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CBS averaged an 8.0 overnight Nielsen rating for its two NCAA Tournament Regional Finals yesterday, up 25% from a 6.4 overnight for the doubleheader last year. The early afternoon window that featured Michigan-Florida earned a 6.2 overnight, up 17% from a 5.3 rating for Kentucky-Baylor last year. In the late afternoon window, Louisville-Duke earned a 9.4 overnight, up 21% from a 7.8 rating for Kansas-North Carolina in '12. For the entire tournament to date, CBS and Turner Sports have combined to average a 6.7 overnight, up 8% from the same point last year (CBS/Turner). VARIETY's Rick Kissell on Twitter writes, "CBS tops Big Four on Sunday, a big night for cable with finales of WALKING DEAD and THE BIBLE" (TWITTER.com, 4/1).
CHEMISTRY LESSONS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes body language "isn't always the best indicator of on-air chemistry, but watching Greg Anthony and Doug Gottlieb interact this weekend on the CBS NCAA Tournament studio show reminded me of the warmth between North Korea and the U.S." The long-term issue is "how Gottlieb fits stylistically with others on the set." When it comes to "breaking down college basketball, Gottlieb is excellent." But as far as "personality goes, he gets himself in trouble when he channels his inner-Bayless with over-the-top brazenness" (SI.com, 4/1). Meanwhile, in Tampa, Tom Jones writes it was a "nice idea by CBS to bring in just-fired UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland" for Saturday's "Road to the Final Four" show. But the "execution quickly fell apart when the analysts hijacked it by having a pity party for Howland." Maybe Howland "did get a raw deal from UCLA," but the "grandstanding, especially by analyst Greg Anthony, made for bad television" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/1).
TOO MUCH CHUCK: In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted analyst Charles Barkley is "looking for a change in his workload" around the NCAA Tournament. Barkley said, "I do think I was overexposed. I have been addressing it with them (Turner suits) and hopefully they will change it up." He noted he has suggested that analysts "only work six hour days." Barkley: "12 hours is too much. I don’t think you can keep your energy level up 12 hours." He added that the "'hardest' days for him are the first rounds of the tournament on Thursday and Friday." Barkley: "We should have another crew work the afternoon games, then we can come in the studio from 6 p.m. to midnight. 6 to 12 is perfect. I don’t think anyone wants to see anybody 12 hours straight." Raissman wrote Barkley during the opening weekend "seemed lethargic" and "appeared disinterested" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/31).
STAYING CONNECTED: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted CBS' Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery both said that the "best part of the tournament is their 30-minute casual gab sessions with a small group of players from the victorious teams between tournament rounds." They look for "clues to make an unknown roster more compelling to a casual audience." Lundquist said, "The challenge that Bill and I both have is to convey those stories in the context of the telecast. Because we do, we live in a world that is so cynical. It just is." That is why Lundquist "places so much value on Raftery's ability to connect with teenagers in an authentic way." Lundquist said, "He has the greatest interactions with college students of anybody I've ever seen. I call him the mayor of college basketball, and it's real, and there's nothing that's planned about it. And the students have a genuine affection for him" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/29).
Louisville G Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his right leg during the first half of yesterday's Regional Final against Duke, and CBS' response "was textbook -- it let its pictures do the talking," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. After Ware went down, broadcasters Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg "quickly realized it was time to largely shut up." CBS "couldn't really avoid showing a replay of the injury, given that TV coverage should at least give viewers access to anything they'd see if they were in the stands." The net also was "sensible" during its halftime studio coverage. Host Greg Gumbel said there would be no replay -- "with the severity of that injury, we are not going to be showing it here." However, the CBS shots chosen by producer Mark Wolff and director Bob Fishman seemed "almost more compelling than replays of the injury itself." The closeups of "seemingly mortified fans were jarring," and the footage of Louisville coach Rick Pitino "wiping away tears was a striking visual." CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said that on-site production staffers "made the initial call on limiting replay shots while network executives made the decision not to include it in halftime coverage." He said, "We're not going to show it again today and I don't think we'll show it in the future" (USA TODAY, 4/1). He added that because of the "graphic nature of the injury, the network decided not to show it after the original replays." McManus: "We did not zoom in on the injury when he was taken off. We did not try to highlight it. I think we did the right thing" (AP, 3/31). ESPN's Mike Golic said he has "zero problem with the way they handled that, because that’s always tough.” He noted that he has been “in the booth calling games with gruesome injuries, and we actually discuss it." Golic: "Do you want to show this? Show it once and then you don’t show it? There are big time discussions on how you handle this, and I thought they handled it just fine” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 4/1).
