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ESPN earned an 11.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the TCU-Wisconsin Rose Bowl, the first time the game was broadcast on cable. The figure is the net's best non-NFL overnight ever (records date back to '01). The game also earned 214,000 viewers on ESPN3.com. Last year’s Ohio State-Oregon Rose Bowl drew a 13.8 overnight rating on ABC. ESPN’s telecast of the Oklahoma-Connecticut Tostitos Fiesta Bowl drew a 6.7 overnight rating in its first appearance on cable, winning the night for ESPN among all cable and broadcast nets. The game also had 121,000 viewers on ESPN3.com. Fox earned a 9.2 overnight for the comparable Florida-Cincinnati Allstate Sugar Bowl in '10, which also aired in the late Jan. 1 window. Last year’s Boise State-TCU Fiesta Bowl telecast earned an 8.6 overnight on Fox in the Monday night slot (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes under the header, "Bowl Ratings Down, But High For Cable." The overnight rating for the Fiesta Bowl was "significantly lower than the previous three years," but "one reason for the lower ratings for the Rose and the Fiesta Bowls was their shift from a broadcast to a cable network" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3). DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine also notes competition "on New Year's night is traditionally very light." It also is unclear "if there will be much of a difference in terms of overall numbers" for the five BCS games (DAILY VARIETY, 1/3). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes the lower ratings are due to the "move of all of the BCS games to cable for the first time," as well as "weaker matchups." There is "no Alabama, no Southern California, no Florida, no Texas in the BCS mix this year," and teams such as TCU, "despite its undefeated season, and Connecticut don't have national TV followings" (USA TODAY, 1/3).
COVERAGE REVIEW: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes ABC "gets a thumbs-up" for its coverage of Saturday's Florida-Penn State Outback Bowl, and, "in particular, the fact that it was Urban Meyer's final game" as Florida coach. The story angle "was an easy one," yet ABC "struck the right balance between acknowledging that it was Meyer's final game and not going overboard." The net "used nice hustle to show live shots and replays of Meyer on the sideline with his family in the game's final moments, as well as his postgame meeting" with Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Meanwhile, Jones writes analyst Jon Gruden "did a super job calling the Outback Bowl" with "MNF" partner Mike Tirico. Jones: "Here's hoping Jon Gruden doesn't get an NFL coaching job because he would be missed in the broadcast booth" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/3). Meanwhile, in Oklahoma City, Justin Harper wrote "sharp-tongued announcers Sean McDonough and Matt Millen were pulling no punches in praising or condemning both teams" during ESPN's coverage of the Fiesta Bowl. McDonough was "matter-of-fact with his well-informed offerings," while Millen was "even more brazen with his." ESPN during the broadcast also was "hell-bent on making sure viewers were aware" of Oklahoma's record in BCS bowl games (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 1/2).
BOWLED OVER: Thursday's North Carolina-Tennessee Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl went into overtime, and as a result ESPN shifted the start of the Washington-Nebraska Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl to ESPNU. The SEATTLE TIMES noted the move "meant Seattle fans watching on ESPN missed most of the first quarter" of Washington-Nebraska, as that game "reverted to ESPN with about two minutes left in the opening period." ESPN aired the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl prior to North Carolina-Tennessee, and "showing four bowl games in one day finally caught up to ESPN" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/31). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes ESPN "has a headlock on postseason college football." Saunders: "Who would have predicted five years ago that a cable network would have such dominance?" (DENVER POST, 1/3).
FRANKLIN PULLED: SPORTS BY BROOKS reported ESPN announcer Ron Franklin was "pulled off ESPN's Saturday Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast by ESPN executives after an incident involving" sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards. Franklin and ESPN analysts Ed Cunningham and Rod Gilmore during a production meeting ahead of Friday's Chick-fil-A Bowl discussed Gilmore's wife, Marie, being elected mayor of Alameda, Calif., and Edwards "tried to join the conversation." Franklin said, "Why don't you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes." Edwards responded, "Don't call me sweetcakes, I don't like being talked to like that." Franklin: "Okay then, a-hole." ESPN officials "made an attempt to pull Franklin off the Chick-fil-A Bowl broadcast," but "because of late notice, no replacement for Franklin was found." ESPN's Dave Lamont "filled in for Franklin" on the Fiesta Bowl radio broadcast. ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz in a statement yesterday said of the change, "We made a late play by play change to the Fiesta Bowl radio team. We're not going to get into specifics other than to say adhering to our personal conduct policies and showing respect for colleagues are of the utmost importance to our company and we take them extremely seriously" (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 1/2).
