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Fox earned a 3.1 fast-national Nielsen rating and 5.7 million viewers for the network premiere of UFC Saturday night from 9:00-10:00pm ET. Junior Dos Santos’ first-round knockout of Cain Velasquez marked the most-viewed UFC event ever and the most-viewed professional fight of any kind since HBO averaged 7.0 million viewers for Lennox Lewis’ defeat of Vitali Klitschko in '03. UFC also topped EliteXC’s debut telecast on CBS in May ’08, which averaged a 3.0 rating and 4.9 million viewers on a Saturday night from 9:00-11:51 for a fight card featuring Kimbo Slice. Since the conclusion of the MLB postseason, Fox' 9:00-10:00pm Saturday window has featured a repeat episode of "Terra Nova" (1.2 rating, 1.9 million viewers) and a special episode of "America's Most Wanted" (2.6 rating, 4.3 million viewers). Prior to the baseball playoffs, Fox normally aired re-runs of "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show" in that window, averaging close to a 1.0 rating. While fast-national figures were not available for college football telecasts in the same window, “UFC on Fox” will likely have a larger audience than Maryland-Notre Dame on NBC and Mississippi State-Alabama on ESPN, but come in well below ABC’s Oregon-Stanford telecast. Las Vegas topped all markets for the bout with a 5.3 local rating, followed by Dallas-Ft. Worth, Phoenix and San Antonio, which each earned a 5.1 local rating (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
TUNING IN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dave Meltzer noted Fox' broadcast was the “largest audience ever to watch an MMA television show in the United States, breaking the record of 5.3 million set on Sept. 30, 2009, for an episode of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show on Spike TV featuring a taped match of Kimbo Slice vs. Roy Nelson.” Although Fox execs “would not predict a rating ahead of time, reports in the business press were that the network was selling ads based on predictions of 4.5 million viewers, so even with the short fight, they easily beat their goal.” The show was “an even bigger success in the target demographics, doing a 4.3 among males aged 18-34 and 4.0 in males 18-49." The “most impressive” figure was that the show “drew 1.7 million women over the age of 18” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/13). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir wrote under the header, “Fox’s UFC Broadcast A Hit With Viewers.” The 4.3 rating in the male 18-34 demo is higher than "any college football telecast this season” outside of LSU-Alabama on Nov. 5 (N.Y. TIMES, 11/13). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the 5.7 million viewers is not a huge number "compared to major sports, but the fight did well among key male demographics and it wasn't bad considering the fight went up against college football, including a marquee matchup between Stanford and Oregon” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/14).
SHORT BUT SWEET? The AP’s Greg Beacham noted Dos Santos beat Velasquez in just 64 seconds, bringing a “swift end" to UFC's primetime network debut. The national audience “got a taste of MMA’s violence but not much else in the unusually short fight.” White “chose the two fearsome fighters for his Fox debut because of the high potential for a stoppage victory.” But he was “clearly not thrilled with just how quickly that end arrived, criticizing Velasquez’s decision to stand and fight with Dos Santos, one of the best boxers in MMA.” Beacham noted “most of the broadcast was taken up by a primer on MMA and the two fighters -- along with more post-fight analysis than expected” (AP, 11/12). FOXSPORTS.com’s Billy Witz wrote UFC’s “long-awaited prime time moment was just that -- a moment.” Although White “raved about the production being a success, he conspicuously avoided any such flowery assessment of the fight.” Dos Santos-Velasquez “lacked the drama or controversy of Manny Pacquiao’s decision over Juan Manuel Marquez later Saturday night.” White: “What you guys have to understand is we were talking to people who have never seen UFC before. We were trying to educate people. Most of us live in this bubble of MMA. You have to ease these people into this. Tonight, we eased our way into national television” (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/13).
Dos Santos celebrates his title with Lorenzo
Fertitta (l), White and Frank Fertitta (r)
PRAISE FOR THE PRODUCTION: In S.F., Peter Hartlaub wrote most of the first Fox UFC broadcast "was well done,” and the broadcast team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan “did a good job of keeping things simple for new fans” (SFGATE.com, 11/12). YAHOO SPORTS’ Maggie Hendricks wrote the hour-long broadcast was “well-paced and informative, but far from perfect.” There were “elements that the UFC and Fox should definitely do again, and a few they need to change.” Some of the changes could include reminding White “to take a breath.” Hendricks noted White, who served as an analyst, was “excited and nervous, but my Twitter timeline was filled with people who don't usually watch MMA saying that they didn't understand White.” In addition, Fox and UFC next time should “make room for another fight, or at least show a highlight reel of the undercard” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/13). In Las Vegas, Case Keefer noted first UFC fight on network TV “featured nothing resembling momentum swings or heavy slugging exchanges that would have captivated casual sports fans.” Still, White described the co-production with the UFC and FOX on the evening as “seamless” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 11/13). SI.com’s Jeff Wagenheim wondered, “What kind of impression did the UFC make on those folks at home who were curious enough to tune in?” Viewers “might have had a better chance of ‘getting’ the UFC if they'd got to see the co-main event.” Still, that UFC’s time under the network TV spotlight “involved just 64 seconds of fighting did not bother” White. He said, "Tonight couldn't have gone better” (SI.com, 11/13).
