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NBC earned a 4.1 overnight Nielsen rating for coverage of the final day of the Ryder Cup yesterday from 12:00-6:30pm ET, marking the best rating for the final day since the U.S.' comeback at Brookline in '99 (6.3 overnight). Yesterday's telecast, which saw the U.S. team squander a four-point lead at the start of the day, was up 71% from '10, when the event was in Europe and aired primarily in the morning, and up 21% from '08. NBC also earned a 3.2 overnight for Saturday's coverage, up from a 2.1 in '10 and a 2.8 in '08 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes yesterday’s Ryder Cup play “was made for TV.” The European team winning its first five matches, “making the event less one-sided, had to come as a relief to NBC.” Announcers Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks, “while not openly rooting for the USA, seemed to hold their breath as the day went on.” Hiestand: “Credit NBC for not over-talking through the drama and keeping its shots from being cluttered by too many graphics as the match-play format allowed nearly every stroke to air” (USA TODAY, 10/1). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes, “Give NBC credit. Even as the Americans bellyflopped, its hosts and analyst were professional and even-handed. They rode the Euro comeback story, didn’t protect the Americans and played it (more or less) straight.” Dowbiggin said Miller “surprisingly” was “somewhat muted compared to earlier Cups.” Miller still had “plenty of zingers” but seemed to “lose his edge when the ebullient Colin Montgomerie popped by the NBC booth.” Montgomerie’s honesty about Europe’s “earlier face plant seemed to take the sting from Miller” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1).
LOSING HIS FASTBALL? GOLFDIGEST.com’s John Strege wrote Miller “never mentioned the word ‘choke,’ though the U.S. team squandered a 10-6 lead.” Strege: “We can only surmise the criticism he has taken for using the word freely over the years has had an effect on him.” Meanwhile, when U.S. player Webb Simpson “shanked his tee shot at the eighth hole,” Miller said, "You hit with a shank and people never forget it." Strege noted Miller was “speaking from experience, though he failed to inform the audience of that.” During the '72 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, Miller was “in contention on the 16th hole of the final round, when he shanked a shot.” He “went on to lose to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff” (GOLFDIGEST.com, 9/30). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote Miller during Saturday's four-ball segment "determined for us that [Steve] Stricker was the reason he and teammate Tiger Woods had lost their first two matches.” Mushnick: “Despite more visual evidence to the contrary, Miller picked and chose when to certify his own position.” Woods and Stricker losing Friday morning’s alternate shot match “had nothing to do with Stricker, everything to do with Woods. … Miller left that out. Perish the thought that Woods take a hit on TV” (N.Y. POST, 10/1).
DISTRACTING ADS: GOLF WORLD’s Geoff Shackelford writes NBC’s telecast was “disjointed.” While the net's “pictures and commentary were first rate,” the “Twittersphere erupted in horror at the seemingly never-ending commercial breaks." ESPN's Friday coverage was "similarly marred." The "blame goes to the PGA of America for not contractually requiring its partners to show a bit of commercial restraint." Shackelford: "When the golf and television coverage is this good, it's a crime to leave fans wondering what else they missed" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 10/1).
