SBD/February 4, 2011/Media

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  • Fox Could Set Viewership Record If Steelers-Packers Is Close

    Fox officials indicated that a "tight fourth-quarter game" could see Sunday's Packers-Steelers Super Bowl XLV "set a new viewership record," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. A record "seems likely," as NFL ratings "over the past 24 months have been astronomical." But Fox publicly is "playing it cool." Fox Sports Media Group Chair & CEO David Hill: "One of the things I've learned over the years is you never, ever make predictions about ratings. We are thrilled with the matchup, naturally, and all the ratings that we have had this season have been fantastic. We expect that to continue in the Super Bowl" (SI.com, 2/3). In L.A., Joe Flint writes, "Thanks to a record-breaking regular season for viewership and ubiquitous parties this weekend, the National Football League's signature event is poised to become the most watched television program in American history." The Super Bowl's "rise to the zenith of national pop culture events is no accident, but rather due to a savvy marketing strategy that has been amped up over recent years." Through a "combination of better cooperation with its television partners, marketing to women and a not-so-subtle linking of football to patriotism, the NFL has managed to expand its reach while most other television properties have shrunk." A "key to keeping the league's fire burning was the NFL's ability to persuade the networks that carry the games to work together in hyping the league." As a result, highlights are "shared now and there is more cross-promotion of the NFL among networks and less squaring off against each other." Also, ratings data from ESPN, Fox, CBS and NBC indicated that female viewership "has risen dramatically, more than 20% compared with five years ago" (L.A. TIMES, 2/4).

    PREGAME ENTERTAINMENT: In Boston, Chad Finn notes Fox has been "relentless in its promotion of Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Obama, which is expected to air at approximately" 4:30pm ET "as the pregame must-see." But for "those who put away their political inclinations on Super Bowl Sunday," Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw's "reportedly terse interview with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger .... should be compelling television" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/4). In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes Roethlisberger and Bradshaw "can't stand each other," as Bradshaw "has been dogging Roethlisberger, questioning his judgment even before Big Ben's motorcycle accident" in '06. "Fox NFL Sunday" Producer Scott Ackerson said of the interview, "I was very concerned. I knew the Steelers were concerned, too."  Raissman notes Ackerson "set one ground rule, no one from Fox or the Steelers would be allowed in the room" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/4). SI.com's Deitsch wrote the interview is "likely to be the most-talked about feature of the pregame," as Bradshaw "has arguably been Roethlisberger's most public critic." Meanwhile, Ackerson said that viewers during the pregame and postgame "should expect a little less of the traditional features involving Player X and Y," as Fox instead "will deploy a talk-show style format from a set on the north side of the stadium before" 5:00pm. TMZ "joins the pregame to report on the party scene during Super Bowl week," and Fox "will once again have a collection of current and former NFL stars reading the Declaration of Independence." Ackerson said that Fox "would discuss" the league's labor situation during the pregame "but not dwell on it" (SI.com, 2/3).

    MIKED UP: Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira will be in the booth on Sunday, and Fox Sports Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said of Pereira's first year in the role, "I can honestly say it's beyond our wildest dreams how well it's gone. To be honest, when I watch other guys do football, whether it's college or pro, I just don't know how you do a game without Mike. We're sitting there filling for 3 minutes sometimes when a (referee) is under the hood, and we're just wondering how other people do this now." Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Jeff Janiczek writes "one controversial topic" Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman "might not be able to avoid is the fact that Super Bowl XLV could be the final NFL game fans see for a while, because of the upcoming uncertain labor situation." Buck said if Aikman "opens the door to that or if something dawns on me to go there, maybe we will." But he added, "If we're talking work stoppage in this upcoming Super Bowl, then we're not going to have a good Super Bowl" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/4). Deitsch wrote, "Don't expect talk of NFL labor unrest during the broadcast. It's unlikely to happen unless it's a blowout" (SI.com, 2/3).

    WHAT SMALL MARKETS? In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes if the Pirates and Brewers were playing for a championship, "all the TV talk this week would be about what a monumental failure the World Series would be because of the small-market teams involved." But the "NFL equivalent, Pittsburgh-Green Bay, is generating no such banter." Caesar: "Quite the contrary, as massive ratings are predicted." That is "because not only are two of the most storied teams in the league's history involved, the overriding fact is the NFL is the biggest thing going on American TV" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/4).

