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Fox earned a 47.9 overnight Nielsen rating for the Packers' 31-25 win over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV last night, tying it with the Giants-Broncos matchup in '87 as the best Super Bowl overnight ever. The 47.9 rating is up 3.2% from a 46.4 overnight for Saints-Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on CBS last year. The telecast earned a 59.7 local rating in both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, marking the second-highest rating for a single market in Super Bowl history, behind only a 63.0 local rating in Chicago for Super Bowl XX. Host market Dallas-Ft. Worth earned a 53.7 local rating for the game. Fox' pregame show from 2:00-6:30pm ET earned a 12.2 overnight, marking the best Super Bowl pregame overnight in eight years (THE DAILY).
A JOB WELL DONE: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes Fox "went the right way by covering it as a game because the millions of novices likely are watching the game at a party or a bar and not really paying attention to the broadcasters anyway." Fox' Joe Buck and Troy Aikman "were good, not great." But it was "good enough for a big game and better than trying to do too much and falling flat." Buck and Aikman "did what football fans wanted them to do: be accurate, be concise and make football the focus instead of trying to put on a show." Jones writes the "direction and production were solid, too." There is a "tendency for directors to dial up way too many replays and graphics for big games, but Sunday's production saved the replays and graphics for the right moments" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/7). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes under the header, "Super On Field, Super On TV, Too." Fox had some "strong story-telling moments." The telecast "keyed on injured Packers DB Charles Woodson, emoting -- and wincing -- from the sideline." Buck "just told the story, and told it well, without trying (too hard) to make his mark." Similarly, Aikman was "unusually strong, no more so than late, when he used a replay to correct himself." Mushnick: "Just a good game attached to some good TV" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht writes Fox “turned in a stellar performance in covering Super Bowl XLV.” The “low-key announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman covered all angles with their usual expertise, and they didn’t overwhelm viewers with a lot of meaningless facts” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/7). In Ft. Worth, Ray Buck writes under the header, "Fox's Super Bowl Broadcast Goes Off Like Clockwork" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7).
ON THE MARK: In San Diego, Jay Posner writes Buck and "especially Troy Aikman were on top of their game nearly the entire night." Aikman had the "kind of night he did when he was winning three Super Bowls for Dallas, connecting with almost all his points." Posner: "There were a couple times I wish Aikman and Buck had discussed strategy a little more. ... But those instances were rare" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/7). On Long Island, Neil Best writes Buck and Aikman delivered a "solid, blessedly no-frills account of yet another interesting Super Bowl, a welcome change of tone after the inanity of the pregame show marathon." Buck "conveyed the bigness of big plays without overselling them" (NEWSDAY, 2/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell writes Buck and Aikman "to their great credit ... cruised through the game without a single" mention of former Packers QB Brett Favre, though the "same can't be said" for Fox' postgame coverage (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes Aikman was "like an antidote to all the Super Bowl hype." His "deliberate and understated tone could have fit a regular-season game" (USATODAY.com, 2/7). In Miami, Barry Jackson writes Aikman's delivery "lacks pizzazz but he is meticulously prepared and better than most at dissecting strategy." But because Super Bowl audiences "include so many people who don't watch a lot of football, Aikman should have known better than to use jargon such as 'gap integrity' without elaborating" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/7). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Aikman delivered "a typical game." He is "not a bold first-guesser," as John Madden was, although his suggestion that Packers WRs Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson "would have important games proved true." Sandomir: "I would have enjoyed hearing Aikman and Buck tell us a lot more about why two defensive stars, Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Pittsburgh's James Harrison, were not as overwhelming as they usually are" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes, "You admire the spare call Joe Buck uses after dramatic scores." When Jennings caught a fourth-quarter touchdown to make it a two-possession game again, Buck said, "Rodgers looking left ... now goes to his right! Jennings! Touchdown!" Then Buck "didn't say another word, letting the pictures do all the work." Aikman's voice was the "next you heard as he came in over the replay" (JSONLINE.com, 2/7). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent wrote the "scarcity of words marked Fox's telecast of Super Bowl XLV," specifically the ability of Buck to "frame game action using as little verbiage as necessary." Buck's call was "blissfully short" on the Packers' first touchdown, after which he "kept quiet and let the pictures and the sound of the crowd tell the story." Kent added, "Big ups to Buck for making the observation in the third quarter that the Steelers crowd was turning the game into a road contest for Rodgers" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/6).
