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Game Three of the Thunder-Heat NBA Finals Sunday was the highest rated show of the evening on television, though its 10.4 overnight rating is down 6% from last year's Mavericks-Heat Game Three, which earned an 11.1. ESPN says its three-game NBA Finals overnight average is an 11.3, the highest three-game average since '04 and up 5% from last year's three-game average of 10.8. Last night's game peaked with a 14.7 rating from 10:30-10:45pm. Oklahoma City was the highest rated market (41.9), followed by Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (29.6). Meanwhile, Cleveland was 5th (18.1) and Seattle was 40th (8.2) (John Ourand, THE DAILY).FINAL NUMBER THROUGH TWO GAMES: Through two games, Heat-Thunder ranked as the most-viewed Finals ever on ABC, averaging a 10.1 rating, the highest since '04 and the second highest-rated ever on ABC. Through those two games, the series is up 10% in household rating (10.1 vs. 9.2) and 7% in viewership (16.5 million vs. 15.3 million) compared to last year. Game Two recorded a 10.4 household rating, making it the highest-rated since '04 and the second-highest rated ever on ABC. The game was up 12% in household rating (10.4 vs. 9.2), 7% in viewership (16.6 million vs. 15.5 million) compared to last year. Game Two propelled ABC to a win Thursday night across all networks, broadcast and cable (ESPN).
WORTH THE WAIT? In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "I lost interest in these NBA Finals because of the long delay between Games 2 and 3." Game Two was played Thursday night, and Game Three last night. Jones notes that is "no game Friday, a full day of sports Saturday and Saturday night, and a long day of sports Sunday, which included the U.S. Open, a NASCAR race, Major League Baseball games, the College World Series and soccer's Euro 2012." Jones: "By the time Sunday night rolled around, I was 'sported out' and had to remind myself what had happened in the first two games" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/18).
ANALYZING THE ANALYSTS: Blogger Ed Sherman noted ESPN Radio’s NBA Finals coverage team of analysts Jack Ramsay (87-years-old), Hubie Brown (78), and play-by-play voice Jim Durham (65) is the “oldest broadcast pairing in the history of old.” What matters is that they “remain vibrant, enthusiastic, and the former two former coaches can break down and explain the game better than anyone in the business” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 6/15). In N.Y., Mike Lupica called ESPN’s Jon Barry “a Collinsworth-in-waiting,” referring to NBC's Chris Collinsworth (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/17). N.Y. Daily News columnist Bob Raissman said of ESPN's Magic Johnson, "He is terrible. Watching him, he talks about his old playing days. He flip flops and the guys that are with him ... they genuflect (to) this guy. He's taking over that show on ABC/ESPN" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 6/15).
BECOMING MORE SOCIAL: In Chicago, Paul Banks noted social benchmarking company Unmetric yesterday released its NBA Playoffs report “detailing the social media efforts of the top 16 NBA teams participating in the 2012 playoffs to better understand the interaction between the top performing teams and their fans.” The Unmetric Scores report shows that the Lakers “rank as the highest social media franchise, followed closely by” the Heat. The Clippers have done “the most to boost their social media presence over the last season.” The Grizzlies “have the lowest combined Unmetric score,” and the report shows that the Celtics “have done the worst job at conversing with fans on social media.” The team replies “to zero percent of its tweets, and has the lowest percentage of conversations with fans.” In regard to specific content that teams post on Facebook and Twitter, the Mavericks “leads the pack, rarely talking about anything other than themselves and their achievements” (CHICAGONOW.com, 6/17).
DIGITAL BOOST: MARKETWATCH's Sam Mamudi noted this year's NBA playoffs "are racking up record television audiences," and it is "good for the NBA's own TV and digital media business, which has enjoyed stellar gains this year." NBA TV saw "average audiences for its 96 live games jump 32%, to 335,000." While TV numbers are up, "the digital audience has jumped even more dramatically." There were "2.4 billion video streams on NBA.com during the regular season, a 71% increase from last year, and 7.7 million unique visitors to the site each day, a 21% rise." Unique users on NBA mobile apps "were up 149%." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said that the NBA's revenue growth from NBA Digital is "up by a double-digit percentage." Silver added that he thinks "some of the jump in digital audiences was attributable to international fans" (MARKETWATCH.com, 6/15).
