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The NCAA men's basketball tournament is averaging a combined 6.2 overnight Nielsen rating through Sunday across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, which is tied with '91 and '93 as the best overnight average for the first four full days of games since the tournament expanded coverage to all live games. The 6.2 average for the four nets is also up 17% from a 5.3 average for CBS through the same point last year. Yesterday's coverage averaged a combined 7.3 overnight, which is tied with '98 and is the highest-rated first Sunday in 17 years. The 7.3 overnight is up 14% from a 6.4 rating last year. The Duke-Michigan game on CBS yesterday was the weekend's highest-rated game, earning a 6.9 rating. The lowest-rated game of the weekend was Marquette-Xavier on truTV, which earned a 0.4 overnight on Friday night (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).'11 NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTDATE
MATCHUPNETSTART (ET)OVERNIGHT3/20 Duke-MichiganCBS2:45pm6.93/20 Ohio State-George MasonCBS5:00pm6.43/19 Florida-UCLACBS3:00pm5.43/20 North Carolina-WashingtonCBS12:00pm4.63/19 Richmond-Morehead StateCBS5:15pm4.43/19 Kentucky-West VirginiaCBS12:00pm4.13/19 BYU-GonzagaCBS7:45pm3.43/18 Washington-GeorgiaCBS10:00pm3.13/20 Arizona-TexasTNT6:00pm2.93/18 North Carolina-Long IslandCBS7:00pm2.93/20 Kansas-IllinoisTNT8:45pm2.83/19 UConn-CincinnatiTBS9:45pm2.63/20 Florida State-Notre DameTBS9:45pm2.63/18 Arizona-MemphisCBS2:45pm2.23/19 San Diego State-TempleTNT6:00pm2.13/19 Wisconsin-Kansas StateTNT9:00pm2.13/18 Texas-OaklandCBS12:00pm2.13/18 Kansas-Boston Univ.TBS6:45pm1.83/20 VCU-PurdueTBS7:00pm1.83/18 Ohio State-UTSATNT5:00pm1.73/19 Butler-PittsburghTBS7:00pm1.53/20 Marquette-SyracusetruTV7:30pm1.43/18 VCU-GeorgetownTNT9:45pm1.33/18 Illinois-UNLVTBS9:15pm1.23/18 George Mason-VillanovaTNT2:00pm1.13/18 Purdue-St. Peter'sTNT7:15pm1.03/18 Michigan-TennesseetruTV12:30pm0.93/18 Syracuse-Indiana StatetruTV10:30pm0.93/18 Florida State-Texas A&MTBS4:00pm0.93/18 Duke-HamptontruTV3:00pm0.73/18 Notre Dame-AkronTBS1:30pm0.73/18 Marquette-XaviertruTV7:30pm0.4
NUMBERS GAME: NCAA tournament games on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV through Saturday are averaging a combined 5.1 U.S. rating and 7.828 million viewers. Those figures are up 11% and 12%, respectively, from a 4.6 rating and 7.007 million viewers through the same period last year on CBS. Saturday's coverage across the four networks averaged a 5.9 U.S. rating, up 9% from a 5.4 rating on CBS last year. Thursday's and Friday's coverage of the tournament each averaged a combined 5.0 U.S. rating, marking the best first Thursday and first Friday audience since '91. NCAA tournament online and mobile applications earned 7.6 million visits for coverage of the tournament on Thursday, up 22% from last year. There also were 3.3 million hours of live streaming video consumed across broadband and mobile apps. NCAA.com and March Madness on Demand earned 4.1 million unique visitors Thursday and 774,000 unique users on the mobile apps (THE DAILY).
