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ESPN on Thursday announced that it is suspending commentator Rob Parker for 30 days for comments made about Redskins QB Robert Griffin III earlier this month on "First Take." ESPN VP/Production Marcia Keegan in a statement said, "Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made. ... To address this, we have enhanced the editorial oversight of the show and have taken appropriate disciplinary measures with the personnel responsible for these failures" (ESPN). Keegan said that the incident “will not change the direction of the show.” Keegan: "We will continue to discuss the important issues in sports, including race. Debate is an integral part of sports and we will continue to engage in it. However, we believe what we have learned here and the steps we have taken will help us do all that better" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/21). SI.com’s Richard Deitsch wrote the decision “comes in the wake of numerous ESPN employees speaking out about being associated with a program they believe is beneath the network.” A former ESPN employee said, "They brought on Rob for a reason -- he is confrontational. That is his style. They want debate and conflict and that can be a good thing, to force people to look at issues and force people to look at things. I know they get hammered a lot for making everything a racial topic, and sometimes it does go too far, but they do a good job of getting debate out there that people are shying away from because it is uncomfortable" (SI.com, 12/20). However, in L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes ESPN in the suspension “exposed more holes in how it mishandled the situation rather than trying to immediately fix it” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/21).
ESPN’s Sean McDonough had “surgery Nov. 30 to fix a hole in the bone that separates his left inner ear from his brain,” and he will attend Friday's Bucks-Celtics game hoping the crowd noise “will help him know whether he’s ready to return to announce two bowl games,” according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. McDonough was diagnosed with superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS), which "can cause autophony -- a condition in which a person’s own voice, footsteps, etc., sound unusually loud.” He is scheduled to “return for ESPN’s Texas-Oregon State Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 and its Louisville-Florida Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.” The problem is while McDonough now “can’t hear well in his left ear and is having some hearing problems with his right ear, ‘loud noises are really loud.’” But Hiestand writes McDonough’s “pounding sounds are gone.” He is “not sure what happens next ... and figures his left ear’s recovery will take months” (USA TODAY, 12/21). In Boston, Chad Finn notes McDonough was “originally scheduled to have the surgery Aug. 7 but put it off until a time when his schedule was lighter and the weather wasn’t as good.” McDonough: “They have to cut a hole in your skull and move your brain and have to lift your brain off the bone that they’re fixing. It’s daunting, it’s scary, and I really had to weigh, which I did for a long time, the pluses and minuses of the surgery.” He added, “The symptoms were awful, to the point of almost being debilitating. But you can live with them, and you have to make that decision. I realized they can get worse over time, you risk the onset of vertigo, and a lot of people try to live with it, go back to the surgeon one, two, three, or five years later, and say I can’t live with it anymore. … I just figured I don’t want to live with this. Plus, I’m hoping the titanium in my head gives me 10 more yards off the tee” (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/21).
NBA TV registered record growth in ’12, delivering four of its top five most-viewed telecasts since the net became rated in November ‘10. The Lakers-Trail Blazers game to open the ’12-13 regular season marked the net’s most-viewed telecast ever with 868,000 viewers. That beat the previous record of 847,000 viewers for the premiere of “The Dream Team” documentary on June 13. NBA TV’s primetime viewership also jumped 55% compared to ’11, and NBA Digital Senior VP & GM Christina Miller credited programming like "NBA Fan Night," "Open Court" and "The Association" as contributing to the net’s success. Miller said, “We’ve had three of our best Fan Nights ever this year alone. … You’re seeing the popularity of the league and the involvement and the ability for the fan to impact the outcome definitely driving up those dot com and actual views.” Original programming is another area that NBA TV has made a commitment to expanding. Miller said, “Original documentaries is definitely something that we’re doing, and we’ll make some announcements after the New Year what our follow up to ‘The Dream Team’ will be, as well as some other long-form content that will be available before the season’s over.”MOST-VIEWED NBA TV TELECASTSRKDATE
Lakers-Trail Blazers0.686826/13/12 "The Dream Team"0.584734/27/11 Western Conference First Round: Grizzlies-Spurs: Game 50.583545/1/12 Eastern Conference First Round: Celtics-Hawks: Game 20.679651/14/12 Lakers-Clippers0.5756
While NBC saw gains on the back of Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season, all other college football broadcasters saw a decline in viewership for their respective packages in ‘12. CBS’ SEC games remained the most-viewed package with 6.2 million viewers for 13 games. That figure, however, is down 10% from last year and down 11% from ’10. ABC finished with just under 5.0 million viewers, down 10% from last year and 11% from ’10. During its first season with a combined Pac-12/Big 12 package (23 games), Fox averaged 2.8 million viewers.