The U.S. Open's final round delivered a 6.6 overnight rating for NBC's six-and-a-half hours of coverage on Sunday (4-10:30pm ET). That mark is up 29% from last year, when the event was on the east coast and not in primetime. It is down 4% from two years ago, the last time the event was held on the west coast and in primetime (6.9). Unlike last night, the event two years ago did not compete head-to-head with the NBA playoffs. Combined, the Saturday and Sunday overnight was a 6.1, which is the event's highest weekend overnight since '08 (6.8) (John Ourand, THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes the U.S. Open likely “won’t prove much of a ratings threat to the NBA action.” There were “just a handful of big names in contention late, and even the galleries came across on TV as being subdued.” Also, NBC’s Johnny Miller was “his usual idiosyncratic self throughout the weekend” (USA TODAY, 6/18).
TONING IT DOWN: GOLFWEEK’s Martin Kaufmann wrote ESPN’s Chris Berman “seems to have heard some of the criticism” Kaufmann has given him in the past. On the “10-point Nails-on-a-Chalkboard Meter, he now registers an 8.5, down from about an 11 in past years.” He has “lightened up on the tedious nicknames and pop-culture references,” and he also “seems to have lightened up on the cough syrup; his voice has more gravel in it than a quarry.” Berman’s presence “speaks poorly of ESPN’s management, which inflicts him on the golfing populace each June.” It is “nothing short of mismanagement for the ESPN brass to give Berman a larger role” than Mike Tirico and Terry Gannon. Meanwhile, Kaufmann wrote of Andy North, “I have no idea how he has held that prime ESPN gig for so many years.” The man “seems determined not to say anything remotely interesting” (GOLFWEEK.com, 6/17).
LESS EMPHASIS ON WOODS: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes NBC’s coverage “deserves major praise for how it handled itself Sunday night.” Instead of “pounding us with [Tiger] Woods coverage, NBC treated Woods like any other golfer out of contention, showing him only occasionally.” NBC “brings in Golf World senior writer Tim Rosaforte maybe two times a broadcast.” That is “seven times too few.” Jones: “Seriously, he is one of the most interesting golf voices on television and NBC totally underutilizes him” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/18). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes under the header, “Tiger’s Collapse At U.S. Open Makes Media Eat Its Words.” NBC, Golf Channel and ESPN analysts “proclaimed that Woods’s confidence was back as he broke into the lead” last Friday. But as his “stumble Saturday turned into a collapse Sunday, the tone changed.” When Woods and Phil Mickelson fell off the lead, Miller said, “Looks like Phil and Tiger are turning back the clock … to when they were 5.” Considering Woods’ “erratic play at this time, lauding Woods is certainly the riskiest thing you can do for your reputation” (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/18). SCOREGolf Magazine's Bob Weeks wrote on his Twitter feed, "This may be the longest NBC has ever gone without showing Tiger Woods in a US Open. Even the year he missed the cut" (TWITTER.com, 6/17). PTI Exec Producer Erik Rydholm tweeted, "What does it say about the demographic that watches golf that NBC followed the US Open with Betty White's 'Off Their Rockers!?'" (TWITTER.com, 6/17).
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN... After winning the U.S. Open on Sunday, golfer Webb Simpson was interviewed by NBC’s Bob Costa and in the middle of the interview a fan walked in front of the camera and started making bird calls before being dragged away. Costas noted, “Always something to spice matters up.” Simpson added, “Enjoy the jail cell, pal” (“U.S. Open,” NBC, 6/17). Awful Announcing tweeted, "Thank God NBC stayed with the US Open trophy presentation, because that was the most awkward fan intrusion ever" (TWITTER.com, 6/17).
SEEING A SPIKE: The USGA announced that overall fan visits to usopen.com during the week of the championship increased by 79% over the week of the ’11 championship. The USGA recorded a 44% increase in iPhone app downloads, and the mobile website charted a 375% increase in overall visits compared to '11 (USGA).
