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ESPN and ESPN2 both set viewership records for the second straight year in '10. ESPN set viewership records in each of the four quarters last year on a 24-hour basis, with Q4 marking the net's most-viewed quarter ever. The net's 1.083 million viewers on a 24-hour basis was up 7.9% from last year and up 15.6% from '08. ESPN also set new viewership records in primetime, with its 2.4 million viewers up 4.2% from last year. NFL Network saw its 24-hour viewership average top 100,000 viewers for the first time last year, while its primetime average jumped 15.7%. Fox Soccer Channel also saw gains in both primetime and on a 24-hour basis. Nets seeing declines last year included Speed, Versus and Golf Channel. On a 24-hour basis, Versus saw its viewership dip below an average of 100,000 viewers for the first time since '07, while its primetime average was down 9.1%.TOTAL-DAY VIEWERSHIPNET
'10 (000)'09 (000)'08 (000)'07 (000)ESPN1,0831,004937869ESPN2337334325330Speed138160150129NFL Network114978082Versus9812010789Golf Channel71887776ESPNews64646670 NBA TV^51n/an/an/a MLB Network*41n/an/an/aFox Soccer Channel**282567n/aPRIMETIME VIEWERSHIPNET'10 (000)'09 (000)'08 (000)'07 (000)ESPN2,4002,3032,1221,952ESPN2634693641657Versus279307278225NFL Network258223175196Speed228280273240NBA TV^131n/an/an/aGolf Channel119147131137MLB Network*95n/an/an/aESPNews87848689Fox Soccer Channel**393770n/a
NOTES: Measurement for all nets in '10 is from Dec, 28, 2009 through Dec. 26, 2010. Full-year '09 is from Dec. 29, 2008 through Dec. 27, 2009. Full-year '08 is measured from Dec. 31, 2007 through Dec. 28, 2008. Full-year '07 is measured from Jan. 1, 2007 through Dec. 30, 2007. Total-day is defined as 6:00am-6:00am, while primetime is 8:00-11:00pm. ^ = NBA TV became a Nielsen-rated network at the beginning of November. * = MLB Network became a Nielsen-rated network in May. ** = Fox Soccer Channel first became a Nielsen-rated network in October '08.
Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott Thursday said that in the wake of Fox' deal for the conference's football championship game next season, negotiations for a new conference TV deal "will begin soon, with current television partners Fox and ESPN/ABC having an exclusive negotiating window," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. Scott added that he "wants to explore plans for a Pac-12 network as part of those negotiations and said that Fox's step up for the 2011 championship game indicated that network's interest in a long-term deal." All of the conference's TV deals expire after the '11-12 school year, and Scott said that he "had gone into negotiations for the single championship game willing to explore whether it made more sense to include the game in any long-term contracts or to offer it, as Scott said, as 'a one-off.'" He added of the championship game, "We will be able to introduce the brand in this game with no title or presenting sponsor associated with the event. That was important, to have a clean, not over-sponsored inaugural event." Scott noted that Fox "told him about plans to promote the game all year, including during" the MLB postseason and NFL regular-season games. There also will be a "half-hour pregame show and a postgame show" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7).
BACK IN THE GAME: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes the deal "signals Fox's determination to rebuild its college sports portfolio, which took a hit when it lost its bid to renew" its rights to the BCS. Fox is "positioning itself to try to acquire a full package" of Pac-12 rights and "would like to be the [conference's] partner in its planned conference cable channel" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7). The L.A. TIMES' Pucin noted FSN as part of its deal with the Pac-12 "increases its 2011-12 regular-season telecast package with the conference by up to six football and 10 men's basketball games, taking into account the additions of Colorado and Utah and expansion to 12 teams" (LATIMES.com, 1/6).
The Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the Int'l Consumer Electronics Show taking place in Las Vegas, Thursday projected the industry will show continued growth in '11, rising an estimated 3.5% to $186B in U.S. shipment revenues. The sum, if it holds true, would extend a rebound for the industry that began last year following a recession-fueled '09 that represented the industry's first negative year in roughly two decades. "2011 will be a good year," said CEA President & CEO Gary Shapiro. "The economy is slowly emerging. We're still challenged by things such as slow growth and high unemployment. But innovation will be the engine for recovery, and we must do everything we can to foster innovation."
