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ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake said that the net will "add to its coverage" for Sunday's Japan-U.S. FIFA Women's World Cup final, "using 22 cameras, including a spider-cam, an overhead camera and extra cameras on the field," according to John Maffei of the NORTH COUNTY TIMES. There also will be "cameras with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in New York's Times Square and in Japan." Drake said, "We have a very solid production plan. But going into an even bigger event, you don't try and overdo it. We want to stay in the groove. We don't want to go too far afield and be risky. We want to focus on what we do well." Meanwhile, Drake added, "We're delighted we've captured the imagination of the country and are involved in something that is truly special. We had hopes, but there has been remarkable play on the field." Maffei writes ESPN's coverage of the tournament "has been outstanding." Maffei: "The camera work has been superb. All the angles have been covered and replays on goals and key plays have been plentiful." But the "stars of the show ... have been game broadcasters Ian Darke and Julie Foudy along with studio analyst Brandi Chastain." Darke has "blended well with Foudy" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 7/15).
RISK PAYS OFF: On Long Island, Neil Best writes ESPN execs "made a huge, risky bet in time and dollars chronicling the Women's World Cup as thoroughly as they have, and they deserve to reap the reward of an event that has paid off big." Drake: "We had great hopes we would get to some measure of our success to date. But needless to say we have benefited immensely from the interest in the U.S. team." ESPN "couldn't go wrong with Ian Darke on play-by-play after his fine work at last year's men's World Cup," and "beyond that, the network predictably loaded up on the stars of the sainted '99 team," including Foudy, Chastain, Briana Scurry, Mia Hamm and coach Tony DiCicco. Their work "generally has been solid, but they have walked an admittedly fine line between analysis and advocacy, what with their personal ties to the program." Foudy said, "It is a fine balance of, obviously internally I want that team to do well, but at the same time I have to call the game as objectively as I can and step out of that" (NEWSDAY, 7/15).
BALL CARRIERS: ESPN averaged 3.35 million viewers for Wednesday's U.S.-France Women's World Cup semifinal, marking the fourth most-viewed Women's World Cup telecast ever and most-viewed weekday match ever. For the week of July 4-10, ESPN's Women's World Cup telecasts accounted for four of the top 10 most-viewed sporting events on cable TV (THE DAILY).TOP FIVE MOST-VIEWED FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP MATCHESDATEMATCHNETU.S. RATINGVIEWERS (000)7/10/99Final: U.S.-ChinaABC11.417,9757/4/99Semifinal: U.S.-BrazilESPN2.94,9247/10/11Quarterfinal: U.S.-BrazilESPN2.33,8907/13/11Semifinal: U.S.-FranceESPN2.23,3547/1/99Quarterfinal: U.S.-GermanyESPN1.72,627
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS: ESPN's coverage of the Japan-U.S. match is scheduled to start at 2:00pm ET Sunday, but that could be bumped to ESPN2 should the net's coverage of the British Open final round run long. ESPN2 will air a "SportsCenter Special Women’s World Cup Final" preview show starting at 1:00pm, and that will continue until coverage of the British Open on ESPN ends. Should the golf tournament run past 2:00pm, the World Cup pregame show will begin airing on ESPN2. The soccer coverage will move to ESPN after the conclusion of the British Open. The actual match is set to begin at 2:45pm (THE DAILY).
ESPN Friday released a statement saying that it did not suspend college football reporter Bruce Feldman in light of his contributions to former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach's book, "Swing Your Sword." The statement reads, "There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed. Bruce has resumed his assignments" (THE DAILY). Blog SPORTS BY BROOKS Thursday reported Feldman "was being suspended indefinitely for his participation" in Leach's book. ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria, Publishing GM & Editorial Dir Gary Hoenig and ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Pat Stiegman reportedly informed Feldman that he "has been banned from writing for any ESPN entity, is forbidden from appearing on any ESPN platform, is not allowed to Tweet from his Twitter account nor participate in any promotion" of the book. Before Texas Tech terminated Leach's contract in '09, Feldman "had agreed in principle to assist the coach in compiling material" for the biography. ESPN sources in recent months indicated that Feldman "would only participate in the Leach book project upon direct approval from ESPN management -- which Feldman indeed received." Since the book's release on Monday, Feldman "has deliberately avoided any personal promotion or mention" of it (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 7/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Adam Jacobi notes Feldman, "normally a fairly active tweeter, has been silent since Wednesday on his ESPN-branded Twitter account @BFeldmanESPN, and no other ESPN personalities are commenting on the matter." After news broke of Feldman's reported suspension, "Bruce Feldman" became a "tending topic fairly quickly on Twitter." Several users "made use of the #freebruce hashtag early and often, especially after 'Sports Illustrated' writer Andy Staples canceled his ESPN Insider subscription in protest" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/15). Leach "has a libel suit pending against ESPN" stemming from the controversy around his firing from Texas Tech in '09. ESPN's Craig James claimed on-air that Leach made Adam James, his son and a WR on the team, stand in a dark closet after sustaining a concussion (SI.com, 7/12).
