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Each of CBS’ NCAA men’s basketball tournament windows over the weekend saw a year-over-year decline. Kansas’ defeat of North Carolina in the Midwest Region final was the highest-rated game for the weekend with a 7.8 overnight, down 20% compared to Kentucky-North Carolina in the same window last year. CBS’ early window Sunday also saw a 29% drop for the Kentucky-Baylor game. CBS’ two windows yesterday, which aired from 2:15-7:15pm ET, went head-to-head with the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on NBC from 2:30-6:30pm, which was up 129% as Tiger Woods won his first PGA Tour event since ’09. TBS saw gains for its two telecasts on Friday night, with North Carolina-Ohio up 106% compared to Kansas-Richmond in '11 and Kansas-N.C. State up 13% compared to VCU-FSU (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes “brand names from big conferences in the Final Four ... suggests CBS/Turner will end up with solid Final Four ratings” (USA TODAY, 3/26).NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT:
REGIONAL WEEKEND OVERNIGHT RATINGSDATENET
'12 MATCHUPRAT. '11 MATCHUP% +/-3/23TBS North Carolina-Ohio3.5 Kansas-Richmond105.9%3/23TBS Kansas-N.C. State2.6 VCU-FSU13.0%3/23CBS Baylor-Xavier3.5 North Carolina-Marquette-16.7%3/23CBS Kentucky-Indiana5.3 Kentucky-Ohio State-23.2%3/24CBS Louisville-Florida4.7 Butler-Florida-24.2%3/24CBS Ohio State-Syracuse6.9 UConn-Arizona-6.8%3/25CBS Kentucky-Baylor5.3 VCU-Kansas-29.3%3/25CBS Kansas-North Carolina7.8 Kentucky-North Carolina-20.4%
BOOTH REVIEWS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote for the second straight year, Charles Barkley “is taking up space in CBS’ NCAA hoops studio.” There is “no spontaneity,” and when there are “too many mouths locked into this format there 1) is no give-and-take, no conversation and 2) by the time the last guy gets to speak (it’s often Barkley), there’s not much left to say.” Raissman: “Why even bother putting Barkley on unless you want him to be himself?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/25). In Tampa, Tom Jones notes there are “not only too many talking heads” on CBS’ coverage of the NCAA tournament, “half of them shouldn’t even be there.” These are “the biggest, most-watched college basketball studio shows of the year and half the cast is made up of people who don't work on college broadcasts during the regular season.” That just “doesn't make sense.” Kenny Smith and Barkley “have been so-so," but the more they talk, the less Greg Anthony and Seth Davis “are able to talk.” Jones notes the broadcasting team of Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg “would be No. 4” on his list of best announcing teams, as Kevin Harlan-Reggie Miller, Marv Albert-Steve Kerr and Verne Lundquist-Bill Raftery “all were superb.” Jones: “I’d rather have any of those teams call the Final Four ahead of Nantz and Kellogg” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/26). In Boston, Chad Finn wrote the chemistry and camaraderie amongst Lundquist, Raftery and sideline reporter Lesley Visser “that is so apparent on the air is genuine, and it does not hibernate when the cameras are off.” Visser said, “They both have eloquence and wit, but they measure them out differently. Billy’s a riot, and Verne’s a great listener with a wonderful laugh, the best on television. We’re like an old married couple that still adores each other.” Raftery “comes across on air as the charming raconteur, the natural life of the barroom” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/23).
SAY YOU'RE SORRY: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes on Saturday, with seconds left in the Louisville-Florida game, with the Cardinals up three, Harlan “lost track of the score.” As Florida “tried successive 3-pointers to tie, Harlan declared ‘for the lead!’” Mushnick: “OK, such mistakes happen. But Harlan then made matters worse by pretending that he knew it was a three-point lead all along, that we never heard what he had been shouting or we’re too stupid to have known better.” He “owed his audience and reputation an acknowledgement -- ‘Sorry, folks, I lost track’ -- instead of bad faith.” All he had to do was “briefly note his error and he would have disarmed reasonable viewers.” Instead, his “dishonesty, was insulting” (N.Y. POST, 3/26). Mushnick yesterday wrote with four networks televising the tournament, “we weren’t supposed to miss anything.” But Thursday, Ohio State-Cincinnati “didn’t end until 11:55, Marquette-Florida ended at 12:33 Friday morning.” Mushnick: “What difference does it make if they were on different networks if half the country’s asleep during the final 16?” (N.Y. POST, 3/25).
