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CBS yesterday “made an awkward TV situation way more awkward than it had to be,” as the network's "The NFL Today" pregame show did not mention the murder-suicide involving Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher “during its first few minutes,” according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. CBS aired a “canned segment hyping a sponsor" before getting to the story five minutes into the show. The net also "kept tone-deaf elements in the show, such as a segment with a cameo from a Victoria’s Secret model meant to hype CBS prime-time programming.” CBS Exec Producer & VP/Production Harold Bryant said of yesterday's show, “It was about trying to find the right balance. We covered it very well.” He said that the balance was “about giving the show’s analyst more time to talk about the Belcher news -- they got two segments -- but also still covering what was going on Sunday.” But Hiestand writes even if this was the “last kind of news NFL studio shows want to cover, it should lead,” and it did “everywhere but on CBS.” NFL Network’s opener was “on Belcher, and it was repeated at the top of each hour of its six-hour pregame show.” ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz said that the network “tweaked its studio show, including dropping a taped segment in which comedian Frank Caliendo impersonated Bob Ley,” to make room for the Belcher story on "Sunday NFL Countdown." ESPN “showed sensitivity in airing a graphic with photos of both” Belcher and his murdered girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. The "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show “managed to stay credible in reporting on Belcher.” Fox Coordinating Producer Bill Richards said that a “taped element with actor Kurt Russell was dropped, as was a Michael Strahan segment on pass-rushing” (USA TODAY, 12/3).
LOOKING AT THE COVERAGE: SI.com’s Richard Deitsch writes CBS “disgraced itself” yesterday, as producers “could have tuned in to ESPN or the NFL Network earlier in the day and watched how other outlets exhibited the proper sobriety following a double shooting involving an NFL player.” Had CBS “headed straight into thoughtful analysis and reporting of the story after its opener, it would have saved itself from these kind of critiques.” Instead, the net “compounded the shill job by opting not to talk about the murder-suicide for the next five minutes.” Unlike ESPN, CBS “did not have a graphic to commemorate the life” of Perkins, nor did its viewers “learn that Perkins was the cousin of the wife" of Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chris Berman began the pregame show on the “appropriate somber note, with the producers showing a live shot inside Arrowhead Stadium.” Berman then “sent the audience to reporter Ed Werder, a longtime journalist who had traveled to Kansas City.” Though Berman at one point “misidentified the age of the victim, the show paid her tribute with co-host Tom Jackson reminding viewers not to forget the 22-year-old Perkins.” Fox opened its broadcast “with a live shot inside of Arrowhead Stadium and host Curt Menefee understanding the magnitude of the story.” Menefee told the audience that Fox “would be bypassing its normal routine to focus on the story out of Kansas City.” He closed the segment by saying, "When we come back, we'll talk football." Deitsch: “Well done, Fox” (SI.com, 12/3). Media writer Ed Sherman writes, "There was only one top story going into Sunday’s games, and it wasn’t the playoff races with five weeks left in the season. I’m pretty sure CBS realizes it made the wrong call" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 12/3).
FIVE MINUTES TOO LATE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes CBS made the “worst pregame decision.” Jones: “What in the world was CBS thinking by waiting five minutes ... before bringing up the murder-suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher? … It was about as bad of an opening five minutes I can remember on an NFL pregame show” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/3). AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Matt Yoder wrote the decision to not lead with the Belcher murder-suicide “drew immediate outrage from viewers and followers on social media as tone-deaf and inappropriate.” The fact that CBS “spent more time shamelessly cross-promoting a Victoria's Secret program than they did on the initial Belcher report only increased the criticism towards the network” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/2). Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons wrote on Twitter, “Interesting decision by CBS to start their Sunday pregame show by jovially breaking down the AFC playoff picture. ... CBS should be embarrassed. Didn't bring up Belcher until 12:05. Avoided 'should they have played today?' convo completely. What a disgrace.” The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater wrote, “Nice of CBS to whitewash the whole Belcher thing too. A joke. Bought and paid for analysts. House men.” Valparaiso Univ. media professor Paul Oren: “Thank you CBS Sports for giving us the 'Fantasy Analysis' of Belcher's suicide at team headquarters. Are you serious?”
