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NBC Sports Network has seen an 11% jump in viewers for its NHL game broadcasts so far this season as the net ramps up the number of contests it televises. Through 44 telecasts, the net is averaging 326,000 viewers, up from 293,000 viewers through the same period last year, when only 31 games had been telecast. Those figures translate to a 0.2 U.S. rating, which is flat. The season-opening Flyers-Bruins game on Oct. 6, which averaged 874,000 viewers, remains the net’s biggest NHL regular-season audience ever. NBCSN has also set local ratings records in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa-St. Petersburg. The net is seeing ratings among all key adult and male demos up from last season as well. Meanwhile, NBC is averaging a 1.2 rating and 2.0 million viewers through four telecasts. Those figures include this season’s Rangers-Flyers Winter Classic, which drew the lowest TV audience since the event began five years ago. At the same point last season, NBC was averaging a 1.6 rating and 3.0 million viewers for only two telecasts.
LOCAL SECTION: Sabres’ games on MSG lead all NHL RSN ratings, as the team is averaging a 7.8 local rating. That figure is just above a 7.6 rating for Penguins games on Root Sports Pittsburgh. Rounding out the top five RSNs are the Bruins on NESN (5.3), Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet Chicago (3.2) and the Flyers on CSN Philadelphia (3.2). The Bruins are seeing the biggest jump among NHL teams, with ratings up 90%. The Sharks rank second, with ratings up 82% on CSN California.
NORTHERN LIGHTS: The Maple Leafs are averaging 764,000 viewers for games on Sportsnet Ontario, tops among all clubs with games airing on Rogers Sportsnet RSNs. That figure is up 18% season-to-date. Canucks games on Sportsnet Pacific are averaging 455,000 viewers, up 7%. The Oilers (Sportsnet West) and Senators (Sportsnet East) are also seeing gains, up 2% and 10%, respectively. The only club seeing a drop are the Flames, down 4% on Sportsnet West.
HBO Sports and NFL Films Saturday will premier “Namath,” which chronicles Pro Football HOFer Joe Namath’s “youth in Beaver Falls, Pa., his time as a New York Jets superstar and his life today,” according to Richard Huff of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Namath said that “sitting down to talk” about his life for the documentary “wasn’t easy.” Namath: “It was difficult because I don’t care to do this kind of talking and revisiting. I was trying to be honest, when I know some of the things I say are going to ruffle feathers or rub people the wrong way. Why talk about it now?” Huff noted the film includes "new interviews with childhood friends, sportswriters and sportscasters like Sal Marciano, who covered Namath when he arrived in New York, and former on-field rivals and teammates.” There is “plenty of archival footage, too, such as Namath and the Jets practicing in Peekskill, N.Y., then the team’s summer home.” Namath “isn’t worried what viewers think of him after seeing the film.” he said, “This is a chance for the viewer to see a journey I have taken.” There is also “some stuff he didn’t talk about.” Namath: “I think some private battles and how we dealt with them, that doesn’t need to be shown. Some secrets I don’t share because there isn’t a positive outcome” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/22). Namath added, “I didn’t want to do it, are you kidding me? To talk about your life and all, it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard when you have parts of your life you don’t care to talk about or share” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/26). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes ESPN’s Suzy Kolber in the documentary “talks publicly for the first time about a drunken Joe Namath memorably saying on-air he wanted to kiss her.” Kolber said she had not previously spoken publicly about the incident “because I knew he wanted it to go away” (USA TODAY, 1/26).
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes HBO had “long wanted to produce a Namath documentary,” as former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg, who “negotiated the deal to make it, has been a fan of Namath’s since childhood.” When asked “why he agreed, Namath did not talk about being paid.” He said that he did not want to participate and “broach subjects that upset him.” But he said that he “trusted ‘minds sharper than mine’ at HBO and NFL Films.” Namath was “paid an undisclosed sum for ‘home movies, family photographs and other materials,’ and to attend the premiere and to talk to reporters,” but he received “no editorial control.” Sandomir writes “perhaps the money he received was not a primary reason for his participation.” At 68 years old, maybe “it just seemed like time to open up, to a filmmaker or a writer” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27). In Buffalo, Greg Connors writes the documentary “doesn't shy away from asking Namath about some low points in his life: His bouts of heavy drinking, for example; his divorce, and the squeeze put on him by the NFL in 1970 to sell his interest in his Bachelors III night spot because gamblers and organized crime figures were known to gather there.” Still, for all the access, it is “hard to feel that you come away knowing the man behind Broadway Joe.” Connors: “Whether you remember seeing Broadway Joe on TV or on the football field, or you just want to see what his legend is all about, HBO's documentary is a good place to start” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/27).
