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ESPN earned a 4.8 overnight Nielsen rating for the first round of the ’12 NFL Draft last night, up 11.6% from a 4.3 overnight last year, but down from a 5.4 rating in ’10, which was the first time the first round aired in primetime on a Thursday. Cleveland-Akron led all markets for ESPN’s coverage with a 10.7 local rating, followed by Birmingham with a 10.5. Rounding out the top five markets were Dayton (8.3), Columbus (7.3) and Buffalo (7.3). NFL Network earned a 1.0 overnight for its coverage, up from a 0.9 last year, and flat with ’10 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
NEW ANGLE: NFL Network’s Rich Eisen appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show” this morning and he said the network’s cameras “were hardly in the Green Room last night.” Host Dan Patrick replied, “I like that. No tipping picks.” Eisen: “In fact, the only ones on our network who tipped picks were the Colts, Redskins and the Browns. We tried so hard not to tip picks, the first three picks were tipped by the teams themselves.” Eisen said the broadcast “was about trying to get the cell phones out of the hands of the kids and making it a more viewer-friendly draft." Patrick asked, “Did the ‘Mothership’ tip picks?” Eisen: “I have read on Twitter my good friend and colleague Adam Schefter was essentially tweeting out the picks moments before they were coming out” ("The Dan Patrick Show,” 4/27).
GETTING SOCIAL: The Draft also saw heavy commentary on Twitter. ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi wrote, "Does any commissioner have a better hug than Roger Goodell? I didn't think so." CBS' “Late Show” Exec Producer Eric Stangel wrote, “We're only through pick 8 and Jon Gruden is already sweaty...
#PaceYourself #NFLDraft.” ESPN.com’s Michigan recruiting editor Tom VanHaaren tweeted, “Jon Gruden just called RB Doug Martin a muscle hamster. That's awesome.” Broadcasting & Cable's Ben Grossman wrote on Twitter, “Best NFL draft quote, from ESPN's Todd McShay: 'He's a perfect fit, from a football player standpoint.' You know, as opposed to as a janitor.” Boston’s WEEI Radio tweeted, “What do you think Deion Sanders would say if you told him 10 years ago that he'd being doing the same job as Suzy Kolber today?"
With ESPN Radio N.Y. Thursday announcing plans to move to an FM station, the company "has made a move that could be a game-changer," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. ESPN has spent more than a decade as a "muted also-ran in its sports talk radio battle with WFAN, unable to overtake the station that invented the genre but unwilling to give up." Best writes, "No one at ESPN expects overnight success; everyone there hopes this is the start of something bigger." ESPN Radio N.Y. VP & GM David Roberts said, "Our focus isn't on saying, 'Hey, we have an FM, and that means we have a great chance of winning," We know we have to deliver to win, and that's the bottom line." ESPN Senior VP/Production & Business Divisions Traug Keller said, "Finding a New York FM is like finding beachfront property." ESPN likely will try to "make a splash when the Yankees' deal with CBS Radio expires after this season." It is prepared to "pay big and set up a bidding war" (NEWSDAY, 4/27). Keller said, "In some ways, our AM signal might have kept a baseball team from wanting to be with us." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes ESPN Radio carries Knicks, Rangers and Jets games, while the Mets, Giants, Nets and Devils are on WFAN-AM (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Roberts said, "Our focus is on what we do on ESPN New York. We are mindful of who our competition is and we are in this to win." In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes ESPN 1050 has made "only small in-roads on WFAN in terms of ratings" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "The long, short and 44-regular of this new ESPN FM deal? It’s the beginning of the hunting season." Both the Yankees and Mets "are radio free agents after this season," and ESPN is "no longer a non-qualifier because of 1050’s severely limited, after-sundown signal." With a "clear local signal and a long deal to rent 98.7," ESPN now is "prepped to make its next long-plotted move." Mushnick: "First choice, Yankees. Second choice, Mets" (N.Y. POST, 4/27).