NBC earned a 2.3 final Nielsen rating and 4.5 million viewers for the Capitals-Penguins Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Saturday from 8:00-11:00pm ET, marking the best audience yet for the New Year's Day event and best NHL regular-season rating in 36 years. The telecast is up 9.5% and 22.1% from a 2.1 rating and 3.7 million viewers for last year's Flyers-Bruins matchup, which aired from 1:00-4:00pm. The game peaked at a 2.4 rating during both the 8:00-8:30pm and 8:30-9:00pm windows. Pittsburgh led all markets with a 32.0 local rating, while DC earned a 7.6 local rating in second place. NHL COO John Collins said, "We are thrilled with the strong viewership and growth on NBC, especially considering the short notice on the time change and the head to head competition we ended up facing in eight of our U.S. markets. The impact of the Winter Classic goes well beyond television. The event greatly enhances all of our global businesses, from NHL.com and NHL Network, to advertising and sponsorship, and of course, the Winter Classic delivered significant economic impact to Pittsburgh" (THE DAILY).MOST-VIEWED NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAMES SINCE '75YEARNETTELECASTVIEWERS (000)'11NBCWinter Classic: Capitals-Penguins4,500'09NBCWinter Classic: Red Wings-Blackhawks4,401'96Fox(regional)3,800'08NBCWinter Classic: Penguins-Sabres3,751'10NBCWinter Classic: Flyers-Bruins3,684
THE RIGHT TIME FOR PRIME TIME: In Pittsburgh, Karen Price reports NBC "averaged 4.56 million viewers and beat CBS, ABC and Fox for the night" in adults 18-49. Penguins President & CEO David Morehouse: "In retrospect, if we were able to choose the time -- which we weren't; NBC picked the time -- we would have picked prime time. So, in the end, it worked out as the best possible time to stage the game." When asked if future Winter Classic games "might be scheduled for prime time," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that "that wasn't something the league had considered until Friday." Bettman: "That's something we'll have to discuss with our network broadcast partners, obviously" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/3). Also in Pittsburgh, Gene Collier wrote, "If the 8 p.m. starting time winds up bringing NBC a healthy rating, don't be surprised if the Winter Classic never sees daylight again" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/2). The TRIBUNE-REVIEW's Rob Rossi wrote, "The NHL wouldn't commit to the concept, but this was probably the first of future Classics played under a stadium's lights with a prime-time audience kicking back on New Year's night" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/2).
COVERAGE REVIEW: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes NBC's Bob Costas during Saturday's coverage "proved there is no event that he cannot handle in superior fashion," and game announcers Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and Darren Pang "brought their usual A-game." Jones: "Even the offbeat camera angles were welcome for a game that is more about the overall event than the actual contest. ... A near-perfect night for NBC" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/3). But in Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote, "Awful in-game production by NBC's crew made the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Penguins nearly impossible to watch, likely turning off thousands of casual fans who switched over from an Oklahoma blowout in the Fiesta Bowl." NBC "inexplicably decided to debut 'the vertigo cam'" during the game, and "whether it was the swirling shots from behind the net or the Donald Brashear-slow 'zooms' from the blimp, the camera work was unclear and brutally disorienting" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/1).
MISSING THE BOAT: In Vancouver, Jonathan McDonald noted the CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" did a "30-minute 'pre-game' show Saturday morning, seven-and-a-half hours before the NHL Winter Classic began," but as the opening faceoff neared at 8:00pm ET, the network "ran a full edition of Coach's Corner, featuring Ron MacLean and Don Cherry." While the CBC "showed footage of Cherry in Afghanistan, NBC showed dramatic images of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals marching side-by-side to the rink, the ceremonial faceoff featuring Mario Lemieux and Jerome Bettis, and the two national anthems." The CBC "had none of it," as "during the anthems, the CBC showed commercials -- then joined the Winter Classic a few seconds before the puck dropped." NBC "outperformed the CBC at its own game" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/2). Meanwhile, in DC, Dan Steinberg reported the NHL "credentialed 511 media members from 125 outlets for the game, about the same as for a Stanley Cup finals and about double the media contingent for a normal Capitals playoff game" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/2).
SHOWCASE FOR THE LEAGUE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the NHL, with the advent of the Winter Classic, "has happened upon its window into the consciousness of the U.S. sports-viewing public." NBC Sports Exec VP Jon Miller said that he "approached the NHL brass with the idea of a game around which NBC could wrap its efforts," and that the league was "generally supportive of the idea." But he added it was not until NHL COO John Collins joined the league that he "had an ally in arguing for the game." Collins, "who'd cut his teeth in the NFL's mighty marketing machine, saw the potential right away," and he "helped convince the league to embrace the concept" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/31).
