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CBS and Turner's broadcast plans for this season's NCAA men's basketball tournament mean viewers "won't have to hunt for any games or buy a Direct TV package to see every game of the tournament," but "what will be tricky is the execution of the plan," according to Milton Kent of FANHOUSE.com. There are some potential "inconveniences in the new set up." CBS previously could "switch out most of the audience to a more competitive contest" if a game became a blowout, but the net will "have to ride out those games, since they all are national contests." There also is the "possibly prickly issue of how to strike the balance between getting teams with national followings, like, for instance Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or Kansas who might blow out early round opposition into the widest distribution versus showing more competitive games between relatively anonymous teams, not to mention keeping all the televising partners happy." CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco: "We're just not sure yet how we're going to do that and Turner's not either. We're going to sit down with them and figure out which games really belong on which networks." Kent noted each channel's offerings "will be static on Thursday and Friday, meaning viewers won't get an early game in a doubleheader from one site and the second game from another." But the channels "will be able to change from one location to the other between afternoon and night sessions" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/10). Turner Sports Senior VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller said that a "marquee game has as much chance of being carried on truTV as it would on CBS" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/11).
NEW GAMEPLAN: In Houston, David Barron writes if CBS and Turner "have their way, you'll never have two games ending at the same time" due to the staggered start times. They also hope to have "more eyeballs watching more games to help foot the bill to the NCAA." Aresco said he thinks the "cumulative rating in each window will be higher with four (networks) than it would have been with just one on CBS." Aresco: "It's hard to say how much higher. I think people will switch around. The viewer will be in charge." Barron notes "certain scheduling principles ... will continue to apply," as viewers "won't see Duke on CBS and North Carolina on TNT, for example, in the same prime time window." Schedulers "will strive for geographic balance and competitive balance" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/11). Meanwhile, in San Diego, Jay Posner writes there is a "huge improvement on the weekend with the Round of 32 games." Instead of CBS "showing four games on the first Saturday with only the first game shown nationally," the new schedule calls for CBS to carry two solo games early in the day with six games tipping off between 5:00-9:30pm ET "split between three networks." On Sunday, "where CBS used to have three windows with one, four and three games in them, the schedule will be virtually the same as Saturday except CBS will carry three games instead of four," with truTV carrying the other. Posner writes another "huge bonus in the new schedule is fans will see all eight Sweet 16 games instead of four," as two will air on CBS and two will air on TBS (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/11).
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER? Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan called the schedule a "dream come true." Ryan: "Isn't this what basketball fans have been begging for for the last 25 years? Absolutely" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/10). ESPN's Michael Wilbon called the change "overdue," as with the "technology we have now and the interest you have in the tournament and people with brackets everywhere, people are going to watch it." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "It is egalitarian and welcomed. This is for the small schools, the schools that are going to be one-and-done and you don't get to see their games" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/10). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes CBS and Turner's joint coverage "allows the tournament to become what our culture considers normal -- by letting viewers pick the game they want and see the whole thing." Hiestand: "Rather than the old one-channel NCAA coverage, you can flip to another game like a grateful released hostage. Granted, my inner lazy boy will probably miss CBS automatically taking me to a series of tightly staggered game finishes." However, USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes the coverage plans "will lead to confusion as some viewers try to find truTV." McCarthy: "Some viewers don't want to turn their living rooms into 'control rooms.'" There also are viewers "who'll be shut out, rather than 'liberated,' by the shift of games to pay cable from free TV" (USA TODAY, 2/11).
Showtime and CBS Thursday announced that "three of the four episodes that Showtime is producing of the documentary series 'Fight Camp 360°: Pacquiao vs. Mosley' will air on CBS," including one just hours before the May 7 Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley PPV bout in Las Vegas, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. The series, in which both camps will provide "behind-the-scenes access," begins April 2 on CBS "just before the network's coverage of the NCAA Final Four begins." That episode will replay on Showtime on April 16 at 10:00pm ET. The second episode will air on Showtime on April 23 at 10:00pm, with the third airing on CBS on April 30 at 8:00pm. The finale will debut on May 6 on Showtime at 10:00pm and will replay on CBS at 2:00pm on May 7. Rafael noted Showtime "launched the 'Fight Camp' franchise last year to follow the lives and buildup to the matches and business side of its ongoing Super Six World Boxing Classic, a six-man tournament featuring most of the world's top super middleweights" (ESPN.com, 2/10). BUSINESS INSIDER's Adam Fusfeld wrote series like "Fight Camp 360°" "effectively ... promote a signature sporting event." Fusfeld: "Fans come to appreciate just how much these athletes prepare for their competitions and, more importantly, it humanizes athletes and helps us forge a personal bond" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 2/10). Meanwhile,
ALL EYES ON ME: In L.A., Lance Pugmire writes by "shunning HBO this time around," Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "showed he is sold on the idea that the involvement of CBS will make this Pacquiao's strongest pay-per-view ever," exceeding the more than 1.25 million PPV buys Pacquiao-De La Hoya earned in '08 (L.A. TIMES, 2/11). Bloomberg TV's Michele Steele notes Pacquiao’s move from HBO to Showtime is a "big loss for HBO, which was widely perceived as having cornered the market for the best fights here.” Pacquiao's last fight, a unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito in November, generated 1.15 million PPV buys and $64M in PPV revenue for HBO. Pacquiao has generated "at least 1 million buys per fight on average for three straight years." Steele: "We have not seen these kinds of numbers since Mike Tyson.” It is “no secret” that Arum has “wanted to give boxing … a bigger platform,” and while Showtime is in “fewer homes than HBO, CBS on the other hand is in over three times as many” (Bloomberg TV, 2/11).
