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ESPN and NFL Network combined to average a 5.9 overnight Nielsen rating for the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, flat compared to last year. This year’s telecast is tied with ’12 as the second-best first round overnight on record, behind only ’10, which was the first year the event aired in primetime. The 5.9 combined rating is also up 14% from ’11. ESPN averaged a 4.6 overnight for its coverage, down 4% from last year. The net’s overnight is also up 7% from a 4.3 rating in ’11, but down 15% from a 5.4 rating in ’10. NFL Network earned a 1.2 overnight for its coverage, up from a 1.0 rating last year. The net earned a 0.9 rating in ’11 and a 1.0 rating in ’10. For ESPN and NFL Net’s coverage, Buffalo was the highest-rated market with a combined 11.9 local rating, followed by New Orleans (10.8) and Baltimore (10.1). The NFL Draft also had competition from two NBA Playoff games on TNT. The early primetime game -- Heat-Bucks Game 3 -- earned a 1.9 overnight, while Clippers-Grizzlies Game 3 in the late window earned a 2.2 overnight (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).COMBINED ESPN-NFL NETWORK OVERNIGHT RATING
FOR FIRST ROUND OF DRAFTYEARDAYSTART (ET)ESPNNFLNCOMBINED'13Thurs.8:00pm188.8.131.52'12Thurs.8:00pm4.81.05.9'11Thurs.8:00pm184.108.40.206'10Thurs.7:30pm5.51.06.4'09Sat.4:00pm220.127.116.11'08Sat.3:00pm18.104.22.168
CHUCKY'S REVENGE: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes under the header, "ESPN's Jon Gruden Assumes Starring Role In His Network's NFL Draft Show." After the Dolphins traded up to get the Raiders' No. 3 pick to select Oregon DE Dion Jordan, Gruden "pursed his lips, knit his brows, shook his head and sounded the alarm." Gruden said of the pick, "When I watched Dion Jordan play, I just don't see him play." Wolfley writes, "This kind of commentary is golden, especially during a draft, where players usually are crowned, not analyzed." Gruden's commentary "was the driving force of ESPN's coverage, no question." ESPN's Draft coverage has "been pared down to give viewers more Gruden." Meanwhile, NFL Net's Mike Mayock "was doing all the heavy lifting" on the net's Draft coverage (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/26). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder writes Gruden gave a "breakthrough performance" Thursday night. He "didn't sugar coat the lack of impact players at the top of the draft," and he was "brutally honest" when talking about Jordan. It was "refreshing to hear Gruden show the ability to critique as easily (and with as much insight) as he did." Yoder: "One wishes the Monday Night Football viewer would hear this side of Chucky" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 4/26). SI's Peter King on his Twitter feed wrote, "Gruden just made his money for this evening. That was great critique of Jordan." The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs wrote, "Jon Gruden is tuning up Dion Jordan. Harsh criticism. Would love to hear this in an MNF broadcast from him." ESPN's Trent Dilfer wrote, "Gruden and I don't always see eye to eye, but he is KILLING the draft tonight."
A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME: In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes this year's Draft "will be remembered as the year television clashed with Twitter." ESPN's Adam Schefter last night just before the Draft began at 8:00pm ET tweeted, "As one GM texted Tuesday, 'Going dark.' As requested, we'll resume tweeting after 1st round is complete." Dougherty writes the "tweetmasters were stymied by TV in the first four picks," as none of the "insiders" he follows on Twitter reported the selections prior to the official announcements by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But the "Twitterfest began with the fifth pick," as the Lions selected BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah. CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora had reported the pick on his Twitter feed "a full two minutes before the television announcement." Of the first 12 picks in last night's Draft, "half were broken appreciably earlier on Twitter." For the other picks, Twitter "served as an extension of television -- a place for analysts to speculate on upcoming picks and scrutinize past ones" (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/26).
TWITTER THOUGHTS ON ESPN, NFL NET COVERAGE: ESPN and NFL Net's competing coverage of the Draft made for plenty of fodder on Twitter last night. SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "It's hard to put into words just how much better Rich Eisen is in his role than Chris Berman.” The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell wrote, "Chris Berman, at 8:47, is making strained analogies between Legos and the NFL draft. Someone please pull the main power cord. ... Oh, God, Berman just tried to make some John Grisham point, then lost all train of thought.” FoxSports.com's Jason Whitlock wrote, "Thought that draft was great. Glad ESPN didn't overstaff it. Mel, Gruden and Berman were right mix.” The N.Y. Times' Andy Benoit wrote, "NFL Network has too many mics. Needs to be Eisen and Mayock, just leave it at that.” The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre: "NFL Network beating ESPN right now. Showing Raiders on the phone, looks like a trade is in.” The Baton Rouge Advocate's Les East: "Adam Schefter cannot speak a sentence that does not include the words Manti Te'o.” Deadspin's Timothy Burke: "Number of times names mentioned during NFL draft broadcast: NFL Net: Te'o 32.,Tebow zero. ESPN: Te'o 28, Tebow 2.”
