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There is “no doubt that CNN did a superior job to ESPN” in covering the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier Wednesday night “amid the maelstrom of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky,” according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. CNN’s cameras “were there for the beginning of the escalating tension between students and police dressed in riot gear.” ESPN “stunningly … did not have a live camera in place and did not have footage of the tense scene” until 11:15pm ET. Instead, it relied upon "SportsCenter" anchors Steve Levy and Stuart Scott “to conduct phone interviews” with ESPN college football experts and personalities. Any viewer “flipping between ESPN and CNN knew ESPN’s voices had nothing on CNN’s video.” ESPN Exec VP/Production Norby Williamson said, “I will tell you that while I applaud the voices and the totality of the coverage in everything that we did, you always learn something from this, and I think when we look back and we look at a point of comparison, I think we were late and were a little remiss on our live coverage of the scene on the ground at State College." He added, “CNN had their camera in the right spot at the right time as the student insurrection, the gathering started.” Finn writes ESPN “seemed to be chasing the news the rest of the night, at one point even using recorded, static footage provided by Comcast SportsNet while CNN was live.” Williamson: “I think we could have done a better job of anticipating where we needed to be’’ (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/11). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes ESPN covered the student unrest after the firing of Paterno “as if it hadn’t mastered this TV thing.” ESPN on Wednesday “failed for more than two hours to capture the visuals of the frantic night.” Sandomir writes “all but the news conference video looked to be taped.” Sandomir: “No matter how smart ESPN’s analysts and reporters were by telephone, its package severely lacked the necessary visuals” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/11). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman wrote ESPN "deserves kudos" for staying with the story all night, but CNN "kicked ESPN's ass for a good stretch with footage" from PSU's campus (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 11/10).
MUST-SEE TV: USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy writes ESPN’s coverage of the Nebraska-Penn State game on Saturday “will probably draw a BCS bowl-sized audience,” as the telecast could become “a combination soap opera, news media circus and morality play.” ESPN analyst Urban Meyer, “speculated to be a potential successor to Paterno, will call the game along with Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman and Tom Rinaldi” (USA TODAY, 11/11). In N.Y., Bob Raismann notes Pasch “took the extra step of reaching out, calling other broadcasters for advice and counsel,” such as NBC’s Bob Costas and ESPN’s Mike Tirico, Sean McDonough and Brad Nessler. Pasch said, “I’m trying to be real sensitive to the viewer and the listener (while) just not knowing who’s listening. It could be anyone, perhaps a family member, or the alleged victim himself. I just want to be mindful of that. I want to choose my words carefully.” The presence of Meyer in the booth is “complicating matters, perhaps making the telecast even more intriguing.” With Meyer “prominently mentioned as a possible successor to Paterno,” Pasch "will likely pop that question" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/11). The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers said, “Penn State ratings just got a big bump though. I mean, this is the world we live in, they’ve got all this attention. People like me, I wasn’t following Penn State. Now I’m going to pay attention” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/10).
WRONG FOCUS? Comcast SportsNet’s Al Koken said, “If you only get your news from ESPN or Comcast SportsNet or whomever, if you happen to just glance over to CNN, who’s covering it as well, no one ever mentions the educational angle of it. You’d think Joe Pa was the president of the university … and that also becomes the ultimate part of this problem, that he’s the only part of this story, where the university president is irrelevant. And what does that tell you about the sway and the control of this football program?” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/10).