THE TWITTER WORLD RESPONDS: The CINCINNATI ENQUIRER noted Feldman had been receiving a "lot of support on Twitter, and ESPN is being taken to the woodshed over it, which likely will continue -- at least until someone explains ESPN’s side of it" (CINCINNATI.com, 7/14). CBS News Correspondent Armen Keteyian on Twitter wrote, “I've never met Bruce Feldman other than in print, but something is obviously missing here or ESPN suspension makes NO sense.” N.Y. Daily News’ Dick Weiss: “Disappointed to hear espn has suspended bruce feldman indefinitely for role in mike leach book. a decent, hard working journalist.” San Jose Mercury News’ Jon Wilner: “So Bruce Feldman is suspended by ESPN for involvement in Leach book and Craig James still has a job. That will take some time to digest.” CBS Sports’ Bryan Fischer: “ESPN suspends one of their best writers and yet lets the guy who orchestrated to get a coach fired continue to work. Complete B.S. ESPN.” Portland Oregonian’s John Canzano: “ESPN now with the most egregious lockout in sports.” SI’s Stewart Mandel: “If you appreciate journalists who do their job professionally and with respect ... then boycott ESPN. Seriously. … One of the finest writers in the profession was suspended today because of a company's own irresponsible journalism.” Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel: “ESPN staffers are obviously muzzled on Bruce Feldman, but internal outrage is overwhelming. Good guy done bad.” CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish: “I'm late on this, but what happened to Bruce Feldman is troubling. He's a good friend and great journalist. He deserves better.” N.Y. Times’ Pete Thamel: “Reading the #freebruce hashtag and am overwhelmed. Testament to Bruce's professionalism, reputation and character.” CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd: “Bruce Feldman is as solid a person and journalist that I know. His suspension is grossly unfair.”
IT'S A WILD WORLD: In Louisville, Eric Crawford notes in "Swing Your Sword," Leach accuses Craig James of "trying to steer ESPN’s coverage of complaints brought by his son ... against Leach when he was coach at Texas Tech." Yet while Leach "made the allegation," Feldman is suspended. Crawford: "When situations like this one arise, ESPN shows its hand. It is not a sports journalism company, not in the least. The journalism is just part of the show. And even if the people providing it are talented journalists, they’re also characters in the ESPN story. ... ESPN is perhaps the most incestuous media organization in America. It has a financial stake in almost everything it covers. Often, that gets messy. It got messy at Texas Tech" (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 7/15).
New Turner Sports NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal Thursday said he signed with TNT because “it was a better fit” than ESPN, which also pursued the recently retired NBA star. O’Neal said, “Especially with Charles, Kenny and Ernie. Those guys are very, very real. It was my favorite show, and I was just glad to have the opportunity to join.” Expanding on his reason for choosing Turner, O’Neal said, “I wanted to be a good, clean, honest businessman. I didn’t want to put people in a bidding war. Both sides made very good offers … but I thought Turner/TNT was the greater fit for me.” O’Neal said he considered an offer from ESPN he called “very competitive,” but added, “I didn’t get into this for a monetary aspect, so I didn’t want to put two great entities in a bidding war” (SI.com, 7/14). He added, “It was an easy decision. The guys are very fun over there. They like to, as they say in the sports world, keep it real, and I thought it was the best fit for me” (NEWSDAY, 7/15).
WILL DREAM TEAM BE A WINNER? USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy wonders, “Will one set be big enough … for The Diesel and Sir Charles?” The “funny, charismatic, four-time NBA champion could make a great addition to the popular Barkley-Smith-Johnson team.” Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy also said that Barkley was “one of the biggest proponents of hiring O’Neal.” But McCarthy writes O’Neal “has a tendency to mumble and talk in a low, monotone voice,” and “chemistry’s a funny thing in TV sports.” McCarthy: “What works on paper doesn’t always work in reality” (USA TODAY, 7/15). O’Neal said, “Charles is a funny guy, he’s a guy that says what’s on his mind. We’re going to make it very fun. We’re going to make it very exciting for the fans to watch” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/15). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes O’Neal is a “sharp, funny guy, but now it’s time to learn to stop mumbling” (N.Y. POST, 7/15). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "It’s a fact that if you’re not standing next to him, almost inside his shirt after a game, you can’t hear a word he says. He is a mountain of man who whispers” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/14).
