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TBS earned a 6.2 fast-national Nielsen rating and 9.7 million viewers for Thursday's night’s Tigers-Yankees ALDS Game Five, marking the highest-rated LDS game ever on cable TV and highest-rated LDS game of any sort since Fox’ telecast of Angels-Yankees Game Five in ’05, which earned an 8.9 rating and 13.7 million viewers. Thursday's game led TBS to a win in primetime among all cable nets, as well as a No. 3 ranking on all of TV. The game delivered an 18.3 local rating in N.Y. and a 27.6 rating in Detroit (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). However, ratings for the playoffs to date have been slightly down from last year, and USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reports part of the LDS ratings decline “was predictable because this year’s postseason started on a Friday and ran into weekend football, compared to Wednesday starts in previous years.” Ratings for postseason series “tend to rise the longer a series lasts,” and TBS “lucked out by having three of the first-round series last five games, the first time that has happened since 2001” (USA TODAY, 10/7).
MIXED EMOTIONS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes during the third inning of Tigers-Yankees Game Five after Yankees Manager Joe Girardi replaced P Ivan Nova with Phil Hughes, neither TBS' John Smoltz nor Ron Darling "offered a strong opinion on the move.” TBS covered Smoltz and Darling, however, “with a terrific replay of the shocked expression on [Tigers 1B] Miguel Cabrera’s face when he saw Hughes enter the game.” Raissman: “The picture was telling. But all Darling and Smoltz talked about was how Hughes was sent in to eat up innings.” During an in-game interview, Girardi said that he "took Nova out because the pitcher was experiencing tightness.” Darling said after the interview, “We were very surprised when he was taken out of the game. Now we know why.” But Raissman noted neither Darling nor Smoltz “ever said they were ‘surprised’ when Hughes replaced Nova." Raissman: “This is why the TBS analysts fell just a bit short in this ADLS series. Their analysis was first rate, but they rarely offered a strong opinion.” Meanwhile, TBS presented “a dramatic series of shots with the count at 1-2 on [Yankees 3B Alex] Rodriguez in the ninth.” The suspense level “was lifted when the three-man booth went silent.” After Rodriguez struck out, the camera "moved from the Tigers celebrating on the Yankee Stadium turf to the face of [2B Robinson] Cano watching what was going down.” Raissman noted, “Finally, the faces of stunned Yankees’ fans filled the screen. ... In a few seconds TBS beautifully captured the range of emotions” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/7).
PARTING WAYS: Fox will begin its coverage of the MLB postseason Saturday with Game One of the Tigers-Rangers ALCS, but there will be no online enhancements as the network is not participating in the Postseason.TV effort with MLBAM. For the past two seasons, Postseason.TV has been a successful joint effort between MLBAM, Fox and Turner, offering a variety of alternate camera angles, news, fantasy gaming and social media integration. And the product is back again this year with Turner for the LDS round and NLCS. But Fox and MLBAM execs said they were not able to come to contract terms for a return this year. Both sides declined to comment substantively on the nature of the failed negotiations (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
Hank Williams Jr. has "the right" to make the comments he made about President Obama that ultimately led to him being dropped from ESPN's "MNF" broadcast, but he "also has to be aware that his actions have consequences," according to Ryan Cooper of the WASHINGTON POST. Cooper, noting Williams compared Obama with Adolf Hitler and called him the "enemy," wrote, "I strongly doubt that ESPN and Disney and their various corporate sponsors want to be associated with an entertainer on their big NFL game of the week that drives their ratings bus who would make such an analogy" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/6). Washington Post columnist Mike Wise said freedom of speech "comes with a price when you work for a multi-national conglomerate and you have a business relationship with them." Wise: "You represent them in some way ... If you’re going to call the leader of the free world an enemy, guess what, you’re probably not going to be working there very long” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 10/6). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes Williams “has equal protection under the law, to make a fool of himself,” but ESPN “has the right to disassociate itself from fools” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 10/7). The Nation’s Dave Zirin said ESPN "didn’t have a choice at this point” but to part ways with Williams. The NFL is “always trying to be all things to all people, and to have as the spokesperson of their flagship show someone who would be viscerally offensive ... then it becomes a different question altogether." Syracuse Univ. Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture Dir Robert Thompson said ESPN “wanted to make this go away, and anything that causes this much trouble is not something you want to keep flowing around in the culture.” But First Amendment Center President Ken Paulson said, “It’s a scary time if a lot of people believe you ought to lose your job when you speak out. That only leads to silence” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 10/6).
