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The N.Y. Times sports section Thursday ran a cover page that was more than three-quarters blank to represent the fact no players were inducted into the Baseball HOF this year, and "reaction came quickly from the media world, and it was largely positive," according to N.Y. TIMES Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. Times Sports Editor Joe Sexton earlier this week "approved the design," which came from Sports Art Dir Wayne Kamidoi and Assistant Sports Editor Jay Schreiber. Sexton said, "Tyler Kepner had written as early as the weekend that this was likely [no one getting elected], so that’s when people’s brains started firing -- or misfiring." Sexton said that he "liked the idea -- the creation of 'a striking, profound emptiness' -- from the start, noting that 'white space is the most undervalued thing' in news presentation." Sexton: "The job of a newspaper is to capture a moment -- small, large, historic, otherwise -- and you can do that creatively and surprisingly. I don’t view it as wasted space but as an effective use of the printed newspaper for conveying the significance of the day’s events" (NYTIMES.com, 1/10). Sexton added Kamidoi and Schreiber "saw the chance to capture the very old, very dispiriting story of steroids in baseball in a freshly powerful way" (THEWRAP.com, 1/10). AD WEEK noted there is a "list of several nominated players and the vote percentage they received at the bottom of the empty box in miniscule type" (ADWEEK.com, 1/10).
OVER THE TOP FOR SOME: The blank page was discussed Thursday on ESPN's "Around The Horn," with the Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez saying it "could have been more of an impact with strong words as opposed to nothing at all." However, it "makes the point that the Baseball Hall of Fame choice was nonsense." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, “I’d rather have some smart commentary and analysis from the New York Times that I’m accustomed to getting.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: “I got the point. They could have done it with a picture of an empty dugout.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande said it was an “artistic representation." Adande said "blank space in newspapers and dead air on TV is a failure on the media, just like the media failed to properly question and investigate" the steroid era. Adande: "Just like they’re failing now to report the news rather than making the news, and they have made the news with this nonsensical Hall of Fame vote” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 1/10). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said the page was “clever but also, and this is symbolic for me given what the writers did yesterday, very ‘look at me.’" Le Batard: "The sanctimonious writers, ‘look at me, look at what we did with our sports page, look at what we did with our Hall of Fame’" (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 1/10). Blogger Ed Sherman wrote the page "definitely makes a point." It shows "how design can be a profoundly powerful tool" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 1/10).
LATE-NIGHT LAUGHS: Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart Thursday aired a segment called “Jon Stewart’s Seventh Inning Kvetch,” during which he talked about the Baseball HOF voting. Stewart said among the nominees were Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds and “granted, due to potentially excessive steroid use their bodies were 98 percent Adamantium. But you can’t deny their performances.” This “is a big deal. Nobody got in. I mean, I get why they passed up ‘Monsters, Inc.’ over here,” referring to Clemens, Sosa and Bonds, “but what about Craig Biggio.” Stewart: “The only thing that guy’s juicing is carrots, apples and kale" (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central, 1/10).
Brent Musburger was roundly criticized for comments directed at Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, during ESPN's broadcast of the Discover BCS National Championship Game Monday night, but he is seeing several columnists now come to his defense. In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes under the header, "Brent Musburger Has Nothing To Apologize For." She writes, "If the camera continues to linger on the beautiful girlfriend in the stands, what exactly is Musburger -- who is there to comment on what you, the viewer is seeing -- supposed to say? He has game notes on the players, but beyond saying she was a former Miss Alabama, he doesn't have a lot of talking points to work with." Hamilton adds, "I didn't see anything offensive in what he said ... If he said, 'Boy, I'd like some of that,' then fire him. But he didn't. He didn't even come close to that" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/11). In Illinois, Mike North asks, "Do people really have to apologize now for stating a young woman in the stands is pretty? Musburger's job is to describe what fans see on the screen, and he did just that. ... Don't change Brent -- you did nothing wrong by my book" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/11). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick: "Musburger said nothing -- nothing -- wrong. If he was guilty of anything it was of being corny, the way uncles at Thanksgiving tease the teens at the table by saying, 'You must have to beat the boys/girls back with a stick.'" He "reprised a harmless, 90-year-old American folk axiom: The QB always gets the pretty girl" (N.Y. POST, 1/11). NBC's Michelle Beadle said of Musburger's comments, "It cracked me up. It's sort of like you go to a restaurant with your dad and he starts flirting with the waitress -- eesh, kind of embarrassing." She added that Musburger should not be blamed for the situation. Beadle: "Those shots happen when it's a boring game. So blame Notre Dame" (USA TODAY, 1/11).
