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ESPN earned a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's MLB Home Run Derby from 8:15-11:15pm ET, in which Yankees 2B Robinson Cano defeated Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez. The rating is flat compared to last year's event. Boston topped all metered markets with a 10.3 local rating (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). ESPN's coverage of last night's Home Run Derby -- in particular the performance of Chris Berman -- came under heavy criticism on Twitter. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren wrote, “Berman is stunned by every single dinger and the camera people seem uninterested in following the ball.” The Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin: “Chris Berman gets the Rod Black ‘can you believe this?’ award for an announcer acting like he's never seen BP before.” The Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick: “I can't remember ever deciding not to watch a sporting event simply due to announcer. Until tonight. Can't even handle Chris Berman on mute.” Newsday’s Tom Rock: “Why is Chris Berman yelling at me?” Broadcasting & Cable’s Ben Grossman: “I knew it was coming, but I can't believe how strong the anti-Chris Berman sentiment is on Twitter. Even some familiar names ripping him.” CNBC’s Darren Rovell: “If it seems like there's more hate for Berman & this event than any other sportscaster at any time, why does ESPN still put him on?” However, the Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport wrote, "I know I'm supposed to hate Chris Berman in the #HRDerby. I don't. Who could do more with this event? How would 'better' sound? He's fine.” Meanwhile, the N.Y. Times’ Richard Sandomir wrote, “Some really weird camera work. A HR in the derby shouldn't be that hard to follow from start to finish. … Very high home plate camera just doesn't work on live HRs in Derby.”
LOOKING BACK, BACK, BACK....: During last night's telecast, Berman said “back” as part of his signature home run call approximately 73 times, with the most use of “back” in a row being six during a homer by Gonzalez in the final round. After Blue Jays 3B Jose Bautista hit a line-drive home run, Berman told ESPN’s Nomar Garciaparra, “Nomar, there was only time for two ‘backs’ on that. Back, back gone! A two-backer.” Garciaparra: “I don’t even think you got the second one in. I think it was a back-and-a-half.” Berman: “Back-ba.” About an hour later in the broadcast, the topic came up again after Cano hit a line drive home run in the second round. Berman: “And that’s a two-backer. That was a two-backer.” Garciparra: “I don’t even think you got the first one out.” Berman: “Ba-" ("Home Run Derby," ESPN, 7/11).
TAKING A LEAD: SI.com's Joe Lemire notes MLB "sanctioned and even encouraged on-field tweeting" during last night's Derby, a change in policy for the league. MLB has the "most comprehensive website of any of the major U.S. pro circuits but until recently had been strict about other sites embedding its video highlights." Lemire notes "not only did that restriction ease" during the Derby, but MLB also "set up tables with computers near both the AL and NL benches" for players to post on Twitter. Dodgers CF Matt Kemp last night "tweeted his own recognition of an underwhelming performance," as did Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista. Cano "tweeted a shoutout to his hometown," and other "non-participants chimed in." A's P Gio Gonzalez posted, "My jaw is on the floor on how far Cano is hitting the ball." Lemire adds, "The Twitter stunt worked because it wasn't inescapable noise, the way the music and on-speaker commentary was. Reading Twitter was a self-selecting exercise one could do in the wait between pitches; having one's eardrums invaded in the ballpark was mandatory" (SI.com, 7/12).
CHANGING PLANS: After initially planning to stream the Home Run Derby live on Facebook within an embedded video player, MLBAM yesterday afternoon changed course and did not go through with the experiment. MLBAM instead used the league's Facebook page to drive awareness of the event's availability on ESPN and on MLB.com. MLBAM during Spring Training similarly experimented with making live game video available on Facebook, and had the company gone through with initial Derby plans, it would have been the first league jewel event to be shown live on the popular social media portal (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
FUN & GAMES: USA TODAY's Steve Gardner writes John Kruk, one of ESPN's announcer for last night's Home Run Derby coverage, "has been a natural from the moment" he joined the network in '04. "Baseball Tonight" co-anchor Karl Ravech said, "It never really feels like work. His personality is bigger than even he is. It makes a long day and a long night enjoyable." Kruk said, "Every day's a different ballgame to me. ... The hardest thing for the new guys is how messed up Karl and I are." Kruk is paired with Barry Larkin for the net's All-Star Game coverage, and he said of Ravech and himself, "Barry probably thinks both of us are certifiably crazy. He just sits and giggles" (USA TODAY, 7/12).
