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Fox finished with an 8.0 fast-national Nielsen rating and 13.7 million viewers for Monday night’s Daytona 500 telecast, a figure that excludes the nearly two-hour delay following Juan Pablo Montoya's crash into a safety truck/track-drying engine. Those figures are down 8% and 12%, respectively, from an 8.7 rating and 15.6 million viewers last year, when the race aired on a Sunday afternoon. This year’s figures also mark Fox’ second-lowest rating/viewership since it first aired the Daytona 500 in '01, behind only a 7.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers for the '10 race, which also suffered a lengthy delay due to potholes on the track. Monday night’s telecast gave Fox a win in primetime among viewers and among adults 18-49. The net also saw its most-viewed Monday night in 16 months, dating back to the MLB Giants’ clinching World Series Game Five win over the Rangers in '10 (THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan notes it “might not have been precisely the season kickoff NASCAR was seeking.” Still, the early returns “might not have blunted the sport’s momentum" (USA TODAY, 2/29).DAYTONA 500 TV TRENDYEARNETRAT.VIEWERS (000)
WINNER'12*Fox8.013,700 Matt Kenseth'11Fox8.715,597 Trevor Bayne'10**Fox7.713,294 Jamie McMurray'09Fox9.215,958 Matt Kenseth'08Fox10.217,800 Ryan Newman'07Fox10.117,530 Kevin Harvick'06NBC11.319,355 Jimmie Johnson'05Fox10.918,685 Jeff Gordon'04NBC10.617,796 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'03Fox9.816,835 Michael Waltrip'02NBC10.918,780 Ward Burton'01Fox10.017,081 Michael Waltrip
CHART NOTES: * = Rainout on Sunday; Monday night race had two-hour delay due to exploding track dryer. ** = Race had two-hour delay due to potholes in track.
MONDAY NIGHT DRAW: In N.Y., Bill Carter noted Fox’ coverage of the race “pushed the network to the top of the ratings against the most formidable lineup of shows on CBS, NBC and ABC.” The Daytona 500 “attracted 14.1 million viewers for the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m. and a 4.6 rating among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers most prized by advertisers.” One “clear result of the insertion” into Monday’s lineup of the race was a “drop-off for some of the established Monday hits” (NYTIMES.com, 2/28). Also in N.Y., Viv Bernstein asks, “Will the Sprint Cup go prime time again?” NASCAR President Mike Helton said that he was “unsure if NASCAR would pursue more prime-time events” (N. Y. TIMES, 2/29). YAHOO SPORTS’ Geoffrey Miller noted the numbers are “important for NASCAR because they show that the marquee events can still remain marquee events even away from the traditional Saturday night or Sunday slots” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28).
HAVING THE STAGE TO THEMSELVES: ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the Daytona 500 "stumbled upon something" with the Monday primetime start. Le Batard: "Rainout on Sunday, you get Monday to yourself in sports after the basketball All-Star Game. You throw in some explosions, you get monster ratings and the next day we’re all talking about your race. We wouldn’t have been if you didn’t have Monday to yourself" ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 2/28). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "Everybody was talking about it last night. Social media was blowing up talking about what was going on, especially when that fire happened." If the race was held Sunday, it would have been against the NBA All-Star Game and the Academy Awards, “which always crushes everything.” ESPN's J.A. Adande said it was “good to have a night to yourself on the sporting calendar” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/28).
ACTING FAST: San Diego-area KSWB-Fox' Ross Shimabuku has been “suspended without pay for one week for making a derogatory comment about race car driver Danica Patrick.” Shimabuku “drew criticism for a broadcast last week in which he stopped just short of calling” Patrick a "b----" on the air (UTSANDIEGO.com, 2/28).
NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski tripled the number of people following him on Twitter Monday night after tweeting out pictures of the on-track fire during the Daytona 500 from his car, "just the latest episode in social media’s evolution,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. In “one night’s burst of Twitter posts, Keselowski became the symbol of NASCAR’s newly aggressive push into social media as a way to attract and interact with young fans.” NASCAR Managing Dir of Integrated Marketing Communications David Higdon said, “He distinguished himself in being the poster child for an engaging athlete -- the type of athlete that the fans really connect to in a multitude of ways.” Higdon added, “He’s a digital native. This is an extension of his personality.” Sandomir notes Keselowski “did not violate any rules, especially regarding the safety of its drivers," and NASCAR “decided not to fine him” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/29). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Busbee wrote NASCAR not penalizing Keselowski is “absolutely the right decision, and high praise to NASCAR for not clinging to some outmoded idea of technology.” Keselowski has been “winning accolades from all over the sports world for his move, and NASCAR would be foolish to restrict something that, in itself, has nothing but positive effects on the race and the sport's connection to fans” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said Keselowski's tweets were great, because he “wasn’t just about, ‘Oh, what I’m doing right now’ or sending out some witty retort." Blackistone: "This was actual news reporting. He even gave you photographs.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “I’ve got mad respect for him picking up about 140,000 Twitter followers. ... But you have to wonder: Who carries a cell phone with them during a sporting event?” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/28).
NO PLACE FOR THIS IN RACING: ESPN’s Brad Daugherty said NASCAR should “definitely fine” Keselowski for having his cell phone in his car and tweeting during the race. Daugherty: “You’re a professional race car driver. I don’t know why you would have your cell phone with you in the first place, other than to just take advantage of an opportunity to do something like this. There’s no place for this in professional sports when you are the athlete.” ESPN’s Allen Bestwick noted drivers are "not allowed to have a recording device onboard” during a race (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 2/28). Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock said, "I was surprised, first of all, that he’s carrying around a cell phone in his racecar. I don’t know if he’s making dinner reservations for after the race or what’s going on there” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/28).
Facebook "will carry live ESPN TV coverage of 225 college men's and women's basketball games from conference tournaments," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. The idea is to give ESPN3, which annually streams 4,000 sports events, "another outlet for games it carries." ESPN3 VP Damon Phillips indicated that these will be the "first live sports, outside of some martial arts action, available via Facebook." Phillips said, "We see this as a big opportunity. You fish where the fish are." But Hiestand notes, "Not everybody will be able to go to Facebook and reel in ESPN's games." ESPN3's content, including the games on Facebook, is "free to about 73 million subscribers who get their cable TV or broadband service from carriers who distribute ESPN3." Phillips said that anybody trying to log in to ESPN3.com or to its games via Facebook "will either be recognized or will need to provide simple self-authentication." The upcoming games will also be "accessible on Facebook via colleges' individual pages" (USA TODAY, 2/29).
MLBAM today is releasing the '12 versions of its MLB.com At Bat mobile application, and this year's version arrives with several significant changes, most notably a shift to a universal structure in which one app purchase will cover both tablets and smartphones. In prior years, MLBAM had sold tablet and smartphone versions of MLB.com At Bat separately, believing the distinct experience on each platform warranted its own fee. But after finding more consumer overlap than expected between the MLB.com At Bat tablet and smartphone app purchases, and seeing how many other apps were moving to a universal structure, MLBAM felt the shift was due. "In the beginning, the use cases were so different, but we've now made a change and it's what we should be doing," said MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman. MLB.com At Bat also arrives this year with a far different pricing structure. As previously announced, purchasers of a premium-level MLB.TV subscription will get the app for free. Beyond that, the app again carries a $14.99 fee, this time good for both tablets and smartphones. But the product in the various app stores is actually a "shell app." Fans will download a lightweight, free version of the product, and then have the option to upgrade within the app to the full, fee-based experience on either a season-long basis, or for the first time, on a monthly basis for $2.99 per month. Apple has previously limited monthly billing options within mobile apps to print publishers. MLBAM additionally is breaking out the At The Ballpark features of MLB.com At Bat, including venue-specific features such as check-ins and seat upgrades, into its own free, standalone mobile app, also carrying the At The Ballpark name. The goal is to offer a cleaner, faster in-venue mobile experience that doesn't carry the fees or heavy app weight of MLB.com At Bat. "At Bat is really our live game product. Live game video. Live game tracking," Bowman said. "That should be separate from the ballpark-specific experience, and eventually, you'll see a whole set of apps from us." The "Beat The Streak" fantasy game again has its own app, and set for release later this season is an undisclosed gaming app.
