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Turner Sports is averaging a 2.9 overnight Nielsen rating through three days of MLB postseason coverage on TBS and TNT, up 16% from a 2.5 during the same period last year. Coverage yesterday, which included three games across the two nets, was up 18% from the comparable third day last year. TBS’ Yankees-Orioles ALDS Game One led the way with a 3.3 overnight. The game was scheduled to begin at 6:00pm ET, but was pushed back to an 8:30pm start due to inclement weather and aired directly against the Chargers-Saints “SNF” telecast on NBC. The Reds-Giants NLDS Game Two telecast was subsequently moved to TNT and earned a 0.9 overnight. Earlier in the day, Nationals-Cardinals Game One on TBS earned a 1.9 overnight. Meanwhile, MLB Network earned a 1.0 overnight for A’s-Tigers ALDS Game Two yesterday afternoon, which marked the net’s first-ever playoff game. That figure sets a record for MLB Net, surpassing the previous mark set by the debut of Nationals P Stephen Strasburg in June ’10, which earned a 0.6 overnight (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes MLB Network's “first-ever playoff game coverage was solid.” But having the post-season game on MLBN “no doubt sent lots of viewers looking for MLBN on their dials -- or grumbling if they don't get it.” That is “one reason MLB put playoff action on its own channel” (USA TODAY, 10/8).
FRIDAY/SATURDAY NIGHT: TBS averaged a 2.5 U.S. rating and 3.9 million viewers for the first two nights of MLB postseason coverage on Friday and Saturday, up 25% and 26%, respectively, from the first two nights of postseason coverage last year. The net averaged 3.1 million viewers for the Saturday night LDS doubleheader featuring A’s-Tigers Game One at 6:00pm and Red-Giants Game One at 9:30pm, up 8% from the first day of coverage last year. TBS also averaged 4.6 million viewers on Friday night for the first-ever Wild Card matchups featuring Cardinals-Braves and Orioles-Rangers (Turner Sports).GOOD TRIO IN THE BOOTH: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes TBS’ broadcast team of Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr. and John Smoltz “is a winner.” Johnson’s “easygoing style creates a solid and steady baseline that allows Ripken and Smoltz to concentrate on talking viewers inside the game.” Meanwhile, TBS had “near-instant replays and multiple camera angles of major plays.” TBS so far this postseason is doing “a fine job” (Baltimore SUN, 10/8). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Ripken “delivered” last night in the booth for Yankees-Orioles ALDS Game 1. That Ripken “walked into the booth with unbreakable ties to the franchise he still remains the face of was no big deal.” TBS has “no concern for those who perceive that Ripken comes to the microphone tainted with a built-in bias.” He “brought a veteran analyst’s presence” and “kept his analysis balanced” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/8). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes he thinks Ripken "can call an unbiased baseball game," but it is a "bad idea for TBS to assign him to Orioles games if the network can help it.” He is “too associated with the Orioles” and “should be calling one of the other playoff series” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/8).
WHAT'S MY NAME AGAIN? The Baltimore SUN's Zurawik noted during TBS’ coverage of the Orioles-Rangers AL Wild Card Game on Friday a graphic identified Ripken as “Carl Ripken, Jr.” Zurawik: “It makes me angry, because I was otherwise so impressed with the team of play-by-play announcer Ernie Johnson and analysts John Smoltz and Ripken.” The overall “production values were solid, too.” Zurawik: “I kept hoping the folks at MASN were watching so they might see the kinds of illuminating camera angles and transporting images that are possible when the director and at least one or two of the camera operators are trying” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 10/6). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes TBS “can’t plainly and clearly post the score, the inning, the number of outs and the count for instant recognition.” Viewers “have to find, then decipher dots and dashes.” Mushnick: “Ya gotta break the code” (N.Y. POST, 10/8).
HAWAIIAN PUNCH: MLB.com’s Mark Newman reported Dodgers LF Shane Victorino “will join TBS as a studio analyst Monday through Wednesday as part of the network's ongoing Division Series coverage.” Victorino will “work alongside host Matt Winer, Dennis Eckersley and David Wells in the Atlanta studio.” Victorino is “a replacement for Dodgers teammate Matt Kemp, who underwent shoulder surgery on Friday” (MLB.com, 10/7).