NBC earned a 15.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the Giants-Eagles “SNF” telecast last night, up 23% from the comparable Jets-Ravens in Week 4 last year. The 15.6 rating also marks the net’s best Week 4 “SNF” since it acquired rights prior to the ’06 season and the NFL’s best Week 4 primetime overnight since Dolphins-Colts earned a 19.1 rating in Sept. ’96. Giants-Eagles also marks the best NFL rating opposite the opening week of the primetime TV season since Bills-Steelers earned a 15.7 in ’96. The game led NBC to a win for the night, with the telecast peaking at a 17.3 in the 11:30-11:45pm ET window. The game earned a 31.8 local rating in Philadelphia and a 20.7 rating in N.Y. Meanwhile, Fox earned a 14.9 overnight for its national window yesterday, which featured Saints-Packers in 87% of markets. That figure is up nearly 10% from a 13.6 overnight in Week 4 last year, which saw CBS feature Broncos-Packers in the national window. Fox also saw just over a 5% jump for the early regional window. CBS, which aired the singleheader window yesterday, saw ratings down 30% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).OVERNIGHT RATINGS FOR NFL WEEK FOUR SUNDAY TELECASTSNET
TELECASTRAT.'11 NET '11 TELECASTRAT.% +/-CBS (single)10.4Fox (single)14.9-30.2%Fox (regional)9.8CBS (regional)9.35.4%Fox Saints-Packers (87%)14.9CBS Broncos-Packers (59%)13.69.6%NBC Giants-Eagles15.6NBC Jets-Ravens12.722.8%
THURSDAY NIGHT: NFL Network's Browns-Ravens "Thursday Night Football" last week averaged 8.1 million viewers, ranking as the fifth most-watched game in the sevens seasons NFL Net has been airing regular season games (NFL Network). NFL Net's Rich Eisen during the pregame show said that the Ravens having to play a Thursday night game on three days rest after playing on Sunday night "was a tough situation." But in N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote Eisen "did not address ... who created this mess." Eisen could have "explained how NFL owners, for the benefit of NFLN and their bank accounts, added five games to its 'Thursday Night Football' schedule creating a hardship for participating teams and severely compromising the on-field product." Instead, he "treated viewers like morons." But Eisen "didn’t come off nearly as clueless" NFL Net's Michelle Beisner, who worked last week's Packers-Seahawks game. Beisner following the game interviewed Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, but "never ... asked one question about the way the game ended," or about the replacement officials' call that "gift wrapped his illegitimate win" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/30).
DOUBLE DOWN TRENT: In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote of the postgame reaction to the controversial Packers-Seahawks game, "The best and most righteous indignation, and the most eloquent, after Monday Night Football, came from Trent Dilfer, who just gets better and better for ESPN" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/30).
NASCAR is “close to finalizing a new TV deal with Fox for the first half of the Sprint Cup season, but a deal for the second half will not be wrapped up until next summer at the earliest,” according to sources cited by Ourand & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that Fox has “agreed on the broad terms of a new deal to continue in the sport.” An announcement is “likely to come in the weeks after" the net's new MLB deal is announced officially. NASCAR approached ESPN and Turner Sports earlier this summer about new deals, but both “chose to wait until their exclusive negotiating windows kick in next summer.” ESPN and Turner Sports execs told NASCAR that they are “not willing to start negotiations on their media contracts early.” Mickle & Ourand note the addition of NBC Sports as a “serious new bidder could create a bidding battle that could help push rights fees higher than many expect.” ESPN, which carries the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, is “interested in renewing its deal.” Turner, which carries six midseason races, is “interested in adding more races to its schedule.” Sources said that NASCAR “hasn’t decided whether it will sell its entire package of rights to one partner, two partners or three, as it has in its current deal.” Fox' current deal runs through ‘14, but it “wanted to begin negotiations early to account for its plans to rebrand one of its channels into an all-sports channel that it’s calling Fox Sports One” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/1 issue).
MONSTER MILE: ESPN earned a 2.1 overnight Nielsen ratings yesterday for NASCAR's AAA 400 from 2:00-5:30pm ET, which marked the third race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. That figure is down 12.5% from a 2.4 rating for the same race last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
Comcast SportsNet Houston signs on today at 5:00pm CT “as a tried-and-true formula for a new generation of Houston sports fans,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The new RSN is a “joint venture of the Astros, Rockets and NBC Sports Group” and will air Rockets games this fall and Astros games next year. It will also “feature a weekday talk show and three daily sportscasts” as well as “a Texans postgame show” beginning Oct. 10. Many of the net’s “lead faces come from other CSN affiliates," including Kelli Johnson from CSN Mid-Atlantic and Marius Payton from The mtn. The net has carriage deals with Comcast, Phonoscope, Coastal Link and En-Touch in the Houston area, but “will not be available from other cable providers” on DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS. Team and network officials are “uniformly optimistic” that the RSN "will reach full distribution in the Houston area before the Rockets open the regular season Oct. 31." Barron writes it “remains to be seen whether the Rockets and Astros, as majority stockholders, will countenance unvarnished coverage” of the team and “whether the network will be more observer than cheerleader.” Rockets CEO Tad Brown said, “We don't plan to be Big Brother, monitoring everything, but we have an interest in seeing that our team does well and is promoted well” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/1).