    Print | Tags: Fox, Football, Media
  • John Walsh Addresses ESPN's Need For Transparency In Online Chat

    Walsh hosted the first of what
    ESPN says will be series of chats
    When Don Ohlmeyer penned his final column for ESPN last week, he noted that during his 18-month tenure as Ombudsman he impressed on network executives the importance of transparency. ESPN Exec VP & Exec Editor John Walsh wasted little time in heeding Olhmeyer's advice, hosting Thursday the first of what ESPN promises will be regularly schedule online chats. In a 60-minute conversation, Walsh addressed a wide range of topics and said transparency is a "key element" for ESPN's editorial staff. Walsh: "Because we do want people to know how we do what we do, and why we do so, when appropriate." He mentioned ESPN's editorial standards and said, "The main goal is for the standards to act as aspirational touchstones for all of our content contributors to do their best possible work. We address some issues that are by nature controversial, including commentary, coverage of civil lawsuits, etc." On a similar note, Walsh said ESPN execs learned from “The Decision,” LeBron James’ notorious summer program on the network, the need to be more transparent about editorial decisions in programming. Walsh added, “We learned from the Ben Roethlisberger story of a year and a half ago that we needed to be more urgent in the era of the Internet. As such, we've incorporated changes and nuances in these areas, among others, with our recently introduced Editorial Guidelines for Standards and Practices." Erin Andrews' new relationship with Reebok has raised some red flags in recent weeks, especially from viewers who wonder whether the endorsement may have influenced her reporting about Nike during ESPN's Rose Bowl telecast. But Walsh said, "Erin was reporting what she saw on the field, which her boothmates also observed -- the players were slipping and having difficulty getting traction with their shoes. As for the Reebok deal, we discussed that with her representatives later that month." Still, Walsh noted ESPN brass has adopted policies to prevent the network's personalities from agreeing to similar relationships. He said, "We are very vigilant and have made alterations to our policy to ensure that it does not compromise our journalism. We will review the policy again early this year."

    LOOKING FORWARD: Walsh said ESPN is "in the search process" for its fourth Ombudsman, following Ohlmeyer, Le Anne Schreiber and George Solomon, and should "fill that position by early next month." Some wonder what, if any, impact the Ombudsman's column has on ESPN's decision makers. But Walsh said, "I can assure you all that these columns are widely discussed in the work place, and can have a very positive effect on future decision making." One topic of discussion surrounding ESPN that's creating quite a stir is the forthcoming release of a behind-the-scenes look at Bristol titled, "Those Guys Have All The Fun." Walsh noted authors James Miller and Tom Shales "spent 2 years interviewing more than 500 people" for the book, due out in May. Miller and Shales took a similar look into the history of "Saturday Night Live," a very well-received book that Walsh called "as accurate and fair as possible." Walsh: "So we're optimistic that this book will achieve those same goals" (ESPN.com, 2/3).

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN
  • MLB Giants Players To Review Plans For Showtime Series Before Production Continues

    Sabean says Showtime, MLB Productions reps will discuss series with Giants players

    MLB Giants Senior VP & GM Brian Sabean Thursday said that Giants players "will review plans for a potential television series about the team during a meeting Friday, since their approval is necessary before production -- which already has begun -- can continue," according to Chris Haft of MLB.com. Sabean said that reps from Showtime and MLB Productions, the entities collaborating on the project, "will discuss their vision for the show with 25 to 30 Giants players and coaches in town for Saturday's FanFest at AT&T Park." Sabean "acknowledged that 'consternation' about the program arose when the venture was publicly announced last month by Showtime and MLB Productions." A news release "trumpeting the series promised that it would be 'unscripted' and feature 'unprecedented team access.'" That created a "widespread impression that the Giants would be subjects of an intrusive reality show that could distract them from baseball." Sabean: "They shot themselves in the foot with the release." Sabean "didn't explicitly say whether players would vote to approve or reject participating in the show," but he indicated that they would "have to be convinced that the undertaking would be worthwhile." Sabean: "The way it was pitched to us, it's more of a docu-drama." He indicated that he "received the impression that the show would be 'player-centric' in a positive sense" (MLB.com, 2/3).

