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The Broncos' 29-23 OT win against the Steelers in the late window yesterday on CBS earned a 25.9 overnight Nielsen rating, the highest-rated Wild Card game in 24 years, dating back to a 26.7 overnight for NBC’s Seahawks-Oilers in ’88. The 25.9 rating is up 6.1% from a 24.4 for the comparable Packers-Eagles matchup on Fox last year, and up 37.8% from an 18.8 for CBS’ Ravens-Chiefs broadcast last year, which aired in the early window. The game began with a 20.4 rating at 4:45pm ET, rising during the game until a peak number of 31.6 from 8:00-8:15pm (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel noted when Broncos QB Tim Tebow and his team are playing, "we watch." Doyel: "He isn't in the same class as an athlete, but as a spectacle Tebow is Tiger Woods leading the Masters on Sunday afternoon. He's Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals. He's the Yankees in the World Series" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/8).
OTHER WILD CARD GAMES: Fox earned an 18.9 overnight for Giants-Falcons in the early window, which was up slightly from the comparable Ravens-Chiefs game on CBS last year, but down big from Packers-Eagles, which remains Fox’ best Wild Card overnight ever. The Saints’ 45-28 victory over the Lions Saturday night earned NBC a 19.3 overnight, which was down from last year’s record-setting 20.8 mark for Jets-Colts, but still high to enough to rank as the third-best Wild Card Saturday game since ’99. Earlier in the day, Texans-Bengals earned a 15.3 overnight on NBC, down 16.4% from Saints-Seahawks last year, which was the best Saturday Wild Card Game One in 20 years. For the Saturday doubleheader, NBC averaged a 17.2 overnight, marking the net’s third-best average since ’99 (Karp). In Houston, David Barron noted KPRC-NBC earned a 34.9 rating and drew a local audience of just under 743,000 HH for the Texans' win. The club's viewership is at "record levels locally, with six games" in '11 topping a 25.0 rating and 10 drawing a total audience of more than 800,000 viewers. Prior to this season, "only four Texans games had topped a 25.0" rating (CHRON.com, 1/8).NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNETTIME (ET)
'12 GAMERAT.NET '11 GAMERAT.% +/-NBC4:00pm Texans-Bengals15.3NBC Saints-Seahawks18.3-16.4%NBC8:30pm Saints-Lions19.3NBC Jets-Colts20.8-7.2%Fox1:00pm Giants-Falcons18.9CBS Ravens-Chiefs18.80.5%CBS4:45pm Broncos-Steelers25.9Fox Packers-Eagles24.46.1%
COVERAGE REVIEWS: In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes the Steelers-Broncos game yesterday "was the type of game that could have been broadcast by rookie announcers covering their first NFL game," as the cameras "told the story." Saunders: "Fortunately for viewers, CBS stars Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did their jobs." One production "strong point was the informative replays, narrated by Simms, showing how the defenses were dealing" with Tebow and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. But CBS several years ago "dropped reporter sideline coverage during NFL games," though having one yesterday "would have added to Sunday's telecast" (DENVER POST, 1/9). In Tampa, Tom Jones notes with NBC "carrying two games Saturday and Fox and CBS each handling a game Sunday, we were able to watch each network's No. 1 announcing team." Jones writes NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth "are the best, individually and as a team," and he enjoys Fox' Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Jones says he is "not a fan of Nantz and Simms, though they brought their A game Sunday and might have had the best weekend of anyone on TV." Meanwhile, Jones notes he has "railed consistently this season against the 'Fox NFL Sunday' pregame show, mostly because the goofball behavior on it has been a distraction." However, yesterday it "seemed like a subdued crew." There were "no shenanigans and less than usual laughter over inside jokes and not-so-funny or inaudible putdowns." The result was a "rather enjoyable, informative show." It was "less about Fox's personalities and more about football" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/9).
SCHOOL PRODUCTION: In Albany, Mark Singelais noted Siena College AD John D'Argenio "took the blame for the NFL cancelling his school's plans to simulcast the Giants-Falcons game on the Times Union Center scoreboard" during the school's men's basketball game yesterday. D'Argenio said that he "never checked with the NFL beforehand." The NFL told Siena on Saturday evening that "showing the game 'on a screen not similar to the size of one in someone's home,' was in violation of the league's copyright interests." D'Argenio declined to say whether he talked to WXXA-Fox, which "aired the game locally" (TIMESUNION.com, 1/8). The TIMES-UNION's Mark McGuire wrote the NFL "should have let this fly." McGuire: "Really, who would have been hurt here?" (TIMESUNION.com, 1/8).
CODE SCANNER: DAILY VARIETY's Rachel Abrams noted Fox was scheduled to "air a five-second 'billboard' clip of a QR code" during Giants-Falcons yesterday. The code, which can be "scanned on mobile devices, links the user to an online clip" of the upcoming movie "Chronicle" (VARIETY.com, 1/6).
