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The four NFL Divisional playoff games across CBS and Fox averaged 36.6 million viewers this past weekend, marking the most-viewed NFL Divisional weekend ever. The 36.6 million viewers are up 4% from last season’s record-setting Divisional weekend, which averaged 35.1 million viewers. The four NFL Divisional telecasts were also the four most-viewed telecasts on all of TV last week, topping the BCS National Championship on ESPN. Fox’ broadcast of Giants-Packers Sunday led the way with a 25.3 fast-national Nielsen rating and 45.1 million viewers, marking the most-viewed NFL Divisional game ever and highest-rated NFL Divisional game since the net earned a 27.6 rating for Panthers-Cowboys in ’97. The 25.3 rating is also up 5% from a 24.2 for CBS’ Jets-Patriots in the late window last year. Giants-Packers marks TV’s most-viewed broadcast since Super Bowl XLV last February. 49ers-Saints was the second-best audience of the weekend with 35.6 million viewers. CBS finished with an 18.5 rating and 34.2 million viewers for the highly-anticipated Patriots-Broncos game, which ended in a 45-10 blowout. The game was the least-viewed of the four NFL Divisional games last weekend, but was still up from the comparable 17.0 rating and 30.8 million viewers for Fox’ Packers-Falcons in the Saturday primetime slot last year. Sunday’s Ravens-Texans game finished with a 19.0 rating, down slightly from the comparable Bears-Seahawks game on Fox last year. Through three playoff telecasts, CBS is averaging 36.1 million viewers, marking the highest-mark for the AFC package in at least 25 years (CBS records go back to the ’87 season). The average rating of 20.6 is the highest three-game AFC playoff mark since NBC averaged a 21.1 rating in ’96 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes with "three teams from the top seven TV markets, the NFL could wind up with record playoff ratings" this weekend (USA TODAY, 1/17). Listed below is a ratings and viewership trend for the NFL Divisional games from the last five seasons.'12DAYSTART (ET)NET
MATCHUPRATVIEWERS (000)Sat.4:36pmFox 49ers-Saints20.535,600Sat.8:15pmCBS Patriots-Broncos18.534,161Sun.1:00pmCBS Ravens-Texans19.030,983Sun.4:39pmFox Giants-Packers25.345,100'11DAYSTART (ET)NET MATCHUPRATVIEWERS (000)Sat.4:36pmCBS Steelers-Ravens19.434,009Sat.8:16pmFox Packers-Falcons17.030,817Sun.1:06pmFox Bears-Seahawks19.132,493Sun.4:41pmCBS Jets-Patriots24.243,463'10DAYSTART (ET)NET MATCHUPRATVIEWERS (000)Sat.4:35pmFox Saints-Cardinals16.127,910Sat.8:16pmCBS Colts-Ravens17.030,569Sun.1:06pmFox Vikings-Cowboys22.037,669Sun.4:41pmCBS Jets-Chargers20.135,627'09DAYSTART (ET)NET MATCHUPRATVIEWERS (000)Sat.4:34pmCBS Ravens-Titans15.425,453Sat.8:16pmFox Cardinals-Panthers13.823,776Sun.1:07pmFox Eagles-Giants18.731,358Sun.4:46pmCBS Steelers-Chargers19.634,107'08DAYSTART (ET)NET MATCHUPRATVIEWERS (000)Sat.4:35Fox Packers-Seahawks17.028,200Sat.8:16CBS Patriots-Jaguars17.930,896Sun.1:06CBS Chargers-Colts20.231,600Sun.4:47Fox Giants-Cowboys23.640,100
NEED TO STEP IT UP: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Fox' Joe Buck and Troy Aikman "need to step it up Sunday working the [NFC] Championship Game in San Francisco." On the surface, Buck and Aikman "did fine in Green Bay," but they "could’ve done better." As usual, Aikman "does well analyzing what’s unfolding in front of him," but sometimes he "leaves holes and questions unanswered." Raissman: "It would help too if Buck and Aikman could connect through an entire game. Sometimes, they talk past each other" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/17).
WHERE WERE YOU ON THAT ONE? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes with the Giants leading the Packers 10-3 in the first quarter of Sunday's game, a controversial call "looked like a perfect Mike Pereira moment." One game official "ruled that Packers receiver Greg Jennings had fumbled the ball after a catch, but a second official said Jennings’s calf was down before the ball came loose." Yet there was "no rapid -- or even reasonably fast -- response from Pereira," the Fox analyst who previously was an NFL official. Meanwhile, Buck and Aikman were "criticizing the call on the air, certain that it would not stand." Before Pereira "finally appeared on the screen, Bill Leavy, the referee, upheld the ruling of the second official that there was no fumble." The Packers then "ran off four plays, Fox went to a commercial break, the second quarter began and Green Bay tied the score, 10-10." Pereira said yesterday, "That was a product of us all thinking it would be overturned and it wouldn’t be a big issue. ... Troy was already on it. They don’t need me to validate what he said." Pereira added, "We were all surprised, and that’s why we held off." Pereira on air "refused to excoriate Leavy, a former colleague," though his "polite words made it clear how much he disagreed" with the call (N.Y. TIMES, 1/17).
