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CBSSports.com execs said they are expecting a digital audience of at least a low six-figure number of unique visitors for Saturday's LSU-Alabama football game. The high-profile matchup will be streamed live to a variety of devices, including the iPhone and iPad, as part of CBS' existing multi-platform relationship with the SEC. But given this is the first regular season No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in five years -- a time period that covers the advent of the iPhone and iPad as well as CBS's comprehensive live streaming of SEC games -- CBSSports.com is expecting a strong double-digit percentage increase in traffic compared to other recent SEC live game streams. "The only thing that sort of compares to this is the SEC Championship game we had [in '09 with Florida and Alabama]. That was one versus two as well, but not regular season," said CBSSports.com Senior VP & GM Jason Kint. "We stream thousands of games every year, and have big things like March Madness, of course. But this is one of the biggest events we ever had to go across all platforms, certainly the biggest football game. The mobile element in particular is going to be really interesting to see since it's a Saturday night and lot of people will be out and not necessarily in front of a TV" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
HISTORICAL NUMBERS: CBS' most-viewed regular-season college football telecast ever remains the Notre Dame-Miami matchup from '89, which averaged 22.5 million viewers. Including bowl games on the network, that telecast would rank as the second-highest audience for any college football game behind the '96 Nebraska-Florida Fiesta Bowl, which averaged 27.9 million viewers.. Meanwhile, the most-watched college football game on ABC on record is the Notre Dame-USC game from '88, while ESPN's most-viewed game is the Florida State-Miami matchup from '94. Listed below are the most-viewed regular-season college football games ever on CBS, with records dating back to '87 (THE DAILY).
MOST-VIEWED REGULAR-SEASON COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMES ON CBSYEARMATCHUPVIEWERS (000)'89Notre Dame-Miami22,495'09SEC Championship: Alabama-Florida17,969'08SEC Championship: Florida-Alabama15,061'89USC-Notre Dame14,745
"SUPER BOWL TREATMENT" FROM ESPN: In Tuscaloosa, Bryan Reynolds in a front-page piece reports ESPN's "College GameDay" crew arrived at the Alabama campus Wednesday and began broadcasting "College Football Live" "in the shadows of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Thursday afternoon, a day sooner than their normal schedule." "GameDay" producer Lee Fitting said, "This game has taken on a life of its own. It's rare where we come in on a Thursday and do coverage a day, day and a half early. It probably happens one or two times a year, but this was an easy one." "GameDay" co-host Chris Fowler noted he typically arrives at the site of the weekly show on Friday, but Saturday night's game is "so big we're all in here doing College Football Live and giving it the Super Bowl treatment." Fowler: "These analysts are so pumped up about this game, we could do a four-hour special" (TUSCALOOSA NEWS, 11/4).
BECOMING AN EVENT: In Baton Rouge, Scott Rabalais notes the game is "becoming a happening" as determined by the "people trying to get in to Bryant-Denny Stadium." NCAA President and former LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert confirmed that he "plans to attend the game," while MLB Giants P Brian Wilson, who played at LSU, "has reportedly requested a sideline pass." Alabama has "credentialed more than 600 media for the game," including about 75 personnel from CBS (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 11/4).
UFC will take its "broadest step yet toward the mainstream" on Nov. 12 when the fight card held at the Honda Center in Anaheim is "broadcast live on Fox, the first event in a seven-year deal with the network," according to Jon Wertheim of SI. This marks a "significant milestone" for UFC as the Fox deal is the "biggest opportunity to move away from the PPV model and truly grow the audience, allay the skeptics and showcase fighters who are skilled athletes and, overwhelmingly, decent and upright citizens." The overnight ratings "will tell us plenty about the UFC's place in the current sports hierarchy" (SI, 11/7 issue). Fox Sports Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said for the net's debut fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, Fox needs "to remember to respect the audience by remembering that we're introducing this to America." USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes UFC itself "will do most of the introducing, since it maintains control of the fight coverage and will use announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan." But Fox "will control the pre- and post-fight shows," where it will use Curt Menefee as host and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and UFC President Dana White as analysts. Prefight coverage of the event "will be on Fox's Fuel TV cable channel" (USA TODAY, 11/4).
