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CBS earned an 8.1 overnight Nielsen rating for the final round of The Masters on Sunday, marking the lowest rating since '04, when the final round was also played on Easter Sunday. The telecast, which saw Bubba Watson win in the second hole of a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen, was also down 22% from a 10.4 overnight last year, when Charl Schwartzel won by two shots over Jason Day and Adam Scott. It also marks the second straight year the final round has seen a double-digit percentage drop. The combination of Easter and good weather resulted in TV HUT levels dropping 12% compared to last year and the lowest level since '04. Third-round coverage on Saturday earned CBS a 5.1 overnight, down 25% from a 6.8 rating last year (THE DAILY). MEDIA LIFE's Bill Cromwell notes "a slight ratings decline would have been no surprise" with the final round this year falling on Easter. But ratings were also "likely hurt by the poor performance by Tiger Woods" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 4/10).
OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGS TREND
FOR FINAL ROUND OF THE MASTERS ON CBSYEAROVERNIGHT
WINNER'128.1 Bubba Watson'1110.4 Charl Schwartzel'1012.0 Phil Mickelson'098.8 Angel Cabrera'088.9 Trevor Immelman'079.1 Zach Johnson'069.0 Phil Mickelson'0510.3 Tiger Woods047.3 Phil Mickelson'039.3 Mike Weir'029.9 Tiger Woods
EARLY ROUNDS: ESPN averaged 3.4 million viewers for the first two rounds of The Masters on Thursday and Friday, up from 3.0 million viewers last year. The net averaged 4.1 million viewers for coverage of the second round on Friday, marking the most-viewed Friday coverage ever for the event and the third-largest audience ever to watch golf on cable TV. The audience figure is also up from 3.5 million viewers for the second round last year and exceeded the previous Friday record of 3.9 million viewers set in '10. The only two golf telecasts on cable TV which rank ahead of this year's second round are the first round of the '10 Masters on ESPN (4.9 million viewers) and the '08 U.S. Open playoff on ESPN (4.8 million viewers). ESPN also averaged 2.7 million viewers for coverage of the first round last Thursday, up 4% from last year. ESPN's digital platforms -- including ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile and ScoreCenter app -- saw a 15% year-over-year increase in average minute audience for The Masters. ESPN.com's golf page also saw daily unique visitors up 3% (ESPN).
MESMERIZED BY THE MASTERS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand wrote CBS' Masters action Sunday "showed how good TV sports can be when networks get out of the way and let the action sell itself." The network's voices were "actually pretty restrained about gushing over Augusta National Golf Course," which is "saying something given that [Jim] Nantz might be as enamored with the Masters as any sportscaster has been with any event." Hiestand noted CBS "didn't have a Tiger Woods charge to hang its hat on, but got the next best thing in having Phil Mickelson, the only other golfer who has consistently moved the ratings needle in recent years, in the hunt." But the network "stuck to quickly cutting between shots rather than going overboard on Mickelson." Hiestand: "Predictably, CBS reporter David Feherty had most of the on-air criticisms, which can be dangerous at Augusta." Feherty "came pretty close to the line on a replay of Louis Oosthuizen's shot to score a double eagle Sunday: 'Come to papa. Come on. You know you want to'" (USA TODAY, 4/9). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote under the header, "CBS's Masters Coverage Continues Excellence At Augusta National." Saunders: "Saturday's coverage was highlighted by the in-depth look at Phil Mickelson's eagle putt on 13 that tied him for the lead" (DENVER POST, 4/9).
COMMERCIAL FREE: In Utah, Mike Sorensen wrote there is "no sporting event on earth as mesmerizing as the Masters." Sorensen noted The Masters "controls how many commercials are on its telecast, and for years, it has only" had four minutes of commercials in each hour. Sorensen: "Four minutes? You can get that many commercials in the last two minutes of a college basketball game with all the timeouts they're allowed." The one problem is "you may forget to have lunch or have a chance for a potty break with so few breaks. And if the action is extra good, you'll be stuck to your sofa for hours" (DESERET NEWS, 4/9). Following Watson's win, Nantz said to CBS' Nick Faldo, "With the way he plays, Nick, already with a massive following just because of the style of play, this is a big moment for this sport. You know, this is a new star for the game of golf." Faldo responded, "He connects with these people because he's worn his heart well and truly on his sleeve all week and all of his life" ("The Masters," CBS, 3/8). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes Oosthuizen’s "historic, second-hole double eagle at the Masters on Sunday was shown on tape." CBS "confirmed the shot was not shown live" (N.Y. POST, 4/10).