SEAMLESS COVERAGE: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes CBS and Turner "put NCAA officiating coordinator John Adams on-air" after both Saturday's Butler-Pittsburgh game and yesterday's North Carolina-Washington game, to review "how officials handled the game clock." CBS Sports VP/Communications Jennifer Sabatelle said that "having Adams at CBS/Turner's Atlanta studio was a new tack ... as CBS in past years had set up access to officials 'but not to have them on camera'" (USA TODAY, 3/21). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes CBS and Turner during coverage of Butler-Pittsburgh "got 'er done, got 'er done good." Mushnick: "When TV gets it right -- when it sticks the landing, all natural, no artificial additives -- it shines like a new quarter" (N.Y. POST, 3/21). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the net was "fully prepared" for the conclusion of the Butler-Pittsburgh game, the "first big moment of the NCAA Tournament." Jones: "CBS was all over it: timely reports, replays and analysis" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21). In Denver, Dusty Saunders: "No one can accuse NCAA's TV partners of ignoring Saturday's bizarre, controversial ending when Butler upset Pittsburgh" (DENVER POST, 3/21).
MAKING ROOM FOR THE PRESIDENT: CBS altered its coverage of the Texas-Oakland NCAA tournament game Friday afternoon with 26 seconds to go in order to air President Obama's live public address on Libya. With Texas up five points, CBS went to a split screen around 2:20pm ET to air both Obama's address and the remainder of the game, taking the audio feed from the "CBS News Special Report" rather than the on-court action. Shortly after 2:00, the network began alerting viewers of Obama's unexpected news conference with a constant scroll at the bottom of the Texas-Oakland game. With TNT not scheduled to carry its first game until 2:15, and the exact time of Obama's address unclear, the Turner Sports network began airing Texas-Oakland at about 2:00, with slightly more than four minutes remaining in the contest. CBS informed viewers that the game could be found on TNT, which aired the game until the 2:15 tip of George Mason-Villanova. As soon as Texas defeated Oakland, CBS ended all March Madness coverage and focused exclusively on the President (Brian Helfrich, THE DAILY). In Houston, David Barron noted CBS "first alerted viewers at about" 1:49 that it "would switch Texas-Oakland to TNT at" 2:00 (CHRON.com, 3/18). The AP noted Obama "held news conferences during the first two full days of the NCAA tournament," and CBS "took different approaches each day." The net "did not cover the president live on Thursday, instead summarizing his speech in a one-minute report aired during a break in NCAA coverage within a half-hour of his appearance." CBS News President David Rhodes said that Friday's speech, "about the possibility of U.S. military involvement, was more newsworthy than Thursday's and compelled the live coverage." Rhodes: "You've got a large audience for the game; you don't want to alienate them. You also want them to see the news." Rhodes indicated that CBS officials "discussed a range of options, including pulling away from the game entirely or not airing the live report." However, the fact that CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus "was, up until a month ago, also CBS News president" was "one thing that may have avoided an internal battle between news and sports" (AP, 3/18).
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote the "four network setup for NCAA hoops is all good." You "can watch whatever game you want." Raissman: "More importantly, the days of whining over whether CBS switched to the right game, or stayed to long in a blowout, are over" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote having every game "available for viewing in its entirety -- full-blown national coverage as it's billed on CBS, TNT, TBS and ... truTV -- is an empowering development for fans of March Madness." Shaw: "Every NCAA Tournament brings a surprise. Some bring an absolute revelation. ... This year brings another. There's a truTV?" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/20).
TURNER BROADCASTERS FITTING IN: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the "best part" of CBS and Turner's coverage, "other than being able to watch every game, is the addition of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley to the experience." There is "no better trio in sports broadcasting right now." Engel: "I'm not sure Barkley has done much research on this field, but his opinions are fun, light and he doesn't take this thing too seriously" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 3/18). The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones writes Barkley, had a "good weekend, doing what he does best -- offering up strong opinions." Jones: "So far, so good." Meanwhile, Smith "brings a fresh perspective to his March Madness analysis and offers up tidbits that are intelligent, thought-provoking and interesting" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21). However, the DAILY NEWS' Raissman wrote CBS analyst Greg Anthony "doesn't look happy working with Barkley and Kenny Smith in the NCAA hoops studio." Anthony "takes the subject matter seriously." Raissman: "Ya think he wonders if his partners share a similar commitment? Smith, at least, comes prepared. Barkley, not so much so" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/20).
