and now, the announcement of a reality show to be shown during the 2011 season." Kawakami: "Basically, they want to duplicate the hold the 49ers had on this region 20 years ago, and have lost" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 1/15).
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In Dallas, Barry Horn reported FS Southwest Rangers pre- and postgame host John Rhadigan is the "way-out-in-frontrunner" to serve as Rangers TV announcer. Rhadigan, who has been at FS Southwest since June '01, "has no baseball play-by-play experience." But the Rangers "like his name recognition." Rhadigan would replace Josh Lewin (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/15).
LOGGING ON: ESPN Digital Media logged its most trafficked year to date in '10. ESPN.com was up 17% in average monthly unique visitors and up 38% in total minutes from '09. The site also led the sports category in average minute audience with 77,000 and claimed a category share of 29% in December. It also led the category in average minute audience and category share of audience in 10 out of 12 months last year. Meanwhile, ESPN3.com's average monthly unique viewers and total hours consumed were up 150% and 180%, respectively, last year (ESPN).
PLAYING IT DOWN: GOLF WORLD's Bill Fields writes PGA Tour golfers being miked would "absolutely" enhance broadcasts, but "far from the degree supporters imagine." Fields: "Even in today's must-know-everything culture, if pro golf's TV fortunes rise or fall on whether someone is miked up, that is a sign of greater problems." Instead of miking up players, TV "could better utilize the mics already on course, and the tour should mandate its players to do interviews during a round" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 1/17 issue).
MEDIA NOTES: Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcasting Group "reached an agreement in principle Saturday to end their dispute over retransmission fees." TWC said that it "expects to finalize the deal within a week." The dispute "included some stations operated by" Bright House Networks, and "involved 33 stations in 21 markets, impacting 4 million to 5.5 million subscribers" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 1/16)....NESN averaged a 4.2 local rating in the Boston market for last Thursday's Flyers-Bruins game, marking its highest-rated Bruins game this season (NESN).