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NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol in an e-mail to all Comcast and NBC Universal sports employees Thursday wrote it is a "special day for all of us, as we form one unified team" in the NBC Sports Group, which Ebersol will Chair. Ebersol wrote the Sports Group is "bringing together the broad reach and rich heritage of NBC Sports, the ability to serve sports fans 24/7 and allow them to follow their hometown teams with the extensive assets of Comcast, and the sub fees that we broadcast dinosaurs have coveted for so long." Ebersol: "The marriage of our two companies has the opportunity to be a profoundly meaningful relationship. I use the word ‘opportunity’ because this union will only become what we make of it." He added, "As you go about the tasks at hand, I offer a bit of simple advice that is not only very important to me, but also forms the foundation of what has made NBC Sports a special place to call home. This business is all about relationships -- they define who we are, how we conduct ourselves and how we treat each other every day. I know you will bring the same passion to your work in the new company as you have in your old business. ... As we get to know one another, you will learn that family is very important to me, because that is what we are. I am honored to welcome each and every one of you to our NBC Sports Family and I look forward to a bright future together" (THE DAILY).
BULLISH ON FUTURE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie reported Comcast COO and incoming NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke Thursday "told employees gathered for a Town Hall at NBC's New York headquarters at 30 Rock -- as well as via satellite from Los Angeles, London, Miami and Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia -- that they should all be 'in it to win it.'" Burke: "With this set of assets, there's no reason why we can't set the bar very high. Whatever we do, we should be in it to win it." Burke also "sung the praises of NBC Universal executives" including Ebersol, adding that it was "advantageous to have 'experts' heading so many divisions." Guthrie noted the meeting christened the "newly merged company after a 13-month federal review process." NBC News anchor Brian Williams "was on hand in New York to interview" Burke and Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/27).
Turner Sports has apologized for comments actor Tracy Morgan made about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during last night’s TNT NBA pregame show in which he said Palin is “good masturbation material,” according to Milton Kent of FANHOUSE.com. Turner Sports Senior Dir of PR Jeff Pomeroy in a statement said, "It's unfortunate Mr. Morgan showed a lack of judgment on our air with his inappropriate comments" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/27). Morgan made what appeared to be an unscheduled live appearance on the pregame show, joining TNT's Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith from their set at MSG prior to the Heat-Knicks game. Smith said that he and Barkley "have this argument all the time" and that Morgan was the "only one who could settle it: Tina Fey or Sarah Palin?" Barkley: "Sarah Palin's good looking, isn't she?" Morgan: "Let me tell you something about Sarah Palin -- man, she's good masturbation material. Glasses and all of that, great masturbation material." Johnson, smiling awkwardly, said, "I want to thank Tracy Morgan for stopping by." Johnson moments later said, "The show has taken a very strange turn." He later said as the show was cutting away to an interview with Heat F LeBron James and G Dwyane Wade, "I guarantee this is a sound bite that is safe for the whole family" ("TNT NBA Tip-Off," TNT, 1/27).
SAY WHAT? CBSSPORTS.com's Royce Young wrote Barkley and Smith "should've known what kind of territory they were walking into when they asked the question." Young added, "I'm not sure anyone has ever made Charles Barkley speechless, but Tracy Morgan did exactly that" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/27). In N.Y., Adam Caparell writes Barkley and Smith were "laughing nervously" after Morgan's comment, and Johnson "was rendered speechless before bashfully trying to move the show in a different direction" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/28). In DC, Lisa de Moraes writes, "Now we'd like to introduce TNT to something called 'the seven-second delay'" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/28).
The PGA Tour’s “talks on new television contracts may take a different tone” with Tiger Woods having fallen to No. 3 in the world rankings and Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem “touting young players” such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, according to Michael Buteau of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The Tour’s deals with CBS and NBC expire after the ’12 season, and Finchem earlier this week indicated that talks “will begin soon.” Horizon Media Senior VP/Research Brad Adgate said, “I’d play hard ball. If you’re the networks, you’ve got to sit there and say, ‘Your numbers are down, your matinee idol has fallen on hard times. What kind of numbers am I going to get?’” Buteau noted Finchem “wouldn’t put a dollar figure on how much Woods’s play may enter into negotiations.” He said that because the Tour “relies on a wide variety of revenue streams, it doesn’t ‘depend on’ ratings” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/27). GOLFWEEK’s Forecaddie reports the Tour has already taken care of “most of the hard work -- not with potential network partners, but with title sponsors.” Keeping current partners and getting new ones “guarantee ad revenue for the Tour’s TV partners.” Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said, “While ratings are important, the sponsor’s commitment is at the foundation of the golf TV economy. The major sponsors buy TV, and TV has always appreciated it.” Forecaddie notes tournament title sponsorships “fetch upward of $8 million, and nearly half goes to TV ads.” While sponsorship prices are “likely close to their ceiling, it’s a safe bet that the days of soaring rights fees are over.” Pilson: “I don’t see the Tour holding a fire sale … but the networks will resist any significant increases, too” (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).
