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CBS topped the four NFL Divisional Playoff games over the weekend with a 23.8 overnight Nielsen rating for the Patriots’ 41-28 win over the Texans yesterday. That figure is down 13% from a 27.4 overnight for Fox’ Giants-Packers in the Sunday late window last year, which remains the best overnight for a Divisional game on any net since Fox earned a 28.6 rating for Panthers-Cowboys in ’97. Boston led all markets with a 50.5 local rating, followed by Providence with a 42.4 rating. Houston ranked third with a 39.3 local rating. Meanwhile, Fox earned a 21.3 overnight for the Falcons’ last-second win over the Seahawks in the early window yesterday, up 3% from CBS’ Ravens-Texans last year. Fox earned an 18.7 overnight for 49ers-Packers Saturday night in primetime, marking the net’s best Saturday Divisional Playoff primetime game since it acquired NFL rights. However, the game was down 9% from Patriots-Broncos in the Saturday primetime slot last year, which remains the best Saturday primetime NFL Divisional game on any net in 11 years (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGSNETTIME (ET)'13 GAMERAT.NET'12 GAMERAT.% +/-CBS4:00pmRavens-Broncosn/aFox49ers-Saintsn/an/aFox8:15pm49ers-Packers18.7CBSPatriots-Broncos20.6-9.2%Fox1:00pmFalcons-Seahawks21.3CBSRavens-Texans20.63.4%CBS4:35pmPatriots-Texans23.8FoxGiants-Packers27.4-13.1%
DOUBLE DUTY: CBS earned a 20.1 fast-national rating and 35.3 million viewers for the Ravens’ double OT win over the Broncos on Saturday, marking the most-viewed Saturday AFC Divisional Playoff telecast in at least 26 years (as far back as CBS records go). The game also marked the highest-rated Saturday AFC Divisional Playoff telecast in 19 years, dating back to a 22.0 for Bills-Raiders on NBC in '94. However, Ravens-Broncos is down from last year’s Saturday afternoon Divisional Playoff game -- 49ers-Saints on Fox -- which averaged a 20.5 rating and 35.6 million viewers. The game peaked at a 24.0 rating in the 8:00-8:30pm ET window. Denver led all markets with a 48.4 local rating, followed by Baltimore with a 47.2 rating (Karp).
MAKING IMPROVEMENTS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote it was an "exhilarating and utterly exhausting experience" watching Ravens-Broncos. Zurawik: "I don't care how many things CBS did wrong. I would not have missed a second of the telecast." The "worship" of Broncos QB Peyton Manning on CBS' part "was excessive and maddening," but the net "did deliver a better telecast than it has during the regular season." One of the best things CBS did was "open the checkbook and give viewers a sideline reporter, Solomon Wilcots," as he did "some very good work." He had Ravens LB Ray Lewis right after the game, even though it "looked like Ray was talking directly to his God rather than Wilcots." CBS also delivered on "some of the great images in this battle." Just before the Ravens' winning field goal, the cameras caught Ravens coach John Harbaugh and RB Ray Rice "side by side on the sideline with Harbaugh's arm draped around Rice's shoulder as they held their breath." CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf "brought a lot more energy to the telecast than he usually does -- a lot more" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/12). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes CBS' coverage was "above average." Dierdorf was able to "quickly explain the costly mistakes in the Broncos secondary" (DENVER POST, 1/14). But SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Dierdorf "never let the broadcast breathe, injecting observation after observation after observation after observation after observation after observation." He has been around "long enough to know when less can be more and viewers suffered at the hands of his epic windbaggery." It is a "shame, too, because the direction and production provided by Bob Fishman and Mark Wolff was sensational" (SI.com, 1/13).THE LIFE OF BRIAN: Fox analyst Brian Billick drew some criticism on Twitter for his commentary during the last few minutes of Falcons-Seahawks. Sports On Earth's Joe Posnanski wrote, "Please tell me Billick did not just say that they could kick a field goal and kick onside with 44 seconds left." The Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard wrote, "Other than score and situation and down, Billick nailed that." ESPN.com's Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote, "'If I were Carroll, I might kick a FG, hope it's blocked, return the kick for a TD, go for 2, miss, then on-side.' Brian Billick, basically." Vikings P Chris Kluwe wrote, "I don't know why people are saying Seattle didn't have a timeout, the TV clearly showed them having two. Oh that's right, Billick is stupid." D'Backs P Brandon McCarthy wrote, "Brian Billick had a stroke somewhere in the last three minutes of that game. Only explanation" (TWITTER.com, 1/13). SI.com's Deitsch noted Billick will "no doubt want the fourth quarter back." Meanwhile, Billick is the brother-in-law of Falcons coach Mike Smith, and Deitsch wondered how Fox "viewed this relationship regarding disclosure to the viewer." Fox Sports VP/Communications Dan Bell said, "We don't see that there's an obligation, no more than if you think that every announcer must declare before every telecast they work whether they rooted for one of the participating teams as a kid, played on one in the past, calls or called their games locally, or is friendly with a player, coach or executive on one team or another" (SI.com, 1/13). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "Conflict of interest? Maybe. Nothing Sunday suggested that Billick was favoring the Falcons, but that is something Fox needs to think about in the future" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/14).
