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Fox earned a 9.9 fast-national Nielsen rating and 16.7 million viewers for Sunday’s Daytona 500 telecast, marking the best audience for the race since ’08. The telecast was up 24% and 22%, respectively, from last year’s race, which aired in primetime on a Monday due to weather and also had a two-hour delay after Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer. The year-over-year audience gain is the best yet for the Daytona 500, as last year's race was the first on a Monday. Among the top 10 metered markets in the U.S., there was a collective 42% jump in ratings for the race, including at least 25% for the top five markets. Albuquerque-Santa Fe led all markets in percentage gain with a 115% jump (10.3 vs. 4.8). The race started with an 8.6 rating (14.3 million viewers) and peaked during the final laps with a 12.7 rating (21.4 million viewers). Fox saw gains across key demos, including a 14% jump among males 18-34. The race also saw gains for women 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 (Fox).DAYTONA 500 AUDIENCE TRENDYEARNETRATINGVIEWERS (000)
WINNER'13Fox9.916,700 Jimmie Johnson'12*Fox8.013,700 Matt Kenseth'11Fox8.715,597 Trevor Bayne'10**Fox7.713,294 Jamie McMurray'09***Fox9.215,958 Matt Kenseth'08Fox10.217,800 Ryan Newman'07Fox10.117,530 Kevin Harvick'06NBC11.319,355 Jimmie Johnson'05Fox10.918,685 Jeff Gordon'04NBC10.617,796 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
CHART NOTES: * = Rainout on Sunday; Monday night race had two-hour delay due to exploding track dryer. ** = Race had two-hour delay due to potholes in track. *** = Race shortened by rain.ONE-HIT WONDER? In Indianapolis, Anthony Schoettle wrote the "vastly improved TV ratings for Sunday’s Daytona 500 prove that people are as fascinated as ever" by driver Danica Patrick. Not "coincidentally, Patrick was sitting in third place late in the race as TV viewership surged" (IBJ.com, 2/25). NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs said NASCAR "got lucky because of Danica." Briggs: "The ratings would not have been up if it weren’t for Danica. The finish just wasn’t compelling enough” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 2/25). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes it is "anybody's guess" if Sunday's race will "jump-start NASCAR ratings or end up as a one-shot ratings wonder" (USA TODAY, 2/26). ESPN’s Tony Reali said the ratings for Sunday’s race were “huge” and it will be “interesting to see how that goes going forward." The "ratings bump" the IndyCar Series got from Patrick's fourth-place finish in the '05 Indianapolis 500 “happened, and then it plateaued for quite some time” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/25). Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said NASCAR “is one of these sports where any publicity is good publicity,” and they “need Danica Patrick right now, they need her out there” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/25).
CLICK TO WATCH: ESPN's Bomani Jones said NASCAR suffered a "black eye" by attempting to "scrub the Internet, fighting against the water and drowning," in trying to take down YouTube videos of the crash during Saturday's Nationwide Series race. Jones: "It made them look bad, as though they had something to hide, when I think most people recognize this was something that happened that was beyond people’s control. ... You cannot fight the Internet because trying to take those videos down made more people go find them and more people watch them” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/25). NBC Sports Network's Michelle Beadle said, "NASCAR learned a very quick lesson this weekend with social media. ... It’s out there, you can’t take it down.” Beadle: "Baseball is real quick on not letting people use video and taking things down. That’s not the way you want your sport to grow” ("The Crossover," NBC Sports Network, 2/25). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote the policing between NASCAR and YouTube "seems arbitrary, based on content more than legal standing." For instance, a compilation video of reactions to Cardinals 3B David Freese's triple in the '11 World Series was "taken down because of the same vague 'own data' notions that NASCAR was trying." It is "not that MLB and NASCAR and the NFL (which is probably the worst offender at this, giving embedded videos in large part only to corporate partners like Yahoo) are inherently wrong or right, it's just that there hasn't been a legitimate public discussion on any of it." YouTube just "takes things down because these leagues ask" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/25).