THE RIGHT CALL: SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes TV viewers have "rarely seen as severe an image" as Ware breaking his leg, and CBS "handled it well." The production "quickly moved off the video of the play (there were only two replays) to tell the surrounding story: fans, teammates and coaches crying, opponents reacting with horror." CBS cameras "followed Ware being removed from the arena and did so with proper distance." The network "opted -- smartly -- to stay with the scene rather than go to commercial." Nantz expressed the "proper tone given the images provided by his director." Sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson was "particularly impressive," as she reported "quickly Ware had broken his leg, updated viewers often and conducted a strong postgame interview" with Pitino (SI.com, 4/1). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Ben Koo writes, "You do have tip your hat to Kellogg, for being on top of what was occurring and setting the proper tone as well as gently hand holding the audience through the couple of replays while it must have been chaotic on the floor. ... The reaction shots were stirring and the right way to go and I have to think it was wise of CBS to not go to commercial, which is usually the go to move for a moment like this" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 4/1). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes it was an "uneasy situation for any network, and it's easy to second-guess a network for whatever decisions it makes during a time like that." But CBS did "about as well as you could expect." Jones: "Put it this way: If Ware was my brother or son or friend, I wouldn't have had a problem with the coverage" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/1). ABC's Josh Elliott said, "The tears in the eyes of the fans, players and coaches on both teams said it all” (“GMA,” ABC, 4/1). FoxSports.com's Jason Whitlock wrote, "CBS Sports handles this curveball (Ware injury) masterfully. ... I liked Nantz's and Kellog's tone and I definitely thought the footage of reaction was important. Studio team right tone, too. +1 CBS." SpiracleMedia co-Founder Bill Voth wrote, "CBS has handled this as well as possible. Also didn’t make Pitino do interview going into half like all coaches have to do when leading" (TWITTER.com, 3/31). In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote, "I would have been just as happy had CBS not showed it at all. I truly think the one replay was a judgement call. And with the warning, I am OK with it." The "power of the replay was not in seeing Ware." It was in "seeing the reaction of the Louisville bench" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 3/31).
THE WRONG CALL: Blogger Clay Travis wrote CBS opting not to replay the injury at halftime was "the wrong decision." A lot of people "sat down to learn more about the injury at halftime and weren't watching the game live." Ware's injury "was THE story at halftime," and CBS instead chose to "take the easy way out and allow the fauxrage to win." CBS would have been "criticized, but when you're criticized for making the right decision, don't you have to live with it?" (OUTKICKTHECOVERAGE.com, 3/31). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote, "I absolutely respect CBS, ESPN, USA TODAY Sports and SB Nation for deciding not to replay the video or to GIF the play." But you are going to have "a hard time convincing me that The Big Lead and Deadspin and Buzzfeed and Yahoo and anybody else did something wrong by GIFing the play." Leitch: "Sure, it feels wrong to post a video of something so brutal and raw ... on a page next to a pageview counter and a Facebook Like button. I'm not sure it is, though, for several reasons." Ware's injury and Louisville's "reaction to it, instantaneously became the story of the tournament." Not covering "something -- not showing it -- because it is unpleasant or unwelcome in polite company is no way to last long in the news business" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/1).
