SBD/September 11, 2012/Media

ESPN Sees Mixed Bag For "MNF" Openers; Berman's Debut In Booth Draws Criticism

Berman assumed "MNF" play-by-play duties for last night's Chargers-Raiders game
ESPN earned an 8.1 overnight Nielsen rating for its coverage of the Bengals-Ravens game last night from 7:00-10:15pm ET, while the Chargers-Raiders game earned a 7.9 overnight rating from 10:15pm-1:30am. The opening game of the double-header was down 21.4% from a 10.3 rating for the season-opening Patriots-Dolphins game in ‘11. Last night’s early game earned a combined 40.9 rating in the Baltimore market (11.5 on ESPN, 29.4 on WJZ-CBS), while Cincinnati earned a combined 25.5 rating (9.7 on ESPN, 15.8 on WKRC-CBS). The Chargers-Raiders nightcap was up 2.6% from a 7.7 rating last year for Raiders-Broncos. The San Diego market earned a combined 37.9 rating (17.1 on ESPN, 20.8 on KFMB-CBS), while the S.F./Oakland market drew a 17.3 rating (8.1 on ESPN, 9.2 on KPIX-CBS) (THE DAILY). In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote under the header, “ESPN ‘Monday Night Football’ Goes Deep In Ravens Opener.” ESPN this season moved Ron Jaworski out of the "MNF" booth, and Zurawik writes having “only two voices is a better way to go.” The net had “superb pre-game visuals,” and the Mike Tirico-Jon Gruden broadcast booth makes for a "winning performance.” The pair during the Bengals-Ravens game “seemed to be constantly talking to the viewer, trying to help members of the audience understand what was happening on the field.” Gruden “really does know the game and is good at translating complex developments into simple, understandable language.” Zurawik also praises the broadcast's tribute to late former Ravens Owner Art Modell. The show gave “credit to the skill, standards and professionalism of ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ and the game this crew brought to M&T Bank Stadium Monday” (Baltimore SUN, 9/11).

BOOMER OR BUST: ESPN's Chris Berman made his NFL regular-season play-by-play debut during Chargers-Raiders last night alongside analyst Trent Dilfer, and the reaction on Twitter was less than complimentary. Yahoo Sports Radio's Steve Czaban wrote, "A league happy to use scab refs, a network happy to throw Berman in the booth. Perfect." The K.C. Star's Kent Babb wrote, "Listening to this game with Chris Berman doing play-by-play ought to be fun. Good, clean fun, like driving nails into my nostrils." Rotowire's Jeff Erickson wrote, "This is hardly a new revelation, but Chris Berman cares more about his schtick than doing a competent job covering this game." The Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant wrote, "Holy moly, the Raiders are a disaster. They are not, however, as much of a disaster as Berman on the stick." Sirius XM Radio's Eddie Borsilli wrote, "There are no words for what's happening in this game. But I could do without Berman and his stupid comments. Go circle the wagons." The Louisville Courier-Journal's Tim Sullivan wrote, "First Chris Berman, then Stuart Scott, and me without a mute button. Oh, the price we pay to watch pro football." CBSSports.com's Will Brinson wrote, "Not often watching football feels like a chore. 1AM + Boomer + … this is one of those times." However, USA Today's Nate Davis wrote, "The ancient Raider references aside, I actually thought Berman was pretty good and fairly understated tonight. But big props to Dilfer."

NBC TIES A RECORD: NBC earned a 16.5 final Nielsen rating for its telecast of Steelers-Broncos Sunday night, making it the highest-rated "SNF" ever and tying the Vikings-Saints NFL Kickoff in '10 as the highest-rated regular-season NFL game on the net. Sunday night's game drew 27.57 million viewers, less than 1% below NBC's record of 27.62 million viewers for last year's Cowboys-Giants game in Week 17 (NBC).

TUNING IN
: In Houston, David Barron noted the Dolphins-Texans game Sunday “generated a 22.2 Nielsen rating with a 44 share” on KHOU-CBS, and that number “equates to an average audience of 485,127 households.” Barron: “In the old days, a 22.2 rating would be cause for celebration. Now, it’s below average. It’s lower than all but four regular-season ratings last year.” Last season’s Colts-Texans home opener earned a 24.4 rating. Barron wrote he would “expect better numbers as the season wears on.” Meanwhile, the Astros’ win over the Reds “generated the lowest rating, as far as can be determined, in the history of the team’s presence on Fox Sports Houston and its predecessor networks.” It generated a 0.05 rating, which “means it was viewed by an average audience of 1,092 households” (CHRON.com, 9/10). Nielsen reported 19.3% of HHs in the St. Louis market tuned into the Rams-Lions game Sunday. In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes that marks the “lowest-rated Rams opener in three seasons, after they drew a 22.5 figure last year and a 26.0 number in 2010” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/11).

TEBOW TIME: SPORTS ON EARTH’s Will Leitch wrote he “couldn’t find a single human being” who thought ESPN’s coverage of Jets QB Tim Tebow “wasn’t profoundly embarrassing for everyone involved.” But to “blame this entirely on ESPN is to miss the point.” The Tebow media coverage during the Bills-Jets game Sunday “was another example of ESPN’s chicken-or-egg influence on the sports media world.” Leitch: “Were we there because Tebow on the Jets was such a big story? Or were we there because ESPN told us it was such a big story? Or did ESPN not think it was a big story, but felt obliged to treat it as one because they thought we all did?” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 9/10).
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