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Fox earned a 33.4 overnight for the Giants' 20-17 OT win over the 49ers in last night's NFC Championship game, marking the best overnight for any NFL conference championship since Cowboys-49ers earned a 34.2 rating in ’95. The 33.4 rating is up 6.7% from a 31.3 rating for the comparable Steelers-Jets game on CBS in the late window, and up 11.3% from a 30.0 for Packers-Bears in the early window. The game peaked during OT from 10:00-10:30pm ET with a 39.3 rating. The game earned a 47.4 local rating in S.F.-San Jose-Oakland and a 41.8 rating in N.Y., while Boston averaged a 35.1 rating. Meanwhile, CBS earned a 29.1 overnight for the Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship game in the early window from 3:00-6:15pm, down 3.0% from the comparable Packers-Bears last year, and down 7.0% from Steelers-Jets. The 29.1 rating, however, marks the best overnight for any afternoon AFC Championship in 18 years -- dating back to a 29.5 rating on NBC for Bills-Chiefs in ’94. The rating peaked at a 34.9 during the 6:00-6:15pm window (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
MIXED REVIEWS FOR CBS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes CBS "did an outstanding job of telecasting Sunday’s AFC championship game" between the Ravens and Patriots. Analyst Phil Simms was "high energy all the way and constantly working to make the action on the field more understandable and entertaining." Zurawik writes, "I can’t tell you how engaging the broadcast seemed right from the start." Simms was also "superb at explaining substitutions, injuries and calls by the referees." Zurawik: "The telecast won me over from the opening visuals" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/22). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes under the header, "CBS Lauds Lewis, Ignoring Connection To Homicide." Mushnick writes CBS' pregame show "devoted a large chunk of its hour to yet again salute" Ravens LB Ray Lewis (N.Y. POST, 1/23).
TONED-DOWN FOR TV? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes if his CBS "debut Sunday was a preview of coming attractions, Jim Rome isn't going to mainstream TV sports to be provocative." Rather than "serving up even a mini rant Sunday, Rome answered football questions asked him by analysts." Hiestand: "Rome's most provocative point Sunday was that Tim Tebow 'still sees an H-backer under center,' making it [seem] as if viewers who like TV sports that have been sanitized for their protection don't have much to worry about in Rome being added to big-event TV sports" (USA TODAY, 1/23). The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote on his Twitter account, “CBS probably gave Jim Rome more promo in the last 20 minutes than ESPN did in the last 13 months.” CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd wrote, "Jim Rome kills it on first CBS appearance."
BABY LOVE: During CBS' pregame show, host James Brown conducted an "interview" with the E*Trade baby. E*Trade is a sponsor of "The NFL Today," and in Tampa Bay, Tom Jones writes, "Shame on you, CBS! All season, I've been heaping praise on the 'NFL Today.' ... A season's worth of smart decisions and commendable television nearly ruined for the sake of a 30-second bit that wasn't only not funny, but felt like a shameless plug" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/23). The L.A. Times' Joe Flint wrote on his Twitter account, "Feel very sorry for James Brown at CBS Sports having to interview E Trade baby. At least he wasn't eating Subway sandwich during plug."
FEATURING A RIVAL: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin asks "why was CBS featuring" Steven Tyler, who sang the national anthem before the Ravens-Patriots game, and is a "star on rival Fox juggernaut, 'American Idol?'" Dowbiggin also writes, "Bless former NFL referee Mike Pereira." During a play in the first half of the Ravens-Patriots game, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had a catch ruled incomplete, even though it appeared on replay he got both his feet in. Pereira on his Twitter account "immediately jumped on it, saying it should be reviewed." While the video was "clear that Gronkowski's catch was good, CBS never said boo even when the replay ran" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23).
SPLIT THEM UP: In Ft. Lauderdale, Tom Jicha wrote it is "inexplicable that both NFL conference championship games, which determine the Super Bowl teams, are jammed into one Sunday afternoon." It would "make far more sense to have both in prime time, one Saturday night, the other Sunday night" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/22).
