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Fox earned a 10.1 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Cardinals-Rangers World Series Game Four, down 3% from a 10.4 overnight for Giants-Rangers Game Four last year. The game led Fox to a win in primetime last night up against "SNF" on NBC, which earned an 8.2 overnight for the Saints' blowout win over the Colts. Fox also marked its best Sunday night primetime rating since Super Bowl XLV last February and the World Series this year has now been the top-rated telecast in primetime for each of its four ngihts. However, with the added competition, the 10.1 overnight marks the lowest overnight of any World Series Game Four on record. Fox also got a weaker lead-in rating from its NFL national window this year. The 16.3 overnight for the Week Seven telecast, which featured Packers-Vikings, was down 4% compared to the lead-in last year, which earned a 17.0 overnight featuring Vikings-Patriots in Week Eight. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' 16-7 win over the Rangers in Game Three on Saturday night earned Fox a 7.4 overnight rating, down 3% from a 7.6 rating for Game Three last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). ESPN’s J.A. Adande on Friday said the World Series delivered "two exceptionally close games” to start the series, but "what it’s not delivering is television ratings." Adande: "Baseball has a long-term issue here. It’s not generating social media traffic, it doesn’t dominate the discussion. Maybe the games just aren’t juicy enough for today’s culture ... because just broadcasting baseball games -- even really good ones in hi-def -- is no longer enough” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN, 10/21).
AS GOOD AS EVER: Fox' Joe Buck said last week that he is "all-but recovered from a lengthy vocal cord ailment that led to him taking singing lessons over the summer to help him get his high tones back." In St. Louis, Dan Caesar noted Buck had "been unable to reach the top range, with the deep intonations that are desired for affect on exciting, game-changing plays." But Fox' "lead baseball-play-by-play man came through loud and clear Saturday night when describing the key play of Game 3 of the World Series, Albert Pujols' three-run homer that gave the Cardinals an 11-6 lead in the sixth inning" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/23).
OUTSTANDING ANALYSIS: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes, "Outstanding job by Fox's crew Saturday night during Game 3 of the World Series." When the topic of pitchers tipping pitches came up, Fox "called upon pre- and postgame analyst A.J. Pierzynski to chime in with his experience." Pierzynski revealed that Cardinals P Edwin Jackson "used to look down during his windup when he threw fastballs." He also said that Mets P Johan Santana "would give away pitches with how he held his mouth." Jones: "Sensational work by Pierzynski to offer up real examples from real players and smart work by Fox to work Pierzynski into that part of the broadcast" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/24).
CABLE TAKE OVER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted in an interview with SiriusXM’s Chris (Mad Dog) Russo, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "Never have so many been interested in acquiring our (postseason TV) rights. Major, major networks." Raissman noted a "couple of things to consider." With Comcast now owning NBC and Versus, "it could be a player." Also, with CBS and Turner Sports "already aligned as NCAA hoops partners, maybe they combine to bid on baseball, too." Incumbent Fox "should be in the mix and, of course, with its huge wallet the commish probably sees ESPN trying to glom the entire package." Raissman: "After the dust settles, it would be no surprise if every round of the playoffs, except the World Series, ends up on cable" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/23).
AMERICA'S PASTIME: Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick asked, "Say, whatever happened to the World Series? Whatever happened to the greatest event in American sports?" Mushnick: "Even the warm, fuzzy little things that made the World Series special -- the carryover appeal from when we were kids -- have been left diminished or forsaken." For the World Series, "American flag bunting used to be hung from in front of the first row of stands," but after two games in St. Louis, "haven't even seen a stitch of it" (N.Y. POST, 10/23). Mushnick writes "in the New York City area, the World Series cannot clearly be heard on AM or FM radio." Those remanded to a car Saturday night "a mere 20 miles south of Manhattan were stuck trying to find a reasonably listenable signal of ESPN Radio’s exclusive live broadcast." Mushnick: "It’s an added shame that in Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine, ESPN Radio has a pretty good team" (N.Y. POST, 10/24).
