SBD/January 3, 2011/Media

Rose Bowl Down From '10, But Marks Best ESPN Non-NFL Overnight

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).

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