MAKING THE RIGHT MOVE: ESPN's Bomani Jones, who appeared Thursday in a memorable "Outside The Lines" segment related to the Williams controversy, wrote on his personal blog he believes ESPN "made the right call" in dropping the country music star. Jones wrote, "I find Hitler references distasteful, but I also debate whether they should be fireable. I know, however, that they are fireable. Full-time employees might get suspended, but part-timers get fired. That's not just ESPN. That's the world, and this is where that part of the discussion should end" (BOMANIJONES.com, 10/6). However, in L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes, “It's only because of its erratic track record in the punishment department, likely determined by Disney shareholders, that we can't be sure week to week how someone like Williams could be justly treated without letting emotions cloud things” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/7). Meanwhile, USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes “both sides win” with the decision. ESPN’s “payoff is its biggest buzz in years,” and Williams has gotten the same effect. Williams is “now a victim” and a “sort of rebel.” “MNF” should have been “happy to hold the door” for Williams, as a show “built on novelty ... has become just another NFL game.” ESPN now can “pick somebody new to open ‘MNF’ and get to hype it, like it’s really a big deal” (USA TODAY, 10/7).
MANIC MONDAYS: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes, “Telling Hank to take his Hitler analogies, along with his trenchant political analysis, and hit the dusty trail was the easy part. Now the hard part -- restoring ‘Monday Night Football’ to its place as the destination of choice for National Football League fans in prime-time television, or at least slowing the rate of its descent, its standing, its clout and its relevance. Hasn’t the caché of ‘Monday Night Football’ migrated to the upstart ‘Sunday Night Football’ on NBC? Isn’t Sunday night, not Monday night, the real appointment event now for television viewers of NFL football in prime time?” (JSONLINE.com, 10/6).
Thursday's edition of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" was dedicated to the net's decision to drop Hank Williams Jr. from its "MNF" broadcasts, but one of the featured panels quickly denigrated into personal attacks on one another over Southern culture, country music and religion. The Nation's Dave Zirin in an earlier segment said Williams' song "If The South Had Won” was “profoundly offensive.” Zirin said, “You got to stand for something. Otherwise, you get to a much more frightening place where it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s all be racist, Confederate goons and see where the chips fall.’” Syndicated radio personality Paul Finebaum noted people in Alabama “love Hank Williams” and added, “What people down here don’t like are people like Dave Zirin making idiotic statements about country music songs that Hank Williams has written. I’ve respected Dave for a long time but I think the statement he made today is the single stupidest I’ve ever heard in the history of this program.” The following is an exceprt from the ensuing conversation between Zirin, Finebaum and fellow panelist ESPN's Bomani Jones.
Zirin: “It’s a slap in the face to country music because it’s a stereotype about country music that everybody who’s involved in it believes in the Confederate flag, believes in oppressing people and believes in the idea that comparing the president to Adolf Hitler is somehow a good thing.”
Finebaum: “Dave, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Zirin: “There’s actually a large African-American population in the south too, Paul. You might want to think about them as you talk about the south and what is or isn’t defensible.”
Finebaum: “No kidding? I have thought about it.”
Jones said the “problem” with Williams’ song is that “there’s not a single mention of black people anywhere in the entire song.”
Jones: “It is a Southern utopia and you would have no idea black ever existed in that song, so I don’t find that statement necessarily to be ridiculous that he made.”
Finebaum: “First of all, my parents are from New York. I happen to be Jewish. I lost relatives in the Holocaust, so I don’t need Dave Zirin or Bomani Jones lecturing me on my background or my culture.”
Jones: “I didn’t say a thing to you about your culture.”
Finebaum: “I’m just sick and tired of people from elsewhere ... making fun of people down here. These are good people. They’re not racist, they’re not bigots, they just happen to like country music.”
Jones: “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me -- you are not anymore Southern than me. I was born in Atlanta, I grew up in Texas. I don’t feel the need to prove that. I haven’t made any jokes about anybody from Alabama.”
Finebaum: “You’re the one talking about black people down here, not me.”
After Jones further discussed the lyrics of the Williams song, he said to Finebaum, "Please do not misrepresent me.”
Zirin: “Please don’t do that either, Paul. Paul, that’s an outrageous statement. If you want to talk about my relatives that died in the Holocaust or my time in the South, we can do that. That’s not germane to this discussion at all and frankly, it’s cheap and unprofessional to bring that into this discussion.”