The NFL's national TV partners saw a mixed bag for Week Seven overnight Nielsen ratings. Fox' national window featuring Packers-Vikings led all telecasts with a 16.3 overnight, up around 8% from CBS' national window in Week Seven last year, which featured Patriots-Chargers. However, the net saw an 11% drop for its regional coverage in the early window. NBC had the Saints' blowout win over the Colts for "SNF" matchup, which also aired up against World Series Game Four. The 8.2 overnight for the game was down nearly 50% from the Packers-Vikings matchup featuring Brett Favre last year. This also marked the first week of the season that NBC did not win Sunday night in primetime. CBS earned a 10.6 for its singleheader, down slightly compared to Week Seven last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).NFL WEEK SEVEN: SUNDAY OVERNIGHT RATINGSNET
'11 GAMERAT. '10 GAMENETRAT.% +/-CBS (single)10.6 (single)Fox10.7-0.9%Fox (regional)10.1 (regional)CBS11.3-10.6%Fox Packers-Vikings (83%)16.3 Patriots-Chargers (85%)CBS15.17.9%NBC Colts-Saints8.2 Packers-VikingsNBC16.0-48.8%
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: In Denver, Dusty Saunders notes during yesterday's Broncos-Dolphins game, CBS' Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots "kept the game in focus, regularly commenting on the ineptitude of the teams' offenses" until Broncos QB Tim Tebow "caught fire late in the fourth quarter." Wilcots was "regularly critical until Tebow time arrived -- legitimately questioning his accuracy on long passes." And Wilcots "often criticized Tebow for getting sacked instead of throwing away the ball." But the announcers' attitudes "changed as they noted that Tebow's athletic ability and enthusiasm created an energy on the field that fueled the Broncos in the final two minutes and in overtime" (DENVER POST, 10/24).
JUST ANOTHER GAME: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the Bears-Buccaneers game in London "was just another NFL game" for American fans, and Fox "treated it as such." Other than "a few shots of Big Ben (the clock, not the quarterback) and Stonehenge and the like, you really wouldn't know the game was being played in another country." Jones: "The question is: Why doesn’t the NFL make a bigger deal out of it? Why not make it an event for the people in the United States, too? The game went out to only 17 percent of the country" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/24).
RUNNING TOO LONG? ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Jeff Labrecque writes NBC's "Football Night In America," last night seemed "uncharacteristically off its game, causing me to wonder for the first time whether the 75-minute show is too long." Reporters Peter King and Mike Florio had "good scoop," but "later in the program, when Dan Patrick checked back in with them, they simply regurgitated those same reports practically verbatim." Neither report "seemed world-stopping enough to be recycled to the loyal audience watching from the outset (EW.com, 10/24).
DON'T CALL ME, I'LL CALL YOU: On Long Island, Mark La Monica noted Jets CB Darrelle Revis appeared on WFAN-AM's "Mike Francesa" Friday afternoon when the discussion turned to Revis' interception on Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall during last week's "MNF" game. Francesa "thought it was a penalty and got after Revis about it." Jets PR Dir Jared Winley then "told Revis to hang up," and he did (NEWSDAY.com, 10/21). In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted Winley "made the only mistake here." Raissman: "That mistake wasn't his decision to tell Revis to end the conversation, it was Winley, perhaps under orders, issuing a public apology to Francesa." If anything, Winley and Revis "should be saluted for making Francesa swallow the medicine he force feeds WFAN callers daily." Raissman: "It was excellent radio" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/23).