HIGHLY UNLIKELY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Erik Holm reported Fox Sports launched a contest on its website before this year's tournament offering $1M "to anyone who managed to pick all 63 March Madness games correctly." The net also "bought an insurance policy for the contest, paying just a fraction of the potential prize money so an underwriter, HCC Insurance Holdings Inc., would be on the hook if someone managed to put together a perfect bracket." But by the time the field was down to the Sweet 16 "at the end of the first weekend, no one was left." But the insurers that back the NCAA contests "are extraordinarily unlikely to ever be stuck with a claim." SCA Promotions Dir of Sales Paul Panzera, whose company backs large NCAA bracket competitions with millions of entries, said that the closest anyone got "was 59 of the 63 games." SCA is not an insurer, but it "often passes along a chunk of its risk to reinsurers like Swiss Re and Munich Re." Holm noted most of those involved in the "perfect-bracket contests declined to say how much the insurance coverage costs." Fox Sports Interactive VP/Marketing Andrew Hossom said it was "cheap." He added, "We are conscious of our budget." Panzer added that SCA will "charge roughly 2% of the prize value for a perfect-bracket competition." That would amount "to $20,000 for a $1 million prize" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/24).
The Bruins today are launching an effort to "bundle all of their digital, mobile, and social online assets under one umbrella brand, so the team and its fans will more easily tweet, friend, and pin each other," according to D.C. Denison of the BOSTON GLOBE. The new Bruins Digital Entertainment Network will include more than a dozen properties, "including the team’s Facebook and Pinterest pages, Twitter accounts, a mobile app, and a YouTube video channel." The team is "also planning to use the network to better understand the digital habits of its younger fans, who are heavy users of the Internet and mobile devices, and to develop new marketing and sponsorship initiatives." Bruins TD Garden & Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Amy Latimer said, "We generate so much original content, on so many channels, that it makes sense to pull it all together." Denison notes the Bruins are "launching a campaign with the Heluva Good! food brand that shows how the network will work." The snack company will "sponsor a weekly 'Heluva Good Play of the Week' that will be shown on the BruinsTV channel on the team’s website." The video will also be "referenced and linked to from across the new network, from the team’s Tumblr blog to a Pinterest page that is written from the point of view of the Bear, one of the Bruins’ promotional characters." Latimer said that the new network has the "ability to record more" than 30 million impressions per month, and the team has "signed up with digital audience analytic company Umbel Corp., of Austin, Texas, to collect and analyze data from the network." Users of "any of the Bruins Internet and social media properties, such as Twitter and Facebook, are not likely to notice any changes other than more frequent linking" to other Bruins-related properties. The new network will "not have a single access point or hub; instead, it consists of a more tightly integrated and managed suite of Bruins-related online and mobile properties." It will have a "dedicated page on the team’s website that will highlight all of the channels within the network" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/26).
NFL Network's Warren Sapp was "close" to losing his on-air gig after calling free agent TE Jeremy Shockey a "snitch" in the Saints' bounty scandal, and the net's execs on Friday afternoon "were blunt about it," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. NFL Network Senior VP/Programming & Production Mark Quenzel said, "We decided not to fire Warren." Deitsch noted the net "certainly had cause for discipline," after Sapp tweeted last week his thoughts about Shockey was an informant in the Saints' bounty scandal. Quenzel said that he spoke with Sapp on Thursday and "made clear to the analyst that he is not a reporter." He would "not say if Sapp is facing specific discipline outside of saying he remains employed by the network." Quenzel said, "Our reporters are held to a very specific standard as to what needs to happen before they report the news. Warren went into an area where he is not an expert." Shockey Friday said of Sapp, "He lost all credibility when it comes to his fan base and regarding what he comes on the air and says. When he gives his judgment or speech on the NFL Network, I think he will lose a lot of credibility when it comes to the fans." Shockey said that several attorneys "have contacted him, and he'll speak on that subject at a later date." Sapp will be "back on the network's air, but there is no specific date for his next appearance." Quenzel said that no one from the league office "ordered him to discipline Sapp." Deitsch asked, "Does it matter that Sapp tweeted this on his personal account?" Quenzel "made the distinction that it did." He said, "Warren tweeted the information he tweeted on his personal Twitter account, not on NFL Network or any platform related to NFL Media. I don't consider it to be an NFL Network report" (SI.com, 3/23). ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss wrote, "Real poor judgment by Sapp." If the NFL "doesn't reprimand Sapp in some form, it seems like a double standard" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 3/25). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the NFL "should take action, either firing him or suspending him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/25).