LESS IS MORE: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "We're losing the good things CBS' Phil Simms has to say to his excessive, overly excited talking." During Patriots-Texans yesterday, Simms' "specialty -- short, applicable observations -- had to compete with trite explanations and burdensome descriptions of the obvious" (N.Y. POST, 1/14).
STAYING ON SET: CBS' Bill Cowher on Saturday said that he would not be leaving the net's "The NFL Today" pregame show to pursue an NFL coaching job. Cowher: "Contrary to reports, I have no plans on coaching. I plan on being with one team, and that is this team here at CBS" ("The NFL Today," CBS, 1/12). The comments came after Cowher last week said of a return to coaching, "It would be a challenge. But I think that's probably why I would get back into it, because of the challenge" (NFL.com, 1/12).
THINKING AHEAD: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote Jets QB Tim Tebow's "likeability numbers are off the charts," and if his NFL career is over, Tebow could be "a very hot TV property, if he wants to go that direction." With the "huge amount of college football inventory ESPN produces, there would be plenty of opportunity to use Tebow." ESPN also could "use Tebow as a game analyst" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 1/12).
MARKET WATCH: In Atlanta, Tim Tucker noted the Falcons' regular-season games averaged a 25.2 local rating in the Atlanta market, up 13% percent from last season's 22.4. The season's "most watched games were Nov. 4 against the Cowboys (31.1 rating) and Nov. 29 against the Saints (30.7)." A Falcons game was the "highest-rated program -- sports or otherwise -- in the Atlanta market for 15 of the 16 weeks this season." The exception was "the week of the SEC Championship game" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/12). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Barry Horn noted the Cowboys averaged a 29.4 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth, down 10% a 32.8 rating last season (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/11).
NBC Sports Group will air 70 NHL regular-season games across NBC and NBC Sports Network this season. The schedule includes 14 exclusive windows (15 games) on NBC, as well as 24 exclusive windows (26 exclusive games) on NBCSN. NBC will air three games this coming weekend, beginning with coverage of the Kings' Stanley Cup championship ceremony on Saturday at 3:00pm ET and continuing with regional coverage of either Blackhawks-Kings or Penguins-Flyers (NBC). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski gave his "winners and losers" for NBC's schedule on NBC Sports. Among the "winners" were the Devils and Kings. Wyshynski wrote despite losing LW Zach Parise to free agency and "being picked by many to miss the postseason after making the Cup Final, the Devils appear on NBCSN as many times as they did all of last season and get two games against the Rangers on NBC." The Kings "triple their appearances on NBC after winning the Cup last season, including an 'opening day' afternoon affair against Chicago that much of the country will see." The Hurricanes were a "loser" in the TV schedule -- the team has no appearances on NBCSN despite adding C Jordan Staal and LW Alexander Semin (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13). SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted NBC "will debut a state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center from Stamford, Conn where its hockey pre and post game shows will be filmed." NBC's Mike Emrick said of viewers returning after the lockout, "At the end of the day, it's a great sport and I think they [fans] will come. So you can say I am one of the radicals who believes they will come back right away. I hope I will be proven right" (SI.com, 1/13).
RETURN A POSITIVE FOR NBCSN: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Jon Lafayette reports the NHL's return is “especially good for the NBC Sports Network, which took a big hit from the lockout.” The net “had to buy programming to replace the NHL” during the work stoppage. The NHL “brought a certain level of circulation to the network," and not having it "hurt other shows.” However, the 48-game season “doesn’t necessarily mean that spending will stay the same with sponsors buying more spots per game.” NBC Sports Group Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Seth Winter said, “Advertisers want certain unit loads in games. If they think that three or four units a game is the right amount of exposure to have in a game, they’re not just going to buy eight units and move them up.” Lafayette notes it “remains to be seen how much media spending the league’s official sponsors will have to commit to in a truncated season.” NBC now “has to get back in the market to revive interest and convince sponsors that hockey is a good investment.” The net is fortunate that the league is "expected to have a full playoff schedule.” Winter said that once the playoffs start, it will be “business as usual because sponsors already have their budgets in place” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 1/14 issue).
