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NBC led all NFL Week Two game windows yesterday with a 15.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the Eagles-Falcons “SNF” matchup, up 3.3% from a 15.2 rating for Giants-Colts last year. NBC won the night among all nets, with “SNF” topping the Primetime Emmy Awards on Fox (9.4 overnight). The Emmys were down 7% from a 10.1 on NBC last year, when the telecast aired during the NFL preseason. Last night’s game peaked at a 17.0 rating from 9:30-10:00pm ET, despite the game coming down to the final play. Atlanta led all markets with a 33.6 local rating, while Philadelphia ranked second with a 33.5 rating. CBS earned a 15.1 overnight for its first national window of the season, which featured Chargers-Patriots in 74% of markets. That figure is down 9.6% from the window featuring Patriots-Jets last year. CBS also saw its regional window overnight down 10.7%. Fox' singleheader earned a 13.6 overnight, up 10.6% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). SI's Peter King writes the NFL is "already four-for-five on ridiculously compelling national TV games," and Eagles-Falcons last night "was at least interesting" (SI.com, 9/19).NFL WEEK TWO OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNET
'11 GAMERAT. '10 GAMERAT.% +/-Fox (single)13.6 (single)12.310.6%CBS (regional)10.0 (regional)11.2-10.7%CBS Chargers-Patriots (74%)15.1 Patriots-Jets (81%)16.7-9.6%NBC Eagles-Falcons15.7 Giants-Colts15.23.3%
PARDON THE INTERRUPTION: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes San Diego "kicked Oakland to the curb in the" L.A. TV market Sunday. Raiders' viewers "who already invested three hours into watching their team take a 35-31 lead at Buffalo with 27 seconds left" saw a scroll come across the screen on the KCBS coverage that said the game was switching over to the Chargers-Patriots contest due to "contractual obligations." Hoffarth writes the "NFL-less Los Angeles is a secondary TV market to the neighbors to the south, the San Diego Chargers -- meaning, we are force-fed Chargers games under league guidelines." NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Dan Masonson said, "Los Angeles is a secondary market for the Chargers. All secondary markets must carry in their entirety all road games of their local team" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/19). Although "KCBS aired a warning," the move "caused widespread anger and frustration among local viewers" (ESPNLA.com, 9/18).
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote Fox NFL analyst Brian Billick "has made a smooth transition into broadcasting, where he has learned that quality of analysis trumps quantity." Horn noted Billick "doubles as a studio analyst for NFL Network, where, like all ex-coaches, he could go on and on and on talking X's and O's." Billick said, "You can be very technical as an analyst or you can keep it succinct and hopefully make the game a more enjoyable experience for viewers. That's my goal" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/17). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones asked former Buccaneers S John Lynch if his transition to being a Fox NFL analyst was harder than he thought it would be. Lynch: "Much harder. My first time up in the booth, I wasn't sure what to look at. Do I look at the field? Do I look at the monitor? ... You have 14, 15 seconds to make a strong point, talk about what just happened or what is about to happen. You have to be concise because the next play is starting." Lynch said, "On Monday, I get the game film from the teams I'm going to call the next week, and I study those. ... Then we arrive in the town of the game we're calling on Friday, go to practice, talk to people there." He added, "I probably look at more game film now than when I was a player" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/18).
DRINK AND BE MERRY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote about Patriots QB Tom Brady's call for fans to start drinking early and noted there is a better chance of NFL Properties "selling T-shirts emblazoned" with Brady's words instead of the network pregame shows "taking Brady to task for his brilliant commentary." The extra hour on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" allows more time "for one of its cast of thousands to blast Brady and comment on the league's laissez-faire attitude when it comes to fans boozing." But Raissman wrote, "That won't happen. Every precious second is needed for over-analysis and contrived debate" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18). ESPN's Mike Reiss yesterday on "Countdown" made reference to Brady's comments while reporting from Foxboro in advance of Chargers-Patriots, but the none of the pregame shows dedicated any time to the issue (THE DAILY). Brady this morning said, "I hope there was nobody that was drinking irresponsibly. I tried to make a very subtle joke, but for a guy who doesn’t drink, it gets a lot of attention. I think that I won’t joke like that anymore. That wasn’t the best thing for me to say and I won’t ever say that again” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 9/19).
TONE IT DOWN: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote CBS analysts used to spend most of the hour of the net's "The NFL Today" pregame show "laughing hysterically over things that weren't funny." Now it is the "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show that "has turned into a bad Dean Martin roast." The first 10 minutes of Sunday's show "were unwatchable because of all the horsing around." And "opening with the Simon Cowell voice-over talking about NFL players having the 'X Factor' was the type of shameless self-promotion that would get ESPN killed" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/18). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote several "readers have noted that NBC's Sunday NFL telecast used to open with a lot of noise, color and a full-screen graphic carrying Ebersol's name, as if he were the star of the show, followed by production credits that only seemed to excuse/justify the appearance of Ebersol's name." Mushnick noted, "Last Sunday's NBC NFL opener, sans Ebersol? No opening credits at all" (N.Y. POST, 9/18). Syndicated columnist Norman Chad writes, "What I don't understand, I guess, is why ESPN needs to employ 26 -- 26! -- ex-NFL players and coaches to chatter." Chad: "Uh, 26? If it were up to me, I'd just bring in Artie Donovan and call it a day. ... ESPN's table of NFL analysts is so large, it could fill an NFL roster. In fact, it strikes me that ESPN is the NFL's de facto 33rd franchise, except it never loses and there are no luxury boxes in Bristol" (Mult., 9/19).