Smart TVs continued to be one of the dominant talking points of this year's CES
TABLET TALK: Tablets designed to compete with Apple Inc.'s heralded iPad also remain a hot-button topic at CES, and in Verizon's keynote address Thursday, the company announced an alliance with Motorola to introduce the Xoom, an Android-based device that will seek to build on the pair's recent smartphone success with the Droid line. The Xoom, slated for release next month, will be the first device built on Google's Android Honeycomb platform, an operating system designed specifically for tablets. "We wanted our tablet experience to be better -- not just bigger," said Mike Cleron, head of Google's Android development team.
Several execs bullish on future of 3D TV
after '10 provided a key learning period
SPORTS SIGHTINGS: As in past years, numerous sports execs and athletes are present at CES. Haier, the NBA's official HDTV partner, featured Basketball HOFer Bill Walton and former NBAer Rick Fox. Pro Football HOFer Jerry Rice was on hand to trumpet a new dog-focused football video game, "Jerry Rice and Nitus' Dog Football." ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz will take part in a 3D-oriented event Friday with Sony. And execs speaking on various CES panels included Burns, NBA Digital Senior VP & GM Bryan Perez, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow, Fox Sports Interactive Media VP Bhavesh Patel and Exec VP of Turner/SI Digital ad sales Walker Jacobs.
Former ESPN announcer Ron Franklin Thursday said he is not going to respond to his dismissal from the network and will "continue to take the high road," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Franklin was fired for making "condescending remarks" to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. Franklin in an e-mail earlier this week said, "The most important thing to me at the moment (and surprising) is since 4 p.m. yesterday we have received over 500 e-mails and phone calls nearing the 300 mark. ... Heartwarming indeed." He noted that "coaches, athletic directors, officials, friends and strangers had left him messages." More Franklin: "I just want this thing to end so we can have our lives back." Sandomir noted ESPN has indicated that it "was adhering to its personal conduct policy" in cutting ties with Franklin (NYTIMES.com, 1/6).
PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME? In Orlando, Shannon Owens wrote ESPN's initial discipline of Franklin, which included taking him off the radio broadcast of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, "was enough," and the firing seems to be the "standard knee-jerk reaction these days to public opinion." Owens: "That being said, I don't have much sympathy for Franklin either. He's a seasoned professional and should have known better than to engage in inappropriate communication" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 1/5). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote, "It's a bit disconcerting that it took ESPN four days to fire Franklin for an incident that everyone, including Franklin, admits happened. But better late than never" (TAMPABAY.com, 1/5). In Jacksonville, Francine King wrote ESPN "made the right call" to end its relationship with Franklin. His dismissal was "well deserved, and it’s gratifying as a female sports journalist that ESPN wasn’t afraid to hand it out" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/6). In L.A., Diane Pucin: "There's no getting around it. Franklin had to go. But maybe it's time for someone else at ESPN to lose a job because Franklin, who was guilty at least twice of being a jerk to a female colleague, hasn't been the only one. Reference Tony Kornheiser, Steve Phillips, Harold Reynolds" (LATIMES.com, 1/5).
TREATMENT OF WOMEN A PROBLEM: NBC sideline reporter Andrea Kremer said, "The vitriol that is spewed forth about women, women in sports TV, female sideline reporters is just so out of control." She added, "It always boils down to: Why are there women sideline reporters? What do they really do? Inane questions that are so antiquated, so passé. It's not what it's about. ... The focus always gets off the performance and contributions that we bring. I don't understand that. People are assailing Jeannine Edwards. Why?" (USA TODAY, 1/7).
Visitors to NHL.com spiked for this year’s Winter Classic, with an estimated 1.2 million unique users logging onto the league’s website on New Year’s Day, a 30% increase from '10. Video starts on the website were up 147% from '10, and total visits jumped 31%. The NHL’s “Watch and Win” campaign, which asked fans game-related trivia questions over Twitter and Facebook, drove the league’s social media numbers, with Facebook referrals jumping 83% over '10 numbers and #WinterClassic peaking as the sixth highest trending term on Twitter on New Year’s Day. Merchandise and concessions sales also spiked, with stadium concession sales at Heinz Field up 24% from sales at Fenway Park for last year's Flyers-Bruins outdoor game. Total merchandise sales for Winter Classic retail increased 78%, with all apparel up 41% and women’s apparel up 58% from '10. Gifts and novelty sales, which included Winter Classic-themed Terrible Towels, were up 282%.
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for last weekend's telecast of "The NFL Today" on CBS unavailable at presstime (THE DAILY).