HIGHLIGHTS FOR OTHER TV PARTNERS: The CBC on Saturday will begin its coverage of 49 regular-season games with Senators-Jets at 3:00pm. The net will have 10 Original Six pairings and 18 all-Canadian match-ups. TSN will air 42 regular-season games nationally, with all of those games featuring at least one Canadian team. The net's coverage begins Jan. 22 with Jets-Capitals at 7:00pm, followed by Sharks-Oilers at 10:00pm. TSN and TSN2's regular-season schedule showcasing non-Canadian teams has yet to be released. NHL Network will televise 78 live games, with a focus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The schedule features eight double-headers. seven triple-headers and one quadruple-header. NHL Network on Saturday nights will continue to simulcast the CBC's "HNIC" (THE DAILY).
AN INTERESTING IDEA: With Brian Burke being ousted from the Maple Leafs' front office last week, the BOSTON GLOBE's Kevin Paul Dupont has a suggestion for his next job. Dupont wrote, "Provided he is willing to take a substantial cut in pay, he could take safe harbor in a broadcast booth or studio." A Burke-Mike Milbury tandem "during NBC broadcasts has pay-per-view potential, with a dash of Jeremy Roenick perhaps playing an accelerant to the broadcast bonfire" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).
The ACC has formed a committee of ADs and hired Wasserman Media Group to “explore the financial benefits of launching its own conference network,” according to Smith & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. While the ACC’s media rights are “tied up with ESPN for the next 15 years, that hasn’t stopped the conference from beginning the process of deciding whether such a channel is feasible.” It has not had “formal talks with ESPN, which would have to play a big role in any ACC channel since the network controls the league’s rights.” But ACC Commissioner John Swofford has “quietly been exploring a branded channel and began floating the idea for it in the fall, around the time that Notre Dame joined the league in all sports but football.” Such a move “potentially could allow the conference to keep up financially with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, which have all launched or are close to launching branded channels.” Univ. of Maryland administrators “cited the Big Ten Network as a main drawing card for its decision to leave the ACC for the Big Ten.” To start a channel, the ACC “believes that it needs something along the lines of 30 to 35 football games a year.” It also “wants the rights to re-air games.” It remains to be seen “how many basketball games the conference would seek for a channel.” It is also "expected that the ACC would roll its sponsorship and digital rights into one entity with the channel." Raycom currently "holds the ACC’s digital and corporate sponsor rights." Sources said that ESPN would be a “major voice in any channel launch," though it is "believed to be lukewarm on forming one.” The sources said that a reason for ESPN’s "reluctance to move forward is that it is preparing to launch an SEC channel in August 2014, which would make it difficult to launch an ACC channel in many of those same markets” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/14 issue).
USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes ESPN’s Hannah Storm hosted “SportsCenter” yesterday, her first time hosting the show "since a propane grill accident Dec. 10 left her with first- and second-degree burns on her face, hands, chest and neck.” Cameras had to be “moved closer so she could read scripts because her singed corneas still are recovering.” She also “can’t quite use her hands well enough to type, so she just uses her thumbs on her PDA to write her lead-ins.” Storm is taking the "rest of the week off" after hosting today's 9:00am ET "SportsCenter." Storm will work "SportsCenter" shows Sundays and Mondays and "hopes to do long-scheduled segments from New Orleans in the week leading up to the Super Bowl" (USA TODAY, 1/14).
ROUNDING THE BASES: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart cited a source as saying former MLBer Geoff Blum has “reached an agreement” to join the Astros’ TV broadcast team. Blum is “expected to be behind the microphone for about 60 games a year this year, filling the role of color analyst when Bill Brown isn't in the booth." Former Blue Jays radio analyst Alan Ashby is "returning to Houston this year to work alongside Brown, and he will slide into the play-by-play role when Brown is off” (MLB.com, 1/12). Meanwhile, in L.A., Bill Shaikin reported the Angels have hired former MLBer Mark Langston “as their new radio analyst, replacing Jose Mota.” Langston, who played eight seasons with the Angels, “will join Terry Smith in the radio booth.” Mota will “become an analyst on the Angels’ Spanish-language television broadcasts” (LATIMES.com, 1/11).
IT'S GREEK TO ME: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted ESPN commentator Rob Parker was let go last week by the network following his racially-charged comments about Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and wrote, “For what else could Parker have been hired than to be a racial flame-thrower?” Parker “seldom demonstrated credible insights into sports,” as he would “just kinda rattle on, filling space.” Mushnick: "Parker’s dismissal reminds me of the Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder racial matter.” CBS hired Snyder because he had “a big mouth that emitted half-baked notions and opinions.” The net “fired him for the same reason” (N.Y. POST, 1/13).
TALKING HEADS: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is “already elite, and now he’s starting to put distance between himself and every other sports commentator on television.” He hopes Van Gundy will “never take another coaching job.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and Bruce Pearl “do superb work on the college basketball studio programs.” They are “extremely energetic, knowledgeable and charismatic.” They are “so good, you almost hate to see halftime end” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/14).