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ESPN's Bill Simmons is expected to return to Twitter Friday after he was suspended from the social media site "for a few days after he called the Skip Bayless-Richard Sherman ‘First Take’ meltdown last week awful and embarrassing,” according to John Koblin of DEADSPIN. An ESPN source said that the tweets “violated ESPN's social media guidelines.” Simmons reportedly was “told to lie low for a few days,” and he “hasn't tweeted” since Monday. There were “two tweets that got him into trouble.” One from March 8 read, "Nobody won. Everyone lost. Including ESPN." Koblin wrote those are “big words, and the tweets felt like a flashpoint for a show that's used to withering criticism, but not from ESPN's own -- and certainly not from Simmons, one of the most powerful guys at the network.” Though Simmons has “stayed off Twitter, he has certainly been keeping up with Facebook, posting about Wes Welker, a story he wrote, a blog post written about him, and a video of his dog.” Simmons reportedly was “expected to make a trip out to New York this week for a sort of Grantland East brainstorming session, but he backed out over the weekend.” He also “didn't appear” on “NBA Countdown” on Wednesday night, though that was “apparently previously scheduled” (DEADSPIN.com, 3/14). Simmons last Friday wrote on Twitter, "It's amazing to me that people get so worked up about First Take. Who cares? Just don't watch it. There are like 800 TV channels. I am not defending this segment ... I thought it was awful and embarrassing to everyone involved. Seriously. But what bothers me about the reaction to that segment is people saying Richard Sherman 'won.' Nobody won. Everyone lost. Including ESPN" (THE DAILY). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Busbee cited a source as saying that the “suspension was because of content, not target.” It had “nothing to do with ‘First Take’ per se” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14).
San Diego City Council members “held an unusually combative meeting at City Hall Thursday to grill executives at Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports San Diego over a yearlong impasse that has left 129,000 customers north of the San Diego River unable to watch Padres baseball games on television,” according to Matthew Hall of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. After months of stalled negotiations, reps from the two companies will “meet in New York City next week to try to find the common ground that was clearly eluding them during Thursday's hearing.” It took “repeated prompting from city officials to even get the TV executives to sit at the same table at the two-hour hearing, which was recessed twice so the companies could contact other executives elsewhere to schedule next week's meeting.” San Diego Mayor Bob Filner “announced that he has set up an official city email account -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- for angry Padres fans to share their displeasure and their thoughts about switching TV providers from Time Warner Cable to one of the area's other providers.” Rules & Economic Development Committee members Sherri Lightner, David Alvarez and Marti Emerald “voted 3-0 to ask the mayor and city attorney to attempt to get financial documents from Time Warner Cable, using authority it may have in the city's franchise agreement with the company.” There “weren't many fans” at the meeting, with only “40 or so people” in attendance (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/15).
FIRING MORE SALVOS: In Houston, David Barron noted DirecTV has an "updated message to subscribers" on its "No Fan Should Be Sidelined" website regarding the ongoing carriage dispute with CSN Houston. The net yesterday responded with a comment on IWantCSNHouston.com (CHRON.com, 3/14).
The AP's Jenna Fryer reported the F1 TV booth on NBC Sports Network this season will consist of Leigh Diffey, former driver David Hobbs and analyst Steve Matchett. Will Buxton will serve as race reporter. All four "worked together previously" at Speed. Meanwhile, the IndyCar booth on NBC Sports Net "has undergone a slight shakeup with the addition of Diffey, who will cover IndyCar for the first time." He replaces the retired Bob Jenkins and will be "joined in the booth by returning race analyst Wally Dallenbach, Jr. and newcomer Townsend Bell." Former analyst Jon Beekhuis will "report from pit road" alongside Marty Snider, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller (AP, 3/14).
MR. CONGENIALITY? In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote CBS Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb is "cocksure about his opinions, unafraid to criticize and not aiming to win any Mr. Congeniality contests." But he has "not made the mistake" that ESPN's Skip Bayless has, which is "turning himself into a caricature of a blowhard sports opinionator." Gottlieb can be "crabby and annoying, but for this viewer it’s an interesting kind of crabby and annoying, particularly when the topic is college basketball." Gottlieb is part of CBS' college basketball studio show with Greg Gumbel, Greg Anthony and Seth Davis, and what is "most interesting about this group ... is the creative tension between Gottlieb and Davis." Gottlieb appears to be "looking to mix it up with Davis, who is the eager and ambitious teacher’s pet in the classroom, the guy aiming to become class president" (JSONLINE.com, 3/14).
THROW IT DOWN, BIG MAN: DEADSPIN's Timothy Burke writes Basketball HOFer Bill Walton's "on-air behavior has been consistently weird this college basketball season." During Thursday night's Oregon-Washington Pac-12 men's basketball tournament game, Walton made a "reference to Ray Lewis's murder and obstruction of justice charges and then ESPN's Twitter suspension of Bill Simmons." Walton "repeatedly created awkward situations for fellow announcer Dave Pasch, who struggled to escape and 'get back to game action.'" As if things "weren't bad enough for Pasch, Walton later alleged that Pasch's 'wife has been calling me'" (DEADSPIN.com, 3/15). CSNBayArea.com’s Ray Ratto wrote on his Twitter feed, “After a night of Walton at the top of his game, Dave Pasch saddened to learn one cannot smother one's self to death with MGM Grand pillows.”