NOT SEEING GREEN: In N.Y., Borden & Crouse noted IBM CEO Virginia Rometty was seen on the grounds at Augusta National Sunday and is "believed to have entertained clients at the club Friday, Saturday and Sunday." Rometty was "not wearing a green jacket, which is the traditional attire of club members." That Rometty was "able to elude fans and the news media for so long is perhaps not surprising." There is "not a large corporate village at Augusta National, so it is believed that IBM officials welcomed clients at a cabin secluded on the back nine of the golf course" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay noted Rometty "stood and applauded when word arrived that the 33-year-old Watson had captured the Masters on the second playoff hole, at the tenth, down the hill from IBM's company cabin." Gay: "If she's not a golf fan, it's hard to say who is. For Augusta, welcoming Ms. Rometty to the club should be a no-brainer, a rubber stamp, a tap-in." This "controversy is unlikely to stop the Masters from being a significant event." The "shame is that it's preventing it from being a better, more inclusive one" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/9).
Fox earned a 2.3 overnight Nielsen rating for its first Saturday afternoon MLB coverage this past weekend, which was led by Red Sox-Tigers in 43% of markets. That figure is down 8% from a 2.5 overnight for the opening weekend last year, which was led by Tigers-Yankees in 59% of markets. The opening telecast this year did earn a 14.0 local rating in Detroit, marking the net’s highest-rated regular-season MLB telecast ever in the market. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.4 overnight for White Sox-Rangers, which was its first “Sunday Night Baseball” telecast of the season. That rating is flat compared to Giants-Dodgers to start last season. ESPN earned an 8.5 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth, marking the net’s highest-rated regular-season MLB game ever in the market (records date back to ’99) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
TAKING IT TOO SERIOUSLY? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Fox' Tim McCarver, during the Red Sox-Tigers broadcast Saturday, said, "There is nothing more disturbing than social networking." The comment "drew immediate social media reaction." McCarver said yesterday that "anyone who took him seriously was way off base." McCarver: "If anybody took that literally, they're not understanding the spirit of comment. Anybody listening to that broadcast who thinks it's anything other than being playful is just looking for something else. But it doesn't bother me. I pay no attention to it" (USA TODAY, 4/10). USA TODAY's Mike Foss noted it "didn't take long into the season for Tim McCarver to raise a few eyebrows." Foss: "In a world in which players and fans interact freely through social media platforms, announcers have followed suit." This "isn't the first time McCarver has made a seemingly out-of-touch remark" (USA TODAY, 4/9).
AROUND THE HORN: MLB is launching a new cable channel tonight at 7:00pm ET called MLB Network Strike Zone, which is patterned after the NFL's successful RedZone Channel. The channel already has signed affiliate deals with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, DirecTV and Dish Network. The channel will operate on Tuesday and Friday nights during the season, when MLB Network carries live games. During that time, Strike Zone will provide live look-ins and highlights commercial free. It will be part of DirecTV's Sports Pack and MLB Extra Innings package, and part of Dish Network's Multi-Sport Pack (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
GROWING UP: SportsNet N.Y. President Steve Raab in an interview with MULTICHANNEL NEWS, said, "After six years, the programming on the RSN should be right, operating at the right expense levels, the talent has developed and matured." Asked if there is "any chance of getting back on Dish's air," Raab responded, "If they don't want to be in sports in this market, I'm not sure what we can do." Asked about ad sales, Raab said by Opening Day, "we want to be at 70% to 80% of our ad sales. We'll be there and be at the high end of that range" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 4/9).
