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Fox earned a 7.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500's debut in primetime, which saw Matt Kenseth take the checkered flag. That figure is down 6% from an 8.2 overnight for Trevor Bayne’s win last year, which aired on a Sunday afternoon, but up from a 7.0 rating in ’10 when the race was delayed due to a pothole on the track. From 7:15-10:30pm ET, the race was averaging a 7.8 rating, with ratings peaking from 10:00-10:15pm at a 9.2 rating. The race dropped to a 7.3 rating from 10:30-12:00am, during which the race was under a red flag due to a fuel spill resulting from driver Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet dryer. The 12:00-1:00am hour finished also finished at a 7.3 rating. The race delivered Fox a win among all networks in primetime overnights, and is expected to give the net its most-viewed Monday night since the World Series. The 7.7 rating for the race was below the 9.4 overnight earned by NBC’s “The Voice,” which aired from 8:00-10:00pm. “The Voice” also topped all programs last night among adults 18-49 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Charlotte, Roy Green Jr. wonders whether the large ratings could "lead to the Daytona 500 becoming a prime-time event" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/28). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Because of the history of ‘Monday Night Football,’ the American public is willing to accept a sporting event in primetime on Monday night.” This “could be the start of ‘Monday Night Daytona’ from now on if they do a great job” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/27).
READY FOR PRIMETIME: In Orlando, George Diaz writes moving the start of the race from 12:00pm to 7:00pm was the “best-case-scenario” for NASCAR, evolving from “a lousy 24 hours of involving zero cooperation with the heavens above.” NASCAR was “able to stage its signature event to kick off the season under the [lights], in prime time.” Diaz: “No doubt that Fox put a little squeeze on NASCAR officials to ditch the original plan of a noon start when the drizzle continued to drip on Daytona again Monday morning” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/28). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said NASCAR is "making the best of a bad situation.” Staging the event last night had "more people watching obviously than it would have had they run this afternoon.” SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, "It’s much better than if they had been on the afternoon, when people are at work” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/27). The AP’s Jim Litke writes the Daytona 500 “wasn't just delayed,” it was a “flat-out disaster.” But NASCAR officials need to “look hard for a silver lining” because “that's what Monday night's race could turn out to be.” Litke writes, “‘Monday Night Racing’ is an experiment that might be worth trying again.” Moving a regular-season race or two from a weekend slot to Monday night “might be just the spark [the] sport needs to keep a still-fragile recovery on track.” Litke: “Racing just looks better at night, and it's a whole lot wilder, something that wouldn't be wasted on the 18-34 demographic NASCAR is so desperately seeking” (AP, 2/28).
BETWEEN THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Fox Sports co-President & COO Eric Shanks said it was not a tough decision to run the Daytona 500 in primetime last night in place of new episodes from two successful primetime series. "You have a commitment to the Daytona 500 and you just make that work. ... Is it ideal for 'House' and 'Alcatraz' to be displaced? No." “Alcatraz” has been averaging a 6.2 rating and 10.4 million viewers this season to date, while “House” has averaged a 5.6 rating and 9.1 million viewers. This is the first time the race has been moved to a primetime slot, and Shanks was not prepared to offer any ratings guesses. "I don't think anyone is thinking that viewership will be higher or equal to if the race ran on Sunday, when everyone knew it was on," Shanks said. He pointed to strong entertainment competition on Monday nights, which includes four of the top broadcast shows among NASCAR's key men 18-49 demographic: "The Voice," "Two-And-A-Half Men," "2 Broke Girls" and "How I Met Your Mother." NBC's "The Voice" is currently the most-viewed Monday night program on TV, with its 8:00-10:00pm window averaging an 11.8 rating and 21.7 million viewers (buoyed by a post-Super Bowl season premiere). Additionally, ESPN aired two men's college basketball matchups (Notre Dame-Georgetown and Kansas-Oklahoma State) and USA Network broadcast WWE "Monday Night Raw," both of which attract the young male demo (Ourand & Karp, THE DAILY).
A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jeff Passan writes driver Brad Keselowski is “perhaps the social media-savviest racer in NASCAR,” and he used the two-hour delay from Juan Pablo Montoya's fiery crash with a jet dryer “to tweet from his No. 2 car.” Keselowski spent much delay "interacting with a group of followers that wouldn’t stop growing.” Keselowski, who started the race “with around 65,000 followers, more than tripled that number, leaving Daytona International Speedway with more than 200,000.” All but “eight of the 43 tweets Keselowski sent from his account -- @Keselowski -- were retweeted more than 50 times.” He was “informative, giving updates from inside and outside of his car on when the race might restart” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel notes Keselowski “pulled out a smart phone, took pictures and tweeted.” He wound up “gaining around 135,000 followers in a matter of a couple hours” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28).
SAYING SORRY: USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy reports San Diego-area KSWB-Fox' Ross Shimabuku “has apologized for stopping just short of calling NASCAR driver Danica Patrick an offensive word on-air Feb. 20.” The network showed video of Patrick at NASCAR media day “complaining that the news media always describe female athletes such as herself as ‘sexy.’” Patrick: “Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?” On the set, Shimabuku said, “Oh, I’ve got a few words. … Starts with a ‘B,’ and it’s not ‘beautiful.’” Fox posted a video of him “apologizing on its website Sunday” (USA TODAY, 2/28).