A NEW VENTURE: CNN's Rachel Nichols will be a sideline reporter during the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and she said, "That's what is exciting about being at Turner. There are so many opportunities. They have their hands in so many properties and so many things. There's anything on the table with them." She moved to Turner after nine years at ESPN, and she said, "I was so happy and lucky in my time at ESPN. I was able to do so many different things and worked with really amazing people. ESPN has so many different arms where there's so much talent, but the opportunities I've gotten at CNN and Turner were something I really hadn't been exposed to before" (Albany TIMES-UNION, 3/15).
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Fox Sports Thursday announced that former MLBer Jim Edmonds is joining the Cardinals broadcast team on FS Midwest as an analyst on the "Cardinals Live" pre- and postgame shows. He is scheduled to make his debut on the RSN on April 1 (Fox Sports). The net said that Al Hrabosky, Rick Horton and Chris Duncan "will remain in the rotation of commentators for the pregame and postgame shows." Cal Eldred, who previously served as a Cardinals analyst from '09-12, has been named Special Assistant to Cardinals Senior VP & GM John Mozeliak (STLTODAY.com, 3/14).
NBC finished with a 3.7 rating and 5.5 million viewers for the final round of Tiger Woods' win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last Sunday, marking the best audience for the Doral event since Woods won in ’06. Third-round coverage on Saturday earned a 2.3 rating and 3.4 million viewers, also the best since ’06. Meanwhile, Golf Channel averaged 1.5 million viewers for the second round on Friday, marking the most-viewed early round for the tournament on record. Friday’s coverage also was up 24% year-over-year. Golf Channel on Thursday averaged 1.0 million viewers, marking the best opening round for a PGA Tour event this year to date. NBC’s PGA Tour coverage is up 3% to date, while Golf Channel is up 9% (NBC Sports).
ICE TIME: MSG Networks (MSG, MSG+) are averaging a 1.8 local rating in N.Y. through 21 NHL Rangers games, up 82% compared to the team’s final average last season. Meanwhile, the Devils are averaging a 0.6 rating on MSG through 24 games, up 67%. Islanders games are averaging a 0.5 local rating, up 124% (MSG)….NESN is averaging a 7.0 local rating in Boston through 21 Bruins games, up 49% from last season’s final average of a 4.7 -- “which happens to stand as the regular-season record for Bruins telecasts on NESN.” The net “began airing Bruins games in 1984.” Nine of the 12 “highest-rated regular-season Bruins games of all time have occurred this season” (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/15).
NOTES: Fox Soccer averaged 460,000 viewers for the Manchester United-Chelsea FA Cup Round Six match last Sunday, marking the fifth-best audience of any kind on the network (Fox Soccer)….Fox Deportes finished the month of February as the No. 1 Spanish cable sports network (Fox Deportes)….Big Ten Network had its best audience ever in February among its eight-market footprint, surpassing the record set in January. Fueling the growth was a 33% jump in audience for Big Ten men’s basketball games for the month (BTN)…. The Heat-T’Wolves game on March 4 saw 3.3 million social interactions, according to data from Trendrr. The figure marked the most-discussed cable program on social media from Feb. 28-March 7. Overall, three of the top five on the list during that time period were NBA games (THE DAILY).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup: Las Vegas3/10Fox3:15-6:15pm4.77,500 WGC: Cadillac Championship:
NBA: Bulls-Lakers3/10ABC3:45-6:15pm2.74,064 WGC: Cadillac Championship:
NCAA Basketball: Indiana-Michigan3/10CBS4:30-6:15pm2.1n/a NBA: Celtics-Thunder3/10ABC1:00-3:45pm2.02,902 NCAA Basketball:
NCAA Basketball: Florida-Kentucky3/9CBS12:00-2:15pm1.2n/a NCAA Basketball:
NCAA Basketball: MVC
Championship: Creighton-Wichita St3/10CBS2:15-4:30pm0.8n/a
NCAA Basketball: VCU-Temple3/10CBS12:00-2:15pm0.7n/a NHL: Rangers-Capitals3/10NBC12:30-3:00pm0.7959 Snowboarding:
Sprint U.S. Grand Prix3/9NBC12:30-1:30pm0.4555
"Golf Central Live"3/9NBC1:30-2:00pm0.4523 "ESPN Sports Saturday"3/9ABC4:00-6:00pm0.4n/a TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Lakers-Thunder3/5TNT9:49pm-12:28am2.23,339 NCAA Basketball:
NBA: Thunder-Knicks3/7TNT8:16-10:52pm1.82,736 NCAA Basketball:
NASCAR Nationwide Series:
NBA: Clippers-Nuggets3/7TNT10:52pm-1:20am1.21,733 NCAA Basketball: Kansas-Baylor3/9ESPN6:06-8:10pm1.11,677 NBA: Rockets-Warriors3/8ESPN10:56pm-1:11am1.11,655 "College GameDay"3/9ESPN8:10-8:55pm1.01,628 NBA: 76ers-Heat3/8ESPN8:05-10:46pm1.01,527