STRONG FROM THE SIDELINES: In California, John Maffei writes with Steelers and Packers players "falling like dominos, Fox sideline reporters Chris Myers and Pam Oliver were the first-half MVPs." Because of the injuries, "there was actually something for the sideline reporters to report." Myers and Oliver "hustled and got the latest updates" on the Packers' Woodson, Donald Driver and Sam Shields, as well as the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and Emmanuel Sanders. Maffei added, "There were also great shots of the injured players being carted off the field or walking up the tunnel to the locker room" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 2/7). The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones writes, "Usually, sideline reporters don't add much to a broadcast, but with a slew of injuries, sideline reporters Chris Myers and Pam Oliver provided quick updates and useful information throughout the broadcast" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/7).
QUITE A PRODUCTION: SI.com's Richard Deitsch awards Fox' game coverage an "A-" and writes perhaps its "best moment came early in the fourth quarter with footage" of Packers LB coach Kevin Greene speaking to Clay Matthews. Greene said, "It is time. It is time." That footage was recorded just before Matthews and Ryan Pickett "forced a Rashard Mendenhall fumble." Fox' production "also soared with a fourth quarter replay showing Steelers safety Ryan Clark just missing a second-quarter touchdown catch" by Jennings. Fox then "cut quickly" to Steelers DT Casey Hampton, "angrily watching the game get away" (SI.com, 2/7). In Green Bay, Warren Gerds writes the Greene-Matthews interaction was "perhaps the most remarkable sequence in the coverage." Gerds: "How did Fox get that audio and video? No matter, it was fantastic" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/7). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Fox "had its mike in the right place" for the Greene-Matthews conversation (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7). In Ft. Worth, David Martindale writes "almost nothing escaped the camera coverage." Fox delivered "replays from every angle," though the "only camera miscue came at the end, when Fox missed the live shot of Packers coach Mike McCarthy getting his celebratory Gatorade bath" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/7). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes, "Applaud the work of producer Richie Zyontz and director Rich Russo for their splendid use of 28 live cameras and 18 replay cameras. ... The camera crew followed major plays from a variety of angles, and instant replays showed viewers exactly what happened" (DENVER POST, 2/7). In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes all of Fox' cameras "appeared to be pointed toward the field." Dougherty: "At last, a network figured out that millions of viewers tune in to see football, not a constant stream of crowd shots" (Albany TIMES UNION, 2/7).
GLOSSING OVER TICKET SITUATION: The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir notes Fox before the Super Bowl "made note" of the breaking story that hundreds of tickets were declared unusable, but the network "never said another word." Fox was "there to carry a game, and there was no expectation that this debacle should have become a big diversion for the broadcast." This was a "story that required" Myers and Oliver to "do some reporting." The incident was "embarrassing to the league, but it did not hide from it, or keep news about it from appearing on NFL.com." Sandomir: "But when news happened off the field, Fox was virtually silent" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). SI.com's Deitsch notes it "took Fox until" 5:14pm ET, slightly more than an hour before kickoff, "to report on one of the major stories of the Super Bowl, the ticket seating fiasco." Deitsch: "Remarkably, Fox downplayed the news by giving it less than a minute" (SI.com, 2/7). NEWSDAY's Best on his Twitter feed wrote, "Good news: Fox covered unfolding ticket/seat crisis on pregame. Bad news: Chris Myers downplayed magnitude of fiasco" (TWITTER.com, 2/6).