CRITICAL THINKING: O'Neal said that he was "willing to be critical when necessary.” O’Neal: “I don’t think it will be hard. I have the ability and backing to give fair criticism. The only time I have a problem with people giving criticism is when they haven’t walked that walk. I have walked many walks in my 19-year career” (PALM BEACH POST, 7/15). Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard said O’Neal is “going to be great” as an analyst. Le Batard: “He’s going to be opinionated. He’s going to kill people. ... He’s going to say things that are going to make you gasp. He’s going to be critical, for sure” (“PTI,” ESPN, 7/14).
Twitter celebrates the fifth anniversary of its official launch on Friday, and it is "as good a time as any to acknowledge that Twitter is a permanent part of the sports firmament," according to Jon Wertheim of SI.com. Every MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchise "has a Twitter presence," as do "roughly half of all professional athletes." The social media phenomenon now has moved "well beyond 140-character bites and into more content-rich experiences and more practical uses." When the Chargers "faced a possible television blackout last season, the team took to Twitter and sold the seats." Other teams use Twitter "for everything from letting fans vote on the music played during games to holding draft parties." During a recent MLB game, the White Sox and Indians "hosted a #hashtag battle, donating $1 for cancer research each time a fan used either #GoTribe or #GoWhiteSox." UFC "has even offered a Twitter bounty, rewarding fighters in cash for amassing the most followers." Athletes "may have started by using Twitter as a toy, but now often use it as business equipment, a device for connecting with consumers, branding themselves, moving product." Cavaliers G Baron Davis said, "It's a way of getting your voice out there, your personality across, where in the past you had other people speaking for you. It's all you, so there's no manipulating the message" (SI.com, 7/14). As part of a more extensive examination of Twitter and sports, SI lists its inaugural "Twitter 100." More than 50 SI staffers weighed in on the list, offering thoughts on "feeds they considered essential to their daily routine for finding news, information and entertainment from the sports world." Sports business execs selected for the Twitter 100, which is not ranked, are listed below (SI.com, 7/14).
TWITTER USERFOLLOWERS (THROUGH JULY 14) Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban571,529 Boxing promoter Lou DiBella5,550 Colts Owner Jim Irsay40,183 Goodwin Sports Management's Nate Jones8,999 Rockets GM Daryl Morey29,516 Tulane Law School professor Gabe Feldman8,861 UFC President Dana White1,505,703
REAX: Weighing in on the list, Octagon VP & Managing Dir of First Call David Schwab wrote, "Quality list." CFL Manager of Digital Media Jaime Stein: "A good list." Yahoo Sports' Maggie Hendricks: "SI's Top Twitter list is good, but missing any Olympics or MMA media." However, CBS Sports' Mike Freeman wrote, "Sports Illustrated top 100 Twitter list: few journalists of color, no independent sports bloggers. In other words, total crap." ESPN N.Y.'s Jane McManus: "Notice anything about the Twitter 100? ... There were only 3 women represented among about 40 journalists. Bizarre. Even worse regarding minority journalists." McManus continued, "What I love about Twitter -- you get everybody. That list is very old media filter, and that's not Twitter." SBNation.com Senior Editor Chris Mottram: "There are a lot of questionable rec's on SI's Twitter 100 list." Blogger Brooks Melchior: "SI 100 Twitter follows embarrassing. SI better than that." NBC Sports' Gregg Rosenthal: "Its a good thing players aren't as whiny about top 100 lists as sports media members, or we'd criticize them for it."
NCAA and Univ. of Texas officials said that they are discussing whether the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network “can air high school games without providing Texas an unfair recruiting advantage,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. NCAA Dir of Public & Media Relations Erik Christianson in an e-mail said the NCAA is "engaged in a conversation with the entities to better understand their plans and what bylaws come into play." UT men’s AD DeLoss Dodds on Thursday said that the university is “complying with the NCAA's request.” Dodds added that the athletic department “will not be involved with selecting high school games on LHN.” Dodds: “ESPN will select the games based on what they feel is best." ESPN said it "will not do anything on Longhorn Network that would compromise the University of Texas from a compliance perspective." Barron notes a rule from the University Interscholastic League, Texas' high school sports body, that prohibits "live TV game broadcasts on Friday nights” will apply to the LHN. Meanwhile, Dodds said that the additional Big 12 conference game that will air on LHN along with the Sept. 3 Rice-UT season opener “will be selected in consultation with the Big 12 and commissioner Dan Beebe” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/15).
