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The NFL on Thursday released its '13 schedule and the Redskins are featured in five primetime games, "the maximum the league permits for any team," according to Rich Campbell of the WASHINGTON TIMES. It is a "form of validation for the Redskins’ growth as a program following their division title last season and their star power with QB Robert Griffin III." The Redskins open on "MNF" against the Eagles, which "indicates the league is convinced Griffin will be healthy and in the starting lineup" after suffering a knee injury in last year's playoffs. Campbell: "No disrespect to backup QB Kirk Cousins, but he’s not selling ads for ESPN in the first game of the Monday night doubleheader" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 4/18). In Seattle, Jayson Jenks notes the Patriots, 49ers and Broncos also are "scheduled to play in prime time five times." The Steelers, Packers, Falcons, and Seahawks will play in four primetime games (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/19).'13 NFL PRIMETIME TV SCHEDULE
WEEK NBC ESPN NFL NETWORK 1 Ravens-Broncos (NFL Kickoff) Eagles-Redskins none 1 Giants-Cowboys Texans-Chargers none 2 49ers-Seahawks Steelers-Bengals Jets-Patriots 3 Bears-Steelers Raiders-Broncos Chiefs-Eagles 4 Patriots-Falcons Dolphins-Saints 49ers-Rams 5 Texans-49ers Jets-Falcons Bills-Browns 6 Redskins-Cowboys Colts-Chargers Giants-Bears 7 Broncos-Colts Vikings-Giants Seahawks-Cardinals 8 Packers-Vikings Seahawks-Rams Panthers-Buccaneers 9 Colts-Texans Bears-Packers Bengals-Dolphins 10 Cowboys-Saints Dolphins-Buccaneers Redskins-Vikings 11 Packers-Giants* Patriots-Panthers Colts-Titans 12 Broncos-Patriots* 49ers-Redskins Saints-Falcons 13 Steelers-Ravens (Thanksgiving) Saints-Seahawks Steelers-Ravens 13 Giants-Redskins* 14 Falcons-Packers* Cowboys-Bears Texans-Jaguars 15 Bengals-Steelers* Ravens-Lions Chargers-Broncos 16 Patriots-Ravens* Falcons-49ers none 17 TBA none none
EXAMINING THE PRIMETIME SLATE: Former NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol said he believes the Thursday night schedule is the "very best schedule that the NFL has ever given the NFL Network, so it's nice to see that the in-house relationship is paying off." NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of the net's Thursday night schedule, “The thing that caught my attention was our September slate, right out of the box.” Ebersol noted this is as "strong a 'Sunday Night' schedule as NBC has ever had, and the NFL has done a very good job for primetime this year." The Giants-Cowboys "SNF" game in Week 1 is "maybe based on television ratings," as that matchup is "probably the one fans love the most judged by the television ratings" (“Schedule Release ’13,” NFL Network, 4/18). ESPN's Trey Wingo said of Giants-Cowboys, “This is what we call eyeballs, ladies and gentlemen. No surprise there. These two have combined for some of the highest-rated shows ever on ‘Sunday Night Football.’” Meanwhile, ESPN's Mike Tirico said of the "MNF" slate, “These are great matchups but we have no idea what’s going to happen. The best matchups turn into the worst games, the worst matchups turn into the best games.” Though he did note of the Broncos' lone "MNF" game, a Week 3 game against the Raiders, "There are a lot of other teams that we would’ve liked to have seen go up against Peyton Manning" ("SportsCenter Special: NFL Schedule Release," ESPN2, 4/18).
PRIMETIME PLAYERS: In Indianapolis, Phillip Wilson writes the Colts' turnaround and QB Andrew Luck’s "sudden rise to stardom translated to four night games, the kind of prime-time respect the team used to receive" when Manning "was the star." Manning on Oct. 20 will return with the Broncos to "face his old team" on NBC’s "SNF" in "one of the most-anticipated matchups" of '13 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/19). In Minneapolis, Dan Wiederer notes after only one primetime game last season, the Vikings are "registering as a strong draw for the under-the-lights TV slots." Last season's "surprising 10-6 surge into the playoffs and the presence" of RB Adrian Peterson helps, as the Vikings will play three primetime games (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/19). In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes for "only the second time since 2004," the Rams have two primetime games. And for the "first time since 2002," those two primetime games are at home (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/19).
