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It is "hard to know where a new ESPN ombudsman should begin," but Robert Lipsyte, who will take over the role on June 1, indicated that his "central theme will be ... conflict of interest," according to Marc Tracy of THE NEW REPUBLIC. Lipsyte said he will focus on the "interface of ESPN’s fiduciary relationship with the leagues and its commitment to coverage, to journalism." He added, "I’ve spent 50-odd years in the business, believing that sports is one of the main currencies of communication in America, and still an important moral and social crucible, and that the media is critically important in the way it presents that. So here you have the most important presentation and media organization -- and they both happen to be the same entity.” Lipsyte noted that ESPN Exec Editor John Walsh "approached him a few weeks ago about the job." Lipsyte: "It’s an amazingly interesting and challenging and possibly difficult job -- unlike anything I’ve ever done before. And in some ways a kind of, probably, final job in twilight.” Tracy reported the "main differences" Lipsyte sees between his role and that of other media reporters is he will be "more sensitive to readers and viewers' complaints." He said, "I will try to explain what happened. If it turns out to have been some minor mistake, fine. If it turns out to be a major ESPN f***-up, then that’s the story, too.” He also hopes he will "get answers from ESPN that outside reporters might not." Lipsyte: "I’d like to think that they have to talk to me. I think that they would answer my phone calls, simply because, y’know, how could you not answer your ombudsman’s phone calls? That’s like a guilty plea” (NEWREPUBLIC.com, 4/23).
CAUTIOUS APPROACH TO TWITTER: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Lipsyte will be the "first ESPN ombudsman to do online chats," though he will limit some other social media outlets. Lipsyte: "The only thing I'll be careful about is using Twitter. It seems like the ombudsman should wait a beat to weigh in there" (USA TODAY, 4/24).
NBA viewership was down during the ’12-13 regular season, as audience numbers dipped compared to the record-setting, condensed ’11-12 season. However, this year still marks the second-best audience on record for a full (no lockout) regular season for ABC, TNT and ESPN, behind only the ’10-11 season. Excluding the lockout-shortened season of '11-12, NBA TV had its best audience.
TNT: After two straight seasons of record figures, TNT saw its average rating down 18% and viewership down 20%. In addition to a lockout-shortened season in ’11-12, several other factors helped contribute to the decline. Superstorm Sandy knocked out many homes in the Northeast at the start of the season. Some 16.9 million homes, including many in N.Y., Boston and Philadelphia, could not watch games during that time. TNT also did not have the benefit of a Christmas Day game this season. That telecast marked the net’s most-viewed game in ’11-12 (the season began on Christmas). Compared to the last non-condensed season in '10-11, TNT was down 13% in rating and 17% in viewership.
ABC/ESPN: NBA games on ABC saw a year-over-year ratings slide of 12% this season, while viewership dropped 14%. Last season, ABC had its best regular-season averages since ESPN acquired TV rights for the '02-03 season, and the best for any broadcast net since NBC during the '98-99 season, which was also shortened by a labor dispute. Compared to ’10-11, ABC’s ratings were down 3% and viewership was down 8%. Meanwhile, ESPN’s NBA ratings were down 8%, with viewership down 5%. The decrease came despite the net having its most-viewed Christmas Day tripleheader on record and highest Christmas Day figures in general since ’04. Compared to two seasons ago, ESPN’s rating was down 8%, with viewership down 11%.
NBA TV: The league-owned cable network saw ratings and viewership relatively flat compared to the record-setting numbers from last season. The net also kept up its youthful demo this season, with a median age of 35.1 marking the youngest of any sports net. Viewership this season was also up 33% from the ’10-11 season.NBA REGULAR-SEASON AUDIENCE: '12-13 VS. '11-12NETGMSRAT.% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-GMS ('11-12)ABC152.9-12.1%4,681-13.7%15TNT521.4-17.6%2,002-19.9%43ESPN771.2-7.7%1,768-5.1%73NBA TV980.20.0%336-0.3%96NBA REGULAR-SEASON AUDIENCE: '12-13 VS. '10-11NETGMSRAT.2-YR%VIEWERS (000)2-YR%GMS ('10-11)ABC152.9-3.3%4,681-8.4%15TNT521.4-12.5%2,002-16.5%32ESPN771.2-7.7%1,768-11.1%73NBA TV980.20.0%33632.8%96'12-13 MOST-VIEWED NBA REGULAR-SEASON GAMES ON CABLE TVDATENET
TEAMSRATINGVIEWERS (000)10/30TNT Celtics-Heat3.45,37110/30TNT Mavericks-Lakers2.94,2983/27ESPN Heat-Bulls2.53,8963/18ESPN Heat-Celtics2.53,78712/25ESPN Celtics-Nets2.23,7391/17TNT Heat-Lakers2.33,5472/14TNT Heat-Thunder2.23,3913/5TNT Lakers-Thunder2.23,3391/4ESPN Lakers-Clippers2.13,08611/2ESPN Clippers-Lakers2.13,062
Fox finished with a 2.2 rating and 3.7 million viewers for the seventh UFC broadcast on the network, which featured Benson Henderson successfully defending his lightweight title against Gilbert Melendez on Saturday night. Compared to “UFC on Fox 3,” which aired in the spring of ’12 and featured Nate Diaz-Jim Miller, “UFC on Fox 7” was up 47% in rating and 55% in viewership. Compared to “UFC on Fox 6” in January, the telecast was down 8% in rating and 11% in viewership. Saturday’s telecast ranked Fox No. 1 in primetime among all key adult male demos, as well as adults 18-49. The UFC event went head-to-head with Game 1 of the Bulls-Nets playoff series on ESPN, and the NBA game finished with a 2.1 U.S. rating and 3.3 million viewers. The main event portion of the Fox telecast on Saturday (Henderson-Melendez) averaged a 2.7 rating and 4.7 million viewers. K.C. topped all markets with a 4.6 local rating, followed by Portland (3.8) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (3.6). After seven UFC telecasts, Fox is averaging a 2.2 rating and 3.8 million viewers (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor)."UFC ON FOX" AUDIENCE TO DATEDATE