    QUESTIONS REMAIN: The S.F. Chronicle's Henry Schulman said of the series, "Supposedly it's going to be a highly edited, non-controversial look at some of the players behind the scenes. That remains to be seen. Reportedly, the Giants and MLB are going to have the final say editorially on what's going to be in there. But there's going to be pressure from Showtime, there absolutely will be, and they're going to look for some controversy" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/2). CSNBAYAREA.com's Barry Tompkins wrote of the series, "Done right it will give America a fresh and unique view of the inner workings of a baseball clubhouse by giving insight into what is widely considered one of the best in the game. But it is a path wrought with minefields." Tompkins added, "Having done documentaries and long stories in inner sanctums not previously seen by the viewing public I can offer up a couple of 'Watch outs' for the Giants. While the team has editorial license, it doesn't have control over what the players do or say in front of the cameras. Even if none of the dicey stuff gets on the air, there could still be problems. The front office folks who are reviewing the rough cuts are likely to hear things that were not meant for their ears." Tompkins: "It could all work.  I -- and the Giants front office -- really hope it does. But, if it all comes falling down around them, I can almost promise that it won't be because of what gets on the air. It'll be because of what doesn't" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 2/2).

    PR STUNT? In California, Jason Turbow reports Giants P Brian Wilson visited Twitter's HQs Wednesday with the World Series trophy. Wilson earlier this week restarted his Twitter account, and has "already acquired more than 18,000 followers." But a "more likely reason for his visit is the upcoming Showtime reality series." Turbow: "If this is the type of content Showtime is banking on as a centerpiece for its series, it's both good and bad news. Good in that the network might actually follow through on the promise to be non-invasive when it comes to cameras in the clubhouse. Bad in that as entertaining as Wilson might be, there's only so much one can take of pre-cooked meetings between athletes and their admirers" (BAYCITIZEN.org, 2/4).

    Print | Tags: San Francisco Giants, MLB, Showtime, Media
  • NeuLion Signs Multiyear Deal With UFC Beginning With Saturday's Card

    NeuLion inks multiyear deal to power UFC's digital video initiatives

    NeuLion Inc. has signed a multiyear agreement to power digital video initiatives for UFC, marking the latest sports property to align with the New York-based company. The pact, beginning with Saturday's UFC 126 event in Las Vegas, will involve the development, encoding and distribution of the MMA property's live and on-demand online content, particularly through the UFC.tv portal. NeuLion's efforts will begin with standard online video delivery to the personal computer, but soon expanded to numerous other connected devices, including set-top streaming boxes such as Roku and Boxee, smartphones and tablets. New features for the live online video include a round-by-round fan scoring feature, enhanced alternate camera angle views, and heightened social media integration. The alliance adds to league deals NeuLion holds with the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, Big Ten Network, and nearly 200 individual colleges, among others. "We've become a go-to expert on live video with a lot of these leagues because we've been able to show how it improves their fan experiences and helps build their businesses," said NeuLion Exec VP and co-Founder Chris Wagner. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the UFC video will be a mix of PPV, subscription-based and free material. A preliminary fight from UFC 126 involving Demetrious Johnson and Norifumi Yamamoto will additionally be shown for free exclusively on Facebook, the second time in two weeks it has used the social networking platform as a live distribution platform. "This is a big step forward for us," said UFC VP/New Media & Technology Ed Muncey. "We see this partnership with NeuLion as a big move toward expanding our audience all around the world."

    Print | Tags: Media, UFC
  • ESPN's Bob Griese Announces Retirement From Broadcast Booth

    Griese has been in booth for 29
    years, including 24 with ESPN/ABC
    ESPN college football analyst Bob Griese Thursday announced his retirement from the broadcast booth after 29 years. Griese has worked for ABC and ESPN since '87, partnering the past two years with Dave Pasch and Chris Spielman on ESPN’s noon telecasts. Griese was paired with Keith Jackson as part of ABC’s top broadcast team throughout the '90s. Griese’s son, Brian, is also an analyst for ESPN (THE DAILY). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent noted Griese "started his broadcasting career with NBC after his retirement from football, and was on that network's No. 1 team, where he got to call a Super Bowl." His broadcasting career "was marred, however, by an incident in 2009, when he issued an ethnic slur on the air." Following a promo for an upcoming NASCAR telecast, "mention was made that Juan Pablo Montoya was not ranked among the top five drivers." Griese then said, "He's out having a taco" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/3). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino wrote Griese "was no Phil Simms, but he certainly was solid, certainly was informative and he always made sure not to get in the way of the game." Berardino added, "I was always impressed with Griese’s restraint when calling son Brian’s games at Michigan in the mid-’90s. He would point out mistakes as calmly as he would for any other player. ... Only when Brian led Michigan to a share of the 1997 national championship did the ice begin to melt a bit. I seem to recall a teary shot of Bob Griese in the booth at the 1998 Rose Bowl" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 2/3).