CONVERTING VIEWERS TO FANS: USA TODAY's Sergio Non reports UFC parent company Zuffa will "start its biggest marketing effort yet next week when it arrives on the Fox network." Zuffa officials have said that the company "will be giving up a significant amount of revenue by putting a title fight on free TV, but all they hope to do is turn a small percentage of new viewers into pay-per-view adherents." Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta: "We look at Fox. They're, in our opinion, the No. 1 leader in sports. They broadcast the Super Bowl, Major League Baseball, World Series, serious NCAA football. I think the way that they produce those shows, they're a little bit edgier of a network. ... They just seem to be a little bit more attuned to males and young males, which obviously is our demographic." Fertitta continued, "Our model has been very successful for us, as far as putting our product on free TV to generate new fans, and that's the way we look at it. I'm not concerned about what our bottom line looks like in November; I'm concerned about what it looks like five years from now." He noted the idea behind the Nov. 12 broadcast is to "draw millions of more fans into the group." Fertitta: " If I can convert 100,000 of those millions that will be watching for the first time into customers for the next 20 years, then our investment on Fox has paid off" (USATODAY.com, 11/3).
SPIKED OFF: In Detroit, Matt Bishop reports Spike "didn't even bother to advertise this weekend's UFC 138, which airs on Spike on tape delay from Birmingham, England, during this week's edition of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’” UFC also has “removed all mentions of Spike from its website.” There is “zero mention that this weekend's event, headlined by the first five-round non-title bout in company history between Chris Leben and Mark Munoz, will even air on Spike if you just went by the UFC's website.” The show “has been so poorly promoted by both sides, and largely overlooked and forgotten by fans, that it has the chance to become the least-watched live special ever put on by the UFC and Spike, especially considering it will go head-to-head with the LSU-Alabama football game and is starting at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than usual” (DETROIT NEWS, 11/4). The net did air a promo for the card Thursday night during its broadcast of "Impact Wrestling" (THE DAILY).
THE NEW HIRE: In Boston, Chad Finn notes Jon Anik was hired last week by UFC "as the voice and face of its Fuel TV and FX broadcasts." Anik, who had hosted ESPN's "MMA Live" studio show since '08, "will handle play-by-play of the networks' UFC fights while also hosting 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality show." Anik will call his first fight on Jan. 20. He said, "There’s some pressure. If Dana White doesn’t like how I sound calling his events, then they’re not going to keep me around. But when opportunities present themselves, you have to take them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/4).
Fox' NFL game telecasts are averaging a 12.0 Nielsen rating and 19.8 million viewers Week Eight, marking an all-time high for the net through the midpoint of the season. Those figures are also up from last year's 11.5 rating and 19.0 million viewers at the same point -- figures which were also record highs at the time. The NFL's three other national TV partners are seeing declines to date for game coverage. NBC is averaging a 12.8 rating and 21.3 million viewers, down slightly for both metrics compared to last season, but up from the same point in '09. Dating back to Week Seven of the '09 season, NFL regular-season games on NBC have been the highest-rated telecast for their respective nights on 35 out of 36 occasions. The net's games this season are also averaging an 8.7 rating among adults 18-49, which is a record mark through eight weeks. CBS is also seeing a slight drop for game ratings and viewership compared to '10, but the figures marks the second-highest NFL audience on the net through eight weeks since CBS re-acquired NFL rights in '98. ESPN continues to see a double-digit percentage drop for ratings and viewership for its "MNF" package. However, the game remain at the top of cable TV's most-viewed telecasts.
NFL GAME RATINGS, VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK EIGHTNET'11 RAT.PREV.% +/-'11 VIEWERS (000)PREV.% +/-NBC12.813.0-1.5%21,26221,527-1.2%Fox12.011.54.3%19,80019,0004.2%CBS10.510.9-3.7%17,26518,034-4.3%ESPN8.29.2-10.9%12,77114,626-12.7%
Google is considering a plan to "offer paid cable-TV services to consumers, a move that could unleash a new wave of competition within the traditional TV business,” according to Schechner & Efrati of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources said that Google “has looked at ways to expand a previously announced project to build a high-speed Internet service in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., adding video and phone service in a mirror of offerings from cable and telecom companies.” The company as a result “has discussed distributing major TV channels from companies like Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc. and Discovery Communications Inc. as part of the video service, though the discussions were exploratory and no final decisions have been made.” Google last week “unveiled a series of deals with celebrities and production companies to create roughly 100 free, ad-supported online ‘channels’ for its YouTube online video service.” Former Google Product Dir Keval Desai said, “TV is built on a closed system, which is why traditional cable and satellite operators are the only place where consumers can get ESPN and other channels." He added that “as more TVs become connected to the Web, ‘Internet companies like Google will be able to give you that same high-quality content,’ possibly at lower prices” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/4).