PARDON THE INTERRUPTION: Comcast still has not figured out why its DC area cable systems broke into the live NFC Championship game at least four times to show promos for its Xfinity service. "We've been looking into it. I'm working on getting an update," a Comcast spokesperson told THE DAILY. Comcast subscribers in DC saw the commercials instead of live-game action at least four times during the game's fourth quarter (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
NBC signed the Breeders' Cup to a multiyear media rights deal beginning this November. The Breeders' Cup still had two years left on its deal with ESPN, but the Disney-owned network allowed the race to move to NBC. The move officially takes away the last horse race to appear on ESPN. ESPN in a statement said, "In the last few years, ESPN has reduced its coverage of horse racing and this event no longer fits with our overall content strategy. We value our relationship with the Breeders' Cup and jointly decided this is the best option for their event. We look forward to continuing to work with them on international coverage." NBC will carry the Nov. 2-3 event at Santa Anita Park. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine to present nine-and-a-half hours of live coverage of the '12 Breeders' Cup, including the running of the $5M Breeders' Cup Classic in primetime on NBC. This marks the first time the Classic is broadcast live in primetime. The Breeders' Cup returns to NBC where it was broadcast from '84-'05. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed (THE DAILY). In Louisville, Gregory Hall notes the Classic will air from 8:00-9:00pm ET on Nov. 3, the only race NBC will carry. NBC Sports Network will telecast the rest of the event (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 1/23). Paulick Report author Ray Paulick wrote on his Twitter account, "@NBCSports now has all top racing titles: @KentuckyDerby @PreaknessStakes @BelmontStakes @Breeders' Cup & 6 Triple Crown prep races." The Daily Racing Form's David Grening wrote, "Don't see NBC's desire to have Breeders' Cup in primetime boding well for a return of the event to New York."
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died yesterday morning, and CBS Sports “apologized for reporting Saturday" that Paterno had died, saying that it "had fallen 'well short' of its own journalistic standards," according to Tim Molloy of THE WRAP. CBSSports.com Managing Editor Mark Swanson Saturday said that the site “had relied on ‘an unsubstantiated report’ and failed to verify it.” After the Paterno family disputed the early report, CBS replaced the story with one "saying it had based its report on the reporting of a Penn State student website, Onward State.” Devon Edwards, managing editor of the student site, “resigned Saturday night, saying he never expected its reporting to be picked up by the national media." The N.Y. Times and CNN were among “the first to get a denial" from the Paterno family. However, by then, several news outlets and reporters, including "The Huffington Post, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Howard Kurtz ... had written about the death, all after the CBS report.” The blame “fell on CBS, which tried to pass it to the small student site,” but it also “lay with those who cited CBS's story without confirming it independently” (THEWRAP.com, 1/21). USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy reports Edwards “based his tweet on what turned out to be an e-mail hoax.” Poynter Institute’s Craig Silverman said that the story “probably won’t stick to CBSSpports.com for long because it was passing on Onward State’s report.” Silverman: “Had it solely originated with them, it would stick to them” (USA TODAY, 1/23). However, the GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes how an organization as big as CBS “fails to confirm a death with the family is inexcusable” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/23). AP Managing Editor for Sports, Entertainment & Multimedia Lou Ferrara said, “The lesson for everyone should be that accuracy still matters” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
KUDOS FOR COVERAGE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes ESPN's coverage yesterday of Paterno's death “was comprehensive and compelling, informative and engrossing.” "SportsCenter" for several hours “ignored all other stories in sports and concentrated solely on the Paterno story,” but the broadcast “never grew boring or monotonous.” The net “reeled in one guest after another, from former Penn State players to coaches to analysts, all offering unique perspectives on Paterno's life and career.” ESPN “walked the fine line of celebrating Paterno's storied career while not ignoring the controversial final chapter of his life.” They practiced “fair journalism and told the whole story.” Jones also writes Big Ten Network’s coverage Saturday night of Paterno was “unexpectedly impressive.” This was “early in the story when there weren't many details other than Paterno being in 'serious' condition.” Still, the net “shined” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/23). All three network morning shows -- “GMA,” “CBS This Morning” and “Today” -- included reports on Paterno's death within the first 15 minutes of the broadcasts today. ABC’s Dan Harris, CBS’ Armen Keteyian and NBC’s Ron Allen reported live from the Penn State campus, with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic also appearing live via satellite on “GMA” to discuss Paterno's passing (THE DAILY).
