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CBS earned a 4.4 overnight Nielsen rating for the men's NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show yesterday from 6:00-7:00pm ET, up 10% from last year. This year's show had a change in format compared to last year. Whereas the four No. 1 seeds had been revealed at the top of the program in years past, this year's show revealed region by region. The 4.4 overnight is also flat compared to the show in '11 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes yesterday's selection show was "the same old, same old." It "virtually ignored what is usually the star attraction in the rest of TV sports: the athletes themselves." Very few players were "mentioned in passing although, before the selection show, coaches were interviewed" (USA TODAY, 3/18). Xavier AD and NCAA Tournament Selection Committee Chair Mike Bobinski was interviewed during the show, and in San Jose, Jon Wilner writes he "was ready for the tough but fair questions thrown his way by CBS analysts" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 3/18). USA TODAY's Chris Chase kept a running blog of the show and wrote in a year "without much outrage" in college basketball, the Bobinski interview was "appropriately toothless." CBS' Seth Davis "tried to get riled up about Middle Tennessee State making the field with only one win over the RPI top 100, but seeing as how someone on set clapped when MTSU was announced into the field, it came across as forced" (USATODAY.com, 3/17). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted there was “not any high-pitched screeching” about the “teams on the bubble that didn’t make the tournament.” The “snubbed teams this time appear to have been justly snubbed, at least judging by the lack of indignation expressed by the analysts about the teams left out” (JSONLINE.com, 3/17).
MUST-SEE TV: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Andrea Morabito reports CBS and Turner execs are “unsure whether the uncertainty of having no clear frontrunners is good or bad for viewership” of the tournament. Turner Broadcasting President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said, “It’s a great debate. I’d like to see obviously big names, big brands get in, but you know we had great ratings when it was Butler in the finals and VCU so I think it’s about quality of the game and interest. Cinderella teams are as interesting as dominant brands.” CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said, “Ideally in the Final Four you want a mix of the power teams that have the national reputations like North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, but if you can have a Butler, George Mason or a VCU, that adds to it. It’s how the story lines develop. You really don’t want a Final Four totally devoid of traditional basketball powerhouses from a ratings standpoint” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 3/18 issue). Kansas and North Carolina could potentially meet in a third-round matchup in the South region, and in Charlotte, Jack Daly notes the potential matchup is "the sort of made-for-TV drama that will pull serious and casual college basketball fans alike" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/18). In Tampa Bay, Antonya English writes TV "could make this matchup a ratings bonanza" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/18). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes another potential UNC-Kansas matchup may "make for great television, but it's not fair to either team given the history involved" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/18). Meanwhile, the MERCURY NEWS' Wilner writes with Kentucky not making the 68-team field, "So much for the committee selling out for TV ratings" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 3/18).
DOUG E. FRESH: In Denver, Dusty Saunders notes fans will once again "find TNT talent such as Steve Kerr and Marv Albert heavily involved in the tournament." During Charles Barkley's two previous times covering the tournament, he "provided cogent commentary spiked with dashes of humor." Meanwhile, Doug Gottlieb, who left ESPN for CBS Sports last year, will "have a prominent role" during the coverage (DENVER POST, 3/18). USA TODAY's Chase wrote Gottlieb yesterday provided a "shot of life to the usually-staid CBS studio show." Barkley has "served the same function in recent years, the main difference being the fact that Gottlieb has watched college basketball games this year." But Gottlieb "monopolized the show by complaining about Florida's seed like it's the biggest injustice since 'Dances with Wolves' over 'Goodfellas'" (USATODAY.com, 3/17). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote the "only rock-solid prediction I can make is that you will either love or loathe cocksure CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb by the time the tournament is over" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/18).
COSMIC CHARLIE: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin wrote ESPN's Bill Walton was his "kooky self while working the Pac-12 Tournament." Boivin: "I actually enjoy Walton and find his quirky perspective refreshing but he took it too far during the Oregon-Washington game." As a clip was shown of mascots climbing out of a limousine, Walton "joked that he was 'in the back along with Ray Lewis and it was unbelievable how much fun' it was." He basically was "making light of the double murder that Lewis was involved in." Dave Pasch, Walton's announcing partner, was "really the star," as he "deftly handles Walton’s wackiness” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/17). In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce wrote there are times when Walton's "bluntness is a welcome relief from the kind of don’t-hurt-anybody’s-feelings analysis we hear so much of on TV." And the fact that he is "being blunt about Pac-12 teams on the Pac-12 Network is sometimes pretty amazing." At the same time, there are "moments when you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would allow Walton to say anything live on TV" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/16). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Pasch again "plays his role as the straight man well." Pasch in a tweet wrote, "I like working w/ Bill. Keeps me on my toes. Love his passion for bball, life, the Dead. I laugh, I cry, I cry laughing" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 3/16).
Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin in the men’s Big Ten Championship yesterday led all conference tournament finals in ratings with a 3.0 overnight on CBS. That figure is up 11% from a 2.7 overnight for Michigan State-Ohio State last year. CBS also saw strong gains for the semifinal matchups on Saturday. Both Wisconsin-Indiana in the early afternoon window and Ohio State-Michigan State in the late window drew a 2.3 overnight, up from the respective semifinals last year. The Louisville-Syracuse Big East Championship led all of ESPN’s games from the weekend. The net drew a 2.1 overnight for the matchup on Saturday, up from a 1.6 for Louisville’s win over Cincinnati last year. Meanwhile, ESPN last night earned a 1.2 overnight for the premiere of its latest “30 for 30” documentary, “Survive And Advance.” That figure is down from a 1.4 overnight for the premiere of "The Announcement" on Selection Sunday last year, and down from a 2.0 rating for "The Fab Five" in '11 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).WEEKEND MEN'S CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OVERNIGHTSDATESTARTNET
GAMERATING3/173:30pmCBS Big Ten: Ohio State-Wisconsin3.03/168:30pmESPN Big East: Louisville-Syracuse2.13/166:15pmCBS MWC: New Mexico-UNLV1.73/171:00pmESPN ACC: Miami-North Carolina1.63/166:00pmESPN Big 12: Kansas-Kansas State1.53/1611:00pmESPN Pac-12: Oregon-UCLA1.23/1611:30amCBS C-USA: Memphis-Southern Miss1.23/171:00pmCBS A-10: Saint Louis-VCU1.23/171:00pmABC SEC: Ole Miss-Florida0.93/166:30pmESPN2 MAC: Akron-Ohio Univ.0.33/1611:30amESPN2 America East: Albany-Vermont0.23/164:30pmESPN2 SWAC: Southern-Prairie View A&M0.23/168:30pmESPN2 Southland: Northwestern State-Stephen F. Austin0.23/1610:45pmESPN2 Big West: Pacific-UC Irvine0.1
CASE OF THE MONDAYS: In Virginia, David Teel reported ACC Commissioner John Swofford Saturday confirmed that the conference is looking into "taking over the Big East's 7 p.m. game on ESPN's Big Monday regular-season telecasts." Swofford said, "It’s likely that we will be part of Big Monday. I think fans can anticipate that." Teel noted with the ACC "retaining its Sunday night package on ESPNU, the league will have a basketball presence every day except Friday." Swofford said he did not know if the conference would play on six different days every week during the season, but it would happen "certainly in some weeks." The Big East's "move to Fox also opens ESPN’s prime-time Saturday championship game window." Swofford said, "That would be going back to the future, if you will, because ironically we moved to a championship day on Sunday afternoon (in 1983) for television and exposure. Either one can work, so we’ll see if it comes up" (DAILYPRESS.com, 3/16).
In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote while former MLB manager Manny Acta is joining ESPN as an analyst this season, he "hopes to follow Buck Showalter, Bobby Valentine, and Terry Francona by reentering the managerial ranks" eventually. Acta said of his managing career, "I felt I needed to step back from it after six years and see it from a different vantage point. ... My goal is to manage again, but in the right situation where the team has a chance to be a contender.” He added, "I think this job with ESPN could definitely help me with the exposure of keeping my name out there. It worked well for Buck and Bobby and Tito, and if that happens for me, I’d be thrilled" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/17).
NO HARM INTENDED: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted Fox analyst Michael Waltrip yesterday off-air "addressed the controversy" that rose up from him using the term "'Palin strategery' during last week’s race broadcast" in reference to former VP candidate Sarah Palin. He said, “I think that people that know me know my values (and) that I’m not going to make fun of anyone or belittle them. My comment was funny." He added, "I contacted Miss Palin’s people and told her that I certainly was a supporter of hers and loved her spirit and her energy for her message and meant no harm. I love my job on Fox, and I love trying to be informative and entertaining. I thought that was entertaining" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/17).
SCALING BACK: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote announcer Bob Papa is "cutting back on his HBO 'Boxing After Dark' gig to concentrate more on his Golf Channel 'Champions Tour' assignments." HBO could "call on Jim Lampley if it replaces Papa internally." If it "goes outside, one blow-by-blow man to consider" is SportsNet N.Y.'s Brian Custer (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/17).
OUT IN THE DESERT: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin noted former ESPN anchor Cindy Brunson "will join" Jody Jackson on the pre- and postgame D'Backs broadcasts on Sundays for FS Arizona. Brunson's husband, Steve Berthiaume, will be the D'Backs' new TV play-by-play announcer this season. Upon arrival in Arizona, Brunson "had conversations with several Valley television stations about anchoring but wasn’t interested in returning to work full time and hopes to share the Major League Baseball experience with her husband" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/17).