Quebecor Media and the Montreal Impact, who are slated to make their MLS debut in '12, announced a five-year agreement Thursday that gives the team a "wide-ranging relationship covering sponsorship, media, technology and positioning in the sports marketplace," according to Randy Phillips of the Montreal GAZETTE. Impact President Joey Saputo said, "It's a great deal for us in that it allows us to utilize Quebecor Media from a total standpoint. If you were to take the deal and split it up between telecommunications and TV, maybe we could have got a better one. But in Quebecor, everything is combined and it's all in one." Phillips reports the "key component of the agreement, of which no financial figures were given, is that TVA Sports, a property of Quebecor's TVA Group Inc. division, becomes the Impact's official broadcaster and will carry the bulk of the team's regular-season games and playoffs in MLS." All games "will be televised in high definition and the broadcasts will not conflict with Impact games aired by TSN or French-language RDS as part of an existing agreement with MLS." Meanwhile, Quebecor Media division Videotron will be a "founding member of the Impact's move to MLS by providing a more hi-tech experience at Saputo Stadium." Saputo: "Videotron is going to better the technological experience in the stadium because they will create apps for the stadium and through their full network, TV, the Web and mobile." Saputo added that a "number of other companies expressed interest in forming a similar partnership, including Bell Globemedia" (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/15).
TNT's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 telecast from Kentucky Speedway was last week's most-viewed sports telecast with a 3.0 U.S. rating and 5.0 million viewers last Saturday night. Those figures are also up 7% and 8%, respectively, from a 2.8 rating and 4.6 million viewers for the comparable race from Chicagoland Speedway last year. With one race remaining on TNT's Sprint Cup schedule, the net is averaging a 3.2 rating for five races, up 7% from a 3.0 rating last year.
SOUTHERN COMFORT: The '11 Copa America, which is the primary South American international soccer tournament, accounted for six of the top 10 most-viewed sports telecasts on broadcast TV last week. The July 4 Chile-Mexico group stage match on Univision topped all telecasts for the week with 4.0 million viewers, with the July 8 Peru-Mexico match ranking second (3.4 million viewers).
DEERE IN THE HEADLIGHTS: CBS earned a 1.6 rating and 2.3 million viewers for coverage of last week's final round of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic, up 33% and 29%, respectively, from a 1.2 rating and 1.8 million viewers for the final round last year.
STREET PERFORMER: Versus averaged 521,000 viewers for last Sunday's Izod IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto, marking the network's second most-viewed race in three seasons of broadcasting IndyCar. The most-viewed race remains this year's June 11 Firestone Twins 275s from Texas Motor Speedway, which averaged 525,000 viewers.
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) Soccer: Copa America: Chile-Mexico7/4Univision8:20-10:45pm1.84,032 Soccer: Copa America: Peru-Mexico7/8Univision819-10:39pm1.73,411 MLB: (regional)7/9Fox4:08-7:19pm1.92,863 PGA Tour: John Deere Classic:
Golf: U.S. Women's Open:
Final Round (bonus)*7/10NBC8:00-10:00pm1.31,892
Soccer: Copa America:
PGA Tour: John Deere Classic:
Soccer: Copa America:
Soccer: Copa America: Uruguay-Peru7/4Telefutura6:00-8:30pm0.61,279 Soccer: Copa America:
Golf: U.S. Women's Open:
F1: Santander British GP7/10Fox12:00-1:49pm0.71,116 Soccer: Copa America:
Soccer: Copa America:
Golf: U.S. Women's Open:
Soccer: Copa America:
U.S. Open of Surfing (taped)7/9CBS1:00-2:00pm0.5665 "ESPN Sports Saturday"7/9ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5n/a
NOTE: * = Final round finished on Monday due to weather delays.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup:
Quaker State 400 (Kentucky)7/9TNT7:29-10:49pm3.04,968
FIFA Women's World Cup
FIFA Under-17 World Cup Final:
MLB: Mets-Giants7/10ESPN7:59-11:04pm1.31,972 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog
NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Feed The Children 300 (Kentucky)7/8ESPN7:30-10:20pm1.01,586
FIFA Women's World Cup
FIFA Women's World Cup
FIFA Women's World Cup:
Boxing: Light Middleweights:
Paul Williams d. Erislandy Lara7/9HBO11:17pm-12:05am0.71,116