CBS Sports today formally announced that it is opening its fantasy sports platform to third-party developers to create new apps via the newly launched CBSSports.com Fantasy Platform Development Center. Some of the new products will be available when CBSSports.com App Central launches on Jan. 31 (CBS Sports). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Fisher reports CBSSports.com is hoping to develop the "kind of marketplace for fantasy games that Apple’s iTunes Store has created for apps in general.” The move is “thought to be a first in the industry.” CBSSports.com has partnered with “six companies at launch -- MLB Advanced Media, Bloomberg Sports, Rotowire, Statsheet, Advanced Sports Media and Ziguana -- and more are expected to join.” CBSSports.com Senior VP & GM Jason Kint said, “The fantasy sports experience simply hasn’t evolved as much as we’d like in the last decade. What we’re trying to do is create an ecosystem and accelerate the next wave of innovation in the industry.” The platform “will work similarly to iTunes,” as developers who use the platform “will participate in a revenue-sharing agreement with CBSSports.com, with 70 percent going to developers and 30 percent to CBS.” MLBAM is using the platform “to develop an application in which subscribers to the MLB.TV online live game package will be automatically directed to the game most relevant to their specific fantasy team” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/16 issue).
A VIRTUAL TOOL BOX: The AP’s Oskar Garcia reports the deal “means tools to help with everything from draft advice to lineup analysis will be available right in the site, customizable for each specific fantasy league.” CBS Interactive President Jim Lanzone said, "It levels the playing field for an entire league to be more competitive." He added that only the "most dedicated fantasy players use tools that go beyond the site they use to pick players and keep track of their league.” The “vast majority of those tools are separate from leagues themselves.” Lanzone: "By bringing them all into the game, everyone's going to see them -- everyone's going to have access to them. Even that guy who comes in seventh place every year who usually is dead money to your league is going to have access to these incredible tools that can help him do a lot better." Garcia writes the move by CBS Sports to “embrace those tools is a play to attract users of other top fantasy sites, including free sites run by Yahoo and ESPN” (AP, 1/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Russell Adams writes CBSSports.com has “differentiated itself from competitors in that it charges people to play in its leagues, a distinction executives and partners say makes for a user base more likely to spend on apps” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/17).
ITV has struck a two-year, $138.4M (all figures U.S.) deal to "continue broadcasting the FA Cup and England home games, including home qualifiers for the next World Cup in Brazil," according to Mark Sweney of the GUARDIAN. ITV's current four-year, $423M contract was "due to expire at the end of this season." The new deal will "run until 2014." Sources said that ITV is understood to have paid about $69.2M a year -- "more than 30% less than the existing agreement." Under the terms of the new deal, ITV will "broadcast the first pick of FA Cup games throughout the season, including the final, as well as a range of third and fourth choice picks in various rounds." It will broadcast "up to 16 live games each season, as well as highlights of each round, and will also bring the pre-season FA Community Shield from Sky back to free-to-air TV." ITV will also broadcast "all home qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup ... and home and away friendlies over the two-year period of the new deal" (GUARDIAN, 1/17).
CHANGING ON THE GUARD: U.K. broadcaster Steve Rider, who has covered F1 for both the BBC and ITV, said Sky's long-term domination of the sport is "inevitable." He added an "irrevocable step has been taken" with the FI coverage plan in the U.K. The BBC this year will air half the races live, with the "other half as part of extended highlights programmes." Sky meanwhile will "show all 20 races live on a dedicated F1 channel." Rider said, "I'm not a cheerleader for Sky. Their involvement in F1 was inevitable. I think their long-term domination of F1 is also inevitable, whether it's four or five years away. For reasons that haven't been fully explained by the BBC, and that probably didn't need to happen, we now have this halfway deal in which Sky have been given the opportunity to dominate the sport" (Tom Cary, London TELEGRAPH, 1/17).
In L.A., Broderick Turner writes Shaquille O'Neal has "fit in just fine" with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson on TNT's "Inside The NBA." O'Neal said, "I'm loving this, brother. I work with the best people, Ernie, Chuck, Kenny. This is not like having a real job. It's like hanging out with your friends." Turner notes Johnson has to "try to control O'Neal, Barkley and Smith." Johnson said, laughing, "I'm the lion tamer. I've been doing this for 22 years and I still love doing this" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).
SKY HIGH DEAL: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds reported DirecTV-owned Root Sports and the Big Sky Conference are "nearing a deal for a new multiyear programming renewal." Sources said that the agreement "could be announced as soon as early this week." The pact is "expected to encompass Big Sky men's basketball, football and other athletic events." The deal will also "grant Big Sky territorial media rights throughout Alaska," which could be "a useful property in Root Sports Northwest's battle with GCI, Alaska's top MSO" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 1/16 issue).
GIVE IT AWAY? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja reported the EPL "may have to give away its television rights for free to build its fanbase in China." Super Sports Media "pays the league for rights, then sells the matches ... to regional free-to-air broadcasters, which cover areas containing about one-third of China’s 1.3 billion people." While that is an "improvement from the 30,000 who subscribed to see games two years ago, the league is considering how to strengthen its position when the current deal expires after next season." TNS/CSM Media Research Asia Dir of Sport & Media Pierre Justo said that "only state-owned CCTV can broadcast sports nationwide, and it won’t overpay" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/15).
PROVING IT CARES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote if NBC and the newly renamed NBC Sports Network “want to be taken seriously as an NHL network, they have to grow up, demonstrate that they know and care about the game above and beyond serving drooling knuckleheads.” There is “little doubt that NBC, even in the throes of a concussion epidemic that has cost the NHL so much talent, still is trying to push the game on the omnipotent young male demographic -- excite the vulnerable -- by emphasizing a great game’s most violent, brutal, Brotherhood of Cavemen-certified moments” (N.Y. POST, 1/15).
CLIMBING THE RANKS: Sportsman Channel's distribution passed the 30 million HH mark, with newest Nielsen numbers putting it at 31.1 million. Network execs credit the decision of several distributors to move it from a sports tier to digital basic as one of the main reasons for the new growth (THE DAILY).