THE PORTRAIT: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes landing “somewhere between a documentary and tribute, ‘Namath’ has failings.” It is “stuffed with tributes from cronies," but those failings are “overwhelmed by fascinating content.” HBO’s and NFL Films’ historical treatments of sports is “made special by their specialty, the inclusion of fabulous photos and footage” (N.Y. POST, 1/27). CABLEFAX DAILY’s Heiges & Arenstein write this “warts-and-all portrait is loaded with fun, great footage, stills and useful cameos" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/27). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote the film provides an “in-depth look at a colorful Hall of Fame quarterback.” As a “superb 90-minute documentary illustrates, Joe Namath remains a fascinating personality” (DENVER POST, 1/23).
Part of Shaquille O'Neal's appeal which led to a programming deal with Turner Sports last summer was the former NBA star's ability to transfer seamlessly from TNT's "Inside the NBA" to other Turner properties. Knowing that O'Neal's popularity transcended sports fans, Turner's deal included a development deal with its entertainment and animation networks. O'Neal's first effort from that development deal will come to fruition next month when he hosts the "Hall of Game" awards on Cartoon Network Feb. 20 at 7:00pm ET. The show features categories such as best male and female athlete and most stylish athlete. Last year, winners included Saints QB Drew Brees and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick for best male and female athletes, while Heat F LeBron James was voted as the most stylish. Cartoon Network viewers vote on the sports stars and moments that will be highlighted, and last year's show logged 37 million votes. This year's show will be produced next month in L.A. and provides the latest example of corporate siblings working together. Turner Broadcasting President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy and other Cartoon Network execs said he was instrumental in pushing the second annual "Hall of Game" awards show forward. "We thought it was an opportunity to do some things a little bit differently," said Cartoon Network Exec VP/Sales & Marketing & Cartoon Network Enterprises John O'Hara.
SPONSORSHIP AHEAD OF LAST YEAR: While he would not discuss specifics, O'Hara said sponsorship sales of the event are pacing ahead of last year, with several sponsors signing up for months-long campaigns around the show. "When the sponsors get involved with us, the partnerships go beyond the night of the event," O'Hara said. Turner signed Hasbro and Kids Foot Locker as returning sponsors. Hasbro will promote its Nerf brand, and Kids Foot Locker will sponsor the "Gnarliest Newb" award. Hasbro committed to tune-in messaging leading up to the awards show; Kids Foot Locker has been promoting the show on its website. Kids Foot Locker also is promoting a "Sickest Sneaker" vote, which will be announced in a commercial break during the show. Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's "The Lorax" signed on as a new sponsor. "There's a lack of kids sports programming in the market," O'Hara said. "The sports market is so strong right now, we wanted to tap into that." IMG Media produces the program. Michael Dempsey and Steve Mayer will return as exec producers.
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Kelly McBride discussed the "national obsession" with Broncos QB Tim Tebow, and noted during the regular season, "Tebowmania was in full force across all media, not just ESPN." However, ESPN "took the cake, along with a lot of criticism, when it came to Tebowmania." McBride listed the "highlights" of ESPN's Tebow coverage, and noted commentator Skip Bayless "spent an inordinate amount of time on 'First Take' offering up praise for Tebow," while "SportsCenter" dedicated "two special shows to Tebow." McBride noted everyone "we talked to at the network was unapologetic about the coverage." Whenever Tebow "plays, fans watch." When sports anchors and radio hosts "are talking about Tebow, the ratings go up." Every time Tebow "does something unexpected or new, there will be a story." McBride: "And you can expect someone, somewhere at ESPN to cover it. So who objects to all this? As far as we can tell, the resentment comes from two places. When ESPN binges on a single story, viewers who value variety are offended. Then there are fans who care mainly about the play on the field. They follow the sport, not the story." Coverage of "individual athletes is not a meritocracy at ESPN; it is based on what the crowd wants." "SportsCenter" Senior Coordinating Producer Michael Shiffman said there are athletes that "move the needle." Critics may "talk about fatigue over Tebow or any other athlete who draws disproportionate attention, but folks at ESPN look at hard data" (ESPN.com, 1/26).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for ABC and for CBS' "The NFL Today" last Sunday were not available at presstime (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NFC Championship: Giants-49ers1/22Fox6:42-10:43pm30.657,635 AFC Championship: Patriots-Ravens1/22CBS3:07-6:16pm27.448,676 "Fox NFL Sunday"1/22Fox6:00-6:45pm10.9n/a NCAA Basketball:
NCAA Basketball: Michigan-Arkansas1/21CBS2:18-4:04pm1.41,927 NCAA Basketball: (regional)1/21CBS4:04-6:15pm1.31,861 Monster Energy AMA Supercross1/22CBS12:00-1:00pm1.01,539 NHL: Capitals-Penguins1/22NBC12:30-3:13pm0.91,340 EPL: Manchester United-Arsenal1/22Fox11:02am-12:57pm0.81,258 Winter Dew Tour: Pantech Invitational1/21NBC4:30-6:00pm0.71,145 Red Bull Signature Series:
Crashed Ice (taped)1/21NBC2:00-4:00pm0.71,079
Int'l Auto Show (taped)1/22NBC5:00-6:00pm0.6891 Mexico Primera Division:
Chivas de Guadalajara-Tijuana1/22Telem7:55-10:00pm0.4738
Winter Dew Tour: Pantech Invitational1/22NBC3:30-5:00pm0.4626 Mexico Primera Division:
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Lakers-Heat1/19TNT8:16-10:44pm2.74,396 NBA: Mavericks-Lakers1/16TNT10:38pm-1:13am2.03,068 NCAA Basketball:
"Sunday NFL Countdown"1/22ESPN11:57am-3:00pm1.72,367 NBA: Thunder-Celtics1/16TNT8:00-10:38pm1.52,362 NBA: T'Wolves-Clippers1/20ESPN10:39pm-1:27am1.52,204 NBA: Mavericks-Clippers1/18ESPN10:37pm-1:26am1.52,125 NBA: Lakers-Magic1/20ESPN8:06-10:39pm1.41,995 NBA: Mavericks-Jazz1/19TNT10:44pm-1:15am1.31,965 NCAA Basketball: Florida State-Duke1/21ESPN4:14-6:15pm1.41,950
ALL THE HOOPLA: NBA TV averaged 686,000 viewers for the Clippers-Lakers telecast on Wednesday night, marking the net’s third-best audience ever (NBA TV)….Comcast SportsNet Chicago averaged an 8.7 local rating for the Pacers-Bulls game on Wednesday, marking the net’s best regular-season rating for a Bulls game ever. The previous record was a 7.7 rating for a game against the Hawks on Jan. 3 (CSN Chicago)….FS Southwest averaged a 4.3 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth for the T'Wolves-Mavericks game on Wednesday, marking the net's best rating for a Mavericks game since March, 30 2007. The telecast featured the team receiving their '10-11 Championship rings prior to the game (FS Southwest)....CSN California is averaging a 2.4 local rating in Sacramento through 18 NBA Kings telecasts, up 33% from a 1.8 average rating for the ’10-11 season (CSN California).
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes NBC Sports Network’s show “Costas Tonight” will debut next Thursday with a show from Indianapolis at 7:00pm ET. The monthly show hosted by Bob Costas is “similar to what Costas did for HBO for eight years before leaving in 2009 to join the then-upstart MLB Network.” Costas said, “When I left, one thing I missed was the kind of programming HBO -- until now -- uniquely did. You just couldn't do it anywhere else. And now essentially this new NBC Sports Network has let me re-configure what I did at HBO.'' He added that the guest list for the opener “isn't set, but it is expected to include big names and address an array of football topics” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/27).
BOSTON GOT THE SUPER BOWL COVERED: In Boston, Chad Finn takes a look at the local media members who will be broadcasting live from Indianapolis leading up to Super Bowl XLVI. WBZ-CBS' Steve Burton will "host 'Patriots GameDay Sunday' live from Indianapolis beginning this Sunday" at 11:30pm, and the station also has "several specials planned." WCVB-ABC is "sending a 12-person crew," while WDHD-NBC, "has numerous hours of programming in store." WXNE-Fox' Doug Goudie will "report live from Lucas Oil Stadium for the morning program beginning Tuesday." NESN's reporters Dara McIntosh and Jeff Howe, two cameramen, and a producer form the station's contingent, while at least 18 Comcast SportsNet New England personalities "will be in Indianapolis this week." Several shows from WEEI will "broadcast live from Indianapolis Tuesday through Friday" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/27).
GAME ON: In Boston, Johnny Diaz notes the Super Bowl is "back on for more than 200,000 Greater Boston subscribers to DirecTV," as the company and Sunbeam Television Corp., which owns Boston’s WHDH-NBC, "settled their two-week dispute." Sunbeam had "blacked out its stations on the satellite service on Jan. 14 over 'retransmission consent fees,' which cable and satellite companies pay to TV stations they carry." U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who had "urged Sunbeam and DirecTV to reach a resolution, applauded the restored service" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/27).
CATCHING A BREAK: In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter notes “Fox Sports Daybreak” co-host Artrell Hawkins “wasn’t convinced he could support his family doing radio as recently as two months ago, when he planned to look for a coaching job until the call came from Fox in early December.” Hawkins said, “It was a total surprise when I got the call about the Fox show.” Hawkins co-hosts with Andy Furman from 6:00-9:00am weekdays on XM Channel 169. Hawkins said of Furman, “It’s going better than I expected. He’s the opinionated regular guy, and I’m the voice of experience and reason. We’re working together well” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/27).