CBS is moving the Nov. 5 LSU-Alabama game, which pits the top two teams in the BCS standings, into primetime in what "might be the most offbeat network maneuvering since ESPN sent Al Michaels to NBC in a 2006 deal that involved trading an old Walt Disney cartoon character back to Disney," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. CBS' SEC deal "allows it to air one SEC game each season in prime time," and the Oct. 1 Alabama-Florida game was "picked well before the season" began. The net was able to move LSU-Alabama from its previously scheduled 3:30pm ET time slot through what CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco "says was a trade with ESPN, which has an SEC primetime TV deal." ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said, "What we got in return was future scheduling considerations for next season." Hiestand notes at that point, it was time to "enter NBC's Versus cable channel." With CBS "wanting to air football action in its regular Nov. 5 afternoon time slot, it landed Army-Air Force from Versus." In return, Versus "gets Colorado State-TCU on Nov. 19 from the CBS Sports Network cable channel" (USA TODAY, 10/24). Bloomberg News' Michele Steele wrote on her Twitter feed, "CBS betting on big #s by moving no. 1 LSU-No 2 Alabama to primetime at 8p and streaming it live online.. Exp heavy promotion ahead of nov 5." Sporting News' Ryan Fagan wrote, "Least surprising announcement ever?" SI's Jim Trotter wrote, "lsu-alabama moved to primetime. wondering if @markmravic will allow me to staff that game as a reward for sitting through broncos-dolphins."
LOOKING FORWARD TO NO. 1 VS. NO. 2: CBS led all college football weekend overnights with a 3.5 overnight for Auburn-LSU in the 3:30pm ET window, but the rating was down 26% compared to the same matchup last year. On the ESPN family of networks, ESPN2's Tennessee-Alabama on Saturday night actually topped all games with a 2.5 overnight. ABC earned a 2.2 overnight for regional action in its "Saturday Night Football" broadcast, which featured coverage of Washington-Stanford and Texas Tech-Oklahoma, while ESPN's primetime window earned a 2.1 overnight for Michigan State's last-second victory over Wisconsin (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
THE CAMERA NEVER LIES: USC's 31-17 win over Notre Dame in the first night game in South Bend in 21 years earned a 2.6 overnight rating for NBC (Karp). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes NBC deserves "applause" for its coverage of USC-Notre Dame. The camera work during the fourth quarter was "outstanding and gave viewers definitive shots of two crucial plays in the Trojans' 31-17 victory." The first was "what initially appeared to be an incompletion that, NBC's replays showed, was clearly a backward pass." Moments later, USC scored on a pass "that might have been a ball trapped on the ground." The replays, however, "showed it was a good catch and a touchdown" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/24).
SCHEDULING CONFLICT: In Charlotte, Mark Washburn noted this season, ACC football games on WBTV-CBS "have been pushed back to a 12:30 p.m. start to accommodate a new highlights show, 'ACC Blitz,' starting at noon." That means the game "usually bleeds deep into the 3:30 p.m. SEC games." WBTV Programming Dir Shelly Hill said, "We've been getting lots of complaints." WBTV on Saturday "planned to show both games on a split screen, using audio from the most interesting one." But CBS "didn't like the idea and quashed it." As a result, WBTV planned to try picking up the LSU-Auburn game at 3:30pm "on its digital channel, 3.2" until the Wake Forest-Duke game ended (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/22).
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TRUE MASCOT: Saturday's episode of ESPN's "College GameDay" marked the 200th time analyst Lee Corso has put on a mascot head to predict the winner of a game, and ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi noted the “true kickoff -- respectfully -- to a college football Saturday doesn’t happen in a stadium, it doesn’t happen on a field. It happens on a coach’s head.” "GameDay" co-host Desmond Howard said, “There’s something strange about a crowd waiting for a grown man to put on a mascot’s head.” Corso has used guns before as props to go along with the headgear choice, and Howard said, “It’s never a good idea to put an elderly gentleman in a position where he’s holding a gun.” "GameDay" Coordinating Producer Lee Fitting: “One gun wasn’t enough. It was two guns so he wanted to go double-barreled and two guns. You get a little nervous. Like I always ask him, ‘The guns aren’t loaded, right coach?’” (“College GameDay,” ESPN, 10/22).