NBA.com generated a league-record 114 million video streams and 209 million page views during its Feb. 24-27 All-Star Weekend, according to league officials. Those figures mark new site records and are up about 40% and 30%, respectively, from last year. More than 5 million votes were received for Saturday's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, up 15% from last year as the event moved entirely to a fan voting structure. The league also saw more than 2.5 million social media comments on Facebook and Twitter during Sunday's All-Star Game, up nearly 370% from last year. The league's mobile application, NBA GameTime, additionally received 1.35 million video streams during the weekend, up 305% from a year ago.
BUSY TRADE DEADLINE: NHL.com posted several year-over-year gains in Web metrics for its coverage of Monday's trade deadline. Trade Deadline Day was the seventh-highest day in terms of regular season unique visitors in the history of the site. Daily unique visitors were up 29% year-over-year, and up 49% from the '11-12 season average. Page views were up 41% from the '11 Trade Deadline Day and up 68% from the '11-12 average.
ESPN hired former Colts Vice Chair Bill Polian to be an on-air NFL analyst. He starts March 12, the first day of NFL free agency, and will focus on the NFL Draft, free agency and the business of the NFL. "We will tap into his expertise immediately on ESPN in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft, free agency and arguably the biggest offseason story in years with the future of his former quarterback Peyton Manning still to be determined," Seth Markman, ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for NFL studio shows, said in a statement. Polian will be a regular panelist on "NFL Live," "NFL32" and "SportsCenter." He also will contribute to ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Radio. Polian is not the first front office exec to appear on ESPN, as the net features former Dolphins Exec VP/Football Operations Bill Parcells and former Packers VP Andrew Brandt. Polian becomes ESPN's 26th on-screen NFL analyst. ESPN had 27 at the beginning of last season, but opted not renew contracts for Jon Ritchie and Kordell Stewart. Markman said ESPN will especially rely on Polian to provide analysis for player transactions. "The NFL is such a year-round sport that we thought we could use help from a front-office perspective," Markman said. "During the free agent frenzy, we break a lot of stories and we analyze where players can fit in. Polian can speak to why teams are going after certain players. Getting a perspective on a team's philosophy is huge." Polian did not audition for ESPN, which heard tapes from radio shows he has hosted on Sirius XM Radio. "We've interviewed him on camera before, and he was good," Markman said.
In DC, Mike Wise notes former Georgetown men's basketball coach John Thompson Jr. today "signs off ... for the last time" from his show on ESPN Radio 980 DC. Thompson has hosted the show for 13 years, and every day, "sometimes within the same 15-minute segment, he could be biased, socially conscious, whimsical, and -- a shocker to some -- downright humorous." Thompson said, "Did I make a difference? I don't know. ... I feel like people know better who I really am." Thompson is not retiring, as he will "continue to call national college games, including this year's men's Final Four." But Wise writes an era "definitely ends locally, one in which a Washington legend through and through was finally unplugged and revealed in full" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/29).
WE'RE TALKING PADRES: In San Diego, Bill Center noted Baseball HOFer Tony Gwynn, who earlier this month underwent extensive surgery to remove a malignant tumor from inside his cheek, will be "returning to the Padres' television booth this season as a color analyst." The team's TV team will "include play-by-play man Dick Enberg and substitute Andy Masur, and analysts Mark Grant and Gwynn" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 2/28). Meanwhile, in California, John Maffei reported Mike Pomeranz will be the Padres' "new face for pre- and post-game shows." Pomeranz, who is leaving Minneapolis' KARE-NBC, is "set to join Fox for its coverage" of the team (NCTIMES.com, 2/27).
PASSING, BUT BARELY: TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, when asked to evaluate his performance on "Inside the NBA," said, "I'm at a low -C. I'm learning and will only get better. I just want to keep people entertained. I don't want to be talking with the big vocabulary and all that bullshit. I'm short and to the point. I'm very educated and can give you somewhat of a vocabulary, but I don't get to the philosophical side" (VIBE.com, 2/26).
NEW ON THE BEAT: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has hired Izzy Gould as its new Dolphins beat reporter. Gould previously covered the Univ. of Alabama football team (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 2/27).