TWC ALSO PREPS LAUNCH: VARIETY’s Jon Weisman noted Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Spanish-language TWC Deportes will launch today at 7:00pm PT with the Lakers "as their centerpiece.” The channels have distribution on TWC systems, but “negotiations with other providers such as DirecTV” are ongoing. The NBA regular season begins Oct. 30, “with the first scheduled TWC Laker broadcast the following night.” Weisman noted of the negotiations with DirecTV, “Given the popularity of the Lakers and the lesson from the Pac-12 that nothing is automatic, anxiety will rise daily through October -- and any delay into November will cause an uproar” (VARIETY.com, 9/28). The AP's Ryan Nakashima cited a source as saying that TWC is “asking as much as $3.95 per subscriber per month from competitors in the L.A. area.” Data from research firm SNL Kagan shows that price would make it “the second most expensive" RSN in the nation behind CSN Mid-Atlantic, "which charges $4.02 per subscriber per month." Dish Corporate Communications Head Bob Toevs “confirmed that talks are ongoing.” However, he said, “It will have to be a good value for us and, most importantly, for our customers.” DirecTV in a statement said that it is “very engaged” in talks to carry the channels, but added that it has “a responsibility to its customers to ‘avoid any extraordinary increases’ in their monthly bills” (AP, 9/30). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth noted “an estimated 3 million viewers in greater L.A. are on a TV system other than TWC, with DirecTV accounting for more than 1 million of those.” There are “6 million customers in the Lakers' TV territory that goes north to Fresno, south to the Mexican border, west to Hawaii and east to Las Vegas.” The immediate success of TWC SportsNet “could also be critical to the Dodgers' financial future,” as the team's deal with Prime Ticket ends after ’13. Prime Ticket has “six weeks from Oct. 15 to Nov. 30 to negotiate an extension.” Otherwise, “expect TWC to jump in" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/28).
SPORTS SELLS: TWC Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer said of the recent launches of several RSNs, “There’s been a lot going on, certainly on the college level with conference realignment and a reliance on television revenue to help support universities and their athletic programs. I’m not surprised that there’s been more talk about potential additional product coming to the marketplace.” NBC Sports Group President Jon Litner said, “It’s no different than it’s been in the past. There have been some networks that have had stronger value propositions than others. Some will gain distribution quicker than others. Time will tell how much stress is in the market. … Nothing is as strong as live sports, particularly when the teams are winning” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/1 issue).
ESPN 3D Coordinating Producer Phil Orlins can “only guess how well his shows resonate with viewers” because 3D audiences are “so small they can't be measured by Nielsen's rating system,” according to Ryan Nakashima of the AP. There are “fewer than 115,000 American homes” tuned into 3D channels at any one time, and that amount is “less than a hundredth of the 20.2 million-strong audience" lsat week that watched CBS' "NCIS," the highest-rated primetime program. ESPN 3D is “one of nine 3-D channels that launched in the years following” the late ‘09 release of "Avatar." Research firm IHS Screen Digest found that only 2% of TVs in the U.S. are “able to show 3-D programming.” ESPN VP/Strategic Business Planning & Development Bryan Burns said, "We've learned with every passing day that we were ahead of the curve further than we thought we were. We hit the on-ramp earlier than we realized at the time." AT&T last year “dropped ESPN 3D from its lineup, saying the $10 per month cost to subscribers wasn't justified given low demand.” The channel thus far is “the most aggressive network in terms of shooting original 3-D productions,” as it has “about 140 per year.” Research firm SNL Kagan found that ESPN 3D also has the widest distribution, as it “now pipes into 60 million U.S. homes.” But without “extra subscriber fees,” it could be “difficult to make a big business out of 3-D production, especially because it's more expensive than 2-D.” Burns said that companies that “run advertisements on ESPN 3D, like movie studios, actually have their ads played a second time in 2-D on ESPN and other channels so they can meet their goal of reaching a measurable number of people.” While he would not say if ESPN 3D is profitable, Burns said that it is “still a revenue-generating business that is ‘doing well,’ because of how the network accounts for revenue from distributors and advertisers” (AP, 9/29).