Fox' pregame coverage for last night's Super Bowl XLV was the "Worst Damn Four-and-a-Half-Hour Super Bowl Show Ever," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The pregame began at 2:00pm ET ahead of the 6:29pm scheduled kickoff of the game, and the "pacing was choppy, especially in the first 2 hours 45 minutes, to accommodate the frequent cuts to the string of red-carpet interviews." Non-football coverage "filled the interminable hours before kickoff but hurt (and shortened) the football segments." A panel discussion on the NFL CBA negotiations "featured taped tidbits" from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, and "would have been more meaningful if they, or players, had been shown live." Sandomir adds, "When you conceive a show as bad as this and go to these lengths to diminish the football content for more than three hours, you overpromote the company’s wares on Fox, FX and 20th Century Fox. When you produce something this awful, you tend to do something laugh-out-loud dumb like the badly acted Pizza Hut commercial starring your own people" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes Fox "did well with the traditional football stuff" during its pregame coverage, but "there was also plenty of nonsense, and too much of it." The pregame "lacked any news judgment." It took "only 11 minutes into the show for Fox to mention the historically bad weather that hit Dallas" last week, and "that was good." What "wasn't good was that the segment lasted a minute, and was treated as an afterthought." Also, Fox "downplayed the news" that hundreds of fans had tickets deemed unusable, "giving it less than a minute" of coverage." In addition, the celebrity red carpet segment hosted by Michael Strahan and Maria Menounos "produced the kind of awkward, train wreck television that we've come to expect when Fox heads down the sycophantic path" (SI.com, 2/7).
INCOMPLETE PASS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes Fox' red carpet show "isn't a bad idea in theory." But it "presupposes that Fox will be able to find celebrities who are at least semi-fluent in English and understand they are at the Super Bowl." Celebrities "only had to be ready to offer up their Super Bowl picks." Yet when asked, actors such as John Travolta and Harrison Ford looked "startled and at a loss for words" (USATODAY.com, 2/7). In California, John Maffei writes Strahan and Menounos "interviewing celebrities on the red carpet was a total waste of time" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 2/7). In Chicago, Ed Sherman wrote, “I actually tried to tune in Sunday only to quickly tune out during a painful Michael Strahan interview with John Travolta. Wow, I got 4 ½ hours of my life back” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 2/6). In San Diego, Jay Posner writes, "Why do we even have the red carpet? The interviews are just an excuse for people, mostly connected with Fox, to promote something, and they take away time that might be used on more interesting features." Also during the pregame, the "much-hyped interview between Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama was a mostly entertaining 15 minutes, even if it seemed terribly out of place (as it does every year)" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/7). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the Obama-O'Reilly conversation was the "worst interview" during Fox' coverage. It has "become a tired format, interviewing the president right before kickoff." Jones writes the best interview of the day was Fox' Terry Bradshaw talking to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, which "ended in interesting fashion as the two shook hands with Bradshaw saying it was important to him to have a connection to Roethlisberger because of their shared history with the Steelers organization" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/7). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes the Obama-O'Reilly interview "was interesting television," with an exchange that was "both combative and conversational" (JSONLINE.com, 2/7).
OTHER NETWORKS NOT MUCH BETTER: In Houston, David Barron notes Fox, NFL Network and ESPN "combined for about 17 hours, give or take, of pregame programming Sunday, most of it eminently forgettable." Barron: "Here's the problem I have with pregame shows. Even with all the real estate at their disposal, sometimes there's no sense of scale. After hyping the Terry Bradshaw-Ben Roethlisberger interview, we basically got three minutes of the same thing we heard from Roethlisberger during media day, followed by Bradshaw trying to make nice with the Steelers quarterback." NFL Network, however, "offered considerably more substance on the Roethlisberger-seeking-redemption issue" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/7).
