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ESPN earned an 8.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the Chiefs' 23-20 OT win over the Chargers on "MNF" from 8:30pm-12:30am ET, up slightly from an 8.6 for Colts-Titans in Week Eight last year. Ratings for N.Y., Boston, Philadelphia and Hartford remain unavailable due to the snow storm over the weekend. In K.C., the game earned a 14.3 local rating on ESPN and a 29.8 rating on KMBC-ABC. In San Diego, the game earned a 15.8 local rating on ESPN and an 18.3 rating on KFMB-CBS (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Last night’s “MNF” broadcast featured a taped introduction from former Chiefs QB Len Dawson. The intro begins with a Halloween-like spooky moon and a howling wolf, with Dawson saying, “Shadows of a glorious past, whispers of a storied legacy. Yet the memories of that age still live. At the start of the season, we buried ourselves. But we clawed our way out of the darkness with the will to survive. Now, the spirits of great Chiefs past and present are in the air tonight, All Hallows Eve. Kansas City will rise again on ‘Monday Night Football.’” As Dawson was speaking, video was shown of past and present Chiefs players making plays on the field and the music was provided by the Philharmonia of Greater K.C. (“MNF,” ESPN, 10/31). SI.com's Peter King wrote on his Twitter feed, "The ESPN opens are fantastic. Len Dawson, you were terrific, because you feel what you said." Yahoo Sports' Doug Farrar: "It took Hitler to shove ESPN into show-intro relevance, but it's nice to see."
NOT MUCH FLEXING: On Long Island, Neil Best noted the Patriots and Jets “will remain the Sunday night game on NBC Nov. 13, the first weekend in which flex scheduling is in effect.” In recent years there “hasn’t been much flexing out of the original schedule, and the only sure target on the slate this fall is Colts-Patriots Dec. 4.” It is “highly unlikely Eagles-Giants Nov. 20 or Giants-Cowboys Dec. 11 will move out of prime time” (NEWSDAY.com, 10/31).
THE ART OF SWEARING: In Houston, David Barron reports there have been no "widespread calls for delays" following several high-profile profanities making NFL and college broadcasts, including Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert’s 12-letter word on Sunday at Reliant Stadium, and no net “is likely to trim its audio-technological sails absent complaints from regulators or viewers.” The FCC has rules against "'fleeting expletives,' which would fit Gabbert's outburst Sunday." Dallas-based attorney Robert Miller said that the organization "can impose a fine if it finds that a broadcaster acted recklessly in causing indecent material or unscripted obscenities to be transmitted over the public airways." However, he added that it is "unlikely the FCC will act on its own in the Gabbert case" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/1).
Questions continue to be asked about whether ESPN has been “a key behind-the-scenes player at a time of high-profile realignment in college sports,” according to a front-page cover story by Wieberg & Berkowitz of USA TODAY. For all that ESPN has “lent to the growth of major-college athletics,” there is an “undercurrent of concern about the influence of the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports.” ESPN as a TV rights holder is a “business partner to a wide array of conferences and schools.” And as a “leading broadcast, print and online news outlet, ESPN also reports the news it's often a party to making.” Former Ohio State Univ. AD Andy Geiger said, "We're doing business with an entertainment company whose only way of surviving involves the number of eyeballs watching the screen. That is the driving force in what I see as all the decisions being made." ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said, "We haven't been advocates of change in this realm because our business interests are best served by stability." Wieberg & Berkowitz note ESPN’s 20-year, $300M partnership with the Univ. of Texas on The Longhorn Network “rankled some of the Big 12's remaining schools” and gave Texas A&M a “final excuse to bolt the Big 12." The question is whether ESPN can "objectively weigh in on realignment discussions when one conference stands to gain, another to lose and the network has contractual ties with both.” Univ. of Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said, "I suppose it is a conundrum for them." He added, “We all agree there's a concern. I'm just not sure how we do anything about it." Former Univ. of New Mexico President Louis Caldera said, "Are (conference) commissioners talking to ESPN? All the time." But Magnus said, "We have lots of conversations with our partners through the day-to-day relationships that we have with them. Do we have specific meetings where expansion possibilities are evaluated and formally discussed and schools ruled in and ruled out? I'm telling you, it doesn't work that way" (USA TODAY, 11/1).