THE END OF THE ROAD: SI.com's Sarah Kwak noted the end of the Winter Classic also "signals the end of the road for HBO's all-access pass" for "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the Winter Classic." Players and coaches both said that it "would be nice to get back to the normalcy of life outside of reality television, but will miss them in their own way." All parties agreed that the "exposure and attention hockey received made it all worthwhile" (SI.com, 1/2). Penguins C Mike Rupp said, "Those guys were awesome. They're great dudes. I really got to know them and hang out with them. It's going to be kind of sad to see them go." Penguins coach Dan Bylsma: "We've joked with the HBO guys that we're going to have to invite them back. We are going to miss them. Shaking hands and saying goodbye to the HBO crew, it feels like we're sending a player down" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/3). However, the CBC's Pierre LeBrun reported several Capitals players, including C Brooks Laich, are "tired" of HBO's camera crews following them. LeBrun: "They feel that it really hurt them during their losing streak, that the coaching staff couldn't do what they needed to do" ("Hockey Night in Canada," CBC, 1/1). NBC's Mike Milbury said, "Better them than me. I'd hate to have them walk around in my living room." NBC's Bob Costas said, "The obvious difference between this and 'Hard Knocks,' where they follow a football team during the preseason -- that's interesting and often raw, but those games don't count. They caught these teams in the midst of stretches that count" (NBC, 1/1).
SUCCESSFUL SERIES: In Boston, Chad Finn wrote HBO's "24/7" series has been "every bit the enjoyable behind-the-scenes bonanza for hockey fans that the cable network's popular 'Hard Knocks' is for NFL loyalists." It is the "compelling cast of characters on both sides that makes '24/7' worth watching -- and viewers have been tuning in." HBO indicated that after the final numbers are tallied "sometime after the airing of the series finale" on Wednesday, it is "expected that the first episode will have earned in the vicinity of 2.8 million viewers, including online and on-demand viewing" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/31). The CBC's Glenn Healy said the NHL's Collins deserves credit for reaching a deal with HBO to broadcast the series. Healy said Collins "begged HBO to come and do it," and the NHL "made some changes to the schedule so that there was that Washington-Pittsburgh game right before Christmas" ("Hockey Night In Canada," CBC, 1/1).
BREAKING NEW GROUND: In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey wrote HBO "might be sparking a revolution." HBO's treatment of the Dec. 23 Penguins-Capitals game was "ground-breaking, particularly in the way it displayed Sidney Crosby's competitive ferocity." Viewers were "transported inside the glass and exposed to a raw Crosby raining F-bombs on a referee," and it was "beautiful." And "contrary to what one might think, Crosby had no problem with the scene." HBO Senior Producer Dave Harmon said that the network's game plan for the Winter Classic game "included microphones on five players from each team, plus coaches Dan Bylsma and Bruce Boudreau and the referees." One camera was placed "in the replay booth, six others elsewhere" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/2). Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said of the "24/7" series, "I've owned the team for 12 years, and there were things that I saw watching that I didn't know about. I didn't experience a lot of those things. I think you're seeing this unvarnished, inside view that's really once-in-a-lifetime." He added, "It isn't a made-for-TV drama, but I guess it has a good arc, right? You're lost, and then you're found. And so I think the fourth episode will treat us better than the first episode did" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2).
Fox led all NFL Week 17 overnights with a 16.3 overnight Nielsen rating for the net's national window yesterday, which featured the Packers' defeat of the Bears to clinch the final NFC Wild Card spot. That rating is up slightly from the net's national window last year in Week 17, which featured Eagles-Cowboys. The net also saw a 6.8% jump in the overnights for its regional coverage. For the '10 season to date, Fox averaged a 13.2 overnight rating, marking the net's best metered-market average since '97. When final ratings are released tomorrow, Fox will likely have its most-viewed NFL season in the net's history, passing the mark set last season. NBC earned a 12.6 overnight for its Rams-Seahawks "SNF" regular-season finale last night, marking the NFL's best season-ending game overnight since Vikings-Ravens on ABC in '02 earned a 13.4 rating. The Seahawks' win, which clinched the NFC West championship, is up 10.5% from an 11.4 overnight for Bengals-Jets in Week 17 last year. "SNF" was the top-rated show for the night, giving NBC a 17th straight week in which its primetime NFL game beat out the competition. The game earned a 38.7 local rating in St. Louis and a 35.4 rating in Seattle-Tacoma. CBS' broadcast of Titans-Colts in the national window was down 8.9% from the same window last year, which featured Steelers-Dolphins (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).NFL WEEK 17 SUNDAY OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNET'10 GAMERAT.'09 GAMERAT.% +/-Fox(regional)12.5(regional)11.76.8%CBS(regional)9.5(regional)9.50.0%FoxPackers-Bears (56%)16.5Eagles-Cowboys (79%)16.31.2%CBSTitans-Colts (71%)11.2Steelers-Dolphins (70%)12.3-8.9%NBCRams-Seahawks12.6Bengals-Jets11.410.5%
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL: In Baltimore, David Zurawik reported CBS yesterday "missed at least two plays" during the Bengals-Ravens game because it was "running promotional messages for sitcoms and dramas instead of covering the game." For a network "charging the kind of money CBS is for ad time not to deliver on the rock-bottom, hard-core, basic end of its contract, which is to show viewers the game, is outrageous." Each time CBS missed a play, announcer Kevin Harlan "downplayed the network transgression -- as if it didn't matter that viewers missed the play." Zurawik: "Really, there is no discussion and no excuse: You tune into a game, you should be at the very least able to see every play, no?" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/2).