PLAYING PARTNERS: USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes Finchem "is right to arrange more TV-friendly player pairings" during early rounds of tournaments, such as the Woods-Rocco Mediate-Anthony Kim threesome playing the first two rounds of the week's Farmers Insurance Open. Players like Woods and Phil Mickelson "can nearly double TV numbers when they're on the leaderboard," and the Tour is "smart to pair its biggest stars while also giving more air time to young bloods" like Kim and Fowler. McCarthy: "Did I mention the PGA Tour is due to begin negotiations this year for new TV contracts? The Tour wants to be armed with better TV numbers when it sits down to talk money" with CBS and NBC. But USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes if golf "couldn't develop consistently higher ratings as Tiger Woods brought in so many new viewers over a decade, it's not going to help itself much with tweaks" (USA TODAY, 1/28).
LORD OF THE LINKS: GOLFWEEK this week has a special feature on golf and television. The magazine’s Martin Kaufmann profiles Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who has become “perhaps golf’s best broadcast analyst.” Kaufmann: “He has strong opinions, supports them with enough stats to make a Roto-geek’s head spin, states his case with a quick, coherent delivery, would prefer to hit a shank rather than mouth a cliché, and doesn’t much care if someone takes exception to what he says.” Unlike many other “athletes who parachute into television,” Chamblee “doesn’t mind criticizing former competitors.” He begins preparing for tournaments several days beforehand, as he will “research the history of the event, analyze the course, pore over statistical trends, pick 10-15 favorites, then track each shot they hit.” He said, “When the (camera) light goes on, if I have fun, that’s a good show for me. Nobody’s making me do this. I’m doing it because I like it” (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: GOLFWEEK held an online poll asking several questions related to golf broadcasts. Readers were asked to name their three favorite on-course or tower reporters, and CBS’ David Feherty was named by 33.3% of the 2,887 respondents. CBS’ Gary McCord (13.5%) and NBC’s Roger Maltbie (10.0%) ranked second and third, respectively. NBC’s Johnny Miller was named the announcer “most likely to make you think, ‘Hmmm, that’s interesting’” by 33.5% of 1,562 respondents, while he also was named the analyst “most likely to make you throw the remote at the TV” by 45.3% on 1,389 ballots (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).
Texas A&M has expressed concern about the forthcoming Univ. of Texas network airing high school sports, and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe said he believes “everybody wants to get clarification about what can be done or what can't be done in an institutional distributed format." Beebe said, “That's something that not just Texas A&M but others have a concern about. It's a new format for distribution of college content.” He did note the current Big 12-ESPN deal “means further solidarity of the conference." Beebe: "Obviously there's a lot of value in Texas' programming, but also in the conference programming. And as we head into our future negotiations, both with Fox this spring and ESPN in four years, I think it bodes well for our football and basketball programming." ESPN's Rod Gilmore said Texas was already the dominant player in the Big 12, and the UT Network "skews the money even more so than it has been." Gilmore: "Texas is the key in the Big 12, and the issue is, 'What does Texas want?' If Texas wants world domination, get out of their way. Texas controls the Big 12. If they want to go independent, the Big 12 is over with.” ESPN’s Tom Luginbill said Beebe "realizes what's good for Texas is good for the Big 12 overall." Luginbill: "There's a political line that Dan Beebe's having to walk between pleasing the members of the conference as a whole and making sure the kingpin of the conference in Texas still has enough of a controlling interest to make sure the good is for everybody" (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 1/27).
JUST THE TEN OF US: Beebe said the Big 12 has no plans to expand, and that is “going to be the case for a long time.” He said of last summer’s conference realignment, “Even though we worked hard to keep 12 members in the conference, when we came out of it with 10, everybody kind of looked around and said, 'You know what, this is great.'” Beebe added the benefits of not having a football championship game "outweigh the detriments of having one" (“College Football Live," ESPN, 1/27).