ESPN'S DECISION: ESPN did not air video of the injury during both its late-night "SportsCenter" last night or this morning's editions. The net's policy on airing the clip is to only show it in full speed and stop the footage before the exposed bone could be seen. Shows were told to issue a warning to viewers before the video airs. The clip would be shown only once per show and not in any bumps or teases. Video of trainers tending to Ware and of him being taken off on stretcher were deemed to be OK (THE DAILY). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Koo noted ESPN's decision to follow CBS' lead and not show the footage last night came "to the surprise of many." Many people on social media were "against the decision noting that it was the story of the day, people were talking about it, and it could be done respectfully and minimally." Koo: "Ultimately, I think the right call was to abstain from shining a light on something that was likely going to make a broad audience like ESPN's cringe. ... ESPN could have very easily decided to show the replay and in a manner that would have been responsible and respectful. Did they take the high road? I wouldn't say that, but I'll say they made a decision that probably hurt their ratings and pissed off some viewers and were decisive and firm with the path they chose" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 4/1).
There were “thousands [of] tennis fans at home” watching the Sony Open men’s final between Andy Murray and David Ferrer who “didn't get to see the decisive tiebreaker as CBS-TV pulled an NBC-like 1968 Heidi Bowl move by shifting the match to Tennis Channel" to show the start of the Michigan-Florida NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game, according to Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Tournament Dir Adam Barrett in a statement said, “Although we wish the match could have been shown in its entirety we understand that these situations arise” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/1). Murray said, "It's obviously a shame that people didn't get to see the end of what I think was a pretty exciting match. But that's the way it goes sometimes.” Barrett said that CBS officials “had a commitment to show basketball.” Barrett: "They stayed with our match for as long as possible, forgoing their pre-NCAA tournament coverage and delaying the start of the Michigan-Florida tipoff in an attempt to complete its broadcast of the match.” The AP's Steven Wine notes the Sony Open's contract with CBS “expires this year,” and the event “does not yet have a signed TV deal for 2014” (AP, 4/1). A CBS spokesperson said that the net "pushed up the tip-off of the basketball game to 2:23 PM, and the tip-off didn't actually occur until 2:24 PM." The net said that it "made the switch to Tennis Channel at the last possible moment -- 2:17 PM -- in an attempt to accommodate both events, but that it needed a five-minute transition so it could not stay with the tennis match." The net added that it is the "tournament's decision to start the final at 11 EST next year to possibly avoid conflict with Elite Eight games." Meanwhile, TENNIS.com's Matt Cronin reported ESPN "did not want to take the option of broadcasting the rest of the men's final if it went over its alloted time," which explains why Tennis Channel aired the end of the match (TENNIS.com, 3/31). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes viewers “could blame CBS for bad scheduling,” but the Murray-Ferrer match was “the longest of the tournament” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/1).
Yahoo Sports retained its reach lead in the first rankings from comScore in its new Media Metrix Multi-Platform rankings that blend online, digital video and mobile measurement data. During February, Yahoo Sports posted a total digital audience of 51.52 million unique visitors, with ESPN ranking second with 44.76 million and FoxSports.com on MSN coming in third with 40.41 million. While those top three rankings were essentially the same as prior online-only measurement data, the rest of the report showed new elements of the fast-changing digital sports space. ESPN was predictably far and away the most-trafficked sports destination on mobile devices, and also generated 14.4 million people exclusively visiting ESPN digital properties via mobile. But the Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network ranked a solid second on the platform. Perform Sports also made a strong entry into the new list, ranked seventh overall, due in large part to its strong position in comScore's prior Video Metrix reports. ESPN also by far led the category in consumption with 3.79 billion minutes of total digital consumption across platforms during February, which accounted for 28% of the entire sports category during the month and nearly as much as Yahoo, FoxSports.com on MSN and Bleacher Report-Turner Sports combined.
RANK SITETOTAL DIGITAL
1) Yahoo Sports*51,520 2) ESPN44,759 3) FoxSports.com on MSN40,412 4) Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network**32,544 5) USA Today Sports Media Group***27,739 6) CBS Sports24,547 7) Perform Sports22,494 8) NFL Internet Group20,549 9) SB Nation18,181 10) NBC Sports^15,719 11) Sporting News on AOL15,079 12) Sports Illustrated sites13,108 13) MLB11,632 14) Active.com sites9,518 15) Stack Media6,586