Finebaum: “You’re lecturing me on what’s unprofessional, Dave. Give me a break.”
Zirin: “Paul! Let me finish! ... Why don’t you do a Google search of ‘Hank Williams Jr./Confederacy’ and see what comes up. It is a cottage industry.”
Finebaum: “I know Hank Williams Jr., Dave. I don’t need to do a Google search. I can call him up on the phone and I know what he stands for. He’s a country music entertainer. You get that? Entertainer!”
ESPN's T.J. Quinn, who was moderating the panel, said it is "very clear that Hank Williams’ name cannot come up right now without very strong sentiments from either side.”
Finebaum: "We’re re-fighting the Civil War, and I hear Dave Zirin making fun of the Confederacy. Well, a lot of people died in that. We just happen to be part of the United States of America, Dave. The Confederacy is long gone, buddy.”
Zirin: “A lot of people did die in the Civil War fighting to end human bondage” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 10/6).
REMINISCENT OF DAYTIME TALK SHOWS: In Alabama, Ben Flanagan reported Finebaum "did not sound particularly proud of the segment." He said, "It was Ricki Lake meets 'Outside the Lines.'" Flanagan noted the "satellite delay didn't help matters ... as all four men on the show, including the host, began yelling at once to make points and attempt to keep the discussion in order." Finebaum said, "I'm sure they'll never have me back. I'll be banned from ESPN for life" (AL.com, 10/6). DEADSPIN.com wrote under the headline, "A Hank Williams Jr. Discussion Turned ESPN’s OTL Into 'The Morton Downey Jr. Show'" (DEADSPIN.com, 10/6). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Jones "tried to add some rational, good points to the argument, but any sense and perspective was drowned out with a lot of yelling" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 10/6). The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein wrote, "Man, Paul Finebaum got absolutely decapitated today on ESPN's 'Outside the Lines'" (TWITTER.com, 10/6).
FEEDING THE BEAST: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "And so it goes that a discussion about an ESPN decision on an ESPN show turned into an ESPN argument and, thus, more publicity for ESPN's 'Monday Night Football'" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/6). Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote, "Outside the Lines AND Around the Horn (and presumably PTI) talking about Hank Williams. Maybe ESPN is a little too out in front of this" (TWITTER.com, 10/6).
The NFL’s national TV partners are seeing a mixed bag for game ratings/viewership through the first four weeks of the season. Fox is off to a record start with their Sunday NFC package. The 12.2 rating and 20.4 million viewers mark the net’s highest-rated and most-viewed start to an NFL season. Those figures are up 9% and 4%, respectively, from last year, and up 4% and 14% from ’09. Fox also turned in its most-viewed NFL singleheader since ’95 last week (14.0 rating, 23.3 million viewers), which also marked the league’s highest-rated singleheader since ’98. “Fox NFL Sunday” is averaging a 3.6 rating and 5.6 million viewers, marking the pregame show’s highest-rated and most-viewed mark through four weeks since ’01. NBC is also seeing a small gain to start the season, averaging a 13.9 rating and 23.2 million viewers through four weeks (five telecasts), up 1% in both metrics compared to last year. Compared to the start in ’09, NBC is up 2% and 12%, respectively. “SNF” has also won the night for each of its four Sunday telecasts to date. CBS is off to a slower start in ’11, without traditional ratings draw Peyton Manning fueling the numbers. The net is averaging a 10.5 rating and 17.4 million viewers, down 7% in both metrics compared to ’10, when CBS was off to its best four-week average since gaining the AFC TV package in '98. Despite the slow start, the ‘11 figures remain well above the net’s start to ’09 (+11% in viewership). CBS’ “The NFL Today” pregame show is also down 7% to start the season (2.9 vs. 3.1). ESPN’s ‘MNF” is off to a slow start for the second straight season. The net’s 8.3 U.S. rating and 13.1 million viewers are down 11% for both metrics compared to ’10, and down 15% and 16% compared to ’09.
