ESPN Begins Laying Off Around 100 Personalities Where Does NASCAR Go With Dale Jr. Leaving? Manfred: Bush-Jeter Deal For Marlins Not Done David Abrutyn's Career Intertwined With Caps History FedEx Signs Multiyear NFL Extension Learfield Brings On Gil Beverly, Jack Patterson Officials Break Ground On Pro Football HOF Village Hotel Woods' Endorsement Deals Suffer From Layoff Minding My Business: Williams Martini Racing's Richard Berry ESPN Cuts Drive Discussion On Twitter
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CBS earned a 13.3 overnight Nielsen rating for UConn’s 53-41 defeat of Butler in the NCAA men's basketball national championship game last night, down 16.9% from a 16.0 overnight for Duke-Butler last year. However, UConn-Butler is up 11.8% from an 11.9 overnight for North Carolina-Michigan State in ’09. Indianapolis led all metered markets last night with a 49.2 local rating, followed by Hartford-New Haven with a 28.8 rating. CBS did not win the night in primetime, finishing with a 10.0 rating, second behind ABC’s 13.1 in primetime for “Dancing With The Stars” and “Castle.” CBS and Turner for the entire tournament averaged a 7.2 overnight rating, up 9% from a 6.6 overnight last year, when CBS was the sole broadcaster. This marks the best tournament average since '05 (THE DAILY).
NO HOLDING BACK: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted CBS' studio set analysts "ripped" both teams during halftime "with a vigor rarely seen by commentators on a network airing a big game." Butler held a 22-19 lead at halftime, and CBS' Greg Anthony said, "First of all, I'm gonna be honest: This is the worst half of basketball I've ever seen in a national championship game." CBS' Seth Davis added, "It's almost like these two teams are competing to see which can play worse. ... This is a very bad showcase for a national championship game for college basketball." TNT's Charles Barkley added, "That was an awful half of college basketball." Chase wrotes fans "never hear analysts rip a game on their own network that badly, let alone one that's at halftime." The "bashing won't draw ... much outrage, mainly because it was mostly accurate," but it "couldn't have pleased CBS executives who need the casual fans to stick with the game in order to boost the ratings" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4). In Dallas, Richie Whitt writes, "Give credit to CBS' panel of analysts, none of whom was afraid to pan a horribly played game" (DALLASOBSERVER.com, 4/5). FOXSPORTS.com's Brian Lowry writes announcers "normally are taught to make the game they're calling sound exciting," but that "went out the window early in the second half." Lowry: "Hype sailed away, and a refreshing gust of honesty came blowing in." Butler went just 12 for 64 from the field, and CBS analyst Clark Kellogg referred to the team's shooting as "unparalleled ineptitude." Analyst Steve Kerr added, "I've never seen anything like it" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/5).
FOUR ON THE FLOOR: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the tournament through Saturday had drawn more viewers "than in any year since 2005, which makes sense," as "for the first time, four networks -- CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV -- have been carrying the tournament, instead of just CBS." The four networks "vigorously cross-promoted the tournament, much as NBC and its corps of networks ... have elevated viewer awareness during the Olympics." Former Magna Global Exec VP/Audience Analysis Steve Sternberg in an e-mail said, "There's no question that airing anything on four networks will get you more viewers than airing it on one network, particularly when there are multiple teams, each with their own fans." But CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said the ratings are "higher than we thought." McManus: "Anytime you promote your event to a different and wider audience, you have the potential of attracting more viewers." Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy added that "carrying each game nationally ... built story lines better." He "theorized that Virginia Commonwealth's run from the First Four to the Final Four ... might not have created the same national interest if most of its games had been regionalized" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/5).
RIGHT AMOUNT: In DC, Tracee Hamilton wrote this year's tournament was "one of the best in recent memory precisely because the NCAA chose to limit the field to 68." Tournament ratings in the first year of the 68-team field were up more than 9% entering last night, and if airing all of the games "on four networks garners those numbers, think about what adding an extra layer or two would do." But if the field is expanded to 96 teams, "chances are teams like VCU will have to go straight from a conference tournament to the equivalent of play-in games while the big boys get byes" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/4).