OTHER ON-AIR PERSONALITIES: The N.Y. POST's Mushnick noted announcer Marv Albert debuted as a "CBS college basketball play-by-player on Friday." Mushnick: "Marv Albert on CBS? Calling college basketball? Voicing a promo for the Masters? -- quickly seemed as natural as cheese on pizza" (N.Y. POST, 3/20). Mushnick today writes he feels for analyst Len Elmore, "Gus Johnson's Tournament partner." Mushnick: "When Johnson's done with his self-promotional hysterics, what's Elmore to do? Speak his usual calm, clear observations, as if Johnson just badly overdid it? Or get crazy-loud, too, so as not to embarrass Johnson?" (N.Y. POST, 3/21).
Pitino's guest analyst appearance following
loss is met with mixed reviews
COVERAGE AT LARGE: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the NCAA Tournament is "one of the more fraudulent, overblown media creations of our time," and ESPN is "making me despise the tourney the same way it made me despise Brett Favre and LeBron James." Shaughnessy: "How many more sycophantic ex-coaches (thanks, Digger and Dickie) can we hear making excuses for every transgression made by current coaches? In the world of television commentary, every coach is pure and never responsible for NCAA violations." Shaughnessy wrote it was "particularly disgusting" to see Pitino "join the CBS crew hours after his team was eliminated" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/20). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes TSN's coverage of the "gripping North Carolina-Washington game was pushed to online by an NHL game and a NASCAR race" that "also clipped the start of Duke-Michigan." Both TSN and TSN2 at times "had games," while "at other times it was just one (while TSN served other masters)." Dowbiggin: "It was mix and match with CBS coverage for frustrated fans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/21).
The questions about how CBS and Turner would work together during the NCAA Tournament were answered last week, as TV ratings and online viewership increased. Staff Writer John Ourand spoke separately with both CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus and Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy about their thoughts following the tournament's opening week. Both execs said the results exceeded their initial expectations, and both highlighted the work of CBS Sports VP/Production Harold Bryant and Turner Sports Senior VP & Exec Producer Jeff Behnke, who produced the games across CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV.
Q: How has your personal experience changed from the last few years, when CBS carried the games by itself?
McManus: Productions have not been as hectic or as challenging with respect to switching back-and-forth between all the games. What has been challenging is navigating the viewer to where the games are. Out of every commercial in every game, we tried to do a quick highlight from other games without missing any action. That's worked remarkably well because it really has shown the viewer where the best action is and truly gave the feeling -- which we didn't want to lose -- of the carnival-like atmosphere that really surrounds this tournament for the first four days.
Q: The production was seamless on air throughout the four networks. What was it like behind-the-scenes?
McManus: Normally, when you do something that's such a departure from the past, there's going to be some hiccups and some lack of acceptance. From noon on Thursday right through midnight last night, I don't remember seeing a production that was as flawless and without issues. The fact that there were two different groups doing this -- and Harold Bryant was sitting next to Jeff Behnke in our control room -- is one of the more satisfying and one of the more gratifying experiences in my career.
Q: Have you been satisfied with the studio shows?
McManus: I think the talent took a while to get used to each other. By Friday, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and Greg Gumbel were communicating very well. I think the interaction and the chemistry, considering that they had never worked together before, was pretty remarkable. Normally, chemistry in those kind of studio operations can take months or years to develop.
Q: What's it been like having such an over-sized personality like Barkley in your studio?
McManus: The only thing I'm trying to do, which I've not been able to do yet, is get Charles' invitation to the Big East's media day reinstated. I know for a fact that he's not currently on the list for the Big East golf outing this spring.
Q: How close has this been to what you were expecting?
