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The Broncos face the Patriots Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game, and CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said the "phenomenon of Tim Tebow ... is something that I haven’t seen in a long time." Last Sunday's Broncos-Steelers game was the most-watched Wild Card game on any network in 24 years and the highest-rated in 18 years. McManus said, “We thought that if the Broncos could keep it close, because that’s what everyone was hoping for, that we could do a really good rating. But nobody anticipated the kind of game we were going to get, nobody anticipated it obviously going into overtime, and whatever ratings projections we had were completely blown out of the water.” He said of Tebow, "The only sort of comparison I could make is when Tiger (Woods) burst onto the scene, he brought in people who had never watched a golf tournament before, who had maybe watched one golf tournament a year. All of a sudden he wasn’t just on the sports pages, he was on the front page of the newspaper. ... It is a phenomenon and when you have these things, whether it's a Tiger Woods or a Tim Tebow, as you know you sort of hang on and hope the ride lasts a long time.” McManus said the Tebow phenomenon "could end on Saturday night or it could go on for five more years, six more years, 10 more years." McManus: "That’s part of the excitement. ... Nobody has any idea what to expect. And the fact that he is, let’s face it, he’s a polarizing figure. There are people who like what he does after a touchdown, there are people who don’t like it. But the fact that he’s got so many elements and he’s found such an amazing way to perform on the field both badly and well make it just an unbelievably compelling story.” McManus refused to give a ratings projection for Saturday night's game, but he said, "If it’s a good game … I think we’re going to do another great number and have another memorable telecast. ... Brady against Tebow -- it’s sort of tough to imagine a better matchup this weekend then that” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 1/11).
RATINGS SAVIOR: In Boston, John Zaremba writes Saturday's Broncos-Patriots game is a matchup between "two sports deities that could dwarf the whopping 42 million who watched the Broncos’ heart-stopping overtime win" over the Steelers. Marketing Evaluations Exec VP Henry Schafer said given Patriots QB Tom Brady’s past success and Tebow’s "attraction right now, coming from a lot of different angles, I would not be surprised if this becomes the highest-ever rated playoff game" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/12). In Colorado Springs, Frank Schwab notes KKTV-CBS GM Nick Matesi "couldn’t believe the preliminary local figures from last week’s game: a 37 rating" for Steelers-Broncos. That number "went up to a 41 rating" late in the game. Matesi said, "Those are Super Bowl numbers." He "laughed and said the station should have no problem selling any remaining advertising slots Saturday" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 1/12). Meanwhile, ESPN's "First Take" saw an average of 592,000 viewers tune in for Monday's episode, a new record for the two-hour show. "First Take" panelist Skip Bayless has become an outspoken supporter of Tebow during the last couple months (THE DAILY).
IMPACT ON '12 SCHEDULE: CBS' McManus noted the unknown around Tebow's future success could impact the '12 schedule. McManus said, "Let’s assume that (the Broncos) lose on Saturday night and he doesn’t play well -- the schedule makers next year, when you’re talking about how to feature the Denver Broncos, what do you do? Do you assume that it’s going to be the Tebow that we’ve seen win three overtime victories and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers or do you assume it’s going to be the Tebow against Kansas City? That’s what makes it so much fun and so much interesting to follow” ("The Jim Rome Show," 1/11). CJCL-AM's Greg Brady on his Twitter feed wrote, "Is the Tim Tebow phenomenon going to last? If you're NBC -- do you already want to book 3 primetime Sunday Night games involving Broncos?"
ESPN's "SportsCenter" dedicated the 11:00am ET hour today to all things related to Broncos QB Tim Tebow. In the introduction to the broadcast, ESPN’s Robert Flores said, “You may love him or you may not, but either way you care about what he does. We go behind the phenomenon that Tebow has become.” The broadcast led with a live report from ESPN’s George Smith at the Broncos’ team facility about the team’s preparation for this weekend’s game against the Patriots, with Smith saying Tebow is “aware of what’s going on and his skyrocketing popularity.” ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi later said, “We talked about the Broncos and the Patriots playoff game and we haven’t even brought up Tom Brady.” Clips of fans and personalities were shown “Tebowing” around the country, followed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter discussing Tebow’s future with the Broncos. Schefter noted after Tebow’s performance in the team’s win over the Steelers in the Wild Card round, Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway now has a “genuine respect” for Tebow. There have been “people who have suggested that Tim Tebow has passed up John Elway in terms of popularity” in Denver, but “that’s not possible right now at this early stage of his career.” Another segment featured ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian comparing the mania surrounding former Dodgers P Fernando Valenzuela to what is happening with Tebow today. Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow then discussed the “business of Tebow.” The show then played a radio interview with TNT’s Charles Barkley talking about Tebow, followed by a roundtable discussion with ESPN's Herm Edwards, Trevor Matich and Hugh Douglas. A game show parody called “You Don’t Know Tebow” featured Douglas and ESPN’s Ric Bucher. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg noted the “Tebow phenomenon is not about football.” At the conclusion of the broadcast, Flores noted, “I think we may have broken Twitter with our last hour of ‘SportsCenter’” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/12).