In Minneapolis, Joe Christensen notes Cory Provus is the "new radio play-by-play voice for the Twins" after serving the "past three years as the Brewers' No. 2 radio voice." Provus was viewed as Bob Uecker's "heir apparent before the Twins hired him to replace" the retiring John Gordon. Provus will "handle play-by-play duties for either five or six innings," with analyst Dan Gladden "doing the rest, but they will constantly serve as a two-man booth" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/4). Provus said, "How could you not just accept and want this opportunity? ... You dream about calling that dramatic ninth inning, and that’s what the No. 1 chair allows" (KSTP-ABC, 11/3). Brewers VP/Communications Tyler Barnes said, "You never want to lose someone, but when they have an opportunity like this -- there are only 30 of these jobs out there" (JSONLINE.com, 11/3).
ANOTHER NIGHT'S WORK: In California, Jim Carlisle notes Brad Nessler "has become one of the unmistakable voices of college football over the last two decades for ESPN and ABC," but next week he will "add the NFL to his repertoire, doing play-by-play for NFL Network's Thursday night games." Nessler three times he "called the second game of season-opening 'Monday Night Football' doubleheaders on ESPN, and he also called a few games for CBS in the 1990s." He said, "It's a challenge; I can't argue with that. But I've been sort of involved with the NFL for a long time when I started my career and it's kind of come full circle. I started doing NFL games when I was 25 and I'm certainly not 25 anymore" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 11/4).
FROM THE SIDELINES: CBS Sports sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, who will work Saturday's LSU-Alabama game, said teams "make up their own set of rules" about relaying news on things such as player injuries. Wolfson "expects both teams will let her near the benches" on Saturday night. USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes college sideline reporters "face fewer restrictions than their NFL counterparts" (USA TODAY, 11/4).
VOICES OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL: ESPN released its '11-12 college basketball announcer pairings, and the list included several newcomers. "MNF" play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico will work the weekly Big Ten "Super Tuesday" game with analyst Dan Dakich. Meanwhile, with the NBA having canceled all games at least through the end of November, ESPN's primary NBA broadcast team of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy will work select non-conference college games this month. Rece Davis will return to host "College GameDay" with analysts Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis (THE DAILY).
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Hazel Mae will return to Rogers Sportsnet as anchor for the 6:00pm ET weeknight edition of "Sportsnet Connected" on Sportsnet East. Mae will work across all Sportsnet platforms and as a regular contributor on Sportsnet magazine and sportnet.ca (Rogers Sportsnet). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes Mae, who worked for NESN and MLB Network after leaving Sportsnet in '04, “polished her game, evolving from a bubbly to a more substantial on-air presence.” Going “head-to-head with Rod Smith on TSN’s ‘SportsCentre,’ she’ll need some gravitas” (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/4).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on CBS": Patriots-Steelers (85%)10/30CBS4:15-7:30pm14.624,564 "Sunday Night Football": Cowboys-Eagles10/30NBC8:31-11:06pm13.822,994 "NFL on Fox": (single)10/30Fox1:00-4:05pm10.317,110 "NFL on CBS": (regional)10/30CBS1:00-4:15pm9.113,942 "Football Night in America"10/30NBC7:30-8:15pm6.010,002 College Football: (regional)10/29ABC8:07pm-12:08am5.38,426 College Football: Georgia-Florida10/29CBS3:30-7:25pm3.25,001 "Fox NFL Sunday"10/30Fox12:00-1:00pm3.04,300 College Football: (regional)10/29ABC3:30-7:11pm2.74,420 "The NFL Today"10/30CBS12:00-1:00pm2.4n/a "UFC Primetime" (preview show)10/30Fox5:00-6:00pm1.32,000 College Football: Notre Dame-Navy10/29NBC3:30-6:41pm1.11,724 PBR Finals (taped)10/30NBC4:00-6:00pm0.81,174 "College Football Countdown"10/29ABC3:00-3:30pm0.6n/a "College Football Today"10/29CBS3:00-3:30pm0.5n/a "College Football 2011"10/29CBS2:30-3:00pm0.4649
NOTE: Local ratings for N.Y., Boston, Philadelphia and Hartford were excluded last weekend due to a snowstorm.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football":