Time Inc. Friday announced a partnership with Google to create a digital subscription offering for Sports Illustrated on some Android-based devices, including tablets. Digital subscriptions for tablet devices have been elusive or difficult to scale for many magazine publishers, and SI in particular to date has not been able to come to terms with Apple to sell its iPad application on a subscription basis through iTunes (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Keith Kelly notes currently “only single issues” of SI can be purchased through apps. The move marks “one of the first times a major consumer magazine is selling long-term subscriptions via an app.” It is expected to “tie in with the publicity surrounding next week's SI swimsuit issue, traditionally the title's biggest-selling issue of the year and one that attracts an enormous amount of digital traffic.” An SI spokesperson said that the swimsuit app on iPhones and Android phones will “sell for $6.99.” SI will begin making the subscription app "available to smartphones using the Google Android system" Friday afternoon. The move comes “only two days after Time Inc. unveiled plans to partner” with HP on digital subscriptions “when it introduces its TouchPad tablet this summer.” The HP partnership “will make subscriptions available for SI as well as Time, Fortune, and People” (N.Y. POST, 2/11).
The Nationals are "close to an agreement with WJFK-FM to make the sports talk station their flagship radio affiliate," according to sources cited by Ben Goessling of MASN. Sources indicated that the deal is not yet finalized, but "there is a verbal agreement in place." The Nationals "would keep WFED-AM, which has been the team's radio rightsholder, as a relay station." The sources said that announcers Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegeler, who have "been calling Nationals games on the radio for seven and six years, respectively, will return as the team's broadcasters for the 2011 season." Goessling noted the Nationals have "been searching for a FM radio partner since the end of last season," and WJFK probably "made the most sense for the team, since it's the only all-sports station on FM radio in Washington" (MASNSPORTS.com, 2/10). In DC, Dan Steinberg reported under the proposed deal, WFED would "remain a Nats radio affiliate and would broadcast all the team's games, which would help maintain coverage to the north." WJFK would "add the strong penetration of an FM signal while also helping listeners in DC's western suburbs." The new flagship station would "broadcast all the team's night and weekend games, plus holiday matinees," while non-holiday weekday day games "would be broadcast on its sister station," WHFS-AM. WJFK, also the flagship station for the Wizards, "would have a 30-minute pre-game show for every game," as well as a "call-in style post-game show of up to 45 minutes." Steinberg noted there also are plans for WJFK to "have a broadcast set at Nats Park, next to the MASN set in the center field plaza, that could host promotions and the post-game show" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/10). Sources indicated that the "new radio contract is awaiting final approval by Nats ownership, but the sides already have an oral agreement in place and staffers at the affected stations have been notified of the pending change" (NATSINSIDER.BLOGSPOT.com, 2/10).
Comcast SportsNet will send about two dozen digital and TV correspondents to Spring Training, the most in company history. The reporters on-site will be in addition to roughly 30 live Grapefruit and Cactus League games planned on CSN outlets. Coverage will be similar in CSN markets where the company has game broadcast rights -- Chicago, S.F./Oakland, Philadelphia and N.Y. -- versus where they do not in Boston and Baltimore/DC. It will include a wide variety of live chats, blogs, editorial analysis and exclusive video. "This is really a continuation of the aggressive, local digital strategy we have been pursuing," said Comcast VP/Digital Content Rich Libero. "Making such a big investment and commitment in Spring Training not only pays dividends for our fans right away, but all season through the contacts and relationships that are developed there." Additionally, CSN is beginning plans to replicate BeerLeaguer.com, the Philadelphia-oriented sports blog it acquired last year, in its other RSN markets. Launch of the other, localized versions of BeerLeaguer.com is projected for around Opening Day.