Levy: This did exactly what we wanted to do in that it helped the sports fan find truTV. Tuesday night certainly proved that. There was no challenge for people to find it. This event made that happen.
Q: There were some complaints about the First Four. What's your verdict?
Levy: It's too early to see about changes. VCU being in the Sweet Sixteen shows that these First Four games matter and it will be a part of the bracket process moving forward.
Q: What aspect of the production makes you proud?
Levy: It's one consistent look and feel: the graphic packages, the look-ins, the music and the talent. From the consumer standpoint, if you're flipping up and down the dial looking at what games you want to come in and out of, you're not feeling like you're in any different production. One of the nice features that I got good feedback on was the blinking light on the score and network that had a close game in the last couple of minutes. We were telling the viewers to go there. That was important. Jeff Behnke and Harold Bryant did a great job with their teams in making sure the whole thing worked seamlessly. They worked hours upon hours over these last five days.
Q: Overall, what's your verdict on the first week?
Levy: All metrics are up, linear and digital. People might have thought that, based on the structure of the new package and having all the games on a national basis, may have hurt ratings and digital numbers. Having all metrics up, certainly is exciting for the partnership over the next 14 years.
The Devils "have begun a social media project they call Mission Control" in which "three or four fans among a group of 25 volunteers, in roughly two-hour shifts, monitor social media sites and hockey-related Web sites for news and other information related to the Devils, then pass the items along through Twitter and Facebook," according to Dave Caldwell of the N.Y. TIMES. The "Devils Army," with fans "appointed as generals, was born in February," and its Mission Control uses "converted storage space in the Prudential Center offices." After "collecting information from the Web, the generals share it on Facebook (Devils Army Generals) and Twitter (Devils-Generals)." Devils New Media Marketing Manager Anthony Oliva said of the generals, "They're the voice of the fan inside the organization now." Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek said that he "was not aware of anything quite like it in professional sports." Caldwell noted the "idea was to create more enthusiasm among a fan base that Vanderbeek considers relatively young and more likely to use social media to obtain, and exchange, information about the team." Much of the "original content has been happy chatter about the team and its playoff prospects, but the Twitter and Facebook pages can be an online customer-service desk." Caldwell: "Families, for example, said they wanted more gluten-free concessions, and the team responded." Vanderbeek reasoned that if fans "enjoy the experience of going to a game ... attendance will rise, Prudential Center will become noisier and the Devils may play better" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19).
The MLS Earthquakes Saturday night were scheduled to debut a new "mobile phone app that delivers hot dogs, beer and souvenirs," according to Benny Evangelista of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Yorder co-Founder Kenji Kato believes that the app, which takes the company's name, "could revolutionize food concessions at sporting events and concerts." The free app, available for iPhone and Android phones, "lets fans call up the food and drink menu from the stadium's two concession stands." Once they make their selections, "payment is made through their PayPal account, with a $1 per-transaction convenience fee added to the total." The orders are "received by the concessions operator, Palo Alto food management firm Bon Appetit, which will send a worker to the fan's seat with the order in 15 to 20 minutes." Fans also can "order team merchandise through the app and, for the season opener," the Earthquakes were offering a 10% discount on orders placed through Yorder. Earthquakes President David Kaval said that the technology "is especially suited for soccer, which does not have any natural breaks during the game except for halftime." Evangelista noted Washington-based Yorder "started in early 2010 as iConcessionStand, ran a limited test in the club seats at Safeco Field" for the Mariners' final 12 home games, and ultimately changed its name in February. The app "recognizes its location, so it can be used at any participating stadium or arena, although Yorder still has to prove it can handle major venues that have tens of thousands more seats than the 10,000-seat Buck Shaw Stadium." So far, the "only team working with Yorder is the Quakes, part of that franchise's efforts to make antiquated Buck Shaw as pleasant as possible until it can build a new soccer stadium" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/19). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "This will be a game-changer for a lot of fans" (ESPN.com, 3/19).