MAIN EVENTRATINGVIEWERS (000)11/12/11 Junior Dos Santos-Cain Velasquez*3.15,6751/28/12 Rashad Evans-Phil Davis2.64,6615/5/12 Nate Diaz-Jim Miller1.52,4188/4/12 Shogun Rua-Brandon Vera1.42,43612/8/12 Benson Henderson-Nate Diaz2.54,3921/26/13 Demetrious Johnson-John Dodson2.44,2194/20/13 Benson Henderson-Gilbert Melendez2.23,742
MISSING FOOTBALL: MMAFIGHTING.com's Dave Meltzer wrote the ratings "seemed to, more than anything, show that having the UFC promoted during NFL broadcasts makes a significant difference." The positives were "in the demographics, as in the Male 18-34 age group," but the show did "far stronger numbers with males 35-49 than those who were 18-34, the latter of which is UFC's usual prime demographic." Henderson's previous main event on "UFC on Fox 5," which featured a win over Nate Diaz, ranks as the "ninth most watched MMA fight in U.S. television history." Including audiences "watching in Spanish on Fox Deportes," it rises to No. 7. Henderson-Melendez "failed to crack the top 15." The "surprise was in local market ratings." Despite the event's "heavy emphasis" on fighters based in the Bay Area (the event was held in San Jose), the S.F.-Oakland-San Jose market was "not one of the highest rated nationally, nor were usual strong markets when it comes to UFC ratings" like Las Vegas, L.A. and Seattle-Tacoma (MMAFIGHTING.com, 4/23).
COME ONE, COME ALL: SI.com's Jeff Wagenheim wrote the Jon Jones-Chael Sonnen fight at UFC 159 this Saturday "represents everything that's wrong" with MMA matchmaking. Sonnen is "a quality fighter," but he "lost for a second time" to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in his most recent fight. Also, his fights against Silva being "in the middleweight division, not light heavyweight ... further discredits his claim on a title shot." So this is "what it's come to in the UFC: pitting an elite champion against a guy who's coming off a knockout loss and hasn't fought in the weight class in more than half a dozen years." Sonnen "does know how to draw a crowd, though." And it is "prizefighting, after all, with the prize being the cash generated from the paying customers that carnival barker Chael can entice into the circus tent to buy up all the popcorn" (SI.com, 4/23).
Timothy Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez are slated to headline an HBO PPV card at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center on Sept. 14, "Mexican Independence Day weekend," according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. That weekend is "usually is the target for a major fight involving a top Mexican boxer," such as Marquez. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said that Marquez “agreed to the deal to face Bradley last week, after which Marquez talked openly about the fight, even though Bradley had not yet come to terms.” Bradley’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, said the fighter reached a "deal in principle" on Monday. Arum said that he would “move the match to Oct. 5 or Oct. 12" if Floyd Mayweather Jr. "winds up going on the same date, in order to avoid a conflict with Golden Boy Promotions for a second consecutive year.” Mayweather is “scheduled to defend his welterweight crown against Robert Guerrero on May 4 on Showtime PPV but has said all along that he planned to return Sept. 14.” Arum: "Marquez and Bradley is a huge fight, especially with Hispanics, so we'd like to do it on Sept. 14. Nobody can say we're jumping Golden Boy's date. We have a date in reserve in case Mayweather fights on Sept. 14” (ESPN.com, 4/23). Canelo Alvarez, who also is from Mexico, has been rumored as a possible opponent for Mayweather on that date, and Arum said, "If he fought ‘Canelo’ Sept. 14, then it’d be stupid for me to go head to head, and we’d probably move the date. But I think the chances of that happening are remote” (L.A. TIMES, 4/24).
STEPPING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT: USA TODAY’s Jon Saraceno profiles Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza and notes he has "aggressively made moves to challenge HBO’s dominance” in boxing since joining the net 17 months ago. Last Saturday's Alvarez-Austin Trout fight “produced Showtime’s third-highest-rated boxing show since 2004 with a peak of more than 1 million viewers for the main event.” Espinoza said, “My task is to make this the best sports department I can.” However, Saraceno notes signing Mayweather is “his biggest bet,” as a lot “rides on the Mayweather deal in Espinoza’s second year” at Showtime. Mayweather and co-manager Al Haymon “pitched the deal to Showtime.” The net, “infused with cash from parent corporation CBS, was all-in." Showtime “hopes broader exposure of Mayweather along CBS’ platforms will deliver a more mainstream audience.” Their “shared goal is to continue to narrow the subscription gap” -- Showtime has 22 million subscribers while HBO boasts 29 million (USA TODAY, 4/24).
WEIGHT FOR IT: In Michigan, Josh Slagter reported CBS Sports Network “will be airing the weigh-in live” for Saturday's Mayweather-Guerrero fight, and will “show the postfight press conference.” The network also will “re-air many of Mayweather's recent fights, as well as Guerrero's past two victories” (MLIVE.com, 4/23).