SEIZE THE DAY: FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent wrote the rating for the Vikings-Eagles game last Tuesday suggests that the "groundwork could be laid for even more football." The game, postponed from its scheduled "SNF" time frame due to inclement weather in Philadelphia, "scored higher than any program to air on a Tuesday all season," including the season finale of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in November. The league "could create a Tuesday night deal that would have interest for broadcast or cable entities," though "adjustments would have to be made to make a regular Tuesday series work, since it would cut into the existing work week" (FANHOUSE.com, 12/30). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote after Tuesday's game, Versus may be "salivating to spend billions of dollars" to air NFL games. NBC could keep its "SNF" package, while ESPN could keep "MNF" and "add half a season of 'Thursday Night Football' to complement the NFL Network's schedule." That might "satisfy contractual obligations between the league and the network," and thus allow Versus to "add a Tuesday night game." Horn: "Oversaturation? Maybe. But there appears no end to America's hunger for NFL football" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/1). In New Jersey, Vinny DiTrani noted NFL owners "need to find new ways to create revenue if there is to be no lockout," and more primetime games "certainly would be a way of doing that." DiTrani: "Let's face it, right now an NFL game played at 1 o'clock on a Wednesday morning will draw a good rating" (Bergen RECORD, 1/2).
A “new, multiplatform rights agreement with ESPN will make the American Le Mans Series the first motorsport to be featured on ESPN3,” according to Tripp Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The deal, to be announced this week, “gives the series coverage of nine races on ABC and ESPN2 complemented by live, beginning-to-end broadcasts of each race on ESPN3.com.” The ALMS' new partnership with ESPN “follows a yearlong search by the series for a new television partner” after its 12-year relationship with Speed ended last year. ALMS hired Chicago-based Intersport “to help it negotiate a new media agreement.” The partnership with ESPN, which “was described as a time-buy agreement, takes the series from 40-plus hours of coverage on Speed and CBS in 2010 to 58 hours of programming in 2011 on ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN3.” It also “gives it more commercial inventory to sell to existing and new sponsors.” ALMS will sell advertising inventory “during the programming across all platforms.” Intersport will “support the advertising sales efforts and manage the production of the race programming” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/3 issue).
ESPN2 earned a 1.5 overnight rating for Thursday's Connecticut-Stanford women's basketball game, in which Stanford snapped Connecticut's 90-game winning streak, becoming the highest-rated regular-season women's basketball game ever on an ESPN network. The game surpassed the previous high of a 1.4 overnight for Connecticut-Duke in February '03 (ESPN).
KEEPING THE STATUS QUO: The Blackhawks "have re-signed TV play-by-play broadcaster Pat Foley and analyst Eddie Olczyk to three-year contract extensions." Foley and Olczyk "have a combined 38 years of experience in the Blackhawks organization on the ice and in the broadcast booth." Since Foley and Olczyk were paired together at the start of the '08-09 season, Comcast SportsNet Chicago ratings for Blackhawks games "have increased over 130 percent while contests on WGN-TV have increased over 85 percent" (CHICAGOBREAKINGSPORTS.com, 12/30).
TURF WAR: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the "biggest Canadian sports story in the coming year will be played off the fields and rinks as Rogers Communications and CTV/TSN size each other up in the wake of some unprecedented managerial shuffles" last year. Dowbiggin: "Can they co-exist -- as they did for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver -- or will we see the start of a war for rights and control of the next NHL, CFL and soccer World Cup TV rights packages?" Rogers Media President Keith Pelley and Rogers Media President of Broadcasting Scott Moore "did not jump to Rogers to be a comfortable second to TSN in the sports field." With Rogers' five channels and "full coffers, the time is ripe for an aggressive push to make Sportsnet No. 1." Rogers "has exclusive promotional deals with the western Canadian NHL teams and is rumoured to be angling for a piece of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/3).
GOING INTO OVERTIME: Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcast Group announced late Friday that they "had reached an agreement to extend a midnight Friday deadline for a new contract until Jan. 14, averting an interruption of some programming to Time Warner customers that carry Sinclair stations." Sinclair also announced that it "had agreed to the same extension with Bright House Networks, which also was confirmed late Friday night" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 1/1).