MLB national TV ratings are flat as the league hits the All-Star break. Fox’ Saturday regional MLB windows are averaging a 1.9 rating (3.0 million viewers) through 14 telecasts. The net is seeing gains among males 18-34 (+13%), 18-49 (+10%) and 25-54 (+8%). Fox also saw year-over-year increases for its three primetime windows, averaging a 2.6 rating (4.1 million viewers), up 24%. ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” is flat at a 1.5 U.S. rating (2.4 million viewers) through 14 telecasts. The April 10 Yankees-Red Sox broadcast remains the most-viewed "SNB” telecast this season with a 2.9 rating and 4.7 million viewers. TBS’ non-exclusive Sunday afternoon games are also flat at a 0.4 U.S. rating (598,000 viewers). The May 22 Mets-Yankees telecast remains the net's most-viewed game of the season with 676,000 viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).MLB MIDSEASON RATINGSNETTELECASTSRATING% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-Fox141.90.0%2,9504.0%ESPN*141.50.0%2,3622.2%TBS140.40.0%5981.5%
NOTES: All ratings are U.S. ratings. * = Ratings for ESPN are for "Sunday Night Baseball."
YOUR LOCAL NEWS: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports the Dodgers and Mets “have seen two of the biggest drops in MLB’s local TV ratings so far this season." The Mets’ local ratings on SportsNet N.Y. are “down 29 percent from midseason last year,” while the Dodgers’ ratings on FS Prime Ticket are “down 27 percent.” Only the Astros on FS Houston and the Rays on a combination of FS Florida and Sun Sports “have seen steeper local declines.” Sixteen teams in total "have dropped and 13 teams have increased” in local TV ratings at midseason. After topping the league in local ratings last season, the Cardinals remain in the lead this season, “posting a 9.06 average on FS Midwest.” The Phillies also posted gains during the first half of the season, up 29% from last year. Red Sox ratings are up 22% in Boston as the team tries “stopping their three-year ratings slide on NESN” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/11 issue). Meanwhile, FS Southwest averaged a season-high 5.8 local rating in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market for Sunday's A's-Rangers game. The previous high was a 5.7 local rating for the April 3 Red Sox-Rangers game (FSN).TOP/BOTTOM FIVE TEAMS IN MLB LOCAL RATINGS
TEAM NETAVG. RATING% +/- Cardinals FS Midwest9.067% Phillies CSN Philadelphia8.8729% Reds FS Ohio7.8224% Red Sox NESN7.6622% Brewers FS Wisconsin6.9032% Astros FS Houston1.66-34% A's CSN California1.338% Dodgers FS Prime Ticket1.19-27% Nationals MASN/MASN21.17-24% Angels FS West1.11-11%TOP/BOTTOM FIVE TEAMS IN MLB LOCAL RATINGS CHANGE
FROM MIDSEASON LAST YEAR
TEAM NETAVG. RATING% +/- Indians SportsTime Ohio6.3280% Rangers FS Southwest3.4035% Giants CSN Bay Area4.7935% Pirates Root Sports Pittsburgh4.5233% Brewers FS Wisconsin6.9032% Padres Cox/SD43.58-26% Dodgers FS Prime Ticket1.19-27% Mets SportsNet N.Y.2.30-29% Astros FS Houston1.66-34% Rays Suns Sports/FS Florida3.46-37%
BIRD IS NOT THE WORD: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes after "more than 20 years of faithfully following" the Orioles on TV, he "cannot take it any longer." Zurawik: "By and large, it is not the coverage that has driven me from the tube. Technically, MASN does a solid job; it throws a lot of resources at the games anyway. But given the abysmal performance and culture of losing that clearly remains despite Buck Showalter, all the pleasure of following the Orioles night after night is gone." Zurawik writes he finds himself "yelling at the TV when Rick Dempsey or one of the other post-game folks starts pulling punches about how awful this team is." He also found it "pathetic to hear analysts telling me Friday that we should be proud of" Orioles P Kevin Gregg for "throwing in and in and in on" Red Sox DH David Ortiz. Zurawik: "According to MASN, this was a sign of life and determination on the part of the Orioles" (Baltimore SUN, 7/12).