TNT averaged a 4.4 U.S. rating and 7.1 million viewers for Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game, down 15% and 22%, respectively, from a 5.2 rating and 9.1 million viewers last year. The game peaked at a 4.8 rating (7.8 million viewers) from 10:00-10:30pm ET. The game aired up against ABC’s Academy Awards telecast, which earned a 22.6 rating and 39.3 million viewers from 8:30-11:24pm ET (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). The game drew 215,600 viewers in the Orlando market, where the game was held, compared to 468,100 viewers for the Academy Awards (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 2/27). NBC’s Jay Leno asked, “How many watched the Oscars last night? Did you watch? How many watched the NBA All-Star Game? See, that's what is great about America. You've got your choice of which spoiled millionaires you want to watch" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 2/27).NBA ALL-STAR GAME ON TNTYEARRATINGVIEWERS (000)
LOCATION'124.47,070 Orlando'115.29,093 L.A.'103.86,846 Dallas'094.57,621 Phoenix'083.86,334 New Orleans'074.26,843 Las Vegas'064.37,070 Houston'054.98,082 Denver'045.18,190 L.A.'036.610,829 Atlanta
STILL DEBATING THE DUNK CONTEST: SportsNet N.Y.’s Chris Carlin asked, “Who are Budinger, Williams, George and Evans? It is not a law firm; it is your four contestants in the dunk contest." Carlin noted Heat F LeBron James "said if there was a $1 million purse, he would take part in it." Carlin: "You know what, LeBron? You’re right. They should do that. But give the million back to charity, get the stars back involved. Otherwise, why bother?” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/27). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “All these sponsors are out there throwing money at All-Star weekend ... so divert some of that money. Put $1 million in the dunk contest which at one point … was the biggest thing of All-Star weekend.” Wilbon added, “You want the stars? Let somebody pony up the money and they’re going to come” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/27). ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said once the stars compete in the dunk contest, “then that opens the floodgates.” However, she noted Sprite currently sponsors the dunk contest and said, “You think they want to pay $1 million on top of that? I doubt it” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/27).
EASE UP ON THE REQUIREMENTS: Clippers F Blake Griffin said that maybe all the NBA need to do to get star players to compete in the dunk contest is “simply ease up on all the league-mandated requirements currently attached to it.” Griffin, who won the event last year, said, “It’s an all-day deal Friday and its most of the day on Saturday and you’re there all night. You have to leave the hotel 3-4 hours before and you’re taking pictures and doing all this stuff and guys just want and need a break. It would be great if you could just go out there and (dunk) but that’s not the case. You don’t see all the behind the scenes stuff” (ESPNLA.com, 2/27).
The NHL trade deadline was yesterday, and the GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes the "full-bore efforts of TSN and Sportsnet have become institutions over the past few years as fans shuttle back and forth between the two, hoping to get the breaking news." However, the coverage "with its lengthy dry spells still proved a disappointment as a TV special." Dowbiggin asks, "Do diminishing returns mean that the sports networks might want to back off next year?" Sportsnet Dir of Communications Jennifer Neziol said, "We are still focused on today’s events. It is too early for us to be making any plans regarding the 2012-13 NHL Season." TSN did "not reply to Usual Suspects by press time." Meanwhile, Dowbiggin writes it is clear "that hockey fans using Twitter were either ahead or even on almost all the big news of the day" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/28).
COMING TO CABLE: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted for the last five seasons, a package of 15 Brewers games has aired on WMLW-TV, but "starting this season, all locally produced Brewers telecasts will be on cable only." Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said, "We decided overall it was appropriate to have all the games to go on Fox Sports Wisconsin, exclusively on cable or satellite. ... This allows every one of these 150 broadcasts to be high definition, which has become increasingly mandatory requirement for viewership." Schlesinger added that another reason for putting all Brewers games on FS Wisconsin is that it "creates better continuity of programming -- viewers don’t have to think about where a particular telecast is going to air" (JSONLINE.com, 2/25).
ONLINE ONLY: In Albany, Pete Dougherty noted other than the men's and women's championship games, all of the MAAC tournament telecasts this year will available only on ESPN3.com. MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said, "When we negotiated our new agreement with ESPN, we were seeking to be on national platforms for all of our broadcasts rather than the regional networks that we had relied on in the past" (TIMESUNION.com, 2/27).
NOTES: On Long Island, Neil Best notes new Mets radio announcer Josh Lewin will "give up his job with Fox but keep the one with the Chargers by saving his days off for NFL Sundays." Lewin, who parted with the Rangers in '10, said of his new job with the Mets, "Not to blow smoke, but it's the FAN and it's the Mets. How often does this job open?" (NEWSDAY, 2/28)....Massachusetts-based StarStreet is launching a daily fantasy game, StarStreet Daily, in which users play single-day fantasy matchups against randomly selected opponents. The game blends elements of auction-style fantasy sports and day trading on the stock market, with actual prizes as large as $100 per day (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).