WHAT'S THE AGENDA? SI.com’s Deitsch notes as news broke Saturday morning about Belcher, NFL Network “opted to continue airing its regular-scheduled programming while using the scroll at the bottom of the screen to update coverage.” The only "hint of coverage ... was someone from a makeshift studio giving a 60-second news brief.” NFL Network execs and its talent have “always been aggressive with reporters to counter the notion that they are a house organ for the league,” so it is worth wondering why the net opted "not to go to a live studio format on Saturday morning to cover a murder-suicide involving an NFL player.” NFL Media Group VP/Communications Alex Riethmiller said, "NFL Network became aware of the breaking news in Kansas City shortly before 8 a.m. PT on Saturday. Immediately, a story went up on NFL.com, which was composed of information from NFL.com reporters Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer, as well as wire services. At 8 a.m. PT, NFL Network broke into regularly scheduled programming to report the news. NFL Network continued to give live updates from the newsroom every 30 minutes, providing the latest news and developments." Deitsch notes the net “doesn't have live programming on Saturday mornings, but given how weighty and newsworthy this story was, you send an anchor in to host coverage” (SI.com, 12/3). Meanwhile, media reporter Staci Kramer wrote on Twitter, "Impressed by @NFL radio 'Press Coverage' show on @Siriusxm efforts this am on a tough story. Careful, respectful but news oriented."
THE RIGHT PLATFORM? NBC's Bob Costas last night during halftime of the Eagles-Cowboys game used his weekly essay to address the Belcher tragedy and gun control in the U.S. He said, "You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. ‘Our current gun culture’, Whitlock wrote, ‘ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.’ In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? ‘But here’, wrote Jason Whitlock, ‘is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today’” (“FNIA,” NBC, 12/2). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Yoder in a separate piece writes, “Regardless of the topic, the larger point is that Costas' editorializing needs to be saved for a more fitting platform like ‘Costas Tonight’ or ‘Rock Center.’” The halftime essays have been “out of place on ‘SNF’ since their inception, this week notwithstanding.” CBS yesterday morning “didn't strike the right balance when they pushed this story to 12:05 on their pregame show,” and NBC “didn't strike the right balance handing Bob Costas the platform to lecture those who can never attain proper ‘perspective’" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/3).
MEDIA MONITOR: All three network morning shows today covered the Belcher story within the opening 10 minutes. CBS’ Manuel Bojoquez and ABC’s John Schriffen each reported live from Arrowhead Stadium, while CBS’ James Brown appeared live via satellite (THE DAILY). Brown said there was discussion of cancelling or postponing the game on Sunday “but the league left that up” to the Chiefs, with coach Romeo Crennel “had his six team captains get together, take a poll of all of the players and unanimously they agreed to go forth” and play the game. Brown: “That was their way of coping with the situation. I really commend the organization also for having a moment of silence for domestic violence victims” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 12/3). Last night’s editions of NBC’s “Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News" both led with Belcher; CBS’ “Evening News” did not air because of the net’s NFL coverage (THE DAILY).
CBS led all Sunday NFL telecasts with a 15.3 overnight for its national window, which featured Steelers-Ravens in 93% of markets. That figure is off 17% from an 18.5 overnight for Fox’ national window in Week 13 last year, which featured Packers-Giants in 77% of markets. CBS also earned a 10.2 overnight for its regional coverage in the early window, off 7%. Despite having two teams with losing records, NBC earned a 13.5 overnight for the Eagles-Cowboys “SNF” matchup, up 13% from an 11.9 for Lions-Saints in Week 13 last year. The game was the top-rated program of the night and led NBC to a win among all nets in primetime. The game peaked at a 14.1 rating from 11:00-11:30pm ET. In Dallas-Ft. Worth, the game earned a 32.4 local rating, while in Philadelphia, it earned a 26.3 rating. For its singleheader, Fox earned a 13.5 overnight, up 10% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Dallas, Barry Horn noted the Eagles-Cowboys game marked the “first scheduled late-season NBC Sunday Night Football game in the flex era played between two teams with losing records.” CBS’ Jim Nantz said, “If I could pick one team today to play in our Super Bowl at the end of this season, from a business perspective, it would still be the Cowboys.” Fox Sports VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill said, “Short of Texas seceding from the Union, the Cowboys will always remain in demand for our network and all networks.” ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Leah LaPlaca said, “We would always take as many Cowboys games as we could get” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/2).NFL WEEK 13 OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNET'12 GAMERAT.'11 NET'11 GAMERAT.% +/-Fox(single)13.5CBS(single)12.39.8%CBS(regional)10.2Fox(regional)11.0-7.3%CBSSteelers-Ravens (93%)15.3FoxPackers-Giants (77%)18.5-17.3%NBCEagles-Cowboys13.5NBCLions-Saints11.913.4%
THAT'S SO RAVEN: In Baltimore, David Zurawik notes viewers watching yesterday's Steelers-Ravens game on CBS were “given a lot of ground-level shots.” Zurawik: “During those shots, I felt as connected to Sunday’s game as I do watching NFL Films, and that’s high, high praise.” However, it was “unforgivable" that CBS did not show the "full game." With 3:21 left in the third quarter, the audio “went out,” and instead of “holding the visual so viewers didn't miss anything, CBS broke away and went to the 10,000th promo for the Army-Navy game.” When the telecast resumed, the game clock read 2:59. Zurawik: "I have no idea what happened to those 22 seconds,” and that is “wrong.” Zurawik also writes he was “disappointed in the way that” analyst Phil Simms “failed to take me inside the game -- explaining why something was working (or not) for one team or the other the way Cris Collinsworth does at NBC” (Baltimore SUN, 12/3).