NBC Sports Network averaged 1.32 million viewers for Game Seven of the Capitals-Bruins Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, marking the most-viewed NHL first round game on cable in 12 years, dating back to 1.51 million viewers for ESPN's Sharks-Blues Game Seven in '00. Excluding last night's two Game Sevens -- Rangers-Senators and Devils-Panthers -- NBCSN's NHL Stanley Cup Playoff viewership is up 14% compared to the last season. On broadcast TV, NBC is seeing its best start to the NHL postseason in 14 years, averaging 2.6 million viewers through six games. CNBC averaged 375,000 viewers for its 11 first-round telecasts. Meanwhile, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic averaged a 5.9 local rating in DC for its four telecasts series, marking the net's highest-rated playoff series ever for the Capitals. The previous record was a 5.7 rating for the Capitals-Rangers opening round series last season. The net also averaged an all-time high 2.8 local rating in Baltimore for the Capitals-Bruins series. Wednesday night's Game Seven earned an 8.0 rating in DC, marking the net's second-best Capitals rating ever, just behind an 8.1 for the '10 Capitals-Canadiens series. NESN averaged 13.6 local rating in Boston for its coverage of four Capitals-Bruins games, marking an all-time high for a Bruins' playoff series. The previous best was last season's opening round against the Canadiens (11.9 rating). Game Seven on the net earned a 19.6 local rating, marking a Bruins record and the sixth highest-rated telecast of any sort on NESN (THE DAILY).
MUSIC TO MY EARS: SportSouth earned a 5.2 local rating in Nashville for the series-clinching Predators-Red Wings Game Five on April 20, marking the net's highest rating ever for a Predator's telecast. That topped the record set during Game Four of the series (5.0 rating). Prior to the '12 Stanley Cup playoffs, the previous Predators' record was a 4.8 rating for Game Six of last season's Canucks-Predators Western Conference Semifinals (Fox Sports).
WHAT ABOUT THE FANS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes the NHL is the “latest in a long line of sports organizations to put the best interests of its paying fans behind the best interests of the television networks that show the games.” The first round of the NHL Western Conference playoffs was over Monday, but “it took until Wednesday for the NHL to even announce a partial schedule for the next round.” Only the Blues “stepping up in mid-evening and beating the NHL to the announcement” about their opener Saturday against the Kings “allowed their ticketholders to know it would be a 6:30 p.m. start and not an afternoon game.” Caesar notes the delay stems from the NHL and NBC, who “wanted to make sure the New York Rangers advanced on Thursday … so they could be featured in key TV slots.” Caesar: “This is the modern sports era, in which the guy buying a ticket no longer is of prime concern” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/27).
AN EMOTIONAL GAME: In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes announcers “don't have an impact on ratings, but Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick must be worth a little" after calling Game Sevens the past two nights on the NBC Sports Network. Dougherty: “If you're flipping channels to check the score, you can't turn away. Playoff hockey is loaded with drama, which Emrick enhances with the enthusiasm in his voice” (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/27). Dougherty noted the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs “has been a ratings success for the NBC Sports Group.” But the “strong hockey markets Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Jose already are out of the playoffs.” Hockey fans “will still watch, and making every playoff game available on national TV has helped.” Also in the net’s “favor is that it will have exclusive rights to all games after this round” (TIMESUNION.com, 4/24). In Ft. Lauderdale, Harvey Fialkov notes TSN cameras at the Devils-Panthers Game Seven “caught a shot of the ever-emotional Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon with his entire face planted on a counter in his suite in absolute despair” as his team lost in double OT (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/27).
