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MLB averaged a 2.8 U.S. rating and 4.4 million viewers for the 33 LCS, LDS and Wild Card matchups across TBS, TNT, Fox and MLB Network this postseason. Those figures are down 10% from a 3.1 rating and 4.9 million viewers last year, when there were no Wild Card matchups nor games on MLB Network. Despite the Tigers’ sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS and competition from two Presidential debates, this year’s LCS across Fox and TBS saw a bump in ratings and viewership. The 11 LCS telecasts this season averaged a 3.9 rating and 6.2 million viewers, up 5% and 7%, respectively, from 12 telecasts last season. However, this year’s LDS telecasts (excluding Wild Cards) saw a decline in audience despite each series going to five games for the first time. The ’12 LDS telecasts averaged a 2.2 rating and 3.3 million viewers, down 19% and 21%, respectively, from last year (19 telecasts) (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Fox’ Giants-Cardinals MLCS Game 7 drew a 27.5 local rating in S.F.-Oakland-San Jose, marking the best rating in the market for any MLB game since the Giants clinched the ’10 World Series. The series also averaged a 36.5 local rating in St. Louis, marking the best for any NLCS featuring the Cardinals since ’05 (Fox). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes that during Game 7, “the rating for the first hour was 40.2 and a close game undoubtedly would have led that number to grow considerably.” But viewers “began switching to the presidential debate and ‘Monday Night Football’ telecasts, and the rating for the last hour of the baseball telecasts fell to 25.9” (POST-DISPATCH.com, 10/24).FALL CLASSIC: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine reported while the S.F.-Oakland-San Jose market ranks as Nielsen's sixth-largest TV market and Detroit is 11th, that “isn't fazing Fox, which believes player-driven storylines can trump the lack of a top-five market involved in the World Series." Fox Sports VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill said, "You don't worry about that. You just want teams that have good personalities." The Tigers come in with Triple Crown winner 3B Miguel Cabrera and “perhaps the game's finest pitcher in Justin Verlander,” while Giants C Buster Posey is among the favorites for NL MVP. The ’11 Cardinals-Rangers World Series was “one of the most dramatic in baseball history,” but the seven-game series averaged 16.6 million viewers. By comparison, the “most recent Super Bowl drew 111.3 million, the NCAA basketball championship game garnered 20.9 million and the NBA Finals scored 16.8 million.” Despite baseball's “downward trend, live sports remain a rare commodity these days, and one in which networks pay a premium.” Unlike “all other programming which can be DVR'd and discussed a week later, sports is immediate,” and for that reason, the cost of a 30-second spot on the World Series for the past seven years "has been in the $400,000 range.” The “downside to Fox hosting the World Series, of course, is that it interrupts the regularly scheduled entertainment programs that were launched or restarted in September.” Any momentum for a particular show “can be sapped by a pre-emption or two” (VARIETY.com, 10/23). In L.A., Joe Flint wrote the World Series “may have trouble scoring big audiences because of the lack of an East Coast team.” The series typically “gets its biggest ratings when either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox are representing the American League” (LATIMES.com, 10/23). Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan said of the World Series, “When we were kids, it was bigger than anything. The World Series is on, everybody watched.” The Chicago Tribune’s Matt Bowen: “Part of that is you have football all the time now” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 10/23).
THE ART OF COSTAS: In the first of a series about the art of broadcasting sports, SPORTS ON EARTH’s Joe Posnanski interviews NBC's Bob Costas on broadcasting baseball. Posnanski writes in addition to hosting the Olympics, Costas “interviews presidents, and he interviews heroes, and he interviews villains.” Costas “speaks directly to the nation at halftime of television's most watched show, ‘Sunday Night Football.’” But he still seems "happiest just calling a baseball game.” Costas “enjoys the preparation for a game.” He has “often talked about a dream ... of broadcasting a full season of minor league baseball somewhere.” The draw for him is “the preparation, it is getting to know all the players and the manager, it is working through the daily stats and stories, it is about immersing himself in baseball.” Costas' “overall philosophy of broadcasting” is essentially, “Don’t force it. Let the game dictate” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/24).
MLB and the MLB Players Association yesterday said they are retaining the U.S. English-language TV rights for the '13 and '17 World Baseball Classic tournaments exclusively for MLB Network. The move ends a prior shared alignment MLB and the union held with MLB Network and ESPN for broadcast rights of the int'l tournament. The move could serve as a further aid for the league to boost distribution of the four-year-old, league-owned network, now available in about 70 million homes. The '13 tournament will begin March 2, and conclude March 19 in S.F.
NFL Network tonight will debut “Eddie DeBartolo: A Football Life,” a profile of the controversial former owner of the 49ers. NFL Films Senior Producer Pete Frank, a 19-year veteran at the company whose credits include “America’s Game,” “Hard Knocks” and "Inside the NFL,” produced and edited the DeBartolo installment of the serial documentary show. Frank was the one who originally pitched the idea of profiling DeBartolo. Frank: "I always knew that it would be a great story and I had always wanted to do it. We really never had the vehicle to do it because we didn’t have a biography-style show."