Fox "scored a huge coup in wresting" the '18 and '22 FIFA World Cup TV rights away from ESPN/ABC, according to the N.Y. TIMES' Jere Longman, who writes under the header, "$1 Billion World Cup TV Deal Reflects Soccer's Rise In U.S." Two TV execs said that ESPN in the bidding process "raised its bid from $350 million to $400 million," but Fox went to what sources said was the $450-500M level. Fox' winning bid "will add the sport's crown jewel to a soccer collection on its broadcast network and a cable network, Fox Soccer Channel, that already broadcasts the European Champions League." The winning bid is "more than double the combined $425 million that ESPN ($100 million) and the Spanish-language network Univision ($325 million) paid to broadcast the 2010 World Cup." The "record rights fees come at a heady time for the sport in the United States" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/22). SI.com's Grant Wahl noted Fox "seemed the least likely of the three English-language bidders to win." But it "now looks as though Fox is focusing its strategy on big international soccer properties, having secured the rights to the UEFA Champions League and these two World Cups." Based on ESPN's "recent treatment of the biggest soccer events," Fox "has a long way to go to catch ESPN when it comes to smart, high-quality coverage of the world's most popular sport." One key piece of information that is "still unknown is whether Fox stipulated to FIFA that it was committed to purchasing the rights for MLS and U.S. Soccer during its eight-year World Cup rights-holding period." If FIFA was "simply interested in the highest-money bid regardless of a network's commitment to growing the sport in America, that could be bad news indeed for MLS and U.S. Soccer, which are tied for the next three years with ESPN and NBC thanks to their partnership contracts" (SI.com, 10/21).
FORMING AN EMPIRE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Lauren Schuker noted the "sharp increases in World Cup fees come as sports rights have escalated in general" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/22). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jon Lafayette noted Fox can "use the World Cup to boost distribution and rights fees for its soccer channels." The matches "could also wind up on FX, which just added college football and UFC." While ESPN is "often blamed for the rapidly escalating cost of sports rights -- most recently when it agreed to a new $15.2 billion deal with the NFL -- it's interesting to note that in three recent competitions, ESPN was outbid, losing the Olympics and the NHL to Comcast and NBCU, as well as the World Cup to Fox" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 10/21). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote, "What a coup for Fox Sports." If soccer "continues its trend upwards in this country, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be ratings bonanzas." While ESPN has been "getting all the credit for their soccer coverage, Fox is slowly building a soccer empire." Yoder: "Here's the rub. Fox Sports has been atrocious in televising major soccer events." Yoder asked, "Where does ESPN go from here? ... Nothing will change in the next few years regarding ESPN's superior soccer coverage with the EPL, MLS, US National Team, and 2014 World Cup. However, afterwards I would expect ESPN to more fervently pursue the European club game and make an even bigger commitment to the EPL and others" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 10/21).
NETTING A GOAL: In L.A., Joe Flint noted for Telemundo "in particular, getting the World Cup is a coup." The network has "long trailed Univision in ratings, and having the World Cup will give it a huge platform to promote the rest of its programming to the growing Latino audiences in the United States." NBCU Chair Lauren Zalaznick said, "This landmark deal for Telemundo represents perhaps the greatest milestone in its history" (L.A. TIMES, 10/22). Also in L.A., Lisa Dillman wrote under the header, "Fox Wins World Cup Broadcast Rights -- Worried?" Dillman: "The not-so-funny side of Fox scares people -- in particular, sports fans used to their major events delivered in a certain way. ESPN has handled soccer pitch-perfectly, and the immediate reaction to Friday's news has been a mixture of concern and wariness." Dillman continued, "It's hard to believe ESPN would abandon soccer coverage in a meaningful and immediate way" (L.A. TIMES, 10/23).
Litner will oversee Comcast SportsNet
RSNs and all of NBC's golf businesses
HIGH FIVE: The AP's Stephen Singer reported Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy "negotiated to bring NBC Sports to Connecticut as part of his 'First Five' initiative, which is intended to consolidate various tax credits to draw the first five businesses that invest $25 million in Connecticut and create 200 jobs over five years." So far, he "has struck deals with ESPN ... as well as insurer Cigna and the online ticket exchange TicketNetwork Inc." A government official said that "details about the tax credits in the latest deal still have to be worked out between the legislature and NBC Sports" (AP, 10/21).