TWITTER REAX: The hour of "TebowCenter" drew plenty of reaction on Twitter this morning. The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote on his Twitter account, "This is the kind of day where people experience Tebow fatigue: Slow sports day, so ESPN goes HEAVY Tebow. Dedicating an entire hour to him.” The Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin wrote, “Tebow in danger of becoming like the 'I didnt do it' boy on The Simpsons. We cant get enough now, but there's such a thing as oversaturation." RLR Associates Managing Dir of Sports Media Andrew Fine wrote, “Still not sure if networks (cough cough ESPN) oversaturate on Tebow because people want it, or people watch it because that's all there is.” Writer Beau Dure wrote, “Want to know why people are tired of Tebow? SportsCenter made an *NBA* segment all about him today. There's no escape!” The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Shandel Richardson said, "Another Tim Tebow hour on SportsCenter? Can't wait for this NBC Sports Network to launch." Former NFLer Jerry Azumah wrote, "SportsCenter, I blame U for this Tebow OverHype. Elite SB Champion League MVPs havent received this much Hype and he isnt near that!" Bills LB Shawne Merriman wrote, "Watching the Tebow soap opera on @espn you have to appreciate how he's handling it."
NAME RECOGNITION: There were 159 Tebow-related verbal mentions during the hour, including the phrases “Tebow,” “Tebowing,” “Tebowmania” and “Tebowed” (THE DAILY).
After 11 days, there "appears to be little hope for a quick resolution" to the dispute between MSG and Time Warner Cable, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The dispute has "led to the disappearance of the MSG channels on Time Warner Cable, which has 1.7 million customers in the New York metropolitan region and upstate." MSG and TWC have "kept their feud bubbling through newspaper ads, radio and TV commercials, and on Web sites, where MSG implores aggrieved fans to switch to DirecTV, RCN or Verizon FiOS." MSG has also "invited fans to viewing parties in various cities where they can watch the games." The two companies "agree on little in a nasty squabble that has focused on what Time Warner Cable will pay MSG to carry the two regional sports networks in a new contract." MSG says that the cable provider, the "nation’s second largest, has rejected all of its proposals for two years." TWC says that MSG has "twice reneged on a 6.5 percent rate increase and that its final demand was for a 53 percent increase." Sandomir notes local fans have "seen sports channels blacked out before." For 10 days in '04, MSG and "what is now called MSG Plus were removed from Time Warner’s systems." The next year, the fight "resumed and ended only after a 63-day blackout." Cablevision "refused to show the YES Network for all of 2002." MSG "lost Yankee rights after the 2001 season when the team created YES." The Mets "left the MSG fold after 2005 when the club set up its SNY network." Yet MSG costs "nearly as much as YES and a little more than SNY." SNL Kagan data indicates that MSG’s estimated monthly subscriber fee this year is $2.63, YES is $2.99, SNY is $2.55 and MSG Plus is $2.28. Whatever MSG’s demands are, it "clearly values itself as an elite local sports network, even without" MLB. The price of MSG "also reflects higher rights fees for the Devils since 2005, and the purchase of Sabres rights" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12).
ESPN will begin its 23rd season of broadcasting MLB games with a national telecast of the league's Opening Night on April 4, featuring the reigning World Series Champion Cardinals and the Marlins in a game that will also mark the grand opening of Miami's Marlins Park. ESPN and ESPN2 will combine for five games over the first three days of the season. On April 5, ESPN2 will televise the Red Sox-Tigers 1:00pm ET game and the Marlins-Reds 4:00pm matchup. On April 6, ESPN2 will broadcast Giants-D'Backs at 7:00pm, followed by Royals-Angels at 10:00pm (ESPN).
FRANCHISE PLAYER: YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Kaduk noted Showtime's "The Franchise," which in '11 chronicled the MLB Giants, reportedly “will return for a second season.” However, “no one is yet willing to cough up the identity of the squad.” The team “will be announced in the near future” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/10).
PLAY BALL: The Giants yesterday announced a new partnership with ESPN Deportes 860 (KTRB-AM), making it the team's official Spanish language radio station. KTRB-AM will carry a total of 70 broadcasts throughout the season. The Giants broadcast team of Tito Fuentes and Erwin Higueros will call the games (Giants).
IQ TEST: In California, Bill Plunkett noted MLB Network later this month will launch a new show titled "Baseball IQ." The game show will premiere Jan. 24 at 9:00pm ET, and the format "will feature two participants answering questions regarding 'all things baseball.'" At stake during the 30-minute show "will be a potential $45,000 for a charity chosen by the team." Each MLB team will have a rep, and they will be "matched up in a bracket-style tournament over 31 episodes." A new episode "will air each Tuesday and Thursday" from Jan. 24-Feb. 23 with Matt Vasgersian hosting (OCREGISTER.com, 1/11).