WIELDING ITS POWER: VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote under the header, "NFL Draft Coverage Displays League's Mystifying Power." The NFL Draft is "a shout-it from the mountaintop demonstration of pro football's ability to attract viewers in a gaudy manner that dwarfs all other sports in the U.S." But given the "level of padding and endless blather as minutes drag by" between Goodell announcing the selections, "if you watch more than three picks consecutively without having extensively sampled the night's sponsor Bud Light, it's probably time for an intervention" (VARIETY.com, 4/25).
MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Thursday during a meeting with the AP Sports Editors said that the sport "must deal with a glut of soccer on American television," according to the AP. MLS has national TV deals with ESPN, NBC and Univision. NBC also "takes over the English Premier League next season" from Fox, which retains rights to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Meanwhile, beIN Sport "televises the Spanish, Italian and French leagues, GOL broadcasts the German Bundesliga and ESPN and Univision televise Mexican games." Garber said, "There’s more soccer on television than any other sport by far. You’ve got European soccer. You’ve got Mexican soccer. You’ve got Major League Soccer. There’s way too much soccer on television. I think all of us got to figure out a way to narrow that window so you can get a situation like the NFL has, a couple of days a week, short schedule, something that’s very compelling and very targeted." Garber also added that MLS is "grappling with the changes of technology and the impact on media, including the shift in readers from print to Internet." He noted that he has been "pushed by his staff to embrace new media." Referencing a recent Twitter Q&A session, during which U.S. national team F Herculez Gomez brought up his MLS rights, Garber said, "I probably would have preferred not to have had a public engagement with an ex-player, who frankly we're trying to get back into the league, and then have to discuss contract terms with him on Twitter." But he added, "Technologies will continue to change. ... We don't know what it will look like five years from now, and then all of us are going to have to find ways to adapt" (AP, 4/25).
Al Jazeera can be crossed "off the list of potential suitors for the Tennis Channel," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. A source from the Qatar-based network was "adamant that there is no such interest in the Tennis Channel." The news comes after a recent N.Y. Post report indicated Al Jazeera would possibly be interested in adding Tennis Channel to its portfolio of networks. Tennis Channel, which is "owned by a group of private equity firms including Apollo Partners and Bain Capital, has never said it is for sale." However, most industry analysts "think the network would be better off if it were part of a larger media company" (LATIMES.com, 4/25).
The premiere of “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” on E! averaged 807,000 viewers last Sunday in the 10:00pm ET slot. The show marked the net’s third-best audience of the week. The lead-in for the show, an E! News Special featuring Ryan Seacrest interviewing The Kardashians, averaged 1.49 million viewers, and was the net’s most-viewed show of the week. Lochte's show is just the latest in athlete reality TV shows. The premiere of A&E’s “Tackling Design” with former NFLer Keyshawn Johnson in July ’09 averaged 527,000 viewers, while the premiere of VH1’s “The T.O. Show” with former NFLer Terrell Owens averaged 1.2 million viewers in July ’09. VH1 also averaged 1.5 viewers for the premiere of “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch” in July ’10. Back in April ’08, Oxygen averaged 579,000 viewers for the premiere of “Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love” with Pro Football HOFer Deion Sanders and his now ex-wife Pilar. One of the more recent athlete reality shows -- TLC's “Pete Rose: Hits and Mrs.” -- averaged 783,000 viewers for the premiere this past January.
OPENING TIP: The opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs averaged a 2.5 rating and 3.82 million viewers for eight games across ABC, ESPN and TNT, flat in rating compared to the opening weekend last year, but up 3% in viewership. The opening weekend of ’13 was down 7% and 12%, respectively, from a 2.8 rating and 4.32 million viewers in ’11.
I LOVE THE ‘80S: ESPN averaged 1.06 million viewers on Tuesday for the premiere of “Elway to Marino,” which was the net’s latest installment in the “30 for 30” series. Among the 48 documentaries that have aired on ESPN since the series began, that audience ranks 25th. The viewership for “Elway to Marino” was comparable to the premieres of “The Two Escobars” in June '10 (1.07 million viewers) and “Ghosts of Ole Miss” in October '12 (1.02 million viewers). In the doc, only former Patriots QB Tony Eason was not interviewed among the six QBs taken in the first round. Eason has kept a very low profile since retiring from the NFL in '90, and NFL Films said that it made multiple attempts to get Eason to participate. Eason was aware of the requests, but apparently was not interested in being interviewed.