Fox earned a 0.9 overnight for the Manchester United-Arsenal match on Sunday from 11:00am-1:00pm, which marked the first-ever live EPL match on U.S. broadcast TV. Fox aired several tape-delayed EPL matches in the fall during Sundays in which in aired an NFL singleheader. Fox earned a 1.2 overnight for its first EPL match on Sept. 18, which featured Chelsea-ManU. The net also earned a 1.1 overnight for Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur on Oct. 2 and a 1.5 rating for Chelsea-Liverpool on Nov. 20 (THE DAILY). In Tampa Bay, Tom Jones writes the broadcast "was good, although I wasn't crazy that CNN host and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan was involved." Jones: "It made it feel a bit gimmicky, but it didn't ruin the broadcast" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/23). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote on his Twitter account, "With the same fervor I believe celeb fans such as Piers Morgan should not appear on a broadcast, Martin Tyler is pure joy as a gamecaller." Deadspin's Timothy Burke wrote, "Piers Morgan is in my Fox soccer coverage? I guess he felt like making broadcasts terrible on multiple networks."
MAKING INTRODUCTIONS: Fox’ Rob Stone began the broadcast by noting yesterday was a "historic day for soccer here in the States -- the first time on an American television network, the Barclays Premier League is live.” The pregame show featured Stone, Morgan and Eric Wynalda, with Morgan saying he has been an Arsenal season-ticket holder for 26 years. Morgan: “I’ve actually backed them longer than Eric has existed.” Stone replied, “We will have no reality show judging, no interviews of former presidents, no primary conversations for you right now. Strictly keep your focus on soccer.” Morgan: “It will not be difficult. This is a massive game for Arsenal” (Fox, 1/22).
In Tulsa, John Hoover noted the Univ. of Oklahoma's regents at a meeting tomorrow are "expected to authorize president David Boren and his designees to negotiate with 'current and potential licensees in order to increase distribution of the University's media content.'" A source said that the Fox Sports distribution model "was 'attractive to OU'" because Sooner programming "will be seen on cable and satellite TV throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana -- an audience of just more than 10 million people." By contrast, the Longhorn Network is "currently available to about 4 million people, of which, some 3.7 million have Verizon's FiOS television service." A source said that it is "unknown at this time if Fox Sports will pick up an OU football game for Tier 3 distribution, but said it wasn't any kind of hangup in the negotiation process" (TULSA WORLD, 1/22).
LATEST IN TWC/MSG FUED: In N.Y., Matt Flegenheimer notes while some "higher-profile games are available to Time Warner Cable customers if they are broadcast on national television," TWC and MSG have "accelerated their public relations efforts in recent weeks." The cable company’s employees have "worn Knicks jerseys at Time Warner Cable retail centers in the city," while TWC has "organized a sweepstakes to send 10 fans, and one guest each, to the Knicks’ road game on Tuesday" against the Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. MSG, meanwhile, has "hosted a series of viewing parties at bars across the city -- most of which have DirecTV." But Flegenheimer notes for "many fans, driven from their couches, paying for a ticket has proved more palatable" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
NOT ABUSING PLATFORM: In Pittsburgh, J. Brady McCollough noted Jay Bilas' platform as an ESPN college basketball analyst is "big enough on some nights that he can be heard by millions, and Bilas does not want to abuse that power." He is "meticulous in his preparation and fearless in saying what he thinks about any topic -- a refreshing quality in a world where talking heads just keep talking louder and louder." Bilas "rarely turns up the volume, and his words hold more weight among fans with each passing year" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/22).
ROUND OF VENTURE FUNDING: Toronto-based Polar Mobile, which has developed mobile applications for numerous entities including SI, The Hockey News, NFLPA and MLBPA, among others, has closed on a $6M round of venture funding led by private equity outfit Georgian Partners, also based in Toronto. The funds will be primarily used to develop MediaEverywhere, a new Polar product designed to distribute content across a wide variety of platforms. Polar also intends to double its employee base to 80 people and open offices in N.Y. and London (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).