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ABC earned a 10.7 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Mavericks-Heat NBA Finals Game One, marking the best NBA Finals opener since Pistons-Lakers in '04 earned an 11.5 overnight. Last night's game is up 3% from a 10.4 overnight for Lakers-Celtics Game One last year and also up 15% from a 9.3 overnight for the Heat-Mavericks opener of the '06 Finals. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale topped all U.S. markets with a 31.9 local rating, while Dallas-Ft. Worth finished second with a 29.9 rating (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds wrote Mavericks-Heat “shapes up about as well as ABC could have hoped for, short of another rematch” between the Lakers and Celtics. Reynolds: “Given the quality of the matchup and the record-setting ratings’ performance of the regular season and postseason thus far -- not to mention the looming labor situation that could make this the last bit of pro ball anyone’s going to see for a while -- one would think that fans will be engaged for the ultimate roundball revue.” The ’06 Heat-Mavericks Finals averaged 12.9 million viewers over six games, and Reynolds wrote that mark “should fall handily -- unless, of course, it’s a blowout” (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/31). In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote the matchup and the “Heat-hate factor should turn the Finals into a ratings bonanza” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/29).
BACK TO THE GLORY DAYS: ESPN's Michael Wilbon wrote with the Heat and F LeBron James in the Finals, the series "has a chance to be the highest-rated and most-viewed" since Rockets-Magic in '95 or Bulls-Trail Blazers in '92, which marked Michael Jordan's second Finals appearance. Wilbon: "If it's too soon to say the NBA is in the middle of a full-fledged renaissance, at the very least the league has seen a resurgence, probably even an explosion. And it's entirely because of LeBron James. ... LeBron -- at least temporarily, and probably for the next few years -- has done for interest in the NBA what Tiger Woods did for interest in professional golf. LeBron and the Heat have become the tide that floats all boats." Wilbon wrote “The Decision” was “roundly criticized by virtually everybody, but it was exactly -- flaws and all -- what the NBA needed.” From the time that program took place, “more people cared about professional basketball in America than at any time since Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998” (ESPN.com, 5/31).
THAT PESKY LOCKOUT: USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy wrote the NBA’s “popularity and buzz is at levels not seen since the heyday of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.” But he added, “Instead of basking in its success, … the $4 billion industry is poised to plunge into the same labor abyss as the NFL because billionaire owners and millionaire players can’t agree on how to slice the pie” (USA TODAY, 5/31). Cavaliers G Anthony Parker: “You look at this postseason and the record numbers of people tuning in -- the ratings are at an all-time high. We have new blood, new faces emerging in the playoffs like Derrick Rose, a young star, and Kevin Durant. … It would be a shame to bring this to a halt” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/29). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote the NBA is “riding high now, with great TV ratings and some of the best playoff moments in years.” Lawrence: “But off on the not-too-distant horizon, everyone sees the same ominous clouds in the form of an owners’ lockout.” Heat G Dwyane Wade: “The game is doing great. We’ve been a part of the most-watched games in NBA history. NBA basketball is in its best (shape) it’s been in a long time. We want to keep that going and we don’t want to see that so-called lockout” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/30). TNT's Charles Barkley: "We are on a roll. The ratings are through the roof. Why would you shoot yourself in the foot by going on strike or locking out? Sometimes you just wonder, man” (“NBA Game Time,” NBA TV, 5/31).
The Indianapolis 500 earned a 3.9 fast-national Nielsen rating and 6.5 million viewers on Sunday afternoon on ABC, up 8% and 12%, respectively, from a 3.6 rating and 5.8 million viewers last year. Indianapolis' WRTV-ABC, which aired the race on tape delay, led all U.S. markets with a 14.5 local rating. Meanwhile, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600, which aired in primetime on Fox, earned a 4.5 final rating and 8.1 million viewers, marking the most-viewed NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway since '06. This year's figures were also up 13% and 24%, respectively, from a 4.0 rating and 6.5 million viewers last year. Listed below are the top 10 U.S. metered markets for each race (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes of the Indy 500 rating, “Don’t get too excited about a possible TV comeback for a once-iconic event whose ratings have dropped over the decades.” Ratings for the race “should” have been up this year, as the event “drew its lowest-ever rating” last year (USA TODAY, 6/1).