BBC Dir of Sport Barbara Slater acknowledged that the broadcaster "must face up to a 'new reality' in the market for live rights against rivals with deep pockets," according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. The net must also "hit back at critics who claim the net is low on morale and showing signs of giving up the battle." R&A CEO Peter Dawson hinted that the BBC was "lagging behind rivals such as Sky and ESPN when it came to technical innovation." In the past 12 months BBC Sport has "lost its remaining horse racing ... renegotiated its Formula One deal to become a junior partner to Sky, lost 43% of its staff in moving the department north to Salford and slashed its overall rights budget by a fifth." Former BBC Managing Dir Paul Fox "recently claimed the corporation was giving up on sport and suggested the London Olympics might be the last it covered." But Slater said that she was "bullish about the future and suggested the picture would look very different after a summer of major sporting events including the Games, which will see the launch of 24 dedicated channels, Wimbledon and Euro 2012." She said the range and quality of coverage across all platforms would underline the net's ambition "to be the home of crown jewels sporting events."
EBB & FLOW: Slater added that the "loss of racing rights, which has dismayed some commentators, was part of the 'ebb and flow' of sports rights." Slater: "Sometimes rights go and sometimes we acquire rights. There is no question this is complex. We are in a new reality in a very dynamic market." Slater "hinted that the shared model that sees Sky show every F1 race live on a dedicated channel, and four days of live coverage of the US Masters to the BBC's two would be increasingly favoured by rights owners." Gibson writes the BBC will "have to pick its battles" as Wimbledon was "prioritised over Formula One in the recent cost cutting process, for example." Slater also "denied that the morale at BBC Sport had slumped." She said that the renewal of the Premier League highlights for '13-16 would be an "absolute priority." Slater: "Match of the Day is an absolutely iconic and treasured part of our output." She added the net's coverage of the London Games would "move the bar" with "unprecedented range and choice that will sweep audiences up" (GUARDIAN, 4/26).
U.K. digital sports outlet Perform is launching more than 50 digital sports channels on Facebook, extending its distribution onto social platforms. The effort, based around its Livesport.TV live and on-demand streaming service, will feature sports including soccer, Australian rules football, boxing, MMA, rugby and many others. The Facebook channels run parallel to a similar effort Perform began earlier this year on YouTube. On-demand content will be free, while live programming will carry a series of charges, depending on the event, with Facebook credits eventually to be among accepted payment methods. "We're looking to capture a sizable part of the audience that really is on Facebook and is not watching TV as much," said Juan Delgado, Perform Americas Managing Dir. "You've seen some major entities experiment with content already on Facebook. We think there's a big future there, and are making a big bet on it, and think you'll see others eventually on there as well." Financial terms were not disclosed, but Perform will participate in a revenue-sharing agreement with Facebook.
FX averaged 592,000 viewers for the Chelsea-FC Barcelona UEFA Champions League Semifinal on April 18, marking the most-viewed non-Final Champions League match ever in the U.S. That figure is up 21% compared to 489,000 viewers for the FC Barcelona-Real Madrid semifinal. On April 17, the Bayern Munich-Real Madrid semifinal on Fox Soccer averaged 308,000 viewers, up 20% compared to Manchester United-FC Schalke last year. Chelsea-FC Barcelona also averaged 566,000 viewers on Fox Deportes, while Bayern Munich-Real Madrid averaged 755,000 viewers.
NOTES: Through three weeks, Fox is averaging a 2.2 rating for its Saturday MLB telecasts, up from a 2.1 at the same point last season….NBC Sports Network averaged 114,000 viewers for Notre Dame’s spring game last Saturday afternoon, down 15% from 134,000 viewers last year….ABC’s “NBA Countdown” averaged a 1.1 final rating this season, marking its best figure in four years….FS Southwest averaged a 4.0 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth on April 23 for former MLBer Ivan Rodriguez’ retirement ceremony.