HITTING SOUTH BEACH: In Miami, Adam Beasley writes a year after getting "largely overlooked, the Dolphins will get plenty of national exposure in 2013" with three primetime games. The highlight is a "home affair with the Bengals on Halloween night, which will air on NFL Network." It is a "significant boost" for the Dolphins, who had just one primetime game in '12 on a Thursday night against the Bills in Buffalo. Perhaps "spurred by the splash" the team made in free agency, the NFL "granted the Dolphins three nighttime games for the first time since 2010" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/19). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin writes the Dolphins are "back to being one of the NFL's sexy teams." The team could be "flexed" into extra primetime games if they "remain in the postseason hunt" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/19). Meanwhile, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote the Dolphins "can't be thrilled" with their schedule. They open with "two straight road games, and three of four before returning home for a date" with the Ravens. It will be "tough for the Dolphins to hit their Week 6 bye with a winning record" (NFL.com, 4/18).
FEELING SLIGHTED: In Detroit, Dave Birkett writes while they were a "popular choice for primetime games with four last year," the Lions have just one "MNF" game this season, "plus their annual Thanksgiving game." Lions President Tom Lewand in a town hall meeting for season-ticket holders earlier this month said that he was "excited about the possibility" of "MNF" returning to Ford Field (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/19). In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch notes the Eagles have "only two" scheduled primetime games. The team last year "played five" primetime games, including two on Sunday night. But that is "what happens when you go 4-12" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/19). NFL.com's Rosenthal noted the Chiefs received "one primetime appearance, and it was against" coach Andy Reid's old team in the Eagles (NFL.com, 4/18).
WORDS FROM A LEGEND: Ebersol said what he "looked for as I put a schedule together were rivalry games, games where these teams just don't like each other and as a result they seldom disappoint." He also looks for "big brands" in terms of teams. Ebersol said of the Cowboys-Bears matchup in Week 14, "That's what you would call a great rivalry and great brands all together in one game. Pretty fantastic" ("Schedule Release '13," NFL Network, 4/18).
Notre Dame and NBC Sports on Thursday announced a renewal of their football media rights deal for 10 more years through '25. The renewal begins with the '16 season and extends the partnership, which began in '91, to 35 years. NBC will retain multiplatform rights to a minimum of seven home games per year, with the vast majority airing on the broadcast TV network. Some games could air on NBC Sports Network, and NBC Sports Digital will continue to live stream games (NBC). Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said, "We're interested in helping build the NBC Sports Network. It's a really great partner for us, as you can see in the number of shows we've distributed through it in the past year -- shows that we've been responsible in creating. So we don't have any reluctance to have that happen." In South Bend, Eric Hansen reports the new deal allows both parties to "add an additional night game at Notre Dame Stadium every other year, beginning in 2016." Notre Dame currently is "committed to playing two night games a season for NBC -- one at ND Stadium and another in its off-site home game or Shamrock Series matchup." This year's Shamrock Series game is against Arizona State on Oct. 5 at Cowboys Stadium. The deal "does not necessarily mean the Shamrock Series concept will continue through at least 2025, but Swarbrick doesn't anticipate an end to it anytime soon." Meanwhile, the extension "supports one of the three pillars that make ND's continuing football independence possible" (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 4/19).
ESPN analysts during NFL Draft coverage next week "won't know when players are about to get picked even when the folks in their production truck could tell them," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. But that "won't be the case with draft coverage on the NFL Network." Last year, NFL Net and ESPN "agreed not to show shots of prospects taking calls from teams or agents, which gave away that they were about to be picked." NFL Net Coordinating Producer Charlie Yook said that the net's analysts "will still get that information in advance." So why will ESPN "willingly let its talking heads speculate perhaps in the wrong direction?" ESPN NFL Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman said, "We want their natural reactions. My favorite moments are things like Mel Kiper throwing down his book when picks are announced." One ESPN "change this year is that Chris Berman and Jon Gruden will only appear on the first day of the draft" (USATODAY.com, 4/18).
NO LOVE FOR LOVIE: In Chicago, David Haugh writes former Bears coach Lovie Smith on ESPN Thursday "provided indisputable evidence on 'SportsCenter' and 'NFL Live' that he belongs back on the sideline, not in the studio." Smith came off as "genuine but stiff, more like a folksier Eric Mangini." Smith became a "cliche the moment the red light went on Thursday and he embraced the media he showed so little respect for in nine seasons with the Bears, the latest hypocritical coach or player who decries the working press until he becomes a part of it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/19).