BARBECUE BATTLE: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead reports Turner has "teamed with reality series production company Original Media ... to create a new barbecue-cooking special, 'Ultimate Barbecue Showdown,' which will air on CBS in May" as part of the tournament partnership. Turner Senior VP/NCAA Partnerships & Branded Programming Will Funk said that "four award-winning barbecue cooking experts will square off in a elimination competition series to determine which is best in the country." Turner has "already secured charcoal company Kingsford as the sponsor for the event" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 4/4 issue).
ESPN earned a 2.2 overnight Nielsen rating for Sunday night’s Notre Dame upset of top-ranked UConn in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament national semifinal. That is down 15% from a 2.6 overnight for the comparable late-window UConn-Baylor semifinal last year. ESPN in the early window earned a 1.7 overnight for Texas A&M-Stanford, flat compared to Stanford-Oklahoma last year. Through the regional final of the tournament, ESPN was averaging a 1.1 U.S. rating and 1.373 million viewers for nine telecasts, up 22% and 24%, respectively, from a 0.9 rating and 1.104 million viewers through the same point last season. ESPN2 has averaged a 0.4 U.S. rating and 495,000 viewers for 16 telecasts through the regional finals, down 20% and 24%, respectively, from a 0.5 rating and 651,000 viewers, when the net had aired 15 games (THE DAILY). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted the net's ratings for tonight's Notre Dame-Texas A&M Finals matchup "likely collapsed" when UConn and Stanford lost in the Final Four. Stanford had been the only team to defeat UConn this season, but "instead of a rematch ... it's two bracket-busting" No. 2 seeds playing for the title. Reynolds wrote it "may be good for the long-term health of the sport that programs other than UConn (seven crowns) and Tennessee (eight under Pat Summit) contend for and win national championships," but viewers "may not take so kindly to the absence of the Huskies, Lady Vols and Cardinal brands on ESPN" tonight (MULTICHANNEL.com, 4/4). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I think casual fans tune in for UConn. I don't think Texas A&M is going to draw flies with casual fans" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/4).
The Orioles' 4-0 start has translated to big TV ratings for MASN. The net posted a 12.2 rating and 135,000 HHs in the Baltimore market for yesterday's home opener against the Tigers. The Orioles' four-game average in Baltimore has pulled in a 7.8 rating and 79,000 HHs. The team last season averaged a 3.4 rating in Baltimore. The four '11 Orioles games have averaged a 1.6 rating and 38,000 HHs in the DC market, including a 1.34 rating/32,000 HHs for yesterday's home opener (John Ourand, THE DAILY). Meanwhile, WPHL-MYT's broadcast of Friday's Astros-Phillies game "set an opening-day rating record" for the net, while Sunday's game between the two teams "broke the record for a regular-season telecast." Friday's game earned a 9.9 local rating, up 43% from last year's season opener. Sunday's game earned a 14.8 rating, "the highest Phillies rating ever" on the station (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/5).
OTHER HOT STARTS: FS Southwest earned a 5.5 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth for its telecast of Friday's Red Sox-Rangers game, marking its best-ever rating for an Opening Day telecast. The 5.5 rating was up 161% from a 2.1 rating for last year's Blue Jays-Rangers opener and surpassed the net's previous record for a first-game Rangers telecast, a 3.9 for Rangers-Tigers in '99. FS Southwest earned a 5.7 local rating for Sunday's game between the two teams and a 4.4 rating for Saturday's game (FSN). Rogers Sportsnet drew 1.02 million viewers for Friday's Twins-Blue Jays season opener, the net's biggest audience ever for a Blue Jays telecast. The previous record was 807,000 viewers for Yankees-Blue Jays last August (Rogers). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes MLB starting its season on a Thursday "helped MLB's national TV ratings." ESPN's "second-day games Friday and Fox's season-opening coverage Saturday" were "up over last year" (USA TODAY, 4/5).
QUALMING FEARS: In L.A., Martin Miller noted part of the Giants' "initial hesitance" about appearing on the Showtime series that will chronicle the team "was rooted in anxiety about the genre of 'reality TV.'" The "hesitations proved serious enough" that Showtime President of Entertainment David Nevins "flew in to address the Giants in person." Nevins "assured the players that if they needed to close a door, they could close it," and he "agreed to end shooting around the end of July, before the pressures of the pennant race." Nevins said he told players, "The clubhouse is a sacred place. We're not some faceless network looking to put a spin on you guys." That promise "has been tested more than a few times, and it seems to be working out." A crew "wanted to shoot the often tearful goodbyes between the players and their families, a common occurrence during the grueling travel schedule players endure." But Giants 3B Mark DeRosa "declined the request to film his spring training farewell to his children." Miller wrote as with "any scripted program, the key to the show's appeal will be its storylines and characters." MLB Productions Senior Producer Gary Waksman, whose company is producing the show, said, "It doesn't take a genius to figure out [Giants P] Brian Wilson will be a major character" (L.A. TIMES, 4/3).