NOTES: Through three weeks of Saturday afternoon regional telecasts, MLB on Fox is averaging a 1.7 rating and 2.4 million viewers, down 23% and 25%, respectively, from a 2.2 rating and 3.2 million viewers for the same period last year. Fox faced competition from the NBA Playoffs last weekend, which it did not have to face until Week 4 last year. Fox is coming off its lowest-rated season of MLB coverage in ’12….NFL Network averaged 247,000 viewers for its special on the ’13 NFL regular-season schedule release last Thursday night, up 16% from ’12….NBC Sports Network averaged 375,000 viewers for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach last Sunday afternoon, down 20% from the race last year. Through three IndyCar telecasts, NBCSN is averaging 343,000 viewers, flat compared to the net’s first three races last season. The net aired the season opener this year, whereas ABC carried it in ’12.
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup: Kansas4/21Fox1:00-4:00pm4.26,500 NBA Western Conference
First Round: Lakers-Spurs: Game 14/21ABC3:30-6:00pm3.65,514
NBA Eastern Conference
First Round: Celtics-Knicks: Game 14/20ABC3:00-5:30pm2.94,409
"UFC on Fox 7"4/20Fox8:00-10:30pm2.23,742 PGA Tour: RBC Heritage:
MLB: (regional)4/20Fox4:00-7:00pm1.31,900 PGA Tour: RBC Heritage:
"NBA Countdown"4/21ABC3:00-3:30pm0.91,263 Boxing: Fight Night4/20NBC4:00-6:00pm0.81,200 "NBA Countdown"4/20ABC2:30-3:00pm0.91,147 NHL: Devils-Rangers4/21NBC3:00-6:00pm0.5800 PBR: Caterpillar Classic4/21CBS2:00-3:00pm0.6n/a Heads-Up Poker Championship4/20NBC2:00-4:00pm0.5765 American Le Mans Series:
AMA Supercross4/21CBS1:00-2:00pm0.5n/a Lucas Oil Off Road Pro4 & Pro24/20CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4n/a "Final Four: Behind The Scenes"4/20CBS2:00-3:00pm0.3n/a Laureus World Sports Awards4/21NBC2:00-3:00pm0.3441 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA Eastern Conference
First Round: Bucks-Heat: Game 14/21TNT7:10-9:44pm3.04,902
NBA Western Conference First
Round: Rockets-Thunder: Game 14/21TNT9:44pm-12:20am2.84,276
NBA Western Conference First
Round: Grizzlies-Clippers: Game 14/20ESPN10:43pm-1:21am2.13,304
NBA Eastern Conference
First Round: Bulls-Nets: Game 14/20ESPN8:11-10:34pm2.13,287
NBA Western Conference First
Round: Warriors-Nuggets: Game 14/20ESPN5:30-8:11pm1.92,818
NBA: Rockets-Lakers4/17ESPN10:34pm-1:27am1.72,482 NBA Eastern Conference
First Round: Hawks-Pacers: Game 14/21TNT1:09-3:45pm1.52,205
NBA: Jazz-Grizzlies4/17ESPN8:05-10:34pm1.11,615 MLB: Cardinals-Phillies4/21ESPN8:00-11:38pm1.01,551 Boxing: Canelo Alvarez-Austin Trout4/20Show11:09pm-12:00am0.61,061
In Boston, Chad Finn writes WBZ-FM "took a very well-considered path" to hiring Bob Socci as the new radio play-by-play voice of the Patriots. The "easiest thing would have been to choose someone already known and established within the market." Sources said that pre- and postgame host Gary Tanguay's candidacy "in particular generated both strong support and skepticism from Patriots management." As the search "progressed, it was written here that the best result would be to find the Patriots version of Bruins voice Dave Goucher: someone who was sharp, talented, had paid his dues, and wouldn't arrive with any preconceived notions attached." Socci "seems to fit the profile" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/26).
YOUTH MOVEMENT: In Indianapolis, Kyle Neddenriep noted the Indiana High School Athletic Association Wednesday night announced that it had "reached a three-year agreement with Fox Sports Indiana for its state championship events, including football and boys and girls basketball." FS Indiana will "broadcast 32 IHSAA state championship games and three tournament pairings shows annually, starting in the fall of 2013." The IHSAA will "continue to produce its own content for Fox Sports Indiana, as it has done the past three years for" WTTV-Fox (INDYSTAR.com, 4/24).
ON THE BACK BURNER: Time Warner Cable Chair & CEO Glenn Britt said of the Dodgers' RSN deals, "We haven't yet begun the process of seeking affiliate deals." He added that the process "tends to happen closer to the network launch" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/26).