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The Padres are "planning to talk directly with Time Warner Cable to end the Fox-Time Warner impasse" that last season blacked out 42% of San Diego County from receiving the team's telecasts, according to Bill Center of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Padres Owner & Exec Chair Ron Fowler said, "We are working very hard on the Time Warner situation. ... Our commitment is to do everything we can to get it resolved. Fox wanted to take the lead for a significant period of time. We have to pull ourselves away from that." Center notes Padres games "were carried by Cox and DirecTV last season, but not by Time Warner and AT&T U-Verse, although AT&T U-Verse reached an agreement on the final day of the season." Fowler said that he is "hopeful a television agreement with Time Warner can be reached before Opening Day." Fowler: "Am I encouraged? Yes. Am I going to guarantee it? No" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/16).
Viewership for the NFL Divisional Playoff games was down from last year. While CBS’ Ravens-Broncos double-OT game marked the net’s most-viewed AFC Divisional game in 26 years, the viewership actually was down slightly from 49ers-Saints in the same window last year. CBS led the weekend with 37.7 million viewers for Patriots-Texans in the Sunday late window, but that audience was off just over 16% from Giants-Packers on Fox in the same window last year, and also down 13% from the Jets-Patriots game in ’11. Meanwhile, Fox’ Falcons-Seahawks (19.3 rating, 32.1 million viewers) in the early window on Sunday was the only window to see a year-over-year gain, up nearly 4% from Ravens-Texans on CBS last year. The net’s 49ers-Packers game on Saturday night led all primetime TV broadcasts last week with 30.9 million viewers (16.9 rating). However, 49ers-Packers was down nearly 10% from Patriots-Broncos in the same window last year. Despite an overall drop for the NFL Divisional weekend, all four telecasts still topped ESPN’s BCS National Championship earlier in the week, which drew 26.4 million viewers. The average for the weekend also was above 34.0 million viewers for the third consecutive year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the NFL “continues to be a great attraction, a great draw." Florio: "It brings an audience together like nothing else, and the next time you hear about some huge TV deal and how much money the NFL is getting, you think back to those kinds of numbers. That’s why the NFL generates the revenue that it does from the networks” (“Pro Football Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 1/15).NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND VIEWERSHIPDAYNET'13 GAMEVIEWERS
ALL THE BELLS & WHISTLES: In Baltimore, David Zurawik noted Sunday's Ravens-Patriots AFC Championship game "will get the full Super Bowl treatment" on TV. CBS Coordinating & Lead NFL Producer Lance Barrow said, "We will have in this broadcast Sunday our whole setup that we will have down in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII -- with all the cameras, with all the tape machines, with extra microphones on the field." The net also will have "two sideline reporters" for the game. Zurawik noted during the regular season there were "no sideline reporters" for CBS games (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/15).
CHUCKY'S CHOICE: ESPN President John Skipper said that he is "optimistic" that "MNF" analyst Jon Gruden will stick to TV, although a Gruden associate said that "a marquee job could still interest him." Skipper said, "He reiterated his commitment to us." PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY's Barry Jackson noted Skipper "believes his decision to shift Ron Jaworski from the Monday-night booth to the studio was validated." Skipper said, "Jon's personality came through more. I always had a slight bit of trouble telling Ron and Jon apart" (PROFOOTBALLWEEKLY.com, 1/15).
NBC Sports Group knows viewers may be slow to embrace the return of the NHL when coverage begins Saturday on NBC with Blackhawks-Kings and Penguins-Flyers, but NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood on a conference call yesterday said execs are "cautiously optimistic they’ll come back." Flood: "The hockey fan is a passionate group. … As we learned the last time there was a lockout, the fans eventually came back and the numbers grew and the game of hockey grew. But it’s not instantaneous." The hardcore fans, however, are not the main concern for NBC. The net needs to focus on winning back the casual viewers who last year got caught up in the excitement and drama of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Flood said, "I think that can happen. Is it going to happen right away? I don’t know." One way NBC hopes to entice fans back to its networks is with the introduction of the Wednesday night rivalry game on NBC Sports Network, which will kick off with Bruins-Rangers on Jan. 23. Flood said, "Hatred is a big part of hockey. Teams have a tendency to hate each other and that hatred creates some pretty dramatic and fun hockey to watch. That will be promoted. Hate sells."
MUM'S THE WORD: The NBC broadcast teams will not talk about the four-month-long lockout itself, but instead will focus on how the work stoppage has impacted the game on the ice. For example, announcers will address what advantage locked-out NHLers who played in Europe have over those who did not. Flood: "What happened in terms of the business side of the lockout is not relevant, once the games are being played, to this audience." But he added, "The lockout’s impact on the on-ice product is critical and we have to explain it.”
USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand reports ESPN’s Stuart Scott “learned last month" that the cancer with which he was diagnosed in ’07 and recurred in ’10 has “returned.” The “only workdays Scott misses are the chemo Mondays.” Meanwhile, Scott said that “whatever Lance Armstrong tells Oprah Winfrey in their interview, he’s grateful for Armstrong’s anti-cancer efforts.” Scott: “I don’t care about a bike race. I’m fighting cancer and I’m trying to stay alive for my daughters. ... (Armstrong’s) efforts that affected millions of people with cancer is his legacy. And you’re not going to argue me off that” (USA TODAY, 1/16).
GRASS IS GREENER: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez reports Golf Channel is the “fastest-growing cable channel, by percentage of daily viewers.” The channel is “claiming that title, thanks to new NBC corporate bosses who have insisted on higher-quality live and non-live programs.” The channel is distributed to 83.96 million U.S. homes and averaged 95,000 total-day viewers in '12. Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said that he was “seeking to develop programming around golf and the golfing lifestyle and recently released a live-streaming application similar to one used by NBC for the London Olympics” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/16).
HOME FOR HAWKS: The Blackhawks and WGN-AM yesterday announced a five-year broadcast rights extension that will keep the team on the station through the end of the ’18-19 season. WGN has been the Blackhawks’ flagship station since the ’08-09 season (Blackhawks).
FALL FROM GRACE: Former D’Backs announcer Mark Grace said on Monday that he “understands why” the team “fired him last season.” Grace will face trial on March 19 on “four felony counts of aggravated DUI.” Grace said, “I did this. The Diamondbacks didn’t do anything. I think it’s important to own this. I own this” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/15).