HANDHELD FOOTBALL: USA TODAY's Marc Saltzman gives the official NFL iPad app a 2.5 rating out of 4 rating. Saltzman notes, "While there's room for a lot more content, and interactivity, this lean app should serve as a handy companion for the 2011 football season -- and benefits from a real-time play-by-play summary for every game." Saltzman adds, "The best part of the app is the play-by-play summaries -- for live or completed games. ... The app could use more video and photos, live radio streaming, detailed player profiles and perhaps a fantasy football game. The app developer says to 'stay tuned for updates'" (USA TODAY, 9/19).
ESPN is "hitting back against critics who publicly accused the media company of wild, indiscriminate spending" after it signed an extension for the rights to "MNF" for eight years, $15.2B, according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches said that he "fielded calls earlier this month, shortly after the deal was announced, from several video distributors who expressed concern over the nearly $2 billion annual price tag." Bratches said that he "allayed their fears that ESPN would seek to fund the deal through increases in their affiliate fees." Bratches "promised" distributors that ESPN "would not try to force them to pay an 'NFL tax.'" Ourand notes execs from "several large distributors confirmed Bratches' account and said that they were not alarmed by the size of ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' deal." Bratches said, "There is no NFL surcharge, and we're not seeking to negotiate one. The consumption of sports continues to grow on TV and all platforms." Ourand reports interviews with execs "from three of the biggest distributors suggest that ESPN's NFL price tag was expected and is not a huge concern." These execs said that they "are satisfied that ESPN does not make its content available for free on mobile or broadband platforms, as only authenticated subscribers can watch ESPN content on digital platforms" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/19 issue). In N.Y., Joseph Barracato noted currently ESPN "charges cable operators $4.89 a subscriber." ESPN "wants to increase that $7, and everyone expects that extra $2 will be passed along to customers." American Cable Association President & CEO Matthew Polka said that he "wouldn't be surprised to see Congress step in one day and make ESPN an a la carte choice like HBO" (N.Y. POST, 9/18).
The Dodgers late Friday filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to begin marketing their cable TV rights, shifting the case at its core and likely setting up dramatic conflicts with MLB and Fox, the team's current rightsholder. The TV rights are also the key instrument Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt intends to use to pay off his creditors, emerge from bankruptcy and retain ownership of the team. The filing outlines a proposed 45-day exclusive negotiating window with Fox, followed by a wider auction of at least 60 days that the Dodgers believe will attract the likes of Charter, Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish Network and others. The club remains open to both a standard rights deal or the creation of a "Dodgers-branded RSN." Fox's Prime Ticket currently holds a 45-day exclusive negotiating period beginning Oct. 15, 2012 in a rights deal that currently last through the '13 season. But the Dodgers argue in the latest filing that the current market for TV rights is so frothy that waiting would not be in their best financial interests. "Market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time," the filing reads, citing in part the recent mammoth deal Time Warner struck to launch two Lakers-anchored RSNs. "There can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last, however." Fox additionally only would have limited protections in the new structure, as a deal struck in the initial phase would qualify Fox only for the second round and establish a new floor for bidding.
MUCH NEEDED BOOST: The club also said in the filing that Dodgers Stadium attendance, currently in sharp decline, will be slow to recover and other sources of revenue such as radio rights and merchandising are largely tapped. Still, the Dodgers project that the TV rights auction will allow the club to emerge from bankruptcy next year and hold "excess cash of more than $175 million as of the end of 2012." A hearing will be held on the motion on Oct. 12 in Wilmington, Del. The move also promises a battle with MLB, which has already rejected three separate proposals from the Dodgers to extend their rights deal with Fox. The club said in its motion it is "hopeful" that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will approve a deal this time, and will be satisfied that McCourt is maximizing the value of the club's TV rights and is not conflicted by his ongoing divorce or prior issues meeting payroll. But the Dodgers added, "if [Selig] does not act in good faith in declining to approve the successful bid or back-up bid, [we are] prepared to demonstrate that this court should nonetheless authorize [us] to consummate the transactions."
ESPN will honor Hispanic Heritage Month during Wednesday's Rangers-A's telecast at 10:00pm ET. ESPN Deportes commentators Alvaro Martin and Candy Maldonado will join Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Gomez on the call. Planned discussions will center on the first Hispanic MLB players; Hispanic MLB and Negro League players in the HOF; first Hispanic players to reach milestones like 3,000 hits and no-hitters; and first Hispanic GM, owner and manager to win a World Series. Players' statistics will be presented in Spanish throughout the telecast. Other graphics will be presented in Spanish with English translations (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
CUTTING ITS SWINGS? In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote it "sure looks" as if ESPN has "decided to de-emphasize baseball." Since July, it is "hard finding any baseball analysis, baseball reporting or baseball anything during the day on ESPN" outside of "Baseball Tonight" and game coverage. Raissman: "Even on the radio side, there ain't much baseball talk on ESPN outlets. ... Things were different when ESPN aired playoff baseball" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18).