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000)Super Bowl XLV: Packers-Steelers2/6Fox6:34-10:13pm46.0111,010Super Bowl Postgame Show2/6Fox10:13-10:39pm28.466,031"Glee"2/6Fox10:39-11:45pm13.626,796
"Fox NFL Super Bowl Sunday"2/6Fox2:00-6:34pm11.522,200 Super Bowl Greatest Commercials2/4CBS9:00-10:00pm5.49,555 NBA: Magic-Celtics2/6ABC2:29-5:14pm2.33,711 "Inside the Rings with Troy Aikman"2/6Fox1:00-2:00pm2.0n/a PGA Tour: Waste Management
Phoenix Open: Third/Final Round*2/6CBS3:10-6:00pm1.82,699
"Road to the Super Bowl"2/6Fox12:00-1:00pm1.8n/a PGA Tour: Waste Management
Phoenix Open: Second Round*2/5CBS3:20-6:00pm1.72,449
Skiing: FIS Freestyle
World Championships (taped)2/5NBC4:30-6:00pm1.11,651
U.S. Figure Skating Exhibition (taped)2/5NBC2:30-4:30pm1.01,490 NCAA Basketball: (regional)2/5CBS1:00-3:20pm1.01,384 NCAA Basketball:
"ESPN Sports Saturday"2/5ABC4:00-6:00pm0.9n/a NHL: Penguins-Capitals2/6NBC12:30-3:00pm0.81,296 "NBA Countdown"2/6ABC2:00-2:29pm0.8n/a Skiing: FIS Freestyle
World Championships (taped)2/6NBC3:00-4:30pm0.6882
"College Basketball Today"2/6CBS12:30-1:00pm0.4n/a
NOTE: * = Frost in the Phoenix region caused delays for the event, moving the finish of the final round to Golf Channel on Monday.TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000)NBA Spurs-Lakers2/3TNT10:46pm-1:16am1.93,039NBA: Heat-Magic2/3TNT8:00-10:46pm1.82,794NBA: Mavericks-Celtics2/4ESPN8:06-10:39pm1.52,370"Sunday NFL Countdown"2/6ESPN10:00am-2:00pm1.52,293
NBA: Jazz-Nuggets2/4ESPN10:39pm-1:17am1.11,837 NCAA Basketball:
CORPORATE SYNERGY? Versus averaged 437,000 viewers for its first three NHL game telecasts following the All-Star break, up 85% from the three-game average last year. The net's Rangers-Red Wings telecast on Feb. 7, the first game produced by Sam Flood, averaged 534,000 viewers, marking the net's third best NHL audience this season. Heading into All-Star weekend, Versus was averaging 302,000 viewers for its NHL game telecasts. Versus is also seeing growth among male demos since the All-Star break, with men 18-49 up 55% and men 25-54 up 59% (Versus)....Golf Channel's live and repeat coverage of the first round of the PGA Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open on Feb. 3 combined to mark the net's most-watched early-round coverage of the tournament ever (Golf Channel).
AND THEY CALL IT PUPPY LOVE: Animal Planet averaged 1.734 million viewers for the premiere of "Puppy Bowl VII" last Sunday from 3:00-5:00pm ET, up 60% from the premiere last year, which averaged 1.085 million viewers. Across the 12 hours of "Puppy Bowl VII" coverage last Sunday, the net totaled 9.2 million unique viewers, marking the most-viewed Puppy Bowl coverage yet (THE DAILY).
McDonough will call "Monday Night
Baseball" games for ESPN
LOCAL SPORTS TALK: In Albany, Pete Dougherty reports Time Warner Cable is planning the "Time Warner Cable Sports Press Box," an Albany-based version of shows like ESPN's "The Sports Reporters." The show "likely will premiere within the next week or two on a trial basis before going full bore in the fall." Albany's WTMM-FM host and former WTEN-ABC Sports Dir Brian Sinkoff is "scheduled to be the host." TWC Dir of Programming & Production for Albany Greg Bobbitt "plans to rotate area TV sports anchors, newspaper writers and radio hosts in a roundtable discussion" (Albany TIMES UNION, 2/11).
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY: In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter notes FS Ohio televises Univ. of Cincinnati and Xavier Univ. basketball games "in standard definition," but televises Cavaliers games in HD. FS Ohio Senior VP & GM Henry Ford said the net's next goal is to "deliver all college and high school sports in HD." But Ford is "preaching patience," as some Cincinnati and Xavier games "aren't available in HD because their leagues or originating producer don't offer it" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/11).
FULL-ROUND COVERAGE: Golf Channel and the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship have reached an agreement for the net to broadcast all four rounds of this year's tournament, which will take place from March 31-April 3. The change was triggered by the opportunity to increase television coverage for the first LPGA major of the year (Kraft Nabisco Championship).