Ohlmeyer notes ESPN will soon release
long-awaited editorial guidelines
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK: Ohlmeyer wrote his tenure as ESPN Ombudsman has "been a fascinating 18 months" that has "been a challenge at times." He added, "I want to apologize for the spotty presence of this column the past six months. I've been dealing with some health issues that have prevented me from meeting some of my deadlines in that time. I appreciate your patience and ongoing correspondence, and want to thank ESPN management for its understanding." That ESPN "runs as well as it does is a tribute to talented professionals who truly seem devoted to their tasks." Ohlmeyer: "After 40 years in the business, I have an appreciation of the intricacies and difficulties of what ESPN is trying to accomplish. There is plenty to criticize in Bristol, but in some respects I marvel at how well the company presents its product on so many varied platforms." There are "undoubtedly some inside ESPN who question whether it makes sense for the company to distribute a column that basically critiques and criticizes the network." But Ohlmeyer wrote it is "important for ESPN to have someone from the outside with open access to the people on the inside, posing questions and demanding answers that have been raised by viewers" (ESPN.com, 1/27).
ESPN challenged assertions made by ISC execs that moving NASCAR races from ABC to ESPN contributed to ratings declines in '10. During an earnings call Thursday, ISC President John Saunders said unique circumstances ranging from the pothole at Daytona to the Vancouver Games and FIFA World Cup contributed to '10 ratings declines. Lastly, Saunders said, "While in the longer term we believe it will lead to an increase in ratings, there was an impact in viewership when ABC network moved the majority of its races to ESPN." Viewership during the Chase for the Sprint Cup on ESPN and ABC dropped 18% last year. ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski stood by ESPN's position that moving races from ABC, which reaches 116 million homes, to ESPN, which reaches 100 million homes, did not affect ratings. She said in a statement, “While we understand ISC’s need to address shareholders, the majority of the decline in ratings and viewership for the Chase races last year came from homes with access to ESPN. The simple fact is fewer people tuned in. ESPN did match ABC’s viewership for the NASCAR championship race at Homestead and out-delivered it in key male and adult demos." Sobieski added, "NASCAR was down all season on all networks, not just on ESPN. We continue to believe in the long-term strategy of airing the races on ESPN. We support NASCAR and it remains a very strong property.”
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for most CBS telecasts unavailable at presstime (THE DAILY).TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.AFC Championship: Jets-Steelers1/23CBS6:42-9:54pm28.3NFC Championship: Packers-Bears1/23Fox3:00-6:15pm28.1"Fox NFL Sunday"1/23Fox2:00-3:00pm9.8Incredible Dog Challenge1/23ABC2:00-4:00pm1.1PBA Tournament of Champions1/22ABC2:30-4:04pm0.8"ESPN Sports Saturday"1/22ABC4:04-6:00pm0.8Winter Dew Tour1/22NBC4:30-6:00pm0.8NHL: Flyers-Blackhawks1/23NBC12:30-3:00pm0.8"Smucker's Stars on Ice" (taped)1/22NBC3:30-4:30pm0.7Winter Dew Tour1/23NBC4:00-6:00pm0.4World of Adventure Sports (taped)1/23NBC3:00-4:00pm0.3TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000)"Sunday NFL Countdown"1/23ESPN1:00-3:00pm2.12,990NBA: Lakers-Nuggets1/21ESPN10:38pm-1:01am1.52,369
NBA: Mavericks-Bulls1/20TNT8:16-10:44pm1.21,900 NBA: Knicks-Spurs1/21ESPN8:06-10:38pm1.21,844 NBA: Lakers-Mavericks1/19ESPN9:02-11:25pm1.21,841 NCAA Basketball:
NBA: Clippers-Trail Blazers1/20TNT10:44pm-1:19am1.11,633 NCAA Basketball:
THE CHAMPIONS AGAIN: YES Network finished the '10 broadcast year as the most-watched RSN in the U.S. for the eighth straight year. YES was also the most-watched RSN in the country in total-day audience, as measured from Monday-Sunday from 6:00am-2:00am, and was the most-watched RSN nationwide in primetime, measured from Monday-Sunday from 7:00-11:00pm, for the seventh time in eight years. YES averaged 72,000 HHs in the N.Y. market in primetime last year. YESNetwork.com also saw a 44% increase in unique users in '10 (YES).
FAST STARTERS: TNT is averaging a 1.5 rating for its NBA telecasts through 30 games this season, up 25% from a 1.2 rating for the same period last year. TNT also is averaging 2.323 million viewers, up 30% from 1.788 million last year, and 1.726 million HHs, up 27% from 1.357 million last year (Turner)....Golf Channel's ratings for its coverage of last week's PGA Tour Bob Hope Classic, which includes live and replay telecasts, were up 60% from '10. The net also had its best rating for a final round of the Hope opposite NFL playoff games since '07. Golf Channel is also up 33% in HHs for its PGA Tour event coverage through the first three weeks of the season (Golf Channel).