SBD/March 17, 2011/Media

Keep The Remote Handy: NCAA Tourney's New Coverage Format Begins Today

VCU victory over USC on truTV earns 0.9 overnight rating
truTV averaged a 0.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the second pair of First Four games of the NCAA men's basketball championship last night from 6:30-11:56pm ET, down from the 1.0 overnight the net averaged on Tuesday night. The early window featuring Texas-San Antonio's defeat of Alabama State earned a 0.6 overnight from 6:30-9:06pm, while the late window featuring VCU-USC earned a 0.9 overnight from 9:27-11:56pm. truTV averaged a 0.8 U.S. fast-national Nielsen rating and 1.268 million viewers for Tuesday night’s doubleheader. The early window featuring UNC-Asheville’s OT win over Arkansas-Little Rock earned a 0.8 rating and 1.200 million viewers, while the late window featuring Clemson-UAB earned a 0.9 rating and 1.354 million viewers. ESPN last year earned a 0.8 rating and 1.053 million viewers for the opening-round game featuring Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop. By comparison, last week during the same window (6:30pm-12:00am), truTV averaged a 0.8 U.S. rating and 1.210 million viewers for a slate of programs including six episodes of “Hardcore Pawn” and an episode each of “Cops,” “Lizard Lick Towing,” “Southern Fried Stings” and “TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest.” The figures for last night's games are also up 15% from truTV's average audience during the same window since the start of '11 (THE DAILY).

IT'S A NEW DAY: In Houston, David Barron notes CBS and Turner during their coverage of the tournament will "try to steer neutral viewers toward the closest, most compelling game." Each network "will have a strip across the screen featuring logos of the other networks and the time and score for each game either in progress or about to start." However, CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco said the objectives "didn't change" as a result of the joint coverage. Aresco: "You don't want geographic or competitive imbalance. You don't want three No. 1 seeds in the same window. And you want to have marquee names in prime time." Aresco said that one goal for today and Friday "was to have strong games early to hook viewers for the rest of the day." Turner Senior VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller said of the coverage, "You're seeing a real blend of talent and a blend of networks, with everyone trying to find a way to leverage all of our strengths and give the Tournament a new voice. We're trying to create one TV universe." Barron writes there were a "few unscripted moments" during yesterday's coverage, including when TNT's Charles Barkley referred to CBS' Greg Anthony's "suggestion that UNC-Asheville could challenge top-seeded Pittsburgh." Barkley said, "I need to call my financial people and get some cash on that one." Meanwhile, CBS analyst Seth Davis closed the show "with a borderline risque comment that he probably would not have made on the more straight-laced CBS set" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/17). N.Y. Daily News columnist Bruce Murray said of every game of the NCAA tournament airing nationally, "If there's a game going on, this is going to be interesting to hear broadcasters say this, 'There’s a good game going on over on truTV. Go over there for the finish'" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/16).

AGAINST MOVE TO CABLE: U.S. House Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) has addressed a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and CBS Corp. President & CEO Les Moonves regarding NCAA tournament coverage expanding to cable. In the letter dated Tuesday, Courtney notes "150,000 households in Connecticut will not be able to watch" today's 7:20pm ET Bucknell-UConn game on TNT. CBS is scheduled to air Wofford-BYU in roughly the same time slot, and Courtney requests that Hartford's CBS affiliate, WFSB, "be given the license rights to carry the Connecticut game" instead. Courtney: "NCAA's new contract with four television channels is a significant departure from previous years" (THE DAILY). THE HILL's Jordan Fabian notes CBS and Turner execs last week said taht they "were not concerned about the lack of regional coverage, considering home fans who do not get cable could still watch the games for free online" (THEHILL.com, 3/17). In Connecticut, Ray Hackett wrote, "Enough already with the requests from politicians seeking to force changes in TV scheduling for sports games. ... How about we let the broadcasters make decisions based on what's good for their business and we all stick to our own business" (NORWICHBULLETIN.com, 3/16).

NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT: FIRST ROUND GAMES ON THURSDAY
CBS TRUTV
West Virginia-Clemson Butler-Old Dominion
Kentucky-Princeton Pittsburgh-UNC Asheville
BYU-Wofford Wisconsin-Belmont
St. John's-Gonzaga Kansas State-Utah State
TBS TNT
Louisville-Morehead State Penn State-Temple
Vanderbilt-Richmond San Diego State-Northern Colorado
Florida-UC Santa Barbara UConn-Bucknell
Michigan State-UCLA Cincinnati-Missouri

APP REVIEW: In N.Y., Bob Tedeschi reviews the "three free apps that every fan should consider for March Madness," which are March Madness on Demand 2011, ESPN Bracket Bound 2011 and NCAA Fan Zone -- March Madness for Android and Apple. As useful as MMOD "may be for surreptitious viewing, it is versatile enough that you will want to use it while watching games at home, especially on an iPad." MMOD "uses the full breadth of the iPad's screen to deliver information to nicely complement TV viewing." The app "also takes advantage of Turner's editorial staff to offer curated Twitter and Facebook feeds." Meanwhile, those who "tilt toward the casual side of fandom will get much of what they need from Fan Zone," but if fans "enter more than one tournament pool ... Bracket Bound is more your speed." Tedeschi writes Bracket Bound is "nicely designed," but Android users are "at a disadvantage when it comes to video." Both Android devices "played the video in stops and starts" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). Meanwhile, SI yesterday announced the launch of Front Row, a new series of free apps that will deliver scores and photos to the iPhone, Android Smartphones and a Front Row section available on Flipboard for the iPad. The app launched around the tournament and will provide access to all 67 games (Sports Illustrated).
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