TOP 10 U.S. METERED MARKETS FOR '11 COCA-COLA 600 AND INDIANAPOLIS 500----- COCA-COLA 600 (FOX) ---------- INDIANAPOLIS 500 (ABC) -----RKMARKET (SIZE)RATINGRKMARKET (SIZE)RATING1Charlotte (23)14.81Indianapolis (27)14.52Greensboro-High Point-
Winston-Salem (47)12.62Dayton (62)10.33Knoxville (59)10.93Ft. Myers-Naples (65)8.54Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville (36)10.24Nashville (29)7.35Dayton (62)9.85Louisville (50)7.26Birmingham (40)9.26Austin (44)77Norfolk (43)8.37Orlando-Daytona Beach (19)6.58Orlando-Daytona Beach (19)8.08Las Vegas (42)6.49Richmond (57)7.99tColumbus (34)6.210Jacksonville (49)7.89tGreenville-Spartanburg-
Asheville (36)6.29tMilwaukee (35)6.2
FINISHING STRONG: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote ABC's coverage "set the gold standard for the weekend, especially the last half-hour of the race." The net's analysts were "spot-on in deciphering how much fuel each driver had left and which cars had the best chance to win." Also, "like any good production team, ABC seemed to expect the unexpected and was totally prepared when JR Hildebrand's last-turn crash gave the 500 to Dan Wheldon" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/30). In Indianapolis, David Lindquist wrote though the race aired on ABC for "more than three hours" Sunday, "just three minutes of the network's telecast were required for a historic intermingling of agony and ecstasy." That sequence "included the final lap and justified a series of five replays" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/30).
WEATHER OR NOT: In Indiana, Megan Doyle reports WBND-ABC in South Bend "missed the last 14 laps of the race" when it switched to a "severe weather broadcast for a tornado warning." WBND News Dir Aaron Ramey said, "Regrettably the weather turned dangerous at the climax of that race, and public safety is a priority." He added that the station "did receive complaints from viewers who were angry about missing the race's finish." Ramey: "We heard from quite a few people, and we take that into consideration every time" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 6/1). WPTA-ABC in Ft. Wayne, Ind., aired the end of the race, but missed driver Danica Patrick's post-race comments when it went to a weather update (THE DAILY).
The Big Ten Network yesterday announced a rebranding of the net as BTN, along with a new logo and web domain of BTN.com. The logo allows for multiple applications, including creating school-specific BTN logos. It also incorporates some design elements from the previous logo, including the star, and is similar to the conference's new logo. BTN President Mark Silverman in a statement said, "These changes are a logical step in our evolution, and give us an umbrella under which we can launch other businesses across digital platforms during our next phase of growth and development." The first of these ventures will be unveiled this month (BTN). In Detroit, Mark Snyder reported Silverman this week "will roll out a campaign to embrace 'BTN,' the commonly referred acronym for the network." Silverman: "Most of the people in the conference already call it BTN. It happened on its own. We now want to be able to reflect that on air. It will become more integrated, having something with the BTN for shorthand, a logo more competitively where it speaks to our viewers with a wink. We get it, we're BTN." Snyder noted Silverman "doesn't seem threatened" by the "various high-pried conference network deals announced in the past few years." Silverman: "I don't think it's affected us. We're watching to see how things play out. But we really haven't seen any kind of impact. We're still growing rapidly, ad sales grew another 30% last year. The early football sales are strong this year" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/29).
LOSING COUNT: In San Antonio, Brent Zwerneman noted starting this summer, the Big Ten will have 12 members and the Big 12 will have 10, but "based mainly upon brand loyalty, both conferences intend to keep their numerically challenged monikers." The Big 12, "after hiring a consulting firm to explore other options, announced last week it intends to keep its name." Big 12 Associate Commissioner for Communications Bob Burda: "There's been a lot of success with the Big 12 brand -- we've won national titles with that name. It just seemed based on the equity that's been built to this point, it was in our best interest to keep the name and logo as is moving forward." Baylor AD Ian McCaw said the decision to keep the name was a "wise decision." McCaw: "We did some internal surveys and had a branding consultant work with us. The Big 12 has such great equity and credibility, and it means so much to people in this part of the country, that a change really wouldn't have served us well." However, McCaw said, "That probably wasn't the best thought-out idea in the world, attaching a number to a conference name" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 5/29).