STRAIGHT CASH, HOMEY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes YES Network "might want to follow" GM Brian Cashman "around with a camera." Raissman: "Call it 'The Life of Brian.' Not only is Cashman's reality interesting, but so are many of the words exiting his yap. The Yankees GM's vocal stylings had become edgy, unpredictable. If anything, Cashman has jacked up the rhetoric. If you didn't know better, you might think Cashman is auditioning for a post-GM career in television." Raissman adds, "Whenever Cashman opens his mouth it's an event. Made for TV" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/5).
NBC has yet to detail where Versus “will fit in a post-merger world,” but an “early test of NBC's strategy could be in the rights negotiation for the NHL,” according to Stuart Levine of DAILY VARIETY. If NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol “wants to leverage Versus and another Comcast property, the Golf Channel, to take on ESPN, he'll have to make sure the NHL remains a key programming component.” The current deal with the league expires in June, and “both NBC and ESPN are expected to make bids.” Versus' current lineup “consists of a mix of outdoors shows, the Tour de France, college games and the NHL.” If Versus “decides to add more shows dedicated to the four major pro sports...there could be a shift in the programming philosophy.” The NHL will have to “decide whether it wants to remain on Versus and possibly earn a higher rights fee or potentially reach many more viewers on ESPN.” The NBC/Versus pitch to the NHL “is that hockey will continue to have a home both on cable and broadcast.” NBC “has made the Jan. 1 Winter Classic an annual event,” drawing a “record 4.5 million viewers” for this year’s broadcast. The Jan. 30 NHL All-Star Game “drew a network-record 1.5 million viewers” on Versus, and there is “little reason to believe the upcoming playoffs won't set new records as well for Versus.” NBC Sports Cable Group President Mark Lazarus said a deal should be done "in the front end of the summer." In a “shot clearly directed at ESPN,” Lazarus said, "We put our partners first, opposite of some of our competitors, who put their brands first. We truly believe in the value of relationships." Lazarus added that “Versus' place in NBC Sports could follow the lead of the Golf Channel, which now has a much larger presence in the Peacock's golf coverage.” Levine noted while hockey “promises to be the showcase sport over the next few months, Versus will also be offering plenty of Triple Crown horseracing coverage in May and June” (VARIETY.com, 4/4).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman each Thursday "takes to the airwaves for 'The NHL Hour,' the only call-in show hosted by the commissioner of a major sports league, broadcast on the NHL's satellite radio channel and streamed live on the Internet," according to the N.Y. DAILY NEWS's Jesse Spector, who spent a day in studio as Bettman hosted a show. When calls come in during the program, Bettman, "never glancing at notes," has "responses for everyone, including a detailed explanation of the role of fiber optics in presenting out-of-market games on the leaguewide television package." Bettman during a commercial break said, "We don't screen the calls -- the standard I use is who's been holding the longest. We take any call." He added the callers "couldn't be nicer or more supportive, because the people who call are obviously fans of the game, who are passionate about the game, and are thrilled to have an opportunity to talk about the game." Spector noted Bettman "has his critics, of course, but even those callers who might have a bone to pick get the same even-keeled answers and can see his point by the time they hang up." It is the "opposite of the shout-until-your-throat-bleeds style that has made Mike Francesa the king of sports talk radio" in N.Y., but it is a "far more productive approach for a league commissioner." The show also "features an interview segment with weekly visits from hockey personalities," but for most of the show Bettman is "answering questions." With CBA negotiations "set for next year, the commissioner will be able to make the league's case by taking to the airwaves, with experience already accumulated behind the mike to help him shape public opinion." Spector: "It is an element of the NHL labor story that will bear watching -- and listening" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/3).