BT is "buying ESPN’s sports television channels in the UK and Ireland as part of its challenge to BSkyB in the pay-TV market," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Sources said the deal is worth "in the low tens of millions" of pounds. Sources added that it includes "live rights to the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, Europa League, Bundesliga and US sports such as" the NFL, college basketball and NASCAR. BT will assume the rights "from July 31 and will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel as part of its BT Sport package." The sale of its sports channels to BT is an "admission" by ESPN of its "failure to crack the UK market, where Sky has dominated since the launch of the Premier League in 1992." It will continue to "run its sports websites in Britain but is considering closing down its ESPN Classic channel in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions" (LONDON TIMES, 2/26). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Lilly Vitorovich noted BT last year "surprised investors and rivals by securing exclusive U.K. broadcasting rights to 38 live Premier League soccer matches a year" from '13-16 for US$1.11B. ESPN showed 23 live EPL matches annually from '10-12, "but after May 2013 it will no longer have any U.K. soccer-league rights." An ESPN spokesperson said that the net "decided to sell its U.K. and Irish TV channels businesses for several reasons, including the loss of live Premier League soccer matches, BT's move into sports content, intense competition from incumbents in the sports broadcasting space," including BSkyB, ITV and the BBC" (WSJ.com, 2/25). The GUARDIAN's Deans & Gibson report the ESPN operation will be moving to BT Sport's HQs "in the converted media centre in Stratford's Olympic Park." All 97 U.K. and Ireland staff are "understood to have been offered the chance to transfer to BT Sport" (GUARDIAN, 2/26).
Guggenheim Partners President and Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly said that team execs plan to "televise games in three languages when their new contract with Time Warner takes effect next season." In L.A., Shaikin & Hernandez note the Dodgers "would become the first" MLB team with regular telecasts in three languages. Boehly said that the team would "air telecasts in English, Spanish and Korean as part of the TWC deal." Those telecasts would be "limited to the Dodgers' local television market, as MLB keeps the rights to international broadcasts." The Dodgers have "yet to submit the TWC contract for approval" (L.A. TIMES, 2/26).
SLY LIKE A FOX: News Corp. Deputy COO James Murdoch said of sports rights fees, "Our appetite for sports investments is driven by economic sense ... you have to find the balance." He said of failed negotiations with the Dodgers, "At the prices it went to, we felt it was too rich for us." The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai noted Murdoch "touted the company's recent deal with the YES Network as a smart investment." Noting the "power of live sports, Murdoch cited a big double-digit ratings increase for this year's Daytona 500 race as an example of how things can play out well in sports" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/25).
THE FCC WON'T LET ME BE: CABLEFAX DAILY reports the FCC's original finding that Comcast violated program rules "appeared in jeopardy" yesterday morning, with a three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals "hammering the Commission with questions about its '12 ruling that Comcast discriminated against Tennis Channel." The line of questioning yesterday "did not bode well for the FCC" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 2/26).
EASTBOUND & DOWN: CBSSPORTS.com's Jeremy Fowler cited a source as saying that the Big East name "was part of the television negotiations" with NBC, a potential provision of roughly $2M for the network "to market a new name should the league sell the Big East handle to the departing Catholic 7." Big East officials "did not provide clarification on the contractual language" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/25).
WINDS OF CHANGE: In Chicago, George Castle wrote viewers providing comments via social media is "probably the biggest change" to Comcast SportsNet Chicago's "SportsTalk Live." The show replaced "Chicago Tribune Live," which was "canceled last week after eight years." Without the "mandated two or three Tribune writers making up the majority of the talking-heads panel, CSN Chicago’s producers can now expand the discussion group to other media athletes, athletes, team executives and coaches." Neither host David Kaplan nor CSN Chicago News Dir Kevin Cross "could explain why the Tribune pulled out of the show" (REELCHICAGO.com, 2/25).