CABLE GAMES: ESPN led all cable nets with an average of 2.6 million viewers for its 68 telecasts this season. That figure is down 4% from last year. ESPN2 also saw a drop for its 61 games -- the net averaged 1.0 million viewers, down 13%. FX saw a sharp drop this season, as many of the net’s marquee matchups ended up on Fox. The net averaged 613,000 viewers, down 40%. Also seeing a sharp drop was NBC Sports Network, which lost its package of Pac-12 games after last season. For 23 games featuring the Mountain West, Ivy League and Colonial Athletic Association, NBCSN averaged 101,000 viewers, down 72% from last year. Figures were not available for CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox College Sports, as those stations are not rated.COLLEGE FOOTBALL REGULAR-SEASON AUDIENCENETTELECASTSVIEWERS (000)PREV.% +/-'11 TELECASTSCBS136,1686,880-10.3%15ABC354,9755,522-9.9%34NBC74,3812,61767.4%7Fox232,837n/an/an/aESPN682,5762,674-3.7%78ESPN2611,0281,179-12.8%52FX206131,016-39.7%14.0NBC Sports Net23100347-71.2%20MOST-VIEWED COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRIMETIME GAMES
FOR '12 REGULAR SEASONRKNETDATETELECASTRATVIEWERS (000)1ABC11/24Notre Dame-USC9.416,0592CBS11/3Alabama-LSU6.811,3493ABC10/27Notre Dame-Oklahoma5.28,6274ABC11/17Stanford-Oregon5.18,3475ABC9/1Cowboys Classic: Alabama-Michigan4.87,9186NBC9/22Michigan-Notre Dame4.06,3847ESPN10/13South Carolina-LSU3.75,9788ABC11/10Notre Dame-Boston College3.65,7559ABC12/1Texas-Kansas State3.35,21910ABC10/6Nebraska-Ohio State3.15,16111Fox12/1Big Ten Championship: Wisconsin-Nebraska2.95,10612ESPN9/15Florida-Tennessee3.15,07613ABC9/15Notre Dame-Michigan State3.24,97714ABC10/20Baylor-Texas/Florida State-Miami3.14,84315Fox11/30Pac-12 Championship: Stanford-UCLA3.04,872
ON THE SET: ESPN's "College GameDay" averaged 2.0 million viewers for its 10:00am-12:00pm ET window. That figure is down 2% from last year, and down 1% from '10. The most-watched show this season was from the campus of USC prior to the Notre Dame game on Nov. 24 (2.4 million viewers), while the least-watched edition was 1.7 million viewers from the campus of Michigan State prior to the school's matchup with Ohio State on Sept. 29.ESPN "COLLEGE GAMEDAY" AUDIENCE TRENDYEARRATINGVIEWERS (000)'121.42,033'111.52,068'101.52,062'091.52,034
Red Bull is "trying to transform itself from a marketer into a competitive media company by making money on the sports coverage it has been largely giving away for years," according to John Jurgensen of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The strategy includes "selling downloads of its self-financed movies, licensing its shows to TV networks and pocketing ad revenue from its thriving YouTube channels." Red Bull since '87 has "built a global business on its yellow caffeine-laced drink and deep-pocketed patronage of action sports, from skateboarding to cliff diving." The company has an estimated $7B in "annual retail sales and a highly prized pipeline to young consumers." Red Bull's moves "signal a new phase in the evolution of 'branded entertainment.'" The company expects to "produce 1,000 hours of footage next year, up from 850 in 2012." Its 13 episodic YouTube shows "follow the exploits of athletes like freestyle motocross rider Travis Pastrana and surfer Kai Lenny." There also is a "gonzo sports program for NBC called the Red Bull Signature Series, and a monthly magazine -- 'The Red Bulletin' -- with an international circulation of 2.7 million" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/21).
ESPN earned a 1.8 U.S. rating and 2.6 million viewers for the first bowl game of the season last Saturday from 12:56-4:42pm ET, as Arizona rallied to beat Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. That figure is up 20% and 17%, respectively, from a 1.5 rating and 2.2 million viewers for the Temple-Wyoming matchup last year. However, the Arizona-Nevada rating is flat compared to the BYU-UTEP matchup in ’10, while viewership was down 8%. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.9 rating and 2.8 million viewers for last Saturday’s Utah State-Toledo Famous Idaho Potato Bowl from 4:42-8:03pm, up 12% and 17%, respectively, from a 1.7 rating and 2.4 million viewers for the Ohio-Utah State matchup last year. However, while Utah State-Toledo’s rating was up 6% compared to the Northern Illinois-Fresno State game in ’10, viewership was down 3% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
ROCKET MEN: In Houston, David Barron noted ESPN’s Celtics-Rockets game last Friday “drew a bigger audience than Comcast SportsNet Houston’s broadcast of the same game.” As a “national broadcast generally siphons off a good portion of the local audience,” the CSN Houston audience was particularly affected as net remains available to “only 40 percent of the market.” CSN Houston earned a 0.97 local rating, compared to a 1.56 rating on ESPN. The combined rating made the matchup the “most-watched Rockets’ game of the year” (CHRON.com, 12/17).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. Figures for Fox were unavailable at presstime.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on CBS":
"Sunday Night Football":
"NFL on CBS": (regional)12/16CBS1:00-4:15pm8.4n/a "Football Night in America"12/16NBC7:30-8:15pm4.26,893 "The NFL Today"12/16CBS12:00-1:00pm2.5n/a NCAA Basketball: Indiana-Butler12/15CBS2:00-4:45pm1.4n/a Showtime Boxing12/15CBS4:45-6:00pm1.2n/a Golf: PNC Father-Son Challenge12/15NBC4:00-6:00pm0.7n/a "ESPN Sports Saturday"12/15ABC4:00-6:00pm0.6n/a Golf: PNC Father-Son Challenge12/16NBC3:00-6:00pm0.6n/a Dew Tour: iON Mountain Championships12/15NBC2:00-4:00pm0.4n/a Dew Tour: iON Mountain Championships12/16NBC1:00-3:00pm0.4n/a TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football":
"Thursday Night Football":
NBA: Lakers-Knicks12/13TNT8:16-10:52pm2.03,046 "Thursday Night Football Pre-Kick"12/13NFLN8:00-8:30pm1.92,911 "Monday Night Countdown"12/10ESPN6:30-8:29pm2.02,898 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:
Gildan New Mexico Bowl:
"Sunday NFL Countdown"12/16ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.52,122 NBA: Clippers-Bulls12/11ESPN9:42pm-12:04am1.42,020 NBA: Mavericks-Celtics12/12ESPN8:05-11:23pm1.21,727