UFC President Dana White said that he “was happy with the time slot and promotion” of the organization’s debut on Fox, and noted that “complaints about only one fight airing on Saturday night should be muted by promise of the future exposure on multiple platforms,” according to Mike Chiappetta of MMA FIGHTING. Fox Sports and UFC Wednesday revealed that Fuel “will broadcast over 2,000 hours of UFC programming in 2012, devoting about 25 percent of their entire schedule to all things octagon.” In addition, every UFC fight starting in January that takes place “anywhere around the world will be televised.” In the recent past, most undercard fights “have only been available online on Facebook.com.” The UFC “plans to broadcast most live preliminaries on Fuel before the main card begins on pay-per-view, Fox or FX, depending on the specific event.” Under the terms of their deal, Fox next year “will broadcast four events while FX will host six.” Fuel is currently available “in just over 32 million households, less than a third the number of households that can watch FX.” Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill said that while Fuel's target demographic “would change slightly with the explosion of UFC programming, it would maintain its current name” (MMAFIGHTING.com, 11/9). Hill said that he was “not worried about any sort of backlash from those who may see UFC as ‘too violent.’” Hill: "If you look at the popularity of the sport, and its dramatic growth not only here but around the world, I think it’s moved from a niche to a mainstream. I don’t expect any backlash at all.” BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger noted Fox decided to air the pre- and post-fight coverage on Fuel instead of FX. Fox Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shank said it is “a way to raise awareness for Fuel” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 11/9).
VIEWER BEWARE? DAILY VARIETY’s Maury Brown wrote if there are “still concerns about the violent nature of MMA coming to broadcast television, Fox and UFC played it down.” When asked if any parental discretion advisory warnings might be presented, Hill joked, "Yes. We'll tell viewers to not try this at home" (VARIETY.com, 11/10). USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy notes the ratings for Saturday’s primetime telecast “should be a good indicator of the UFC’s potential as a big-league TV sport and how far mixed martial arts has come in supplanting boxing.” Hill said, “What boxing was to my generation, UFC is to my son’s. By the end of (Fox’s seven-year contract), UFC will be mainstream” (USA TODAY, 11/11). In L.A., Tim Hoffarth writes UFC’s recent track record “appears to give Fox a fighting chance for a lucrative partnership, but watch for the warning signs.” Hoffarth: “This could break badly for Fox. There are such things as bad money to be made. Or, in this case, blood money” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/11).
GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill Thursday at SBJ/SBD's Sports Media & Technology conference said, “You’re going to see UFC right out of the gate do a number that is not just competitive with, but better than what you’ve seen from boxing on television over the last five or 10 years. ... Our expectation is that this will be the most-watched fight of any kind in more than five years. Obviously, the platform has a lot to do with that, but it’s the track record of the sport on cable that gives us the confidence to bring it to this bigger platform. I don’t know that we could have done more to promote UFC within the World Series and the NFL. We’re trying to send a message to people that we consider this a mainstream sport. Even if people don’t see it as a mainstream today, we want to use our partnerships with the biggest and most mainstream sports out there to try to establish UFC as something that’s going to be part of our catalogue for a long time to come. Whatever the audience level is, our expectation is that it’s going to be very, very young -- maybe the youngest sport on our air -- and we think there’s a lot of room to grow that demographic” (THE DAILY)
GOING MAINSTREAM: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote Saturday will be “a momentous occasion” and is the latest of White’s “coming-out parties” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/10). White said there are “millions of people out there that have never seen the UFC that will see it for the first time on Saturday night and I think that the timing is perfect. All the things that we’ve achieved over the last 10 years, it’s time for us to take this next step.” White: “Ten years ago you couldn’t buy this on pay-per-view … and our goal was to get it onto free TV.” White added, “We’ve seen the opportunity to go mainstream now. With this platform, what we do over the next two years, then we’ll be mainstream. We need a couple years on network television.” Meanwhile, White said, “It’s a Fox Sports production, but it’s a UFC event. … When you watch this show, you’re going to feel like you’re watching Fox Sports, but the minute that action starts it’s the UFC.” When asked if UFC is “taking a hit financially to do it on free TV,” White said, “We’re going to get smashed on Saturday. … We’re taking our heavyweight championship off of pay-per-view and putting it on free TV. That’s not a big moneymaker, but what we’re doing is we’re investing in the future of the sport which is something that boxing hasn’t done” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 11/10).