ESPN2's distribution has fallen below 100 million homes, according to the June estimates from Nielsen. The channel currently is in 99.988 million homes. In April, ESPN2 broke the 100 million home barrier and stayed above it in May, too. These types of fluctuations are common among cable networks; in fact, among the 14 highest distributed cable networks, only Food Network and Lifetime showed increases from May to June. ESPN is in 100.052 million homes. ESPN's distribution figure is down 135,000 homes from May; ESPN2's is down 162,000 (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
PLAYING DOUBLES: ESPN announced yesterday that it has agreed to a new, four-year multimedia programming deal with Tennis Channel for the Australian and French Opens. ESPN and Tennis Channel will continue to air on-court action from both Grand Slams, and ESPN's telecast windows of the French Open now will be mostly live, a change from the current arrangement. As under the current agreement, ESPN will televise more than 50 hours from Paris, concluding with the women's semifinals. Meanwhile, ESPN's Australian Open schedule -- part of an agreement with Tennis Australia through '21 -- calls for more than 120 hours of coverage, including the men's and women's semifinals and championships. The new deal takes effect with the '12 French Open and the '13 Australian Open (ESPN).
ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD: ESPN Exec VP/Affiliate Sales & Marketing David Preschlack said that "fast-evolving technology is ESPN's friend." Preschlack claims that he "doesn't mind the stress of trying to craft contracts that will cover nascent technology that may be on the horizon, but isn't even quite there yet." He said, "Is there pressure? Yeah, absolutely. But it's good pressure. It forces us to continue to get better. We've been operating in that environment for quite some time." Preschlack added, "I'm paying attention to the 3D marketplace like everybody else, in terms of some of the challenges, which I view as opportunities. Betting against 3D is betting against technology. The user experience is just going to get better" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 5/30 issue).
ESPN The Magazine is not planning on cancelling its annual fantasy football guide, contradicting a report in Saturday's Washington Post. An ESPN spokesperson in a statement to THE DAILY said, "We are postponing the issue, not cancelling. We still plan to publish but wanted to ensure the accuracy of the information we provide sports fans” (THE DAILY). The initial report, written by Gene Wang, cited an industry analyst as saying that ESPN The Magazine has “scrapped its annual fantasy football guide, which would have appeared on newsstands and in 2 million mailboxes in early June.” ESPN Dir of Digital Communications Kevin Ota indicated that an "editorial decision” was made to postpone publishing the guide. Ota said of the NFL lockout, “If and when things straighten themselves out, the data and the information that would go into that publication would be out of date, inaccurate or otherwise.” Other “giant content providers ... are holding out, hoping to publish when the lockout ends.” Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports “remain committed to regularly scheduled publishing.” Athlon Sports, which publishes one of the industry’s “most recognized fantasy football annuals,” is “in a holding pattern.” But Managing Editor Mitch Light in an e-mail confirmed that “the magazine intends to publish shortly after the lockout ends.” Athlon “has not made a decision as to whether it will publish if the lockout stretches into September.” Yahoo Head of Fantasy Sports David Geller, whose company has the “most visited fantasy football site,” in an e-mail said, “Until there is definitive word from the league, we are proceeding as if the season will not be impacted by the lockout.” Meanwhile, CBSSports.com is “trying to attract customers now with discounted fees for early registration and a ‘Gridiron Guarantee’ that promises credit or a refund if games are lost or the season is canceled” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/29).
Lundquist to call three Broncos
preseason games this year
REGULAR IN THE LINEUP: On Long Island, Neil Best noted "after years of limiting himself to about 20 games," YES analyst Paul O'Neill "will roughly double that" this season. O'Neill will work "14 games in June alone," and the "busy June will test whether he wants to expand his schedule further." O'Neill: "We'll see how I do. I might get overexposed. ... I don't ever see myself doing 162 games. But I could see myself doing 80 or something" (NEWSDAY, 5/31).
PRIZE OFFERINGS: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted Tennis Channel from Monday through Thursday this week is presenting its "first-ever 'Tennis Week'" on "Wheel of Fortune," which includes a "host of tournament-tinged prizes and top player appearances." Tennis Channel worked with the WTA, the ATP and the USTA "to provide the featured packages for 'Wheel of Fortune,' which include luxury vacation trips tied to upcoming major tennis tournaments." Reynolds noted "some of the world's top tennis players past and present ... appear in show openings, bumpers and closing segments and to award the prize packages" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/30).
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: TSN has extended its partnership with the PGA Tour. The net as part of the deal secures the rights to the '11 and '13 Presidents Cups. TSN also acquires the multiyear rights to at least eight PGA Tour events, including opening-round coverage of the RBC Canadian Open (TSN).