NFL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK FOURNET'11 (000)'10 (000)1-YR % +/-'09 (000)2-YR % +/-NBC23,16822,8531%20,75612%Fox20,40019,6774%17,91614%CBS17,40018,699-7%15,67111%ESPN13,10014,786-11%15,684-16%
Big 12 presidents and chancellors have agreed “to share the Tier 1 and Tier 2 football and men's basketball broadcast revenues equally for the next six years,” according to Bohls & Haurwitz of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The Univ. of Texas also “agreed not to show high school sports clips on its Longhorn Network.” UT “does retain its rights to show a second and third football game on its Longhorn Network, but would have to pay $200,000 to the league's equal revenue-sharing pot.” UT President William Powers Jr., said it was "unlikely" that a third game would be shown on the LHN (AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, 10/7). In San Antonio, Tim Griffin writes LHN “will need approval from the opposing school and both ESPN/ABC and Fox if it wants to show more than one football game per season.” Pooling the television revenues “will be a departure from before, when the Big 12 schools that played the most games on television got the most money.” UT is “not required to share LHN revenue, which is considered Tier III.” ESPN officials said that “they are willing to comply with the stronger programming constraints required by the Big 12 for the Longhorn Network” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS, 10/7).
INCENTIVE TO STAY: In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch noted by signing over ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports television rights to the Big 12 for six years, “any school that leaves for another conference during that stretch would be unavailable for telecasts in its new league.” The measure, “combined with Monday’s approval of equal revenue-sharing from ESPN/ABC and Fox Sports TV contracts, represents enhanced stability.” Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren said it is “a win for the entire conference.” Boren: “I was especially pleased that the conference will have its own bylaws to make sure that institutional-branded networks will be prohibited from showing high school athletes in game or highlight format in a way that could give any conference member a recruiting advantage” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 10/6). The Univ. of Missouri, which is rumored to be headed to the SEC, "didn't participate in the votes" on either the revenue sharing or the TV appearances (K.C. STAR, 10/7).
ANOTHER NETWORK: OU AD Joe Castiglione said that “his school hopes to launch its network as early as next fall.” Castiglione “called it ‘very likely’ its unnamed network would be up and running by then and has already shown up to 30-plus softball and baseball games on Cox cable in cities like Oklahoma City and Tulsa” (STATESMAN.com, 10/6).
In Cleveland, Tom Reed noted the Cavaliers on Thursday named John Michael the team’s new play-by-play announcer to succeed Joe Tait. He will work alongside analyst Jim Chones “once the NBA lockout ends.” Until the work stoppage is resolved, Michael will “continue his duties as an in-game host” of Blue Jackets telecasts on FS Ohio and provide analysis “for the network's pregame and postgame shows.” The Cavs “became familiar with Michael during his two seasons” calling games for the AHL Lake Erie Monsters (CLEVELAND.com, 10/6).
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports MLB Cardinals TV play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin's future “won't be doing TV broadcasts of University of Missouri or Missouri Valley Conference basketball this winter" after he was arrested last week for the second time in 13 months "on a drunken driving charge.” He has “begun a treatment program that his brother Kevin said will preclude him from doing those games -- assuming he had been allowed to return.” McLaughlin “had been doing Mizzou basketball telecasts since 1999, on the school's in-state network.” McLaughlin had split the TV play-by-play duties “with Chris Gervino, the sports director at KOMU-TV in Columbia who also is the reporter on Tigers' football broadcasts and the host of coaches' shows.” Gervino now is “scheduled to do all 11 of the games in the team's television package.” Caesar notes “still to be determined" is McLaughlin's situation on Cards broadcasts (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/7).
STARK CONTRAST: In N.Y., Richard Huff noted Melissa Stark has joined NFL Network after having been “out of the business for four years ... to be a wife and full-time mother to her four children.” Stark said, "This really seemed like the right opportunity for right now. It was a great way to get back in with a first-class organization, and get back to reporting, which I love." Huff noted she “gets a chance to balance life at home with the kids and with her husband, Mike Lilley, who convinced her to say yes” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/6).
DO THE EVOLUTION: MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes said that he has "evolved" in his role over the last year. Byrnes said, "When I first got here last year, I really just got by on the fact I had played last year. I just used a lot of my experience, where, as the season developed last year and definitely as we have gotten into this year, I've kind of taken more of an analytical role. I've definitely spent a lot more time researching other players" (MLB.com, 10/5). Meanwhile, the net announced Pirates P Joel Hanrahan and Padres manager Bud Black will serve as guest studio analysts on "MLB Tonight" next week. Hanrahan will appear in-studio on Oct. 10-11, and Black on Oct. 12-13 (MLB Network).