CONVERTING THE CURIOUS INTO FANS: In N.Y., Barry Bearak noted UFC was seeking “to make its way into the mainstream,” but can Saturday night fights on Fox -- this one and four next year – “entice the curious into the octagon and win their loyalty?” TBA Worldwide Chief Strategy Officer Rich Luker, said, “UFC is definitely bigger now than boxing or wrestling, maybe even the two combined, though not yet as big as either during their peaks. It’s clearly the flavor of the month, but that was once true of poker and then the numbers fell like a rock.” Zuffa’s books are private, but Fertitta said, “I feel pretty comfortable saying we’re the most valuable sports franchise on the planet, more than Manchester United, more than the New York Yankees, more than the Dallas Cowboys.” Bearak noted that would put UFC “in the $2 billion range.” UFC has acquired World Extreme Cagefighting, Pride Fighting Championships and Strikeforce and it is “provoking complaints of monopolistic practices.” But Fertitta said, “We bought up guys who were going bankrupt. There’s no barrier to entry. If you want to start your own league, put together three letters, buy an octagon and sign some fighters.” Complaints about “antitrust violations have been made to the Federal Trade Commission, which has not disclosed whether an official investigation is under way.” Fertitta: “I don’t want to talk about the FTC. It’s inappropriate given that they are asking us questions, and I really can’t get into any details” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/12).
ESPN delivered "effective, nuanced coverage" of Penn State Univ.'s first football game since the child sexual abuse scandal surrounding the school emerged last week, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. There were concerns ESPN "would make two big mistakes" -- act as an "apologist for [former PSU football coach Joe] Paterno and worry more about the scandal's impact" on Paterno and "make Saturday's event about ESPN." The net "didn't make either mistake," and Saturday's coverage "was all the stronger for it." ESPN's on-air talent "wisely kept the focus where it should have been Saturday: the players and coaches from the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers; the victims and their families; and the tough future for the folks in Happy Valley who face years of lawsuits, scandal coverage and rebuilding." The "College GameDay" crew did not "go in the tank for JoePa either" (USATODAY.com, 11/12). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Sofia Fernandez wrote the situation was "handled with taste by ESPN" during the Nebraska-Penn State game. The net "addressed the issue in its interviews with new head coach Tom Bradley and quarterback coach Jay Paterno ... but did not go overboard in its approach." Meanwhile, halftime shows on other networks such as CBS and ABC that were "televising college gridiron games Saturday mentioned the scandal when reporting game scores but were mostly restrained like ESPN" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/12). The game earned a 3.8 overnight Nielsen rating on ESPN, marking the net’s highest-rated college football game in the 12:00pm ET window on record, dating back to ’01 (THE DAILY).
GOOD CALL: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes after a week in which it "did not offer the best Penn State scandal coverage, ESPN rebounded with excellent work Saturday." "College GameDay" addressed the PSU "situation in a respectful way, but with journalistic integrity." The show "wisely ended 15 minutes early so ESPN could go to pregame coverage of the Penn State-Nebraska game, which included Penn State players taking the field and a prayer at midfield involving both teams." The game broadcast was a "delicate balance of covering an actual football game and what it all meant in the grand scheme of things, and ESPN handled it deftly" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/14). However, FOXSPORTS.com's Brian Lowry wrote ESPN's crew of play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch, analyst Chris Spielman and sideline reporters Tom Rinaldi and Lisa Salters "appeared in over their heads." Pasch kept "calling the day 'emotional,' but that hardly sounds commensurate with the scandal's magnitude." Nor did "anyone ever broach an obvious question -- whether Paterno’s assistants who remain on the staff might have been aware about the charges against Jerry Sandusky that have rocked the program." The "GameDay" crew also "seemed uncomfortable, trying to go back and forth between X's and O's and what Penn State players had been through over the past week." Lowry: "They face a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't challenge" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/12).