Fox has "started serious negotiations with NASCAR about an early extension of its TV rights package, jump-starting a process that wasn't expected to begin until early next year," according to sources cited by Mickle & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that Fox "was offering enough of an increase to its current eight-year, $1.76 billion deal to make NASCAR executives consider negotiating an early deal rather than waiting a year and putting the rights on the open market." An early deal would be "a departure from the current trend of leagues and teams taking their rights to the open market in the hopes of establishing bidding wars." Sources said that "they were surprised at how quickly the talks seemed to progress and that the sides have explored several options." Much of the talks "have centered on Speed, the Fox-owned network that carries a lot of NASCAR-related programming." Sources said that Fox is "considering turning Speed into a multisport channel in the next two years and has been looking into other sports rights, like MLB, that it could place on such a channel." Speed has carried NASCAR programming such as practice and qualifying races, plus the Camping World Truck Series. NASCAR and Fox in the past have "discussed partnering on a motorsports channel," and that scenario is "another option that has been explored as the two sides negotiate" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/18 issue). FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen noted NASCAR is "prepared to renegotiate its TV rights pacts with Fox, ESPN and Turner this year." NASCAR was "expected to take a huge haircut" on its current eight-year, $4.5B agreement, but "insiders now think the sport can do better -- securing a deal that is flat or only slightly lower" (FORBES.com, 6/17).
WINNING EDGE: USA TODAY’S Nate Ryan writes Dale Earnhardt Jr. yesterday won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in more than four years, and his checkered flag at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan Int'l Speedway "could be the harbinger of a wave of success for NASCAR's most popular driver." The performance snapped a 143-race winless streak and "signified Earnhardt's emergence as a prime threat for his first" Sprint Cup Series championship (USA TODAY, 6/18). NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said Earnhardt's win shows "that he remains a premier athlete in our sport. It's great for Junior, his fans and NASCAR" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/17). SI.com's Bruce Martin, noting Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevy was sponsored by "The Dark Knight Rises" for this race, wrote the win "helps elevate NASCAR into the greater mainstream of sports. ... Imagine how big it would be if he won his first Cup title" (SI.com, 6/17). The ORLANDO SENTINEL's George Diaz wrote, "This is huge for NASCAR. It's hard to market the greatest name in the sport when the greatest name in the sport can't win races" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 6/17).
PICKING UP SPEED: Speed’s Dave Despain said, "There’s been a theory around for quite some time now that if there’s a slump in NASCAR interest, and we know there is … that that is directly related at some level to the fact that the most popular driver isn’t winning.” Speed’s Krista Voda said that Earnhardt’s victory will help ticket sales. She said of the upcoming Sprint Cup race in Kentucky, "You better believe the folks at Kentucky Speedway and all the racetracks on the circuit are going to publicizing and talking about” Earnhardt’s win (“Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain,” Speed, 6/17).
EARLY RETURNS: TNT pulled a 3.1 overnight rating for the Quicken Loans 400, marking a 15% jump from last year and TNT's second consecutive week of NASCAR Sprint Cup ratings growth.
The NFL Friday announced that it "will offer to fans the coaches' film known as the 'All 22,' which shows all 22 players on the field at once," according to Kevin Clark of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The footage, "which will be released on the league's 'Game Rewind' package, was long-desired by NFL fans but not granted for every play until now" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson noted during the '11 NFL season, "the league began offering snippets" of the "All-22 Film" as part of the "Game Rewind" package on NFL.com. In '12, the NFL will allow purchase of a Game Rewind package that "features every single All-22 play of the season." This is a "very big deal if you like high-quality NFL analysis" because the introduction of the All-22 film "will alter the way that people in the business write about football." Opening up the All-22 "is a bit controversial, though." Twitter was "ablaze Friday afternoon with a debate about whether or not the NFL's decision was smart." The package is $69.99 "right now for 'Super Fans'" and it includes all '12 NFL regular-season games, '09-11 game archives, condensed games and the '12 coaches film (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/15). PROFOOTBALLTALK.com's Mike Florio wrote, "Frankly, the league could charge much more than $69.99 for access to the coaches film alone, and virtually everyone in the media would buy it." Instead, the league "hopes to maximize the total number of folks who purchase the package by making the All-22 film available as part of a broader collection of video with a very affordable price" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/15).