JET PILOT: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote Jets coach Rex Ryan “would be the most sought after broadcasting rookie free agent ‘since Joe Montana hung up his cleats.’” Unfortunately, Montana “bombed on NBC’s pregame show,” but it is “highly unlikely Ryan would go belly-up in front of the camera.” Ryan has the “same everyman quality John Madden, the finest analyst/personality to ever grace an NFL microphone, possessed.” If Ryan were available, ESPN “would have to take a serious look at moving him in the ‘MNF’ booth with Mike Tirico.” Meanwhile, Raissman cited sources as saying that a Jets representative “went to NBC Sports execs and asked them to stop airing shots of GM Mike Tannenbaum, who was sitting in his box.” Raissman: “Guess Tannenbaum didn’t dig the national TV spotlight” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/2).
CBS earned a 10.0 overnight Nielsen rating for Satuday's Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship, tying it with ABC's Notre Dame-USC telecast on Nov. 24 as the best college football overnight this season. The 10.0 overnight is up 35% from a 7.4 overnight for LSU's win over Georgia in last year's game, and up 59% from a 6.3 for Auburn-South Carolina in '10 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Alabama's comeback and Georgia's "nearly successful bid for a last-second touchdown also helped propel ratings to peak at 13.3% for the last half-hour of coverage" (USA TODAY, 12/3). In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham wrote, "Good job by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson for pointedly asking Nick Saban at halftime why he didn't call timeout to save time to try for a touchdown at the end of the first half." Saban "acknowledged he messed up" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 12/2).SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OVERNIGHT TREND ON CBSYEARSTART (ET)MATCHUPRATING'124:00pmAlabama-Georgia10.0'114:00pmLSU-Georgia7.4'104:00pmAuburn-South Carolina6.3'094:00pmAlabama-Florida11.8'084:00pmFlorida-Alabama10.4'074:00pmLSU-Tennessee6.0'066:00pmFlorida-Arkansas4.7
LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS: SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote the Notre Dame-Alabama BCS National Championship is the "Nielsen equivalent of winning the lottery." The game could "unquestionably be the highest-rated title game since USC-Texas." The only thing "we can be certain about with Notre Dame-Alabama [is] that a whole lot of people are going to watch it" (SI.com, 12/2). In Chicago, Brian Hamilton writes Notre Dame-Alabama "indeed gives most of [the] nation what it wants" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/3).
HEART OF GOLD: AD AGE's Michael McCarthy notes NBC "pays Notre Dame an estimated $15 million a year for its regular-season" TV rights package. NBC Sports Group Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Seth Winter said NBC "absolutely" wants to renew its contract well before it expires after the '15 season. McCarthy: "Look for Notre Dame to jack up NBC's rights fees, as it has in the past." Winter said that the net's "Notre Dame ad revenue rose 40% this year." NBC also did "plenty of business in the scatter market as the unbeaten Irish piled up wins" and the net's creative team "did its part by touting the school's 'undefeated' record and BCS title chase." Winter said that Notre Dame is a "unique" property because it grabs "upscale viewers across the U.S." Other conferences "such as the SEC and Midwest-based Big Ten are still mostly regional in TV appeal, but Notre Dame operates outside a conference" (ADAGE.com, 12/3).