PARAMETERS OF THE PUNISHMENT: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted the Saints' penalties handed down by the NFL for the Bountygate scandal "was said to have stunned" coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for a year without pay, as well as the Saints. Payton, whose duties "include personnel matters and calling offensive plays, must stop working on April 1." A source said that the league’s edict "did not offer details but broadly prohibited Payton from being involved in coaching the team." Battista asked, "Could he buy a ticket to sit in the stands at a game? Probably. Could he have a three-hour phone call with Brees to discuss the game plan? No." The NFL has "no realistic way of monitoring Payton’s interaction" with QB Drew Brees or anyone else in the organization. But the "implication is that if the NFL finds out that Payton has violated the suspension, he will be in even deeper trouble." Meanwhile, reps for ESPN, NBC and CBS on Friday indicated that they "had no plans to hire" Payton. But Fox Sports, which carries NFC games during the season "is open to the possibility." Fox Senior VP/Communications Lou D'Ermilio said, "Our feeling about Sean is that he’s bright, articulate and obviously contemporary. Any network with NFL rights would have to consider it.” The league responded in a statement: “He is suspended from the NFL for the season. His involvement in any non-NFL employment or business matters is not our decision" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25).
ON THE AIRWAVES? In N.Y., Bob Raissman cited a network exec as saying about Payton and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, "Putting one of these guys on, as a regular guest or analyst, would be a slap at the NFL. I don’t think that could happen. I also don’t know what’s in the language of the suspensions, but (the suspension) could be from any or all NFL-related participation. The decision may already have been made.” Raissman asked, "Who would be the better NFL analyst Payton or Williams?" A network exec said, "I don’t see Payton as a good TV analyst. He should lay low and go scout college games. Gregg Williams is the more intriguing pick. He’s got something different going for him. Now he’s viewed as a renegade, a sinister character. Younger viewers are attracted to that." Meanwhile, Raissman asked, "Will Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos be seen early on the NFL’s prime-time TV stage? Doubt it." Word is both NBC and ESPN "are concerned about Manning having a physical setback and not being able to play from the get-go." Then they would be "stuck with a game they feel will be unable to generate the kind of TV ratings a Manning-led Broncos team would produce" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/25).
NBC earned a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating for the final round of the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday from 2:30-6:30pm ET, marking the event’s best Sunday finish in three years as Tiger Woods earned his first Tour victory since ’09. The previous high was a 4.9 overnight for Woods’ one-stroke victory in ’09. From 6:00-6:30pm yesterday, NBC earned a 6.8 rating as Woods was wrapping up his five-stroke victory over Graeme McDowell, while CBS averaged a 6.6 rating during the Kansas-North Carolina NCAA men’s regional final in the same window. On Saturday, NBC averaged a 2.9 overnight, marking the best third-round for the tournament in nine years. Golf Channel was also a beneficiary with early-round coverage, as Friday’s second round marked the event’s best early round audience since the net began coverage in ’96. Friday also marked Golf Channel’s best early round audience this season to date (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).PGA TOUR ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL:
FINAL ROUND OVERNIGHT RATINGS TRENDYEARRAT.
WINNERYEARRAT. WINNER'124.8 Tiger Woods'043.3 Chad Campbell'112.1 Martin Laird'033.9 Tiger Woods'101.6 Ernie Els'025.7 Tiger Woods'094.9 Tiger Woods'015.4 Tiger Woods'084.0 Tiger Woods'005.3 Tiger Woods'072.5 Vijay Singh'994.4 Tim Herron'062.6 Rod Pampling'984.8 Ernie Els'053.1 Kenny Perry'974.3 Phil Mickelson
LACKING FORMER DEMAND: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine wrote CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus "fully realizes that Woods is far from the dominant player he once was, and he is no longer a ratings magnet." That was "taken into consideration" when CBS last year extended its deal with the PGA Tour through '21. McManus said, "In the most recent PGA tour deal we did, we did not assume that Tiger was going to be as dominant as he has been in the past. We did a very conservative projection on ratings. If Tiger finds his groove and plays a number of PGA tour events, that's all upside for us, but when you look at Rory McIlroy or Luke Donald, and put Phil Mickelson in that group, there is still an awful lot of really appealing golfers" on the PGA Tour (VARIETY.com, 3/25).
THREE-WEEK INFOMERCIAL? In DC, Tracee Hamilton asked, "Does it ever seem like CBS uses the NCAA tournament as a three-week infomercial to promote The Masters?" While CBS "pays a boatload of money to the NCAA for the privilege of broadcasting March/April Madness," it also "pays a boatload of money to a private golf club for the privilege of denting the sacred blades of grass that grace the fairways of Augusta National Golf Club each April." The trouble is, CBS is "less an outsider looking in and telling a story and more a lackey propagating the idea that Augusta is the Valhalla of the sporting world and that we should be watching, not from our recliners, but on bended knee." Hamilton: "It’s sickening. It won’t keep me from watching, but still, it’s sickening." While ESPN, which has the first two days of live coverage, is "not guilt-free in the arrangement," the net has "not been doing this long enough to have the fawning down to a science" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).