TWITTER REAX TO ARTICLE: MidwestSportsFans.com's Robert Crowe on his Twitter feed wrote, "Some very interesting stuff here by USA Today." The Birmingham News' Jon Solomon called the article a "good read." SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote, "Good piece, broad voices.” Former Marshall Univ. Associate AD Randy Burnside: "The #occupywallstreet crew should read today's USA Today in regards to ESPN and consider a field trip to Bristol.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: The AP’s Ralph Russo wrote more than “anything else, a seemingly insatiable appetite for college football on television might keep the Big East in business” following West Virginia's impending departure for the Big 12. Media consultant Chris Bevilacqua said, “Even as we sit here today, as gloomy as it may appear, the Big East can still have a nice outcome for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is supply and demand." Russo noted Big East Commissioner John Marinatto “might have botched realignment and expansion, but he could be right about one point he has stressed for months: Being the last league to negotiate a TV deal will work to the Big East’s advantage.” Bevilacqua: “They’re the last ones on the market with a conference football package and you have multiple buyers -- that always leads to nice outcomes” (AP, 10/31).
Fox and DirecTV “reached a new carriage agreement hours before Monday's midnight deadline that kept a slew of cable channels from being pulled off the air,” according to Andrew Wallenstein of DAILY VARIETY. The agreement extended beyond cable nets like FX and Speed "to other News Corp.-owned TV properties that don't technically fall under the Fox Networks umbrella including Fox Broadcasting Co. and the O&O stations that carry the nets' programming.” In addition, News Corp. “came to terms on other cable channels including Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.” Financial terms were not made public, though sources indicated that Fox “exacted a significant increase for the channels.” However, it is not expected “to be as high as the 40% increase DirecTV claimed Fox was seeking.” The companies announced the resolution at about 3:15pm PT, less than “nine hours before the channels' were set to go dark if a deal couldn't be hammered out.” The channels that would have been affected also included Fuel TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Movie Channel, Fox Deportes, and 19 RSNs (VARIETY.com, 10/31). In N.Y., Brian Stelter noted the deal notably includes DirecTV’s “distribution for the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and Fox-owned television stations.” News Corp. had “proposed higher rates" for the bundle channels (NYTIMES.com, 10/31). SNL Kagan reports that FX “currently gets about 40 cents per subscriber, per month,” while FS West “gets almost $2.70 per subscriber, per month” (LATIMES.com, 10/31).
TAKING TO TWITTER: CABLEFAX DAILY notes as negotiations were underway yesterday, DirecTV “furiously worked Twitter, pointing disgruntled subs to its OurPromisetoYou.com site as well as to CSRs who explained DTV’s take, which is chiefly higher prices, in the programming dispute.” With the NBA officially canceling all games through November, DirecTV “already had a short-term reprieve from hoops fans on the RSN-front,” but the same “couldn’t have been said for hockey” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 11/1).
Gannett and USA Today are "getting serious about sports, with a major refocus and investment that includes the hiring of top names in editorial, marketing and sales to fill an expanding USA Today Sports Media Group," according to Terry Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The new hires, which "include such sports business veterans as Dave Morgan, Peter Lazarus, Merrill Squires and John Von Stade, are backing print and online content plays designed to make the digital version of the nation’s biggest circulation newspaper more competitive against top sports sites in an effort to drive traffic." The overall effort is being led by former SI and Broadband Sports marketer Tom Beusse, "brought on in January as president of USA Today Sports Media, with a mission to marshal sports content over Gannett’s 82 daily newspapers, 23 television stations, USA Today and digital assets, including USAToday.com." Gannett has "hired longtime editorial executive Morgan to lead the news effort." Morgan was Yahoo Sports Exec Editor "before he left in June." The goal is to "expand the relevancy and impact of the USA Today brand in sports, while balancing and enhancing sports content within Gannett’s local print products and their accompanying sites." With Morgan just starting, new editorial products "are still being planned, but they will be gradual and won’t be readily apparent until 2012." Beusse said, "By midyear, we should look wholly different." Lefton reports an industry launch "during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis is being planned." USA Today’s Sports Media Group’s sales will be "directed by Lazarus, who joins as senior vice president/head of multimedia sales." Also joining is Squires, "former sports marketing and Olympic director at SI, now senior vice president of sports marketing, who will direct league relationships." Von Stade, "longtime Velocity/Team Epic senior vice president, is also on board as vice president/properties, under which he will develop and sell properties around print franchises like the paper’s college football coaches poll" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/31 issue).
La Liga club Real Madrid will kick off Sunday's match against Club Atlético Osasuna at noon local time as club President Florentino Perez "bids to smash the global dominance of the Premier League," according to Antony Kastrinakis of the London SUN. The afternoon start will mark "the earliest game ever" at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The telecast will air in primetime locally in both Tokyo and Beijing "instead of the normal 2am-4am starts." The EPL earns $2.3B (all figures U.S.) in revenue "from overseas TV rights over three years," while La Liga reportedly earns $174.9M a year, "about a quarter of the Premier League's earnings." Far East TV companies "never splash vast sums for Spanish football because matches are played at the dead of night." Kastrinakis wrote the move is a "massive headache" for EPL CEO Richard Scudamore as Perez "has never hidden his ambition to install La Liga at the top of the TV money-tree at the English game's expense" (London SUN, 10/31). Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has "thrown his support behind the idea, speaking in glowing terms of the practical nature of the early starts for those with families." Mourinho said, "From my experience in England, it was positive to play at noon. You finish at 2pm, got home and have a day with the family" (London DAILY MAIL, 10/31).