TOP SPOT: Fox Sports finished '10 as the No. 1 sports network for the 14th straight year. All sports-related programs on Fox averaged a 6.0 rating and 10.1 million viewers in '10. Fox' Sunday NFL national window telecasts, dubbed "America's Game of the Week, ranked as TV's highest-rated and most-watched program in any day-part, season-to-date, with a 15.2 average rating and 25.9 million viewers. By comparison, ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," the No. 1 entertainment program season-to-date, averaged a 13.5 rating and 21.4 million viewers. Fox national window telecasts also led among adults 18-49, averaging a 9.2 rating, which is 84% higher than the No. 1 entertainment show in the demo, ABC’s "Grey’s Anatomy," which averaged a 5.0 rating (THE DAILY).
GOLDEN GOOSE: TSN and RDS combined to average 6.88 million viewers for their coverage of Wednesday night's Russia-Canada IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game. TSN averaged 6.23 million viewers for the telecast, marking the net's most-viewed telecast ever. RDS delivered 652,000 viewers for the game, marking the net's second-highest audience ever for a World Junior game. Overall, the '11 tournament was the most-successful World Juniors ever on TSN (CTV).
SPUR OF THE MOMENT: Spurs games on FS Southwest averaged a 9.7 local rating through Jan. 5, tops in the NBA for local TV ratings. The 9.7 rating is up 54% from last season. The Lakers-Spurs game on Dec. 28 delivered the highest regular-season local rating ever on FS Southwest with a 17.8. Spurs broadcasts on KENS-CBS are also up 22% from last year (Spurs).
SOARING HIGH: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s “Eagles Postgame Live” is averaging a 2.2 local rating this season, up 57% over ’09. “Eagles Pregame Live” is also up 75% over last season (CSN Philadelphia)....Knicks games on MSG averaged a 2.02 rating for the month of December, the highest monthly average since the ’04-05 season (MSG).
GOLFWEEK's Jim McCabe reported Brad Faxon "won't be part of the NBC golf team this year." NBC Sports & Olympics VP/Communications Chris McCloskey noted Faxon "had a one-year contract and it was not renewed." Faxon said that he "thoroughly enjoyed the NBC experience and wouldn't rule out future TV endeavors, but for now he'll focus on a return to form on the course." NBC to replace Faxon "pulled a bit of a surprise and inked Peter Jacobsen to an increased role." Jacobsen "will work eight tournaments for NBC," including three FedExCup events (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/6).
ANALYST SEARCH ANALYZED: In Chicago, Mitchell & Kaplan write D'Backs and Fox analyst Mark Grace "would be listed as 'doubtful'" and ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe "as 'questionable' in handicapping the pursuit" of a WGN-AM Cubs radio analyst to replace the late Ron Santo. Agent Barry Axelrod, who reps both Grace and Sutcliffe, said, "We've just had preliminary discussions (with WGN). There's nothing really more than that." Mitchell & Kaplan note Grace "works several weekend national broadcasts" for Fox, while Sutcliffe "has been employed by ESPN since 1998" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7).
ON THE SIDELINES? FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent reported Vikings QB Brett Favre's "spot at a desk or in a booth doesn't seem certain, as no network has expressed an interest in bringing him on board." Kent: "What seemed obvious once upon a time isn't as clear now." The Favre brand is "badly tarnished through actions almost entirely of his own doing," and his name "has been dragged through the tabloid sludge throughout this season." Kent: "Add that to the weariness over Favre's seeming eternal Hamlet act as to whether he would retire or return each postseason, and you get a name that isn't as dazzling to network officials as it once was" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/5).
In N.Y., Phil Mushnick reports there is a "distant rumble that ESPN Radio is preparing to make a major play for Yankees radio rights," which are owned by WCBS-AM "through the end of this season." ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y.'s "signal after sundown turns to static" in most places, but that "wouldn’t preclude ESPN from establishing a games-only regional network of smaller stations or from purchasing a local FM." A source said that the Yankees are "eager to float the ESPN 1050 possibility as a means of spooking WCBS into a rights increase" (N.Y. POST, 1/7).
Bodenheimer says ESPN would be aggressive with Games
GAME CHANGER: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes HBO's "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic" was a "game changer for the NHL" in the U.S., a "legitimization of the sport and random profanity." Dowbiggin: "If we have one beef it is with HBO treating the on-ice experience as football, a full-tilt physical scrum where checking is everything and fights are an honourable activity instead of a lame coaching prop" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7). Capitals C Brooks Laich: "The immediate feedback that we've gotten so far is that the fans really like the HBO series. But we'll see a couple months from now whether it did really grow the game, if it really was effective and worthwhile" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/6). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said the players and coaches "allow the cameras and the folks at HBO to do some genius work putting the whole thing together" ("The Scott Van Pelt Show," ESPN2, 1/6).