The four NFL Wild Card telecasts last weekend averaged 30.4 million viewers across NBC, CBS and Fox, down slightly from last year’s 31.0 million viewers, which included the most-watched Wild Card game on record (CBS’ coverage of the Broncos' OT win over the Steelers). Fox’ Seahawks-Redskins in the Sunday late window led all telecasts with a 21.5 final rating and 38.1 million viewers, marking the net’s second most-viewed Wild Card game ever, behind only Packers-Eagles in ’11. The audience for Seahawks-Redskins was down from a 24.0 rating and 42.4 million viewers for Broncos-Steelers in the late window last year, but up from Fox’ Giants-Falcons in the early window. The game also marked the most-viewed program on any net since NBC’s primetime Olympic coverage on July 31. Meanwhile, CBS finished with an 18.1 rating and 29.6 million viewers for Ravens-Colts in Sunday’s early window, up from Giants-Falcons last year, but down from the net’s Broncos-Steelers.
WILD CARD SATURDAY: NBC finished with a 15.8 rating and 26.9 million viewers for its Wild Card doubleheader last Saturday, up slightly from a 15.7 rating and 26.6 million viewers last year. Packers-Vikings in primetime earned a 17.3 rating and 30.3 million viewers, down from an 18.2 rating and 31.8 million viewers for Saints-Lions in '12. Earlier in the day, NBC earned a 14.4 rating and 23.6 million viewers for Texans-Bengals, up from a 13.5 rating and 21.9 million viewers for the same matchup last year.
Grantland.com since debuting a year and a half ago has “found a footing, mixing long-form feature writing with both witty blog posts, criticism on pop culture and deep analysis on major sports such as football and basketball,” according to Jason Del Rey of AD AGE. Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons has “filled out the roster with high-profile contributors.” Del Rey conducted a Q&A with Grantland Publisher David Cho and ESPN Exec VP/Multimedia Sales Eric Johnson about “what they’ve found so far and where they hope to bring the property” in ’13. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: What have you learned and what's your focus for this year?
Cho: We've really seen what works and what doesn't work, what the audience responds to and also what we feel like the site is becoming and what the brand is becoming. A big part of that is that we wanted to prove long-form content still had a place online, that everything didn't have to be short bite-size nuggets. And I think we've done that. ... Now we’re really focusing on the product and how the content is delivered. ... [We want to] create destination pages that are stronger and feel like products of their own. We felt like we are putting out some good stuff that’s getting lost because we were relying on the home page.
Q: According to Comscore, traffic continues to be flat around 2 million monthly visitors. Do you care about that?
Cho: For us it’s about putting out the best product we can. We always want to get bigger, but to have a site our size 18 months in is pretty good.
Johnson: The site has enough girth and a very attractive demographic that ends up lending well to the sales proposition. I don’t think Grantland is designed to be a major volume play. It’s a sophisticated site with a very unique blend of sports and pop culture and that’s ultimately what we bring to advertisers.
Q: What’s been the ad sales philosophy for Grantland?
Johnson: We started with presenting sponsors, such as Subway, that have a customized integration into the site. Now we're looking at selling flighted sponsorships around events, so you might see us sell one around the Super Bowl or the NBA Draft. We don't have the desire to just sell display rotational ads. They don't fill a need and it's more profitable this way.
Q: The Grantland YouTube channel doesn’t have a sponsor. Are you content with not having a sponsor there?
Johnson: We’ve had communication with Google on the YouTube front and if a sponsor had interest, we’d partner together. We want to have more sponsorships, but we want to make sure they’re meaningful ones (ADAGE.com, 1/10).
