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The Rangers-Cardinals World Series is "producing the best Fall Classic drama since at least" '02, but the question is why there "aren't more folks watching," according to a sports section cover story by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Outside of the home markets of St. Louis and Dallas/Ft. Worth, there "has been precious little interest." None of Fox' broadcasts "has drawn better than a 9.2 rating, the second lowest since the Nielsen ratings started trafficking the Series in 1984." It is a problem baseball "has wrestled with for decades: Programming options proliferate and attention spans shrink." But rights fees to "broadcast baseball games have steadily increased, and Commissioner Bud Selig is highly confident that trend will continue." Selig said, "The people who count are the ones who are bidding for the rights. And we've never had so much competition for our next postseason television contract. Yes, I've talked a lot about postseason ratings, and I understand the concern. But I'm satisfied with where we are." Nightengale reports MLB "scored a modest victory by trumping the NFL head-to-head in ratings Sunday and Monday night." Cardinals P Chris Carpenter said, "We need to get people interested outside our own markets, but I'm not sure how we do that." Fox Sports Media Group Vice Chair Ed Goren indicated that it is unfair to "compare any TV ratings now to the days of Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola Sr. on the air-waves, when viewing options consisted of a handful of black-and-white channels." Meanwhile, Rangers P C.J. Wilson said, "The Nielsen TV ratings are completely garbage. It's a very unscientific representation of a true audience of any show, let alone a sports event" (USA TODAY, 10/26).
DIAMOND TOPS GRIDIRON: Fox finished with an 8.8 rating and 14.3 million viewers for Monday night’s Cardinals-Rangers Game Five, giving the World Series back-to-back ratings wins over the NFL’s Week Seven primetime games. The 8.8 rating for the game is flat compared to the net’s series-clinching Giants-Rangers Game Five last year, while the 14.3 million viewers tuning in were down 4%. Although ABC won Monday night overall powered by its “Dancing With The Stars” broadcast, Fox did take home a win among adults 18-34. Through five games, Fox’ average of an 8.3 rating and 13.7 million viewers is down only slightly from an 8.4 rating and 14.3 million viewers for last year’s five-game series (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Three of the first four World Series games "finished among the 10 most popular programs for the week," and Fox has "moved ahead of CBS for the season in the 18-49-year-old demographic it targets" (AP, 10/25).
NEW TREND FOR MLB? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes while the Rangers and Cardinals series "likely won't set a new low for World Series ratings," it presents "more evidence of Major League Baseball's new normal." Hiestand: "Every year the World Series has a chance of setting new ratings lows." With Rangers-Cardinals lasting at least six games, Fox "is likely to avoid the all-time Series ratings lows." And the World Series "still usually wins its night in TV," though it lost Monday to ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." MLB can at least "gloat over shellacking the NFL in prime time Sunday and Monday" (USA TODAY, 10/26). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes, "One of the biggest Cardinals fans -- at least for one game" will be Goren, as a win in tonight's scheduled game "would mean a Game 7 -- and a probable ratings bonanza for his company." Goren said, "More important than where the games are being played is how many games will be played. The longer it goes, the higher our ratings" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/26).
WHO CARES ABOUT RATINGS? YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan asks, "Why does anybody aside from Rupert Murdoch and his minions at Fox give a thousandth of a whoop about how many people watch the games?" MLB needs to "stop apologizing for its poor TV ratings," as they are the "furthest thing from an indictment on the game and where it has moved in today’s sporting world." MLB’s "quiet evolution into a parochial sport -- one that thrives off the popularity of teams locally instead of capturing the entire country’s attention come October -- gives it the capital to break its slavery to national ratings." Live sports remain a "treasure chest for networks" and the World Series "is a sporting jewel and will be until the audience dwindles to nothing." Passan: "This should be about the product, not about how many people saw it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/26). CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote this year's World Series is "in many ways the most fascinating World Series in 20 years between two teams who represented ratings death when the games began." This is why you "don't sweat out TV ratings or marketing opportunities." Ratto: "Take the pageant for what it is, and enjoy it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/25).
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy yesterday officially announced a $100M deal with NBC Sports Group, which “plans to bring about 450 permanent jobs to the city as part of the state's ‘First Five’ economic development program,” according to Kate King of the STAMFORD ADVOCATE. In addition to “being eligible for tax credits -- 30 percent on production, 20 percent on infrastructure -- the state has agreed to grant NBC a 10-year, $20 million loan at an interest rate of 1 percent.” The agreement will bring NBC Sports to Stamford in addition to “other elements of the network that were part of Comcast's takeover earlier this year.” The 32-acre site is “to house NBC Sports, NBC Olympics, NBC Sports Digital, Versus ... and the Comcast Sports Management Group, which oversees the NBC Sports Group's 11 regional networks.” NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said that the network will “produce its college football, Olympic and Indy Car coverage out of Stamford as well as ‘daily relevance’ talk shows.” The NHL Network will also “build studio space on the property that will house most of the network's personnel and create additional jobs that are not included in the 450 figure.” Lazarus said that NBC Sports Group “plans to begin operating in Stamford by the start of next year's NHL season.” NBC's $20M loan is “forgivable on the condition NBC achieves certain hiring benchmarks” (STAMFORD ADVOCATE, 10/26). Lazarus said that the company “is creating one 32-acre site, allowing it to build numerous studios and plan for growth” (AP, 10/25). DAILY VARIETY’s Sam Thielman noted NBC’s "Football Night in America" and “salespeople working with the Madison Avenue-based industry” will remain in N.Y. (VARIETY.com, 10/25). Golf Channel “will remain in Orlando” (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/26).
Viacom, the parent company of MTV Networks, “bought a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships and will start airing the promotion’s bouts on Spike” in ’13, according to Sergio Non of USA TODAY. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said that the two companies have “had ongoing talks for about a year as they finished up various deals, and over the past month finally reached the point where they could announce the news.” Bellator is the “No. 2 promotion in mixed martial arts behind market leader Zuffa, owner of UFC and Strikeforce.” Rebney said that the “experience and cachet of Spike in broadcasting mixed martial arts over the last six years makes it the ideal partner for Bellator.” Non notes Spike became “the first channel to embrace the sport when it started airing Zuffa’s programming” in ’05. Since Spike’s “agreement to carry new material from UFC ends in December, the channel still has rights to the promotions library through 2012.” Spike TV President Kevin Kay said that the fights from Bellator “won’t air on Spike until 2013.” Kay added that “owning its own promotion allows Spike to take a longer view and commits it more firmly to the sport.” Non notes the “overall reputation for Bellator’s assembly of talent remains far behind UFC,” but adding Viacom’s “financial muscle could help Bellator retain its biggest stars, or at least make it much harder for others to sign them away.” Moving to Spike “all but guarantees a much larger audience for Bellator.” Spike said that it is “available to almost 100 million cable and satellite subscribers, compared to roughly 80 million for MTV2” (USATODAY.com, 10/26).
IT'S SHOW TIME: UFC will make “its official Fox debut this Sunday, Oct. 30” airing “‘UFC Primetime,’ a one-hour special that previews the organization’s first UFC on Fox event, which is set for Nov. 12.” The special airs “either immediately before or after the NFL on Fox game assigned to your given market that day” (MMAJUNKIE.com, 10/25).