HERE COMES THE SUN: Turner Sports attributed problems that caused video to freeze for minutes at a time during the Nationals-Cardinals game yesterday on atmospheric issues related to the Fall Equinox. "It's not a Turner specific issue but an issue that can impact other television networks due to the Fall Equinox," Turner Sports Senior VP/Communications Sal Petruzzi e-mailed yesterday. Several tweets mentioned similar problems for other sporting events on other networks over the weekend. Turner Sports said outages of up to several minutes per day are most likely to occur between Oct. 4-12. "The potential for these types of outages occur twice a year, during the spring and fall, when solar radiation can interfere with satellite signals when the sun is in direct line with a communication satellite," Petruzzi said (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
BAD CALL: The AP’s Tim Dahlberg wrote, “Baseball is not supposed to be decided in one game. Never was, no matter how much extra money it brings Bud Selig and his owners.” The controversial infield fly rule called during Friday’s Cardinals-Braves NL Wild Card Game “highlighted the absurdity of a sudden-death playoff system thrown together quickly and without a great deal of careful thought.” The expanded wild card is “more of a gimmick that punishes the wild-card entry with the best record and makes the 162-game regular season even less meaningful.” There is “too much emphasis put on one game, too many chances that something weird -- like a bizarre infield fly rule call -- causes an entire season to suddenly go bad” (AP, 10/6). ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said, "I love the drama of a one game showdown for the season riding on it -- but it’s really not fair to the players at all." ESPN’s Bomani Jones said, “This is not fair. You don’t play 162 to play only one unless there’s a tie and we don’t have ties.” Columnist Kevin Blackistone: "It’s almost like the play-in game in the NCAA Tournament. Why are you having this?” The format is “good for the dollar bills in baseball, that’s what’s it got for. It’s good for selling some more tickets to one more game” but it “cheapens the sport” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/5). But in N.Y., Bill Madden wrote MLB “got it right with this extra wild card.” Madden: “Let this be a lesson: No matter how good you think your team is, when you allow your season to come down to one game, stuff can happen.” Selig “can deservedly take a bow” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/7).
CBS led all NFL Week 5 telecasts yesterday with a 15.7 overnight Nielsen rating for its national window, which featured Broncos-Patriots in 81% of markets. That figure is up slightly from a 15.6 overnight for the comparable window last year, which featured Jets-Patriots. Meanwhile, NBC earned an 11.7 overnight for the Chargers-Saints “SNF,” which aired opposite two MLB LDS games: Yankees-Orioles on TBS and Reds-Giants on TNT. The 11.7 overnight is down 16% from a 14.0 rating for the comparable Packers-Falcons in Week 5 last year, which did not face any MLB competition. Chargers-Saints peaked at a 12.7 rating from 11:30-11:45pm ET. The game earned a 34.3 local rating in San Diego and a 49.6 rating in New Orleans. Fox earned a 12.5 for its singleheader yesterday, up 17% from the same window last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).NFL WEEK 5 SUNDAY OVERNIGHTSNET
'11 GAMERAT.% +/-Fox (single)12.5 (single)10.716.8%CBS (regional)9.3 (regional)9.12.2%CBS Broncos-Patriots (81%)15.7 Jets-Patriots (81%)15.60.6%NBC Chargers-Saints11.7 Packers-Falcons14.0-16.4%
CHEERS & JEERS: In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham wrote under the header, "Fox NFL Crew Stumbles While Second-Guessing." Fox' Sam Rosen and John Lynch during yesterday's Falcons-Redskins game "piled on with bar-stool takes" after Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers carried for a short gain on third-and-three with the team down 10-7 in the third quarter. Rosen said, “Now that’s a strange call." Lynch added, “I don’t like the call. It’s easy to say after they don’t convert.” Cunningham noted Lynch "later praised Atlanta’s running game while pretending he hadn’t earlier slammed the Falcons for running the ball in a short-yardage situation" (AJC.com, 10/7). In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote under the header, "CBS, Ian Eagle Almost Made the Ravens-Chiefs Game Watchable -- Almost." Zurawik: "I will take the work that Eagle did Sunday over the work of CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel any day." Eagle's call was "vastly superior to Gumbel's last Ravens telecast." Zurawik wrote of Eagle's CBS broadcast partner Dan Fouts, "Most of the ex-NFL jocks on the second and third broadcast teams in the booth are lazy ... and Fouts is one of them." They "bring down the whole broadcast." Zurawik: "For every good thing the crew did, they did at least one or more wrongheaded things" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 10/7). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "Great get by CBS to interview NFL replacement official Lance Easley, who made the infamous call at the end of the Packers-Seahawks game." Easley said that "he did not have a doubt it was touchdown, and he still doesn't." When asked if he would work as an NFL referee again, Easley said, "In a heartbeat" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/7).