NBC Sports Network averaged 847,000 viewers for the Sabres-Bruins game on Wednesday night, which marked the first massive public gathering in Boston since Monday's marathon bombings. That audience marked the net’s fourth-best viewership for an NHL regular-season game on record (NBC). Meanwhile, NBC Sports Net is averaging 119,000 viewers for three live F1 telecasts to date, which have all aired during early morning hours. That figure is down 52% from 250,000 viewers for the same three races on Speed last year. Replays for those races on Sunday afternoons are averaging 145,000 viewers, down 44% from the replays last year on Speed (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) The Masters: Final Round4/14CBS2:00-7:00pm9.414,700 The Masters: Third Round4/13CBS3:00-7:00pm5.88,500 NASCAR Sprint Cup:
NRA 500 (Texas)4/13Fox7:49-11:20pm3.86,269
NBA: Bulls-Heat4/14ABC1:00-3:45pm2.13,009 MLB: (regional)4/13Fox4:00-7:00pm1.82,500 "Masters Playoffs"4/13CBS2:00-3:00pm1.1n/a "Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta"4/14CBS1:00-2:00pm1.0n/a "NBA Countdown"4/14ABC12:30-1:00pm0.91,243 Liga MX: Leon-Club America4/13Telem.9:00-11:04pm0.5975 Horse Racing: Blue Grass Stakes4/13NBC4:30-6:00pm0.7935 NHL: Blackhawks-Blues4/14NBC12:30-3:00pm0.7933 AMA Supercross4/14CBS12:00-1:00pm0.7n/a Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular4/14NBC4:00-6:00pm0.6914 Liga MX: CD Guadalajara-Atlante4/14Telem.5:55-8:00pm0.4726 "ESPN Sports Saturday"4/13ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5611 Speed Golf World Championships4/13CBS1:00-2:00pm0.5n/a Stadium Super Trucks4/14NBC3:00-4:00pm0.4596 Heads-Up Poker Championship4/13NBC2:30-4:30pm0.5571 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) The Masters: Second Round4/12ESPN3:00-7:40pm3.04,196 NCAA Women's Basketball
The Masters: First Round4/11ESPN3:00-7:23pm2.02,851 MLB: Orioles-Yankees4/14ESPN8:00-10:49pm1.52,162 NBA: Knicks-Bulls4/11TNT8:16-11:05pm1.52,136 NBA: Thunder-Warriors4/11TNT11:05pm-1:21am1.21,661 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 (Texas)4/12ESPN28:37-11:32pm1.01,534
NBA: Spurs-Nuggets4/10ESPN10:36pm-12:58am0.91,272 NBA: Nets-Celtics4/10ESPN8:05-10:36pm0.91,194 "Live From The Masters"4/13Golf9:30am-3:00pm0.81,148
In Denver, Nick Groke writes NBC's plans to broadcast every EPL game next season is "great news for U.S. soccer fans -- but worrisome news for fans" of MLS. The NBC-EPL deal "dwarfs the deal" the net has with MLS, which is worth $10M per year. MLS Rapids play-by-play announcer Richard Fleming "knows the power of the EPL." He said, "In my experience, it can be a detriment to the domestic league." Meanwhile, MLS is "still building its star power." Attendance for MLS games "is increasing, but TV ratings haven't ballooned." Fleming's concern for the EPL's arrival in the U.S. "isn't that the British will steal away rapid Rapids fans." He is "concerned about the next generation" (DENVER POST, 4/19).
CHEERING SECTION: In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes SportsNet N.Y.'s Keith Hernandez is close to "crossing over from analyst into Fan Boy territory" when it comes to Mets P Matt Harvey. Hernandez "has not crossed that line but definitely straddled it." When it comes to Harvey, Hernandez "should consider putting the genie back in the bottle and try rocking steady." Raissman: "No one wants to hear someone leading cheers, especially in a booth not known for that kind of broadcast" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/19).
NEW VENTURE: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes sportswriter Vahe Gregorian is leaving the Post-Dispatch for the K.C. Star and he "primarily has been covering Mizzou football and basketball," but will "shift from being a beat writer to a sports columnist." Gregorian said, "I have no issues with my job (here), it's very fulfilling. But this is a chance to expand it and increase the spectrum of what you can write about. It's an enormous responsibility and a thrilling challenge." Post-Dispatch sports editor Roger Hensley said, "The fact of the matter is that this is a terrific opportunity for Vahe" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/19).
AIR BALL: In Albany, Pete Dougherty notes Nets fans "could be in for a disappointment Monday night, when their team plays Game 2 of its opening-round NBA playoffs series against the Bulls." The national telecast is "scheduled for NBA-TV, which is required to black out telecasts in home markets." Area fans "normally can get Nets games on YES, but the network has a Yankees conflict and likely will farm off the local telecast to WWOR (My-9) in New York -- which is not available locally." Officials at both networks are "working to determine a way for the telecast to be available in the Capital Region" (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/19).