The Formula One Teams Association "has hired Evolution Media Capital, a boutique investment bank, to assess the value of its media rights before it negotiates a new funding agreement with CVC, the private equity firm that owns the sport," according to Garrahan & Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. FOTA, F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA, the sport's governing body, next year are "due to negotiate a new 'Concorde agreement,' which divides up F1 revenues," and team owners are "anxious to secure a larger share." A source said, "This sport is probably the second or third largest in the world and the teams who take all the financial risk receive a minority share of the revenues. There is so much value that these guys are sitting on that they are not realising." Garrahan & Blitz note the hiring of EMC "comes as potential buyers have explored possible bids" for F1 (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/24).
Today marks the 10th anniversary episode of ESPN’s “PTI,” the net’s 30-minute weekday sports discussion and debate program hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. The show made its official debut on Oct. 22, 2001, and has since become one of ESPN’s signature programs with its back-and-forth banter between Wilbon and Kornheiser. Through the years, the show has featured an all-star list of guests and, according to ESPN, has increased its ratings and viewership nearly every year since its inception. Wilbon recently spoke with Television Editor Paul Sanford about the show, his relationship with Kornheiser and whether they will last another 10 years.Q: Favorite off-site location to broadcast from?
Q: Did you ever think you would be talking about “PTI” 10 years later when you first started the show?
Wilbon: If I have any attribute that serves me well, it’s I don’t have a long-range plan in life. I have no idea. I just don’t look ahead, I really don’t. You know when people get out of college and they’re talking about their five-year plan. Five-year plan? I got a plan to get to Friday. I didn’t think about, “Wow, it’s going to be or it won’t be.” If anything, I probably had a little bit of an ego about it. I thought after we got started and people seemed to like it that it would last. But I didn’t have a time associated with that thought. Each of us signed a three-year deal and two of them were guaranteed. I said to Tony, “Look, the worst possible case scenario is we’re thrown off the air by Christmas and we have two years of guaranteed money.” Tony said, "That’s your worst-case scenario? That’s my best-case scenario." Ten years is a long time.
Q: How would you describe your on-air chemistry with Tony?
Wilbon: It’s the same as it is off the air. People will play golf with us in suburban DC and they’ll say, “This is just like being on the show.” The friendship existed long before “PTI” with much more (four-letter words) on the golf course. We joke all the time about the HBO version of the show.
Q: Who has been your favorite guest over the years?
Wilbon: I know there are a group of guests that are my favorite that differ from the producers and differ from Tony’s. One of my favorite guests is (former Rhodes scholar and Florida State S) Myron Rolle -- he's not just a favorite guest, he’s one of the favorite people I’ve met in 30 years of doing this. Charles Barkley was our very first guest because I asked him to be and he said yes because Charles believed in the show before I did. My favorite guests are Barkley, Michael Strahan -- he hasn’t been on in years because he went to Fox and he couldn’t be on. Oh my God, he was a great guest.
Q: What makes a good guest?
Wilbon: They’re conversational. I like guys who have a point of view. They don’t come on thinking they can’t say to me, “I heard what you said Thursday. You were out of your mind.” I want that. I want it to be conversational, just like we’re conversational. What makes a great guest is a person who can fit in to what we do, where it’s not an interview.
Q: Who is your favorite guest host and how does the dynamic differ with the guest host than when you do the show with Tony?
Wilbon: It changes because you don’t know the person as long or as well. Tony and I -- I know a lot of his positions. There are people who think I listen to (Dan) Le Batard more closely because I can’t predict all of his answers like I can predict a lot of Tony’s because I’ve known Dan well for 10 years and Tony well for 30. I’ll tell you an underrated guest host who was my favorite was Michele Tafoya. Le Batard and (Boston Globe columnist) Bob Ryan have been pillars of the show. I thought Michele Tafoya was our best guest host the first few years of the show. Le Batard has done it to the point where I think Danny and I do the show really well.