FS San Diego has "inked a deal with previous hold-out AT&T U-Verse," according to Mike Freeman of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Terms of the deal "were not disclosed," but U-Verse "will include Fox Sports San Diego for existing customers who subscribe to its U100 TV rate plan or higher." Meanwhile, talks are reportedly "ongoing between" Fox Sports and Dish Network. Time Warner Cable, with "roughly 200,000 local subscribers," is the "largest pay TV provider in the county still not carrying the network" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/6). In L.A., Joe Flint wrote, "That AT&T has wrapped up an agreement for Fox Sports San Diego before SportsNet and Deportes has some Time Warner Cable executives shaking their heads." Cost "clearly isn't an issue." Sources said that FS San Diego is "over $4 per subscriber per month while Time Warner Cable's is $3.95." AT&T U-Verse "has about 425,000 subscribers" in the L.A. area (LATIMES.com, 10/6). Meanwhile, four days after the Oct. 1 launch of Time Warner Cable SportsNet and the Spanish-language TWC Deportes, the company "announced a deal with Bright House Networks" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/8).
TAKERS FOR THE LAKERS? In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote of TWC SportsNet holding the Lakers' TV rights, "As of now, the majority of the games played this season by the new-look, buzz-soaring, championship-or-bust Lakers will not be seen in the majority of Los Angeles households." TWC has been "unable to convince the area's other giant television providers to run their two channels." Providers such as DirecTV, Charter, Dish, Cox, Verizon and AT&T U-Verse are "holding out for a better deal." Even the Lakers "can't watch the Lakers," as the TV provider "for their El Segundo headquarters building is DirecTV." Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss said, "I've been a DirecTV customer for years, so I understand what everyone is going through. The providers have to decide whether they want to take our channel, and it's the customers who have to be vocal in letting their provider know they want it." Plaschke: "I've also been a DirecTV customer for years. It was sold to me as the cornerstone for sports channels. ... For them to waste this much time haggling over the hottest sports property among their 1.7 million Los Angeles households is insulting" (L.A. TIMES, 10/7).
Sports fans “face the growing threat of being cut off from watching their favorite teams on television” after federal regulators “relaxed rules for the sharing of programming between rival pay-TV providers,” according to Amy Schatz of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Cable companies that own RSNs had until now been “required to sell the channels to competitors like satellite broadcasters on reasonable terms.” That rule expired Friday and the FCC "unanimously agreed not to renew it.” Instead, competitors will have to “file individual complaints if they feel a cable operator is unfairly denying access to a channel.” The FCC said that cable providers “now own or co-own 57 regional sports networks, up from 18 in 2007.” Companies “calling for an extension of the rule” included satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network, as well as smaller cable operators and phone companies AT&T and Verizon, which “both offer pay-TV service.” Google "joined them, arguing that large cable companies have an incentive to block access to regional sports channels to stifle competition.” Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other large cable operators “argued the rules had become obsolete because the pay-TV market is now more competitive.” The FCC said that it would “tackle any complaints within six months and put the burden of proof in disputes over channel access on cable operators” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/6).