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecast. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for NBC were unavailable at presstime (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. "ESPN Sports Saturday"4/21ABC4:00-6:00pm0.4 Champions Tour: Liberty Mutual Insurance
Legends of Golf: Third Round4/21CBS1:00-3:00pm0.4
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open: Third Round4/21CBS3:00-6:00pm1.0 MLB: (regional)4/21Fox4:00-8:00pm2.2 "NBA Countdown"4/22ABC3:00-3:30pm0.7 NBA: Thunder-Lakers4/22ABC3:30-6:00pm3.4 Champions Tour: Liberty Mutual Insurance
Legends of Golf: Final Round4/22CBS1:00-3:00pm0.7
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open: Final Round4/22CBS3:00-6:00pm1.4 NASCAR Sprint Cup: STP 400 (Kansas)4/22Fox1:00-4:00pm4.3 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Bulls-Heat4/19TNT8:16-10:54pm2.23,417 NBA: Celtics-Knicks4/17TNT8:16-10:51pm1.82,716 NBA: Spurs-Lakers4/17TNT10:51pm-1:11am1.62,336 NBA: Lakers-Spurs4/20ESPN9:30pm-12:02am1.72,328 NBA: Clippers-Suns4/19TNT10:54pm-1:28am1.51,972 NBA: Knicks-Hawks4/22ESPN1:00-3:41pm1.41,940 NBA: Mavericks-Bulls4/21ESPN8:05-10:31pm1.21,745 NBA: Magic-Celtics4/18ESPN8:05-10:41pm1.21,715 NBA: Lakers-Warriors4/18ESPN10:41pm-12:55am1.21,673 UFC 145 Prelims4/21FX8:00-10:00pm0.91,573
FOX SPORTS' Brian Lowry wrote TNT's addition of former NBAer Shaquille O'Neal to its "Inside the NBA" studio crew has "turned out to be a total if somewhat predictable bust." O'Neal "might be a jolly giant to have around, but in terms of basketball analysis, all he proves is that the bigger they are, the harder they can be to listen to." TNT's Charles Barkley is a "clear exception to that rule and flanked by sidekick Kenny Smith and host Ernie Johnson, has created a breezy standard-setter for NBA blather." The net "certainly didn’t need to shake things up, but the powers that be couldn’t resist enlisting O’Neal," even though he has "never exactly been a natural as a commentator." Having him "join the gang has subtly altered the chemistry, and at times made the show even more juvenile -- which until now had been one of its assets" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/26).
OLYMPIC TEAM: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes adding former tennis player John McEnroe to the Olympic TV announcing crew is "not a bad idea," as he is a "sort of quirky Olympic correspondent, effectively replacing NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth in that role." Hiestand notes Dan Patrick, "in the ultimate proof that there's on-air life after ESPN, will join Al Michaels as a host of NBC's daytime shows." As for "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest joining the net's coverage, NBC's London Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell "hasn't figured out how often Seacrest will appear." Bell said, "He's a tireless worker, but we'll try not to make him into too much of a decathlete. And he's a guy who's equally comfortable on social media and on-camera. With about 6.6 million Twitter followers, social media will be a big part of his role." Bell added that Seacrest "might do celebrity interviews that pop up on Olympic coverage" (USA TODAY, 4/27).
L.A. LAUNCH: Time Warner Cable President Chair & CEO Glenn Britt said that the company "would look at acquiring additional team rights as they become available -- including those of the Los Angeles Dodgers." Britt added, however, that he "did not expect much to step to the plate." Britt "stressed that the objective of launching the networks is to stabilize costs and make them more consistent over a long period of time." Britt said, "Where rights come available, as they did with the Lakers, if we think we can buy them for a price that makes sense for us over the long run, we'll do that. I don't anticipate there's going to be tons of those. Most of the sports rights are tied up for many, many years to come" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 4/26).
MAKE IT WORK: In California, John Maffei writes "it is time" for officials from Fox Sports San Diego, the Padres, Time Warner Cable and satellite providers AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and Dish Network to "barricade themselves in a room and not come out until a deal is reached to carry Padres games." Maffei: "The mudslinging has got to stop. Negotiating through the media has to end." It is "time for the Padres to step in and demand that the parties come to an agreement for the good of the team's fans." Maffei asks, "With about 40 percent of San Diego County not getting Padres games now, how long before a good portion of that 40 percent becomes disconnected from the team and stops coming to the ballpark?" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/27).