NICE PLAY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Clark wrote the move "will please the most hardcore NFL fans who cannot pick up entire plays or schemes with regular television cameras, even with advances in high-definition TV" (WSJ.com, 6/15). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, "Three cheers for the NFL making the 'All-22' coaches film available for the first time." It is the "exact film the coaches use -- it shows all 22 players on the field, and specific end zone shots of line play -- to evaluate their players" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/17).
Sports Illustrated is "cutting editorial staff through buyouts and possible layoffs," according to Sandomir & Haughney of the N.Y. TIMES. SI Group Editor Terry McDonell has "asked reporters and editors to volunteer for buyout packages" by Thursday. Depending on the "number of people who volunteer, he will decide whether he has to lay off any of the magazine’s 210 editorial employees." McDonell "would not provide numbers." McDonell in late '08 "had to ask about 40 people to leave out of a staff of 250." McDonell said that he was "making these moves to cut costs and integrate the magazine and digital properties." Buyouts and layoffs "could extend beyond Sports Illustrated and SportsIllustrated.com to its children’s editions and swimsuit issue, and to publications like Golf Magazine and Golf.com." McDonell said, "Unfortunately, there will be some pain in this, meaning the reduction of staff. At this point I don’t know what the number will be but I do know that it will be substantially smaller than what we’ve done in the past." McDonell said that the magazine "wanted to better integrate its digital operations with the magazine." He added that the changes "will involve having a single 'NFL czar' to run all of its National Football League coverage, for example, and a 'golf czar' to handle coverage across all of its platforms." McDonell: "We’re trying to turn that into something more efficient" (NYTIMES.com, 6/15). McDonell said, "Everything is about money eventually and being more efficient." He added that although SI is "'very profitable,' the reductions will allow the magazine to become even more so" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/16).
With the Dolphins' decision to be on HBO's "Hard Knocks," everyone now is "trying to get a piece of the team and its players," according to Ben Volin of the PALM BEACH POST. Dolphins G Richie Incognito said, "Everybody wants their product on TV. I guess that just comes with the territory." Several players and agents said that they are "fielding requests both from companies seeking to place their products on the 'Hard Knocks' broadcasts to family and friends wanting shout-outs." Volin noted NFL rules "allow the Dolphins to place one advertisement patch on the left chest of their practice jerseys, no bigger than 3 1/2 inches high and 4 1/2 inches wide." The Dolphins have "placed advertisements on those jerseys in the past, and a team spokesman said they are considering it again for 'Hard Knocks.'" Players have "little flexibility in their practice uniforms," but they can "try to work in a little subtle product placement on the show -- 'coincidentally' wearing hats or T-shirts during team meetings, or making products visible in their lockers" (PALM BEACH POST, 6/17). Meanwhile Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano said of learining the team would be featured on the show, "I wasn't too thrilled to tell you the truth. I think we were informed at a team meeting, and there were a lot of groans when it was announced. But we're going to have to deal with it and try not to let it be a distraction" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 6/16).
MUCH NEEDED DISTRACTION? NFL Network's Warren Sapp said the Dolphins on “Hard Knocks” will be “fun, fun and more fun.” Sapp: “I get tired hitting the same guy over and over again. Those cameras would actually give me some distraction to where I’d go over there and see if I could get something going, just break the monotony of it.” The net's Andrew Siciliano said, “Shocker (Sapp would) play to the camera.” NFL Network’s Heath Evans said of the Dolphins, “When you’re in the AFC East, you’re chasing the smartest, most hard-working coach in all of football. Why are you going to bring in a distraction?” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 6/15).
In Tampa, Tom Jones notes Marlins TV play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz and Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson "teamed up to call Saturday's Rays-Marlins game on 'Fox's Baseball Night in America' game of the week." Jones writes it was "an awkward broadcast," because the pair "had no chemistry." There were "moments when this viewer wondered if Anderson had left the booth for some reason." There were "other moments when this viewer wondered if Waltz was being paid by the word" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/18).
TAKING A BREAK: ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys on Twitter stated that former MLBer Curt Schilling will take a leave of absence from his role as analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" as he deals with the issues of his company, 38 Studios. The tweet read, "We mutually agreed w/CurtSchilling to take a leave as he works thru his business issues. We expect he will return on air later this season" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/16).