ESPN’s broadcast of the Discover Orange Bowl last Wednesday night, as expected, was officially the lowest-rated BCS game since the current postseason system debuted in '99. The game, which saw West Virginia rout Clemson 70-33, earned a 4.5 U.S. rating and drew an average of 7.2 million viewers, down 45% from an 8.2 rating and 13.6 million viewers for the comparable Ohio State-Arkansas Allstate Sugar Bowl in '11. The game is also the lowest-rated Orange Bowl since the '93 edition that aired opposite the Alabama-Miami Sugar Bowl that determined the national championship. The four BCS games this year have averaged a 7.3 rating and 12.0 million viewers, down 10% in the ratings from an 8.1 last year and down 21% from a 9.2 rating for Fox' three BCS games in '10. The Rose Bowl aired on ABC that year (THE DAILY).
MUSBURGER SELLS TITLE GAME: ESPN's Brent Musburger discussed tonight's LSU-Alabama matchup in the BCS National Championship game and said, "I think the buildup and first quarter of our game would have been more interesting with Oklahoma State against LSU than having two teams that have already played." He continued, "But I think our fourth quarter is going to be more interesting with Alabama, given a second chance here against LSU. But we are going to do the game regardless of who was in it." Musburger added, "I understand anyone who wants to say: I saw that movie. It was the Field Goal Battle of the Century and I don't want to see it again. But I think it will be a little bit [different] this time, and we will have some touchdowns scored" (SI.com, 1/6). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Musburger "figures that besides SEC devotees ... viewers will tune in to see what he figures could be nine defensive players who'll become first-round NFL draft picks." Musburger said, "A lot of our audience will be watching to see future NFL guys" (USA TODAY, 1/9).
Sabres President Ted Black said that the team "will honor" its commitments to sponsors amid Time Warner Cable's ongoing carriage dispute with team broadcaster MSG, and that the club "intends to compensate those aggrieved" by the spat, according to T.J. Pignataro of the BUFFALO NEWS. The TWC-MSG dispute "plummeted the Sabres' stratospheric television ratings from an average season 8.3 share down to 3.2" for Tuesday's game against the Oilers. In addition to the on-air sponsorship and ads, the loss of air time is "reducing dasher board and on-ice exposures, meaning sponsors and the Sabres are watching money and opportunities to reach a captivated audience circle the drain." The Sabres are "particularly affected by the local advertising because the team, not MSG and Time Warner, sells and benefits from that advertising." Black said that team officials "have been communicating with sponsors since the dispute began." Black: "There's a level of comfort that we're going to do the right thing by them." Black said that "rather than quantifying reimbursements for claims of underexposure, the team will likely make adjustments for sponsors on renewals or offer 'bonus spots' at the end of the season." However, Sabres officials "don't expect the team's bottom line to suffer much." Black said, "As a percentage of our overall revenues, it's not going to have a material impact on our business. It's not a full season." He also confirmed that the Sabres "asked MSG for permission to live-stream games on the team's website." Black: "They denied that request" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/8).
WATCH PARTY: The BUFFALO NEWS' Pignataro noted more than 5,000 fans attended a viewing party at First Niagara Center for Friday's Sabres-Hurricanes game. The event was "so successful that lines at concession stands were, in some places, more than a dozen fans deep." The team "had handed out vouchers for free soda and free popcorn at the front gate." The team "staffed the game for about 3,000 fans," and it is "more than likely if there's another viewing party, things will improve." Meanwhile, a Verizon FiOS booth "was attracting frequent traffic" at the event, and there was a "roving Direct TV representative" present (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/8).
Jim Rome confirmed Friday that he is leaving ESPN after eight years as host of "Jim Rome Is Burning." He wrote on his Twitter feed, "I want to thank ESPN for the opportunity to host JRIB & all the support I received over the years. I'm looking forward to future endeavors" (TWITTER.com, 1/6). THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre cited an ESPN source as saying that Rome "was presented with a multi-year offer to return to the network, but he did not accept it." Two other sources said that Rome and the "JRIB" show "will move over to the burgeoning CBS Sports Network." The sources indicated that Rome "will have an expanded role at the network beyond the show," though the specifics of that role were unclear (THEBIGLEAD.com, 1/6). Blog SPORTS BY BROOKS reported Rome's last appearance on ESPN will be Jan. 27. Sources said that as part of the CBS deal, Rome "has agreed to make regular appearances on CBS-owned Showtime." Rome "will be the centerpiece of an aggressive move by Showtime Sports into the increased production of original sports programming." Meanwhile, "Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable" will be "pushed back from its normal ESPN2 weekday 4p ET airtime to 4:30" to offset the loss of "JRIB." "Numbers Don't Lie" will move from 3:30pm to 4:00pm. ESPN will "likely eventually fill the 3:30p ET weekday slot on ESPN2 with another original programming production" (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 1/6).