NEW GIG: In California, Dan Hayes interviewed FS San Diego's Mark Sweeney, who is a baseball studio analyst for the newly formed RSN's pre- and post-game Padres shows, as well as an in-game and sideline analyst. Asked if he had "any live broadcast experience before the last two weeks," Sweeney answered, "I had done on-air stuff with Fox 5 here and playoff stuff, but nothing this substantial. ... I also understood, the type of player I was and not having a household name, I had a small window of opportunity. I'm not degrading what my situation is, but it's the truth and you see it. They all want the big name. But having this opportunity is very exciting and humbling." Sweeney explained, "I feel like I'm prepared for this. There's a lot of stuff I need to learn and go through rep-wise. But I think I'm prepared to talk baseball and let people understand how hard it is, but also show the good things about the game that are the insides" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/8).
Fox Sports has scheduled primetime sports broadcasts for 28 of 32 Saturday nights, beginning with this Saturday and running through December 8. The schedule is led by 12 college football regular-season games (to be announced), the Big Ten Football Championship game, eight regular-season MLB games and Game Four of the World Series. Fox will round out those events with three NASCAR Sprint Cup races and three UFC cards. In addition to the Saturday primetime schedule, Fox also has 20 other primetime sports nights scheduled in '12. Below is the complete list of Fox' Saturday primetime broadcasts through December 8 (Fox).
EVENTDATE EVENT1/28 UFC9/1 College football2/18 NASCAR Sprint Cup (Bud Shootout)9/8 College football4/14 NASCAR Sprint Cup (Texas)9/15 College football4/28 NASCAR Sprint Cup (Richmond)9/22 College football5/5 UFC9/29 College football5/12 NASCAR Sprint Cup (Darlington)10/6 College football5/19 MLB10/13 College football5/26 MLB10/20 College football6/2 MLB10/27 World Series6/9 MLB11/3 College football6/16 MLB11/10 College football6/23 MLB11/17 College football6/30 MLB11/24 College football7/7 MLB12/1 Big Ten Championship8/4 UFC12/8 UFC
CHANGING THE LINEUP: BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Consoli wrote Fox is "hoping to change the Saturday night broadcast network landscape in a major way" with its primetime lineup. The entire Saturday sports programming package "has been in the planning stages for more than a year." Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said, "This is a collaborative effort between Fox Sports and Fox Entertainment. We decided to do it because the opportunity was there. Ratings continue to go down on Saturday nights and we thought we should take a swing at programming the night with sports each week." For Fox, the "biggest obstacle came from whether or not they'd be able to schedule the increased number of Saturday night MLB games." Shanks said, "Last year, we televised three or four Saturday night games, but there's a big difference between that number and eight. Scheduling these games was no easy feat. We had to have discussions with all 30 teams and they all had to sign off on the scheduling. Some teams don't like to play Saturday night games before Sunday day games. Some teams would rather play at one or four in the afternoon. We needed a consensus. It took almost all of last baseball season to come up with it" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 4/9). MEDIA LIFE's Toni Fitzgerald wrote, "When you think about it, it seems like a no-brainer." The net's "Baseball Night in America" will be hosted by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian, Kevin Millar and Harold Reynolds. The changes "should give an immediate boost to Fox' Saturday ratings." The net is averaging a 1.5 Nielsen rating among adults 18-49 "this season, tied for second with NBC behind CBS at 1.9" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 4/9). The L.A. TIMES' Joe Flint wrote on Twitter, "Silly me. I see Fox's move to turn Saturday over to sports as a good thing, not throwing in towel, which is what they were doing."
GEARING UP FOR NEGOTIATIONS: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Ourand notes MLB's "move to prime time should help increase the package's TV ratings, which have been flat at a 1.8 rating for the last three years." It also comes as MLB "opens negotiations for new media rights deals." MLB's deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports end after the '13 season. Shanks said, "What we saw last year with prime-time baseball and what we've seen with UFC and I think what ESPN has seen with college football, you can do good business on Saturday night" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/9 issue).