TITLE GAME ROUNDUP: Fox earned a 3.3 for the second Pac-12 Championship game on Friday night, which saw Stanford defeat UCLA. That figure is up slightly from the inaugural event last year, which earned a 3.2 overnight for the Oregon-UCLA matchup. Meanwhile, Fox earned a 2.5 overnight on Saturday night for Wisconsin's blowout of Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, down 42% from a 4.3 for the inaugural event last year, which saw Wisconsin defeat Michigan State. Also on Saturday night, ESPN earned a 1.4 overnight for the Florida State-Georgia Tech ACC Championship, down 18% from last year's Clemson-Virginia Tech matchup (Karp).
Fox Sports Ohio is “close to purchasing SportsTime Ohio for between $200 million and $250 million,” according to a source cited by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The sale “could be completed by the end of December and would increase the Indians' rights fees for broadcasting their games from $30 million to an estimated $40 million a year.” The Indians and STO are owned by Larry Dolan and his family, but it is not known “if the sale will help improve the state of the struggling Indians by giving the front office more money to pursue big-ticket free agents or trade for high-priced talent this winter.” The Dolans have operated the Indians and STO “as separate entities,” and they have annually paid the Tribe “about $30 million in rights fees.” Sources said that employees at STO “were told within the past few weeks that the sale is imminent.” Fox and STO reportedly “want the deal done by the end of the year because of new tax ramifications in 2013.” The bidding for STO “came down to Fox and Time Warner Cable.” The main reason Fox purchased STO was “to acquire the rights to the Indians,” and it held those rights “before the Dolans formed STO late in 2006.” There were “rumblings that STO would cease to exist after Fox's purchase, but it appears that Fox will need two networks in Ohio to carry its programming” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/3). In Akron, George Thomas wrote what will become of the Browns programming “is an equally significant question.” Sources said that STO’s contract with the NFL team is “up this year, but there are options for renewal that are on hold pending a final outcome of the proposed sale” (OHIO.com, 11/30).
WRITING WAS ON THE WALL: In this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports STO since its ’06 launch “has had trouble with its cable carriage deals, which have among the lowest rates of all RSNs.” Data from research firm SNL Kagan shows that cable operators “pay an average of $2.21 per subscriber per month,” which is “below the national RSN average of $2.49.” Rumors of STO's "pending sale have been around for several years,” though Time Warner Cable had “long been mentioned as a potential suitor” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/3 issue).
SI has named Heat F LeBron James as its Sportsman of the Year for '12, further extending a remarkable turnaround for the player following his departure from the Cavaliers in '10 and the hotly-debated "The Decision" TV special on ESPN that summer. James this year won his first NBA title, his third league MVP award and also was a key figure on the U.S. men's basketball team that won Gold at the London Games. He will be honored Wednesday night at an invitation-only ceremony in N.Y. "LeBron's stirring accomplishments on and off the court were impossible to ignore," said Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum in a statement. "He showed tremendous heart during times of adversity, and he delivered with relentless determination." James is the seventh pro basketball player to receive the award, joining Heat G Dwyane Wade ('06), Spurs C Tim Duncan and Basketball HOFer David Robinson ('03), and HOFers Michael Jordan ('91), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ('85) and Bill Russell ('68). Similar to recent years, the Sportsman of the Year ceremony will feature former honorees, including one of last year's recipients, Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski coached James in both the '08 and '12 Olympics. In the upcoming issue of SI, senior writer Lee Jenkins profiles James, and they extensively discuss the fallout from "The Decision." "It affected far more people than I imagined," James says in the article. "I know it wasn't on the level of an injury or an addiction, but it was something I had to recover from. I had to become a better person, a better player, a better father, a better friend, a better mentor and a better leader. I've changed, and I think people have started to understand who I really am."
Nets G Deron Williams “employs his own team” of beat writers to “spread the gospel of D-Will on his website, DeronWilliams.com,” according to Scott Cacciola of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Operated by Athlete Interactive, the site has “Williams-centric game stories, Williams-centric features and Williams-centric photo galleries.” The site's editors “shoehorn ‘Williams’ or ‘D-Will’ into roughly 90% of their headlines.” DeronWilliams.com is “cutting edge.” Williams said of his writers, "They do a great job of making sure it's personalized." Williams and his reps at Excel Sports Management “get to vet everything that goes live on the site.” Launched “not long after the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets in 2011, it was originally conceived as a way to enhance his appeal to sponsors in a new market.” Excel VP/Marketing Jaymee Messler described it as "creating a larger brand portfolio" for Williams. Websites maintained by individual athletes, featuring “fresh material on an almost daily basis, are few and far between.” Williams is now the “rare NBA player who has his very own reporter at many of the team's home games.” The Nets have “credentialed Devon Jeffreys, the content coordinator for Athlete Interactive, as a member of the working press.” Cacciola: “Want Williams's take on last week's near-brawl in Boston? Curious about his recent appearance on NBC's ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’? Looking for instructions on how to vote for Williams as an NBA All-Star? The site has you covered.” Athlete Interactive publishes online sites “for about 22 athletes, many of them Excel clients,” and DeronWilliams.com “ranks among the more comprehensive.” Magic G Arron Afflalo recently signed on with Athlete Interactive “to launch his own site, ArronAfflalo4.com.” Afflalo said, "It was an opportunity for me to -- how do I put it? -- control my exposure a little bit” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/3).