EA Sports' "NCAA Football 12" hits stores today, and it looks "stunning, whether it's the details to shadows and lighting or the new-look 3D grass," according to Joe Cowley of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. How the game "feels compared with the 11 version is even better." Its "new looks include a more detailed 'Road to Glory' in which you can play offense and defense as a high school prospect to increase your worth to colleges," and there is a "new 'Coaching Carousel' where you simply call the plays." Cowley notes the game "actually had" NCAA sanctions and investigations "on the PlayStation 2 version, but when the PS3 version came out, the NCAA asked to have the sanctions aspect removed." Game designer Ben Haumiller said, "We had to make that concession even though it is a black eye and something you can't help hear about. ... (The NCAA) doesn't want the perception that there are things out there that they don't know about" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/12). In N.Y., Lang Whitaker writes the game as a "sports simulator" is "entertaining and immersive." Cheerleaders, marching bands, "various mascots and field-entrance traditions have been included," and these "flourishes certainly add to the realism and evoke the spirit of the college football experience." Whitaker: "It is hard to find room for improvement in a game that has more than a decade of refinement built in" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/12).
GOOD NEW HOCKEY GAME: PRO HOCKEY TALK's James O'Brien notes it has already been reported that EA Sports' "NHL 12" will "include a Winter Classic mode" and be released Sept. 13, but EA "provided a more complete view of the biggest changes in store for NHL '12 recently." Among these changes are "anticipation AI," "full contact physics" and "dynamic goalies." O'Brien writes, "It looks like 'NHL '12' could be a significant upgrade over 'NHL '11' if EA's innovations work out as well as advertised" (PROHOCKEYTALK.com, 7/12).
In North Dakota, Brad Schlossman reported North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and Miami (Ohio) will "break away" from the WCHA college hockey conference and "start a new hockey league in 2013-14." There have "already been discussions with members of the new league and television executives about getting games nationally televised on Versus," which would "give UND a greater range of exposure than the current deal with Fox College Sports and DirecTV." Schlossman noted Colorado College "currently is a television partner with CBS College Sports," while Denver has games on Root Sports Rocky Mountain (GRAND FORKS HERALD, 7/10).
GOING YARD: MLB.com has generated more than 1.7 million views of video clips relating to Derek Jeter's 3,000th career hit. The site additionally saw 79.2 million wireless page views on Saturday, the day Jeter hit the milestone, a figure 43% over its daily wireless traffic average thus far this season. And the site logged a one-day site-record 1.6 million unique mobile visitors on Saturday, a total driven heavily by interest in Jeter (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
BOLD IS BEAUTIFUL: In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan wrote former Twins manager Tom Kelly's "stint as Bert Blyleven's fill-in" on FS North's Twins broadcasts has "proved that fearlessness and knowledge are the two prerequisites for outstanding broadcasting analysts." During Sunday's Twins-White Sox game, Kelly "provided a baseball education rather than cheerleading" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/11).
SURF'S UP: Fuel TV yesterday announced a media partnership with IMG to broadcast the finals of the '11 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing. The deal will see Fuel TV televise three-and-a-half hours of live surf, skate and BMX competition Aug. 7. It will be the first time Fuel TV or any other network has shown the finals of the U.S. Open live. The deal was negotiated by Fuel TV VP/Ad Sales Peter Vesey and IMG Senior VP & Dir of Action Sports James Leitz. Terms of the agreement were not available (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).