USC, one of the “few remaining major schools to manage its marketing and media rights in-house, has met with several companies to explore outsourcing those rights,” according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Fox Sports, IMG College and Learfield Sports are “among the rights holders who have interviewed” with USC officials. USC is a private institution, so it is "uncertain what the school has been making annually by selling its own rights.” Sources estimated that the school has been “netting $6 million to $7 million a year.” The “premier college brands typically generate up to $10 million a year.” The look into partnering with a rights holder “came up when USC changed athletics director last summer,” introducing Pat Haden to replace Mike Garrett. Garrett “had opposed outsourcing the rights.” USC Associate AD/Marketing Jose Eskenazi said, “With the new leadership, there was a decision to take a step back and examine the business.” Smith notes there are “challenges with milking more revenue out of USC,” as potential advertisers and sponsors have “a multitude of sports and entertainment choices” in the L.A. market. The school also is “limited by the revenue it can derive from the city-owned Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” where its football team plays (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/7 issue).
NBC Sports' makeover of Versus' NHL coverage “will begin dramatically” with tonight's broadcast of the Rangers-Red Wings game, according to Greg Wyshynski of YAHOO SPORTS. A source said that NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood will produce tonight's coverage on Versus, and Pierre McGuire will debut on the net as an "inside the glass" commentator, joining announcers Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk. Tomorrow’s Sabres-Lightning broadcast will feature Versus studio analyst Brian Engblom "inside the glass," with Mike Milbury “inside the studio in place of Engblom.” Meanwhile, Wyshynski wrote he had been "told that reports of 29 people getting the ax at Versus are ‘inaccurate,’ and that any changes to the announcing team can't be confirmed yet" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/5). In Montreal, Pat Hickey reported Versus’ Rob Harwood “is out as game host and reporter.” Harwood said, “They’re adopting the NBC format and they want an ex-player between the benches” (Montreal GAZETTE, 2/4).
ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard claims that CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms "threatened to hit" him Saturday at the NFL Experience in Dallas, though Simms contends that there "was no chance the altercation would get physical," according to Steve Serby of the N.Y. POST. Howard following the altercation tweeted that his "criticism during the college season of Simms’ son Matt, a quarterback at Tennessee, led to Simms threatening him." Howard wrote, "At NFL-Xperience and Phil Simms just threatened 2 hit me b/c I said his son was 1 of the worse QBs in the SEC. I told him ‘LET’S GO!’ ... I am DEAD serious about the Phil Simms thing. We all thought he was joking, but he kept going and said he wanted 2 take a swing at me!!" Howard later added, "It ended w/police stepping in between so I could continue my appearance w/fans." Simms in a statement released through CBS responded to Howard's tweets, saying, "Desmond and I were having a private conversation that became heated. But at no time was there ever a chance of any physical confrontation or that I felt the police officer assigned to me by the event planners for my appearance needed to separate the two of us." Serby noted Simms also was "angered five years ago when ESPN’s Steve Young questioned the toughness" of another son, Titans QB Chris Simms (N.Y. POST, 2/6). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote Simms "needs to understand that in his role as the most highly-regarded color NFL announcer on a major network ... he has an obligation to at least give the appearance of professionalism in public settings" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/5).
CAN YOU FILL ME IN? In N.Y., Bob Raissman reports Simms yesterday "didn't backpedal or attempt to distort reality." Simms said, "There were words. Were they heated? Yeah, they probably got heated a little." He added, "Just the fact that it was tweeted and all that. I think that bothers me more than anything." Raissman writes, "Simms is one of the more thick-skinned voices in the business. He doesn't whine -- at least publicly -- over criticism directed at him. He rarely reacts. Nonetheless, Simms' reality is no different than the players he comments on" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Howard was "off from the start," but Simms "made it worse by confronting Howard." Simms could "hear much worse from adults about his son sitting in the stands on game day" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes, "Two things. One, being an analyst himself, Simms should know as well as anyone that it's Howard's job to give honest analysis on television. He shouldn't have become bent out of shape. But, two, Howard came off as a bit of a dweeb by tweeting the whole episode like he was running to the teacher about some kid picking on him in the schoolyard" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/7).