Harvey Weinstein, the exec producer of the movie "Silver Linings Playbook," discussed the NFL pulling actors Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker from an NFL Network podcast because the league deemed the movie to be about gambling. Weinstein, appearing on Reuters TV, said, "The movie has a theme about football and a little bit about gambling, but it's not about any of those really. It's about family, relationships and romance being given a second chance." He added, "The NFL is saying this movie is about gambling? They better see the movie. I showed the movie to Woody Johnson, who owns the New York Jets. He loved it. And I showed it to (NFL Giants Chair & Exec VP) Steve Tisch and he loved it. We showed it to the Philadelphia Eagles ownership guys and they loved it. So this is ridiculous. I’m pretty sure (Cowboys Owner) Jerry Jones saw it too and he liked it. So I don’t get this" (REUTERS.com, 11/29). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote the NFL “comes across looking silly when it won’t even allow an actor to be interviewed on its network if that actor has appeared in a movie in which a character bets on a game." Smith: "This incident makes the NFL look small” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 11/30). SBD Exec Editor Abraham Madkour writes about the NFL’s reaction to the movie in this week’s SportsBusiness Journal editorial.
CALLING THE HOTLINE: The plot for comedian Rob Riggle’s picks segment on “Fox NFL Sunday” yesterday largely focused on gambling on NFL games. The segment opened with Riggle in a large fur coat to promote “Riggle’s Picks Platinum,” a handicapping service for gamblers. Riggle said, “It’s ‘Riggle’s Picks Platinum,’ my upgraded picks segment. Now for an additional fee I’m providing Fox viewers with top-secret, inside information from around the league.” Speaking on the phone to a client, Riggle said, “I heard [N.J. Gov. Chris] Christie is taking over the Jets next year as head coach. He’s great with disasters and he’s fat.” Riggle then told the camera, “Is this a bit of a cash grab? Yeah, it’s not easy being Rob Riggle. I have unique expenses: Houses, boats, houseboats.” Riggle told a client, “Here are my non-platinum picks: I’m taking the Jets, the Broncos, the Chargers and the Colts. But for a $1,000 more I can give you Riggle’s picks platinum, huh? Hello?” Riggle then gave the injury report to another client on the phone, “DeSean Jackson out with cracked ribs, Sebastian Janikowski has the meat sweats, Arian Foster has night terrors.” Riggle said to the camera, “I’ll take information from anyone: My nutritionist, my dog’s stylist, the man who lives outside my bank!” The camera switched to a homeless man sitting in a cardboard box holding a sign that read, “Please Help!! Need food, a.k.a. booze.” The “homeless man” was actually UFC President Dana White, who said to the camera, “Cam Newton is pregnant" (“Fox NFL Sunday,” Fox, 12/2).
Longtime X Games host Sal Masekela signed a multiyear deal with Red Bull Media House that will see him leave ESPN to become a fulltime host of the Red Bull Signature Series. He will host more than a dozen shows on NBC and NBC Sports Network for Red Bull events like the Crashed Ice World Championships, a downhill skating competition. In addition to his role as Signature Series host, Masekela’s production company, UX Entertainment, will produce a show for Red Bull’s YouTube channel. Masekela, who has been with ESPN for 13 years, worked on both the X Games and Signature Series in '12, but he was not able to reach an agreement with ESPN on a similar arrangement for next year. He said he was disappointed he will not be part of ESPN’s new global X Games events, which will begin in '13, but he is excited about the new opportunity. Masekela: “It was the hardest decision for me ever to walk away from the X Games. It was a relationship that I thought I’d have another six or seven years. But at the same time, I feel lucky it’s at the time it is because what Red Bull’s been doing with Media House is innovative enough and different enough for me to be excited.”