EA Sports is "giving away free digital access to all 18 holes" of Augusta National Golf Club through a Facebook app as part of the promotion of its "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters" video game, according to Aaron Baar of MARKETING DAILY. The "Course View" app, via Heat, S.F., "uses Google Street View functionality to allow a complete, shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole walk of the course," which is appearing in a video game for the first time. The branded app "marks the first time the course has been 'tourable' by the American public in any form, virtual or real." Heat Account Dir Mike McGarry said that the "ability to explore Augusta National was the number one request feature" by game players. To drive traffic to the app, Heat "created banner advertising that will run on golfing and sports web sites such as ESPN.com, SI.com, PGA.com, PGATour.com and others, as well as on the game's Facebook page." While there are "no plans to make the walkthrough part of the official coverage of the Masters," McGarry said that the "hope is the app will pick up more steam as coverage of the tournament becomes more prominent in the sports news cycle" (MARKETING DAILY, 4/5 issue).
PLAY AUGUSTA FOR YOURSELF: In Detroit, Carlos Monarrez wrote "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" is "so realistic, just about the only thing missing is the Waffle House on Washington Road." Monarrez: "Simply put, the game is beautifully and faithfully rendered." There are a "few missing pieces" -- there is "no drive up Magnolia Lane" and Dave Loggins' "Augusta" theme song also "would have been a nice touch." But there is "plenty else," as the "dulcet tones of CBS announcer Jim Nantz make their debut, and the Hogan Bridge and the Eisenhower Tree also are included." Monarrez: "With few exceptions, the game has triumphantly captured Augusta and the Masters" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 3/30). In Augusta, Chris Gay wrote under the header, "New 'PGA Tour' Edition Up To Par." EA Sports "did a fantastic job recreating the course." The "only issue is at times it can be difficult seeing the undulations in the greens, but the closer you get the more they come into play" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 3/30). In Charlotte, Langston Wertz Jr. notes Augusta National officials "have said they've allowed the course to go digital to try to bring the game and the Masters event to a younger audience." Wertz: "If my two kids, ages 11 and 6, are any indication, they've succeeded. My kids are putting down NBA and NFL games to play digital golf." Wertz added of the game, "I felt the difficulty settings were about right and the addition of a caddie made the game more fun. ... The new additions of CBS Sports' announcers Jim Nantz and David Feherty also add to the realism" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/5).
In N.Y., Claire Atkinson reports YES Network is "saying no to Cablevision's new iPad app," becoming the "first programmer to publicly protest its inclusion in the app, which allows Cablevision's 3 million customers to watch some 300 channels on their iPads at home." A YES spokesperson said, "Cablevision does not have the right to offer the YES Network in the manner it is doing so on the iPad, and it has been notified as such." YES is "protesting its presence on the app as it would appear to compete with separate rights sold by MLB, one of the few sports leagues to pioneer digital subscriptions to its games" (N.Y. POST, 4/5).
SKY HIGH: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz reports England's Football League, which is responsible for the three tiers below the EPL, announced Sky Sports will pay US$316M "for the three seasons from 2012-13." The deal gives Sky "live rights to 75 league matches each season, along with the Football League play-offs and Carling Cup games." Sky also gains "rights to show Football League coverage on internet, video-on-demand and mobile services, as well as match highlights and clips." The existing three-year deal, "jointly held by Sky and the BBC," is worth US$429M to the clubs. Sky is "taking over the 10 live matches and one of the Carling Cup semi-finals that the BBC holds in the current deal." The Football League is "still negotiating the rights for free-to-air highlights but insiders acknowledged that those would yield only a small value" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/5).
PUBLIC SERVICE: A BOSTON GLOBE editorial states EA Sports, "by putting a franker emphasis on concussions in the latest version of its hugely popular Madden NFL video game series," is helping "spread discussion into the world of young people who stand to lose the most from head injuries." The editorial: "Because of Madden NFL's new focus on concussions, millions of players will learn more about head injuries, even if they haven't read a word of the news coverage or congressional testimony on the subject" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/5).
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ: In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch wrote the NFL labor negotiations "haven't exactly been sports journalism's finest hour." With the owners and players "seemingly more concerned with winning the spin war than actually sitting down and hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement, they've played journalists obsessed with getting it first like a fiddle, leaking them misinformation loaded with more crap than a Broad Street port-a-potty during a Mummers Parade." Two days before the talks between owners and players ended on March 11, Yahoo Sports "reported that the sides had reached a 'basic compromise' on a rookie wage scale." Other news outlets "ran with it, including quite a few that claimed to have obtained their own 'confirmation' of the compromise." The only problem was that the story "wasn't true," and "both sides have since acknowledged that" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/1).