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CBS averaged an 8.9 rating and 15.4 million viewers for its coverage of Saturday's two men's Final Four games, according to Nielsen fast-national data. The rating ties the '10 games as the highest-rated Final Four doubleheader since '05, and the viewership number is the highest since 16.6 million in '05. The first game, Butler-VCU, averaged an 8.3 rating and 14.2 million viewers. The second game, UConn-Kentucky, delivered a 9.5 rating, the best in that window since a 10.9 in '05. UConn-Kentucky averaged 16.7 million viewers (THE DAILY). The N.Y. POST writes the ratings for the Final Four "returned to earth -- after a huge spike in audience for earlier coverage across four channels that delivered every game" of the tournament (N.Y. POST, 4/4). However, in N.Y., Shelly Freierman notes tonight's Butler-UConn game "may draw more viewers" that the just under 24 million who watched last year's Duke-Butler title game. That is due to the fact UConn "has not been in the final" since '04 (N.Y. TIMES, 4/4).
THREE-MAN WEAVE: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes CBS' broadcast team of Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr Saturday were "largely deferential with each other, proving to be easy listening rather than overbearing." Kerr: "The three-man booth is very different. It either works or it doesn't, depending on the chemistry. In this case, it worked well. With Clark and I, neither of us has a problem deferring" (USA TODAY, 4/4). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes Kerr "has been a welcome voice on CBS' Final Four coverage." He has "taken half the load off Kellogg, who is a decent announcer but often struggles to carry the analyst job by himself." Jones: "Kerr not only gives Kellogg a break, but the two seem to play well off one another" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/4). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Kellogg "had his best Saturday since replacing Billy Packer" as CBS' lead tournament analyst in '09. Saunders: "Was this because he felt the competitive breath of TNT's Steve Kerr on the broadcasting sideline?" Kellogg "seemed determined not to be undercut by a third-man theme" (DENVER POST, 4/4).
HOOPS HEARTLAND: In Indianapolis, Robert King noted Louisville ranked as the top-rated market for the NCAA Tournament entering the Final Four. Cincinnati and Columbus ranked tied for second, while Indianapolis and K.C. ranked tied for fourth (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/2).
EA Sports' "Madden NFL 12" video game “will be realistic enough not only to show players receiving concussions, but also to show any player who sustains one being sidelined for the rest of the game -- no exceptions,” according to Alan Schwarz of the N.Y. TIMES. In addition, the game’s announcers “will explain that the player was removed because of the seriousness of head injuries.” Pro Football HOFer John Madden, the game’s namesake, said that the “impetus for the changes was twofold: to further hone the game’s realism, and to teach youngsters to play football more safely.” "Madden NFL 12" Exec Producer Phil Frazier described the game as “a teaching tool.” Frazier: “I wouldn’t say this is a full public-service announcement, but it’s a means to educate.” Schwarz noted football concussions “have been covered heavily in national newspapers and television news programs,” but “not in anything with the reach of the Madden franchise among video game players.” Sports Legacy Institute President & CEO Chris Nowinski said, “It’s a great approach to teach kids in a way that no one else can reach.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said, “We are in the process of working with EA on the precise handling of a concussion injury in the game. We will strive for authenticity and an accurate, responsible depiction.” Frazier said of game announcer Cris Collinsworth’s concussion commentary on the new Madden game, “We’ve got our writers working on lines that we’ll record in April. When the injury happens, they’ll say they don’t really know what it is, which is the way most injuries are. But a few plays later, when they learn from the sideline that the player got a concussion, they’ll say something like, ‘Because of the seriousness of concussions, you know, that player will not be returning to the game.’” Madden said, “Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game.” He added, “Concussions are really serious: if we show players playing through them, then kids won’t understand” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/3).
A SportsNet N.Y. TV technician played an "insulting audio clip from the show 'Family Guy' over shots" of the Mets walking off the field after their season-opening loss to the Marlins on Friday, according to Venezia & Mushnick of the N.Y. POST. In the "Family Guy" scene, the Stewie Griffin character is "upset that he's not having fun on Halloween, and says the holiday is 'a bigger letdown than being a Mets fan.'" It "then cuts to Stewie sitting at a Mets game," and an announcer says, "It's Opening Day, and here's the first pitch ... and the season's over!" Venezia & Mushnick noted the portion of the clip in which the announcer "says 'Opening Day, and here's the first pitch,' could clearly be heard over images of players." A spokesperson for Mets-owned SNY said, "It was a very poor decision by an employee. The matter is being dealt with internally." But a source said that the incident was "unintentional and that it's not clear if the employee will be fired" (N.Y. POST, 4/3). In N.Y., Andy Martino notes an SNY official "described the incident as a mistake that was being handled internally." Mets VP/Media Relations Jay Horwitz: "It's New York. You can't overreact. It gets to the point where you're almost immune to it all. I'm sure that what happened was accidental, not malicious, and I'm sure the person who did it felt terrible." Martino notes the incident occurred "a night after Mets fan Chris Rock eviscerated the team on 'The Late Show with David Letterman'" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/4).