CBS’ annual SEC football primetime telecast, which featured Alabama-Florida, led all college football broadcasts last weekend with a 4.6 rating and 7.6 million viewers. However, those figures are down from a 4.8 rating/7.7 million viewers for the same matchup last year, and down sharply from a 6.1 rating/10.5 million viewers for Florida-LSU in ’09, Tim Tebow’s final season. For four SEC football games to date, CBS is averaging a 3.4 rating and 5.4 million viewers, down 15% and 16%, respectively, from a 4.0 rating and 6.478 million viewers at the same point last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
SUNDAY DRIVE: The Patriots-Raiders game last weekend earned a 34.1 local rating in Boston, marking a new Week Four record for the market, passing the previous mark set in '02 for a game against the Chargers (Patriots)....KTVI-Fox earned an 18.9 local rating in St. Louis for the Redskins-Rams game last Sunday, "marking the second week in a row their game rated lower than any of their contests last season." Through four games, Rams games are averaging a 20.8 local rating, down 17% from the same point last season (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/4).
NOTES: Fox finished with a 1.1 rating and 1.63 million viewers for its tape-delayed coverage of Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday afternoon, which marked the second of the net's three EPL telecasts. That audience was up from a 1.0 rating and 1.61 million viewers for Chelsea-Manchester United on Sept. 18 (Fox)....Versus drew just 188,000 viewers for last Sunday afternoon’s Izod IndyCar Series race from Kentucky Speedway, marking the net’s least-viewed North American IndyCar race (excluding rainouts run on a week day) since acquiring rights prior to the ’09 season (Karp)....Rogers Sportsnet finished the '11 MLB season averaging 507,000 viewers for its Blue Jays games, the net's best average ever. That figure was up 17% from '10 (Rogers)....Golf Channel earned a 0.6 overnight rating for the first round of the PGA Tour Frys.com Open yesterday, up from a 0.2 overnight for the first round last year. The net says that a "normal" round for a Fall Series event averages a 0.3 overnight (Karp)....Through two games,viewership for the Dream-Lynx WNBA Finals across ESPN/ESPN2 is up 1% compared to the first two games of the Storm-Dream Finals on ABC/ESPN2 last year (WNBA).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on Fox": (single)10/2Fox1:00-4:05pm14.023,308 "NFL on CBS": Broncos-Packers (59%)10/2CBS4:15-7:00pm13.623,014 "Sunday Night Football": Jets-Ravens10/2NBC8:32-11:35pm11.518,900 "NFL on CBS": (regional)10/2CBS1:00-4:15pm7.111,050 "Football Night in America"10/2NBC7:30-8:15pm4.98,050 NCAA Football: Alabama-Florida10/1CBS8:00-11:37pm4.67,593 NCAA Football: Nebraska-Wisconsin10/1ABC8:07-11:39pm3.55,753 NCAA Football: (regional)10/1ABC3:30-6:55pm3.65,472 "Fox NFL Sunday"10/2Fox12:00-1:00pm3.45,200 "The NFL Today"10/2CBS12:00-1:00pm3.3n/a NCAA Football: Auburn-South Carolina10/1CBS3:46-7:31pm3.24,814 NCAA Football: Air Force-Navy10/1CBS12:00-3:46pm1.21,733 EPL: Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur (taped)10/2Fox4:45-6:45pm1.11,626 Mexico Primera Division:
Rugby World Cup:
New Zealand-Canada (taped)10/2NBC3:00-6:00pm0.5736
"College Football Countdown"10/1ABC3:00-3:30pm0.5n/a Mexico Primera Division:
American Le Mans Series: Road Atlanta10/2ABC4:00-6:00pm0.3470 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football":
ALDS: Tigers-Yankees: Game One10/1TBS8:30-11:41pm2.74,200 NSACAR Sprint Cup: AAA 400 (Dover)10/2ESPN2:00-5:51pm2.64,093 NLDS: Cardinals-Phillies: Game One10/1TBS5:00-8:14pm2.43,752 NLDS: Cardinals-Phillies: Game Two10/2TBS8:45pm-12:08am2.33,749 "Monday Night Countdown"9/26ESPN7:00-8:30pm2.43,412 NCAA Football: Texas A&M-Arkansas10/1ESPN12:02-3:45pm2.23,311 ALDS: Tigers-Yankees: Game Two10/2TNT3:00-6:53pm1.92,937 NCAA Football: South Florida-Pittsburgh9/29ESPN8:00-11:31pm2.02,878 ALDS: Rangers-Rays: Game One9/30TBS5:00-8:17pm1.92,866