NO REGRETS HERE: MMA JUNKIE’s John Morgan noted as “one era begins with the Fox family of networks, another will slowly come to an end as UFC programming is eventually replaced with Bellator Fighting Championships events on Spike TV.” White said, "I'm not saying anything bad about Spike. The guys at Spike didn't make this decision. One of the geniuses further up let the biggest sports franchise in the last 50 years go. And now they're bitter at me about it? I didn't make that decision. They did.” He added, "I think the reality is they never saw this Fox thing coming. They didn't expect that. But I've got nothing bad to say about either (Bellator or Spike TV)" (MMAJUNKIWE.com, 11/9).
The NBA lockout could be a "blowout loss for television and radio stations" that carry games, "driving away hundreds of thousands of viewers and lucrative ad revenues," according to Johnny Diaz of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Celtics “are a reliable ratings bonanza” for Comcast SportsNet New England, which last season drew 149,000 viewers for the Celtics' home opener against the Bucks on Nov. 3. On the “most comparable night this year -- Wednesday, Nov. 2, when the Celtics were scheduled to play the Cleveland Cavaliers -- SportsNet drew only 9,400 viewers.” CSN New England currently is “running old Celtics contests with commentary from NBA personalities” like Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers. A 30-second spot during a Celtics game on CSN New England “can cost from $2,500 to $4,000.” But a source said that a spot on an “off night will command only hundreds of dollars.” CSN New England Exec VP & GM Bill Bridgen said that he “has been converting advertisers such as Nissan Motor Co., which bought ads during canceled Celtics games, to other shows on his network’s schedule.” Meanwhile, WEEI-AM VP/Programming & Operations Jason Wolfe, whose radio station has carried Celtics games since ‘05, said that the station is having sports talk host Mike Adams “run longer on what would have been Celtics game nights.” Diaz writes it is “difficult to measure how many more people tune in for game nights” on the radio, as radio ratings measurement firm Arbitron “does not provide numbers for a single night” (BOSTON GLOBE ,11/11).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings lists are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. "NFL on Fox": Giants-Patriots (55%);
"Sunday Night Football": Ravens-Steelers11/6NBC8:31-11:48pm13.3 College Football: LSU-Alabama11/5CBS8:00-11:30pm11.5 "NFL on CBS": (single)11/6CBS1:00-4:05pm9.8 "The OT"11/6Fox7:38-8:00pm9.1 "NFL on Fox": (regional)11/6Fox1:00-4:15pm8.6 "Football Night in America"11/6NBC7:30-8:15pm5.5 College Football: (regional)11/5ABC3:30-7:16pm4.2 "Fox NFL Sunday"11/6Fox12:00-1:00pm3.9 "The NFL Today"11/6CBS12:00-1:00pm2.5 College Football: (regional)11/5ABC8:07-11:41pm1.8 College Football: Army-Air Force11/5CBS3:30-6:45pm1.1 Breeders' Cup World Championship11/5ABC2:00-3:30pm0.9 Figure Skating: "Rain: A Tribute to
The Beatles" (taped)11/6NBC4:00-6:00pm0.8
"College Football Today"11/5CBS3:00-3:30pm0.7 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating (taped)11/5NBC3:00-5:00pm0.7 NFL Turning Point" (taped)11/5NBC5:00-6:00pm0.6 "College Football 2011"11/5CBS2:30-3:00pm0.5 ING N.Y. Marathon (taped)11/6NBC2:00-4:00pm0.5 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. "Monday Night Football": Chargers-Chiefs10/31ESPN8:30pm-12:23am7.9 NASCAR Sprint Cup: AAA Texas 50011/6ESPN3:00-6:42pm2.9 College Football: Michigan-Iowa11/5ESPN12:02-3:14pm2.7 "Monday Night Countdown"10/31ESPN7:00-8:30pm2.0 College Football: FSU-Boston College11/3ESPN8:00-11:07pm1.7 College Football: USC-Colorado11/4ESPN8:56pm-12:25am1.7 "Sunday NFL Countdown"11/6ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.6 College Football: South Carolina-Arkansas11/5ESPN7:19-10:49pm1.5 "College GameDay"11/5ESPN10:00am-12:02pm1.5 "NASCAR Countdown"11/6ESPN2:00-3:00pm1.4