Members of the MLB Cardinals are beginning to hit the talk-show circuit following the team winning the World Series Friday. Tony La Russa, who announced his retirement as Cardinals manager yesterday, appeared on CBS’ “Late Show” last night and host David Letterman said, "I know baseball can really take a toll on a guy -- all of those games, Spring Training and the playoffs, night after night after night. Are you serious about retiring?” La Russa: “It's time to get somebody else a shot at that great St. Louis job. It got to where I was taking things personally. We had a strategy that I took a little personally, but it was effective. The players just get so far ahead you couldn't screw it up and it worked, but I thought this is not really the place I should be.” Letterman brought up the fact La Russa brought in the wrong pitcher during Game Five of the World Series and asked him, “Have you ever brought in two guys to pitch to one batter?” La Russa called the move "probably the most embarrassing moment" due to the time and place. He said, "I made so many excuses to cover my butt at that time that I forget exactly which one.” Letterman: “That would have followed you around for quite a long time if you had not won the Series and then retire and then that's all people would have wanted to talk about” (“Late Show,” CBS, 10/31). Meanwhile, Cardinals 3B and World Series MVP David Freese appeared on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” last night. Freese came on-stage with the MVP trophy and handed it to Leno, who asked, “How hard was it to get this through security with all of these sharp edges?" Freese: “Apparently pretty tough since I missed my flight.” Leno: “We were like panicking. ‘What time does he land? He's not on the plane? Where the hell is he?’ What happened?” Freese: “I just missed my flight.” Leno asked, “Were you partying last night?” Freese: “No, no, I was trying to get a good night's rest, but just try to make it a little more exciting” (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 10/31).
CANADIAN RECORD FOR WORLD SERIES: Sportsnet saw its biggest World Series audience ever with an average of 1.1 million viewers tuning into Game Seven on Friday. That number broke the net's previous World Series high of 913,000 viewers for Game Four of the '04 Red Sox-Cardinals World Series. Sportsnet averaged 688,000 viewers over all seven games for this year's World Series, marking an 11% increase over last year's 622,000. This year's Series was the third most-watched World Series on Sportsnet, behind Yankees-Phillies in '09 (749,000) and Red Sox-Cardinals (742,000) (Sportsnet).
EVERYBODY LOVES A PARADE: The coverage of the Cardinals' World Series parade through downtown St. Louis and subsequent celebration at Busch Stadium "drew a number that rivaled what the decisive Game 5 of the first-round playoff series against Philadelphia generated." Nielsen reported that 26.7 percent of homes with a TV in the market "tuned in to the coverage, spread across four outlets, on Sunday." That was "better than all the Cards' regular-season contests and all first-round playoff games other than the finale." The parade coverage drew a 15.0 rating on KTVI-Fox, 9.9 on KSDK-NBC, 1.0 on FS Midwest and 0.8 on KPLR-CW (STLTODAY.com, 10/31).
The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Alex Ben Block noted an "ambitious new TV broadcast service targeting African Americans in the southern United States called the Soul of the South Network plans to spend at least $10 million by early next year to launch in at least 50 markets offering entertainment, sports, news and cultural programming." SSN Media Group Chair Edwin Avent, whose company is the new net's parent company, said that organizers are "negotiating deals for studio library programming that features African Americans in a southern setting, as well as rights to regional and local sports such as football, basketball and baseball games from black colleges, universities and high schools in their key markets" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/31).
PERFORMANCE ART: U.K.-based digital sports company the Perform Group has launched a new online college network called Total College Sports, featuring a series of daily short-form programming. Perform has secured video highlight rights from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12, and that content will be supplemented by studio content featuring Sean Salisbury and LaVar Arrington. Total College Sports will be a channel within Perform's ePlayer that appears on more than 250 partner websites throughout the U.S. "Total College Sports addresses a huge niche in the market," said Perform North America Managing Dir Juan Delgado. Perform will be aligned with Silver Chalice New Media's Season ad network for sales against the Total College Sports effort (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
NUMBERS GAME: L.A.-based sports simulation outfit AccuScore has launched a public beta of its first Facebook social game, SKL. The game is based in statistics-based sports trivia, and features a variety of mini-games, challenges and extended progressions. The game will focus on college and pro football, and the EPL (Fisher).