Ken Hershman begins his tenure as the new president of HBO Sports today with boxing promoters wondering how he will settle the fate of a proposed series that was tabled last year. The series, which was to air monthly on HBO2, would have divided 12 dates between at least three promoters -- Golden Boy Promotions, DiBella Entertainment and Gary Shaw Promotions -- with the network paying $150,000 per show. Designed to showcase up-and-coming talent, it was approved by former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg in March. But after Greenburg departed in July, HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo told the promoters that the network was not going forward on the series. In recent interviews, the promoters said they were left wondering whether the show was dead or whether Lombardo would leave the final decision to Hershman. Hershman, the former head of sports at Showtime, was hired by HBO in October but because of contractual obligations could not start work at the network until today. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said he was disappointed by the cancellation, but believed that HBO was within its rights to exercise an out clause in the contract. The two other promoters who would have been involved, Shaw and Lou DiBella, said they signed fighters with the understanding that there would be TV slots for them, and that they believed HBO was obligated to make good on its promise, whether it was through the HBO2 series or something else. DiBella and Shaw did not want to comment on the matter last week, other than to say it had not been resolved. But during an interview in December in Atlantic City, DiBella said he hoped to settle the matter before Hershman started work -- something that did not happen. He didn't want his first dealing with Hershman to be over a dispute. "Maybe they just want to leave it to Kenny (Hershman) to resolve, but in the meantime I have a business to run," DiBella said. "I understand that plans change. People have to be reasonable. But HBO has to meet its good faith obligation."
HOW SERIES CAME ABOUT: The show came about after HBO lost the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley PPV, promoted by Top Rank, to Showtime early last year. Seeing how the loss stung Greenburg and his bosses, Schaefer, DiBella and Shaw approached HBO with a suggestion: That they combat the loss of a superstar by developing a deeper stable of prospects. They proposed HBO create a monthly series, to air on HBO2, which would give the promoters three dates each at a middle-class pay rate. There, they could showcase young fighters in meaningful bouts, from which they would either graduate to more lucrative slots on HBO or fall away before the network had invested heavily in them. "It's a shame if it doesn't happen, because it would have been good for us and good for HBO and good for the sport," Shaw said last month. "I hope it gets worked out. It should get worked out. But, truthfully, I don't know (if it will)."
In Austin, Kirk Bohls notes ESPN "remains fully committed to the Longhorn Network." ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said, "Disappointed is not the right word. Texas has been a great partner and has been very patient. There's no question we're committed to it. We're going to take stock of where we are and figure out what the keys are necessary to unlock it. As soon as we get the first deal (with a national distributor), I think it will take off and snowball." He added, "Over 20 years, we'll make a lot of money. Nobody's pushing the panic button" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/9).
THE WAITING GAME: In Portland, Mike Tokito noted because TNT's coverage of the Heat-Hawks game Thursday night went to triple overtime, the net was unable to switch over to Lakers-Trail Blazers until the teams "had completed a spirited first half." NBA Digital Senior VP & GM and Turner Sports VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller said, "The Hawks-Heat triple-overtime game was an exciting national telecast. This was not a regional telecast and we would not leave our first game until its conclusion." Asked if Turner "considered making the Blazers-Lakers game available on another Turner network," PR Manager Tom Caraccioli said that Turner's other networks "had commitments to program they could not break" (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/7).
PAYING TO WATCH THEM PLAY: DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry noted with a "flurry of new TV contracts enriching the National Football League to the tune of roughly $5 billion annually once they kick in ... somebody's going to have to pay the freight on all this." Broadcast nets will "no longer be content to view sports as loss leaders -- the kind of must-have commodity they're willing to take a financial bath on to maintain circulation." They are going to "want to offset their investment, either through sweetened retransmission fees from cable and satellite operators or altered agreements with affiliated stations." Meanwhile, cable channels and systems -- "especially ESPN, but also entities like Fox and Time Warner Cable -- have rolled the dice on sports as the best hedge against the worst possibilities of a digital future." The prospect of "rising cable bills has simultaneously renewed talk of establishing pay tiers and a la carte pricing -- both of which would require fans to ante up directly for the sports they crave" (VARIETY.com, 1/7).
MAKING A SWITCH FOR HD: UFC President Dana White said that “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” will air on Fuel TV. White: "All this unique content that we're doing in these other parts of the world, Fuel TV is going to take." He added, "If you're a UFC fan, you really love your UFC, it's impossible not to have Fuel. What happens is, UFC fans have to make hard decisions, and they want it in HD and cable doesn't have it in HD you're gonna have to switch to DirecTV, or Comcast is going to have to carry it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/7).