John Rhadigan made his debut at the Rangers TV play-by-play announcer during Friday's game against the Red Sox, and in Dallas, Barry Horn wrote Rhadigan was "almost shouting into his Fox Sports Southwest headset in the opening innings" of the game. There also were "times he talked so much he sounded as if he were doing a radio broadcast." But the "best news" for Rhadigan was that he "appeared to catch a rhythm late in the game." He also "didn't go crazy in the Rangers' game-winning, four-run eighth inning." Horn wrote Rhadigan "needs to stay relaxed, slow down and let the game come to him." He will be "just fine, especially as he continues to connect with" analyst Tom Grieve (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/2). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes Sun Sports' Brian Anderson "had a smashing weekend in his debut as the full-time television analyst" for the Rays. Anderson "has called 100 or so Rays games over the past three seasons," but now that the "full-time gig is his, he sounds even more confident and relaxed." The "camaraderie he has with play-by-play announcer Dewayne Staats is even better than Staats had with original Rays analyst Joe Magrane." Jones: "He took no cheap shots. But he wasn't afraid to be critical of Rays players, showing he realizes his allegiance is to those of us watching at home, not the players on the field" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/4).
GLOBAL REACH: The Padres Friday announced a deal with Uniradio TV that calls for up to 81 games to air in Tijuana, Mexico, beginning with tomorrow's home opener against the Giants. The Padres also announced plans to make select games available free-of-charge online at Padres.com to fans residing in the team's home broadcast territory. The stream will be available for up to 17 games that will not air on local TV. It will feature audio from the Padres' radio broadcast and video from the opposing team's television broadcast (Padres)....ESPN and MLB Int'l have reached an agreement to deliver games to more than 121 countries and territories worldwide this season, including Latin America, Brazil, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Israel, Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Rim. The two companies also announced a multiyear extension of their European TV rights agreement. The deal makes ESPN America the continued home of MLB games across more than 40 countries and nearly 19 million HHs in Europe (THE DAILY).
HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR SEASON: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote ESPN "seems prepared ... to present a solid season of MLB coverage." The Wednesday night broadcast team, which consists of the "steady Dave O'Brien and eager-to-please Nomar Garciaparra -- worked Thursday's Padres-Cardinals and earned extra credit." Meanwhile, the crew consisting of "all-pro Sean McDonough, pleasant Aaron Boone and ESPN regular Rick Sutcliffe" should be "easy on the nerves provided Sutcliffe lose his habit of trying to explain everything and say anything instead of something." Mushnick: "The more relaxed a three-man booth the better." Meanwhile, "Baseball Tonight" analyst Curt Schilling "is one big-name ex-big-leaguer who has shown no intention to mail it in." Schilling has "stayed current, he's literate and isn't shy to provide his point of view" (N.Y. POST, 4/3).
THE SHOW-ME STATE SHOWS OFF: The Cardinals’ season-opening 5-3 loss in 11 innings to the Padres Thursday earned a 13.3 local rating in the St. Louis market for FS Midwest. That is the net’s highest-rated season or home opener ever in the 18 years it has broadcast Cardinals games. The game was up 11% from last year’s home opener against the Astros, which drew a 11.9 rating. The previous high was a 13.0 rating for the '05 home opener against the Brewers. Meanwhile, FS Kansas City averaged a 5.4 local rating in K.C. for Thursday's Angels-Royals Opening Day game, which also marks the highest-rated Royals season or home opener ever on the net. The previous high was a 5.3 for last year's Royals-Tigers opener (THE DAILY).
USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy reported ESPN is keeping Jalen Rose "off the air after a report found the NBA basketball analyst waited almost three weeks to tell his employers about his arrest in Michigan on suspicion of drunk driving." ESPN's new ombudsman, the Poynter Institute, Thursday "published a report blaming Rose for not informing his bosses in Bristol, Conn. about his run-in with the cops for weeks," but ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz said that ESPN "made the decision to pull Rose before Poynter issued its report." Rose "apologized for his late night run-in with the law" in a statement last week (USATODAY.com, 4/1).
TWITTER ME THIS: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban yesterday posted a blog entry under the header, "Does ESPN Have A Twitter Problem?" Cuban: "In the past, sports fans first stop in the search for sports news would be ESPN.com. Twitter changed all that. Twitter means we don't have to go to ESPN.com, we just check our twitter stream." ESPN "responded," as its reporters "started tweeting." But it "hasn't worked." Cuban: "ESPN.com reporters haven't had a lot of success getting followers on Twitter. Some columnists like Bill Simmons have. The vast majority of their reporters have under 100k followers and many of those, as best I can tell, have under 10k. ... Their deficiency in twitter followers is not for lack of trying. Over the past 9 months or so, their reporters are becoming more and more like tweeting columnists and less and less like tweeting reporters" (BLOGMAVERICK.com, 4/3). ESPN said during January and February, ESPN Digital Media is up 25% year-to-year in average minute audience, meaning the number of people using one of its digital platforms in each minute of the day. The number of unique visitors using ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile Web each day was up 13% for ESPN.com (8.6 million people/day) and 58% for ESPN Mobile Web (3.8 million/day) during the same two months (THE DAILY).
NO SIGNAL: In London, Nick Clark reported hopes that people "would be able to use their mobile phones on the underground in time for the Olympics were dashed" Thursday night, "after the UK's largest mobile operators said the work could not be done in time." O2, Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and 3UK "dropped the bombshell to Mayor of London Boris Johnson and London Underground in a meeting" Thursday. One source close to the networks said it was "just too difficult in the time." Still, it is "likely that mobile services will be brought to the underground following" the '12 Games (London INDEPENDENT, 4/1).
STATUS QUO: In Denver, Dusty Saunders reports Broncos radio play-by-play announcer Dave Logan "has signed a three-year contract to continue broadcasting the team's games" on KOA-AM. Analyst Brian Griese "will return for at least one more year" (DENVER POST, 4/4).