College bowl games across ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, Fox and CBS averaged 5.6 million viewers this season for 34 telecasts (excluding the Heart of Dallas Bowl on ESPNU), up 6.1% from 5.2 million viewers in ’11-12, but down from 9% from during the ’10-11 season. Viewership for ESPN’s five BCS games was up 8% this year. ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 3.5 million viewers for 26 non-BCS bowls this season, up 3% from last season (25 games), but down from 3.7 million viewers in ’10-11. Fox topped all non-BCS games with 11.9 million viewers for the Texas A&M-Oklahoma AT&T Cotton Bowl, marking the net’s best audience for the bowl since it picked up TV rights in ’99. ESPN’s average 8.6 million viewers for the Clemson-LSU Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve, marking the net’s best non-BCS bowl on record (ESPN began airing the bowl in ’92). The Chick-fil-A Bowl now marks four of the top 10 most-viewed non-BCS bowls all-time on ESPN. CBS' lone bowl -- the Hyundai Sun Bowl -- averaged 4.0 million viewers for Georgia Tech-USC, down slightly from 4.1 million viewers for Utah-Georgia Tech last year. Below are the top 10 non-BCS bowls from this season.'12-13 MOST-VIEWED NON-BCS BOWL GAMES
AT&T Cotton Texas A&M-Oklahoma1/4Fox7.211,938 Capital One Georgia-Nebraska1/1ABC6.610,954 Chick-fil-A Clemson-LSU12/31ESPN4.88,557 Outback South Carolina-Michigan1/1ESPN4.37,583 Valero Alamo Texas-Oregon State12/29ESPN4.16,757 New Era Pinstripe Classic Syracuse-West Virginia12/29ESPN3.95,148 Meineke Car Care of Texas Texas Tech-Minnesota12/28ESPN2.94,556 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas Boise State-Washington12/22ESPN2.94,434 Buffalo Wild Wings Michigan State-TCU12/29ESPN2.74,424 Hyundai Sun Georgia Tech-USC12/31CBS2.73,968 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) AT&T Cotton Bowl:
"ESPN Sports Saturday"1/5ABC4:00-6:00pm0.4n/a Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing1/5CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4n/a NCAA Women's Basketball:
NCAA Women's Basketball:
FA Cup: Third Round:
Manchester United-West Ham1/5Fox12:15-2:15pm0.6887
High School Football:
U.S. Army All-American Bowl1/5NBC1:00-4:00pm1.21,700
"Football Night in America"1/5NBC4:00-4:30pm4.26,400 AFC Wild Card: Texans-Bengals1/5NBC4:30-8:00pm14.423,600 NFC Wild Card: Packers-Vikings1/5NBC8:09-11:03pm17.330,276 Liga MX: Club America-Monterrey1/5Univ.5:55-8:00pm0.71,439 "The NFL Today"1/6CBS12:00-1:00pm4.6n/a AFC Wild Card: Ravens-Colts1/6CBS1:00-4:30pm18.129,600 NCAA Basketball: Temple-Kansas1/6CBS4:30-6:30pm2.0n/a "Fox NFL Sunday"1/6Fox4:00-4:30pm NFC Wild Card: Seahawks-Redskins1/6Fox4:30-7:30pm21.538,100 PGA Tour: Hyundai Tournament
of Champions: First Round*1/6NBC3:30-6:00pm0.7970
Liga MX: CD Guadalajara-Toluca1/6Telem.5:55-8:00pm0.4846 NOTE: *Play suspended early due to high winds. TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) Rose Bowl: Stanford-Wisconsin1/1ESPN5:08-8:24pm9.417,024 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl:
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Louisville-Florida1/1ESPN8:51pm-12:14am6.210,562 Discover Orange Bowl:
Florida State-Northern Illinois1/2ESPN8:26-11:45pm6.110,125
Chick-fil-a Bowl: Clemson-LSU12/31ESPN7:30-11:20pm4.88,557 Outback Bowl:
NBA: Lakers-Clippers1/4ESPN10:42pm-1:33am2.13,086 AutoZone Liberty Bowl:
BBVA Compass Bowl: Pitt-Ole Miss1/5ESPN1:00-4:31pm1.92,672 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl:
In Boston, Chad Finn notes former NFLer Ted Johnson’s "burgeoning sports-radio career recently caught a major break" when his Sunday evening program on KILT-AM in Houston, co-hosted by Josh Innes, was "picked up nationally by fledgling CBS Sports Radio, which launched at the beginning of the year." Johnson said, "It’s been very flattering because I never saw it coming. I didn’t think I’d enjoy talk radio or as much as I have. Their vision (at KILT) for me is to be a host, not necessarily just a football analyst." Johnson has been "outspoken regarding the dangers of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/11).
WHAT'S UP, DOC? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes NBC hockey announcer Mike Emrick "has not been fully idle" during the NHL lockout, and his "most unusual assignment came last month: play-by-play of a girls’ 12-and-under league game." The idea came from NBC News' Brian Williams, who said, "I figured, ‘What is he doing?’ He must be driving Mrs. Emrick crazy. So we approached him and said, ‘The smaller the better -- would you be willing to call a kids’ game?’" Sandomir notes Emrick "liked the idea of calling a game without a labor dispute involved, and the girls’ game was put on his schedule on Dec. 12 in Troy, Mich." The segment aired as part of Thursday night's episode of NBC's "Rock Center" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/11).
CROSSOVER APPEAL: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Michelle Beadle will co-host a new NBC Sports Network show called "The Crossover" starting Jan. 28 that will "incorporate various new-media tie-ins such as video screens that could flash viral videos." Beadle, who previously co-hosted "SportsNation" on ESPN2, said, "I'd be lying if I said we're reinventing the wheel. I came from a show trying to not take anything too seriously, which is easy for me. I don't know if we'll introduce anything mind-dropping. But we'll be there for people who don't want arguments or yelling" (USA TODAY, 1/11).
WELCOME ABOARD: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area announced that MLB Network host Ahmed Fareed would join the network and serve as an anchor and reporter for the net's "SportsNet Central." Fareed begins his new role Monday (CSN).