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Martinsville10/30ESPN1:43-6:01pm3.14,923 College Football:
"Monday Night Countdown"10/24ESPN7:00-8:30pm1.92,772 "Sunday NFL Countdown"10/30ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.62,329 "NASCAR Countdown"10/30ESPN1:00-1:43pm1.52,291 "College GameDay"10/29ESPN10:00am-12:01pm1.52,043 College Football:
OWNING THE LOCAL MARKET: The Sabres drew the "highest local television ratings" in the NHL in October and are up 15.2% from the same period last year. MSG Network "averaged an 8.3 rating last month, the highest number in three years for the Buffalo market." That "compares to a 7.2 rating" in '10-11, and takes into account the "two afternoon games the team played while in Europe to start the season." In primetime games on MSG, the Sabres telecasts "averaged a 9.3 rating and approximately 60,000 viewing households" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/3).
SUNDAY BEST: New Orleans has the "highest local TV ratings for NFL home games; it's averaging 50.1% of households for Saints games." Detroit has the "biggest ratings increase over 2010 -- up 25% -- while the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams tied for the biggest ratings drop with each off 20%" (USA TODAY, 11/4)....The Falcons' TV ratings "through the first seven games are up 12 percent from last season in the Atlanta 23-county designated market area." The team is "enjoying its highest ratings start through seven games in franchise history" (AJC.com, 11/4).
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes KTVI-Fox “cashed in" by televising the seven-game Cardinals-Rangers World Series. KTVI GM Spencer Koch estimates that the station's revenue during the Series "was 70 percent above what it would have been without the games given that the station also had a lot of local coverage wrapping around the network feed.” Koch: “A lot of overtime went into producing all that. But it was money well spent, it was like seven Super Bowls spread over 12 days.'' Caesar notes the ratings “far exceeded Koch's projections.” Nielsen ratings showed 89% of area homes with a TV in use "tuned in when the final out was made” last Friday night. KMOX-AM carried the series locally on radio, and KMOX Marketing Manager John Sheehan said, “Playoff baseball brings advertisers in that wouldn't otherwise advertise in St. Louis and I think the entire radio community saw a lift” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/4).
KEEPING SOME SECRETS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Reed Albergotti notes every play during an NFL game “is filmed from multiple angles” but despite the $4B "or so the NFL makes every year by selling its broadcast rights, there's some footage the league keeps hidden.” If you ask the league “to see the footage that was taken from on high to show the entire field and what all 22 players did on every play, the response will be emphatic.” NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy wrote in an e-mail, “NO ONE gets that." Earlier this month, the NFL “quietly asked fans, through a survey site, whether they would pay up to $100 to watch an online feed of the All 22,” the name given to the pulled-back, wide angle view of the field. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that the league "wasn't actually serious about releasing the footage" and that the survey "was meant only to gauge fan interest" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/4).
BATTLE OF THE VOICES: In N.Y. Bob Raissman writes CBS' top NFL announcer team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will call Sunday's Jets-Bills game at 1:00pm ET, while Fox' top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman “appear in the 4:15 p.m. act, calling Giants-Patriots on Fox.” Raissman writes both No. 1 teams "would like to be known as the best in a cutthroat business.” Sunday there will be “even more scrutiny -- more opportunity to compare and contrast Nantz/Simms with Buck/Aikman." Everything they say "will be intensified, and even “innocuous throwaway lines can spark controversy” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/4).
CONSTANT CONTACT: BLOODHORSE's Ron Mitchell reported policies at this year’s Breeders’ Cup "will still allow pre-race television interviews with jockeys immediately prior to the start of a World Championship race.” Kentucky Horse Racing Authority Chief Steward John Veitch said that it was agreed upon Wednesday “that jockeys could be interviewed by broadcasters on horseback during the two-minute window leading up to post time” (BLOODHORSE.com, 11/3).