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN
  • Final Nielsen Ratings From Recent Sports Telecasts

    The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).

    TELECAST
    DATE
    NET
    TIME (ET)
    RAT.
    VIEWERS (000)
    NFL Pro Bowl
    1/30
    Fox
    7:24-10:37pm
    7.7
    13,406
    NBA: Celtics-Lakers
    1/30
    ABC
    3:44-6:13pm
    4.3
    7,003
    PGA Tour: Farmers Insurance Open:
    Final Round
    1/30
    CBS
    3:29-6:33pm
    3.5
    5,307
    U.S. Figure Skating Championships
    1/29
    NBC
    9:00-11:00pm
    2.5
    3,918
    NBA: Heat-Thunder
    1/30
    ABC
    12:53-3:44pm
    2.5
    3,788
    PGA Tour: Farmers Insurance Open:
    Third Round
    1/29
    CBS
    3:17-6:00pm
    2.0
    3,037
    U.S. Figure Skating Championships
    1/30
    NBC
    4:01-6:03pm
    1.9
    2,787
    U.S. Figure Skating Championships
    1/29
    NBC
    3:00-6:00pm
    1.4
    2,126
    NCAA Basketball: Duke-St. John's
    1/30
    CBS
    1:00-3:29pm
    1.3
    1,861
    PBR: Jack Daniel's Invitational (taped)
    1/30
    NBC
    2:30-4:01pm
    0.9
    1,449
    NCAA Basketball: (regional)
    1/29
    CBS
    1:00-3:17pm
    0.9
    1,298
    International Auto Show (taped)
    1/30
    NBC
    12:30-1:30pm
    0.8
    1,275
    Monster Energy AMA
    Supercross (taped)
    1/30
    CBS
    12:00-1:00pm
    0.7
    1,101
    Skiing/Snowboarding:
    Denver Big Air (taped)
    1/30
    NBC
    1:30-2:30pm
    0.7
    1,067
    Skiing: Nature Valley
    Freestyle Cup (taped)
    1/29
    NBC
    2:00-3:00pm
    0.5
    623
    TELECAST
    DATE
    NET
    TIME (ET)
    RAT.
    VIEWERS (000)
    NBA: Heat-Knicks
    1/27
    TNT
    8:00-10:43pm
    1.9
    2,784
    NBA: Celtics-Suns
    1/28
    ESPN
    10:32pm-1:15am
    1.2
    1,999
    NBA: Celtics-Trail Blazers
    1/27
    TNT
    10:43pm-1:16am
    1.2
    1,878
    NCAA Basketball:
    N.C. State-North Carolina
    1/29
    ESPN
    2:17-4:14pm
    1.0
    1,735
    NCAA Basketball:
    Purdue-Ohio State
    1/25
    ESPN
    9:36-11:07pm
    1.1
    1,681
    Winter X Games
    1/30
    ESPN
    7:00-10:03pm
    0.9
    1,619
    NCAA Basketball:
    Florida-Georgia
    1/25
    ESPN
    7:00-9:36pm
    1.0
    1,473
    NCAA Basketball:
    Georgia-Kentucky
    1/29
    ESPN
    4:14-6:09pm
    0.9
    1,435
    NCAA Basketball:
    Georgetown-Villanova
    1/29
    ESPN
    12:00-2:17pm
    0.9
    1,359
    Winter X Games
    1/30
    ESPN
    12:30-6:01pm
    0.8
    1,298
     

    POST-BREAK BOUNCE: Rogers Sportsnet drew 1.35 million viewers Tuesday for four NHL telecasts across its RSNs, marking the largest audience across all Canadian NHL broadcasts for the night. Sportsnet Ontario earned 633,000 viewers for Panthers-Maple Leafs, while Sportsnet Pacific earned 410,000 viewers for Canucks-Stars. Sportsnet West earned 177,000 viewers for Flames-Predators, and Sportsnet East earned 132,000 viewers for Senators-Devils (Rogers).

    Print | Tags: Media
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