Q: Was DeBartolo receptive to the idea of profiling him, or was he hesitant?
Frank: It was hard at first. He and his people were reluctant. I just gather that they’ve been approached by other people about doing his story, too. I think they knew us from his time as an owner and that certainly helped that there are actually people in this building here who know him and who know some of the other 49ers front office folks. We did tell them, “Listen, this is not a whitewash. We have to ask you about all aspects of your life, one of which is why you are no longer the owner of the 49ers.” They said that they were fine with that. There were no stipulations as to what we could or couldn’t ask and Mr. DeBartolo answered every question that we asked to him. He didn’t decline to answer anything.
Q: Was there any pushback from the NFL about profiling DeBartolo, who left as 49ers owner after a highly publicized corruption case involving former L.A. Gov. Edwin Edwards?
Frank: No. All the ideas that get submitted, somebody sees them somewhere and there was actually (no pushback). I did wonder about that at first too, given the way that Eddie D left the league. I didn’t know if there was any problem and apparently it turned out that there’s not. We haven’t had a single problem. [Frank said the league had no editorial input and did not require final approval before the broadcast aired].
Q: The whole tone of the broadcast was very positive and conciliatory in terms of his legal troubles. Was that by design and was anything cut that may have given a negative spin to him?
Frank: That’s just the way that it turned out. When we were doing the piece, we started with his early football career and all the players that we interview from that time all love him and they all love that time. In the segment on Louisiana we just wanted to lay it out there what actually happened and that’s why we used the actual news clips and we were not trying to soften anything.
Q: The list of personalities appearing in the broadcast -- Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder, 49ers CEO Jed York, U.S. Sen. and former S.F. Mayor Dianne Feinstein, former 49ers President & CEO Carmen Policy, singer and Bay Area native Huey Lewis -- is impressive. Were there any difficulties in getting people to speak about DeBartolo?
Frank: No. In fact, everybody was very willing to talk about Mr. D and that’s how you see how much he meant to a lot of these folks in their lives. There wasn’t one interview subject that turned us down. Everybody that we asked said 'sure.'
Q: Were there any interview subjects you wanted to appear on-camera that declined?
Frank: I can’t think of anyone who just flat-out said no to us. To be honest, some of the players said that they would talk all about him. They really didn’t want to get into the legal problems but they would talk about his life.
Q: Do you foresee DeBartolo ever getting back in the NFL in an ownership capacity?
Frank: We asked him that in the interview and he said no. ... Snyder and Jones said that they’d love to have him back, but Eddie’s answer was no. He said he’s happy with his life with the way it is and that’s the sense I got interviewing him ... although he certainly, I think, does miss the game itself and the players.
Q: In relation to other episodes in the “A Football Life” series, was this a harder or easier project to produce?
Frank: I would say it was more challenging than the normal shows that we do simply that we had a lot of outside footage in there. We had to go find an awful lot of things we didn’t have. For example, the news reports from the Louisiana section. Typically we edit with what we have here in-house, things that we shot, and in this case these shows have enough money behind them that we can actually go out and try to get some outside footage. In this case, we certainly needed it.
Q: Do you have a favorite in the “A Football Life” series?
Frank: I like the ones that are the behind-the-scenes looks, like the Ray Lewis one we did this year. That’s a little bit different than the rest of them in that that’s one where we follow a player around for a season or a part of a season. The other ones are more historical documentaries.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons said that joining the net's “NBA Countdown” pregame show is “somewhat intimidating.” Simmons: “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little worried, in this day and age when you’re not allowed to make mistakes.” USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes, "Knowing what you say on air can spread instantly, whether or not it’s quoted correctly, unsettled him.” Simmons: “Social media has been dangerous when it spreads a half-truth about something that happened” (USA TODAY, 10/24).
NEW IN NEW ENGLAND: In Boston, Ira Kantor noted WEEI-FM yesterday announced a new Red Sox-specific show called “Red Sox Hot Stove,” which will “debut Thursday night and air every Thursday" from 7:00-8:00pm ET for the next 16 weeks. Hosted by Kirk Minihane with WEEI.com's Rob Bradford and Alex Speier, the show is "designed to bring devoted fans the most comprehensive coverage of the team’s off-season moves" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 10/23).
NOTES: NESN yesterday announced that Boston’s WFXT-Fox general assignment reporter Adam Pellerin and FS North freelance reporter Jamie Erdahl will each join the net as anchor/reporters (NESN)….The NBA Kings and KXTV-ABC announced that 10 regular-season Kings games this season will be aired on the station. The remaining 72 games “will be shown on Comcast SportsNet California” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/24).