GETTING TOO CLOSE? USA TODAY's McCarthy notes ESPN had a camera crew and reporter Mark Schwarz "stationed outside Paterno's house from morning to night Saturday." McCarthy asks, "Did ESPN and other news media cross the line staking out Paterno's home?" ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz said, "The footage and reports from that location and others have helped provide perspective for viewers." Still, several reporters "mentioned over the weekend that they were witnessing an angry backlash from locals in State College, Pa., who are tired of the media that have descended on their town" (USA TODAY, 11/14).
BAD TIMING AWARD: In L.A., Mike Hiserman noted when "GameDay" returned from a commercial break showing PSU players who "were chanting and moving rhythmically in a large circle, firing themselves up before the game," viewers could hear Lee Corso off camera saying, "Where's that little kid?" Krulewitz said that a "charity auction was held and the winner got to hand the hat to Corso" of the team he was going to pick for the upcoming segment. The winner was a child, so the comment was "merely a shocking coincidence" (LATIMES.com, 11/12).
Fox led all Sunday NFL broadcasts with a 17.2 overnight Nielsen rating for its national window, which featured Giants-49ers in 70% of markets. That rating is down 2.3% from a 17.6 for the net's comparable Week 10 national window last year, which featured Cowboys-Giants. Fox did see overnight ratings increase for regional coverage in the early window (+2.2%). NBC earned a 14.5 overnight for the Patriots-Jets "SNF" matchup, up 2.1% from Patriots-Steelers. The game topped all broadcasts in primetime and led NBC to another win for the night. Boston and Providence led all markets with a 36.9 and 31.4 local rating, respectively, while N.Y. ranked seventh with a 17.3 rating. CBS' singleheader averaged an 11.9 overnight, up 3.5% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
NFL WEEK 10: SUNDAY OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNET
'11 TELECASTRAT. '10 TELECASTRAT.% +/-CBS (single)11.9 (single)11.53.5%Fox (regional)9.1 (regional)8.92.2%Fox Giants-49ers (70%)17.2 Cowboys-Giants (83%)17.6-2.3%NBC Patriots-Jets14.5 Patriots-Steelers14.22.1%
LOOK INTO THINGS FURTHER: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes the analysis of CBS' Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf during yesterday's Ravens-Seahawks game "was not one of their dumb-and-dumber performances," but it "wasn't very good either." Dierdorf and Gumbel mentioned how Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson "was in such pain" with a pectoral injury Saturday that he "tried to protect his right side when he shook hands with them." Zurawik: "CBS Sports could try to find out if they shot Jackson up with pain killers before the game. Other networks have managed to report that players have received pain-killing injections in order to play in games this season, why not CBS?" Meanwhile, after recent Ravens games aired on Fox and NBC, it was "almost unbearable to once again be subjected to the maddening barrage of promotions for CBS prime-time series" during the game (Baltimore SUN, 11/14).
LET IT AIR: CABLEFAX DAILY reports four advocacy groups -- Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, The Sports Fan Coalition and the National Consumer League -- have "filed a petition for rulemaking at the FCC asking the agency to end its sports blackout rule." Yesterday's Texans-Buccaneers game is the eighth local blackout this season. Sports Fan Coalition Exec Dir Brian Frederick said, "The FCC's blackout rule simply helps to perpetuate the anti-consumer practice of withholding sporting events from fans who cannot afford tickets to games, even when those fans helped to subsidize sports through public funding, laws, and regulations" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 11/14). CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus in September "said not to look for the NFL to lift its blackout rule anytime soon" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 11/11).
USA Today Sports Media Group acquired MMAjunkie.com and its related editorial assets across all platforms, including its daily radio show. The website's entire editorial staff will remain in place and will report to USA Today Sports Media Group Senior VP/Content and Editor-in-Chief Dave Morgan. MMAjunkie.com will retain its unique URL, and will also be rolled into the USA Today Sports Media Group's online coverage at MMA.USAToday.com by the middle of next month (THE DAILY).
LOST MEMORY: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted in a week "lousy with perversity, it stood to perverse reason that the death of Philadelphia's Joe Frazier, a champion so unfairly regarded and poorly treated during his boxing career, would be relegated to an also-ran story by the across-state Penn State saga." Mushnick: "Too many Frazier tributes and stories and memories went unspoken and unwritten, unheard and unread" (N.Y. POST, 11/13).
NOTES: A source said that NBA reality show "The Association" has contacted the Knicks about being the subject of its third season. The Knicks "intrigue NBA TV because of the newly transformed Garden and their transformed team" (N.Y. POST, 11/13)....Among the top 10 video games sold in the U.S. in October, "NBA 2K12" -- from Take 2 -- was third, while "Madden NFL 12" and "FIFA Soccer 3" -- both from Electronic Arts -- were seventh and 10th, respectively (LATIMES.com, 11/11).