Topps yesterday announced it has released two iOS apps -- Topps Pennant and Topps Bunt. The Topps Pennant application is available for the iPhone and the iPad and recreates over 60 years of baseball plays dating back to '52. Bunt, available on the iPad, is a social game that acts as a companion to the baseball season (Topps). In N.Y., Amy Chozick wrote the new apps “represent the start” of Topps President & CEO Ryan O’Hara’s new digital strategy. O’Hara said that the plan “calls for a couple of new apps annually that will each require an investment ‘in the mid-six figures.’” Baseball card collecting “has fallen out of favor with children,” and Topps is “trying to breathe digital life into a once-cherished hobby.” The new apps “represent important pieces of a larger strategy intended to slowly expand the fading baseball card business into a broader media company complete with digital offerings, and potentially shows, movies and clothing lines.” At its peak in the ‘80s and ‘90s the baseball card industry “produced about $1 billion in domestic sales, compared with about $200 million today.” Industry estimates show that today, the market for baseball cards in the U.S. “is made up of about 70 percent adults and 30 percent children.” MLBPA Dir of Licensing & Business Development Evan Kaplan said that a “thriving baseball card industry in any form is in the interest of the game, because cards engage children with baseball early on” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9).
THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT: In Seattle, Steve Kelly reported former NFLers Joe Tafoya, Kerry Carter, Chike Okeafor and Omare Lowe have formed digital outfit Jump It Media, and business “is starting to boom.” The group is “building profile applications for athletes to help them increase their brands through online channels.” Among their subjects are Bears LB Lance Briggs and Mavericks G Jason Terry. These profile apps “will be found on iOS, Android and sites like AT&T and Verizon.” Tafoya said, “We want people to see what's under the helmet. The way we pitch it to athletes is, 'There's all this information on you out there in the world. Shouldn't you take control of it and manage that brand correctly?'” (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/8).
SportsNet N.Y. unveiled a new set at its Manhattan studios last night where it will host “Daily News Live,” plus studio shows around the Mets, Jets and Big East conference. SNY declined to reveal the cost of creating the studio. SNY Senior VP/Production & Exec Producer Curt Gowdy said,“The new set gives us a new vibrancy for shows we produce in that studio. It allows us to earmark an area where we can have good analysis.” It took three weeks to complete the project, with Lighting Design Group and Creative Dimensions acting as the primary vendors. The new set has a video wall made up of nine individual 55-inch TV and 14 on-set talent positions. It contains more than 1,000 pounds of plexiglass and over 100 lighting fixtures (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
FINAL COUNTDOWN: Universal Sports plans to launch a weekly studio news show ahead of the London Games called "Countdown to London." The show, which will debut 100 days out from the Olympics on April 18 at 8:00pm ET, will air every Wednesday. The first episode will be 90 minutes and subsequent ones will be an hour. It will include sponsored segments from Dow, Panasonic and Budweiser. The program will offer a mix of Olympic Trials news, athlete interviews and archival footage from previous Olympics (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).
OFF THE AIR: In Boston, Greg Bedard cited sources as saying Warren Sapp's employment with the NFL Network is "likely over." Sapp "has not been on the network since the week of his tweets and on-air comments" that labeled free agent TE Jeremy Shockey as the snitch in the Saints bounty scandal -- something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "said was not true." TMZ.com also reported documents from Sapp's recent bankruptcy filing "said his NFL Network contract, which pays him $540,000 annually, expires in August" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/8)....SI.com's Peter King wrote the NFL "needs to send Warren Sapp to the Rookie Symposium this year -- and I'm serious -- to explain how a player at the heights a decade ago could declare bankruptcy today." King: "It's the kind of cautionary tale players can learn from. I can only think of one word for Sapp's story: sad" (SI.com, 4/9).
NOTES: YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Huguenin noted last season's USC-Notre Dame football game "was the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium since 1990." Notre Dame officials "liked it so much" that the Sept. 22 home game with Michigan will have a 7:30pm ET kickoff. The Miami-Notre Dame matchup on Oct. 6 at Soldier Field "also will kickoff" at 7:30pm ET. Both games will be on NBC (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/7)....FLORIDA TODAY's Mark DeCotis wrote of his retirement from the paper, "It's time to say so long after 37 consecutive years in the newspaper business" (FLORIDA TODAY, 4/10).