Q: How involved are you in the creative side of the show in developing the segments, such as “Heads on Sticks,” "Oddsmakers," etc?
Wilbon: I’m not involved in the creation of each device. In other words, I had no input into “Oddsmakers” or “Toss Up” or names of them or what day we do them. I don’t have any interest in being involved in that because the device is the same. Whatever it’s called that day, whether we play “Oddsmakers” or “Toss Up,” it’s essentially just a way to get us into a discussion. I’m intimately involved in the discussion in terms of what we're going to discuss.
Q: If you could have anyone in the history of sports as a guest, who would it be?
Wilbon: It’s got to be a great talker. Muhammad Ali in 1966, and that has to be Tony’s dream guest. I don’t know that Babe Ruth was boastful enough. There’s not enough sound of Babe Ruth to know, but Babe Ruth in 1927 would be second choice. Jim Brown in 1969 as he’s getting ready to retire at the top of his game.
Q: Who watches the show that would surprise us?
Wilbon: I know the President of the United States watches the show. I know the last two presidents of the United States watch the show and not just like once every four months. They watch the show. Here’s what surprised me and brought me greater joy than the president watching: Eva Longoria. I became friends with Eva Longoria. Not Evan Longoria, Eva Longoria because she watches, she’s into it. If you ask me who I care more about, some athlete or Eva Longoria, it’s Eva Longoria a hundred times out of a hundred. (Ed. note: Wilbon later noted Sen. John McCain and the late Tim Russert were also fans of the show).
Wilbon wishes "PTI" could get out of the studio
more and broadcast from sporting events
Wilbon: I go on the road with the show all the time. Tony only did during his “Monday Night Football” time. I love it when the weather’s bad and we’re sitting there ... because they know you’re somewhere where sports are going to be. I hate antiseptic crap. I don’t really love any studio. I like to be at the event. That’s how television should be done. Nobody at “PTI” agrees with me. I don’t care that they don’t agree with me.
Q: Have you ever said anything on-air during the show that you regretted saying and had to apologize for?
Wilbon: I’ve had a hundred of those, not apologize. I’ve come back and said, “What was I thinking?” I’ve never had one where I thought I said something offensive. It was more I thought it was wrong or the wrong take or I said the next day, “You know, that was really dumb.”
Q: Do people you talk about during the show ever call you to complain or comment about what you said about them?
Wilbon: Oh God yes, and when I really appreciate it is that they’re guys I covered and they don’t feel like they need to agree with me. They’ll call and say, “Have you lost your mind?” Or, “I love that. That made me really laugh or it brought me to tears.” … Assistant coaches and managers over all the sports who will call and say, “Hey, you missed that. What you didn’t know was this.” I appreciate all those people. They do it out of respect because they want you to know they’re paying attention and that the conversation matters.
Q: Is there anything that’s off-limits that you won’t discuss or address on the show?
Wilbon: No, not because of a generality. There are topics where we say, “No, that’s stupid. No, we’re not going to do that.” “SportsCenter” likes to talk about some stuff sometimes and in the culture we live in, everything is snap judgment. Every time somebody hits three home runs they think it’s the greatest performance by a baseball player ever and our response as 52 and 62-year-old men is to say, “Shut up. Shut up.” Nothing that happened today is the greatest thing ever.
Q: Are we going to be back here 10 years from now talking about the 20th anniversary of “PTI” with you and Tony still hosting the show?
Wilbon: It all depends on whether Tony decides to retire and make good on his threat -- and I’m quoting him -- “go and be with my people in Boca.” That is his constant threat. Some days I think he’s serious about it. I hope we do the show 10 more years. Is that realistic? I doubt it. If I’m Tony, at some point I say, “You know what, I’ve had enough of this.” … It depends on who the person is. It’s not “Crossfire,” where two guys were just paired up and they just started screaming at each other and took opposite opinions. People who don’t know we’re friends don’t really watch the show.