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NFL Network averaged 930,000 viewers for its three days of draft coverage, setting a new record for the net. The audience was up 23% from the previous record of 757,000 viewers last year. NFL Digital Media properties also saw over 13 million unique viewers, up 31% from last year, fueled by increased traffic to NFL Mobile. Meanwhile, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 3.04 million viewers for a combined three days of NFL Draft coverage this year, up 4% from coverage the past two years. The figures remain behind the record-setting audience in ’10, which was the first year the first round aired in primetime. The top market for ESPN/ESPN2’s coverage was New Orleans (4.7 rating), followed by Birmingham (4.5) and K.C. (4.4) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).IN REVIEW: ESPN NFL Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman said that analyst Ray Lewis is "likely to work the first round of next year's draft." Markman: "I think he can add something on the big night. I don't want him to have to know 300 players but if I told him to study the top 25 defensive players, I think it could be really special." SI.com's Richard Deitsch reports both ESPN and NFL Network execs said that they "plan to once again reinforce the Twitter pick-by-pick ban for staffers during the opening rounds of the 2014 Draft." Deitsch also reviews the coverage of this year's Draft and writes NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock "continues to be the singular best talent on either set, and it really becomes apparent on the third day of the draft when his deep research kicks in." Meanwhile, ESPN's Jon Gruden was "significantly better this year than in previous drafts," as he was "strong on the significant questions regarding" Jets QB Geno Smith. Markman said, "This was the best I've ever seen Jon Gruden. Jon has been doing this a few years now and he's supremely talented. But I thought the Jon we saw Thursday night was the best we have ever seen him" (SI.com, 4/29). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Gruden was the "star" of the draft. He was his "usual entertaining self, but he added quite a bit of bite to his bark, criticizing picks and players." He "didn't go overboard" but he was "honest when he didn't like a particular player being picked in a particular spot." Meanwhile, NFL Network host Rich Eisen was "head and shoulders better than" ESPN's Chris Berman, who had a "struggle" during the first round Thursday. The "big problem was he had to stretch his segment on occasion until commissioner Roger Goodell was ready to announce the next selection, and often he didn't know if he needed to fill for 10 seconds or one minute. So, in that no-man's land, he had no definitive plan and often just rambled" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/29).
CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Mike Yanier writes public opinion "turned against" reporters who tweeted out draft picks before they were announced by Goodell, as they were "accused of ruining the suspense of the event." The NFL "ordered its experts to keep advance knowledge under wraps, the better to preserve the integrity of the telecast and it's precious advertising revenue." But "insiders at other outlets did precisely what they are paid to do, have trained to do, spend their careers putting themselves into position to do and are typically applauded for doing." Withholding information from Twitter is an "odd phenomenon," as many fans want "instant gratification 364 days per year, but for the first round of the draft they want Victorian Christmas." The "fact that pick-tippers might be wrong makes the first round of the draft more suspenseful and compelling, not less, and the event frankly needs all the help it can get" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/29).
THE SELLING OF THE FUTURE: Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said the NFL Draft has "great energy" for the early rounds, but he did not stick around for Saturday's activity because it "gets very tedious." He noted of the “spectacle” of the NFL draft, “I understand that it's part of the selling of hope, and the NFL is very good at that. And the fans get caught up, they want to know who they're going to get. The run up to the draft, it’s a big deal and then when it’s all over it’s like, ‘Alright what’s next?’” NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs added, “They're doing something right. You're talking about 7 million people watching this thing (the first round) combined. That is World Series game average. That’s like a number two, number three game of the World Series. Even though you and I weren’t passionate about it, people love this stuff because the NFL is the best product on the planet” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 4/26).
The Ivy League will launch its own digital network in August, and NeuLion will handle the video platform for the eight school channels plus a conference channel. The subscription model will offer fans the opportunity to buy an individual school channel or a conference package that includes programming for all of the schools. Pricing has not been established yet, but monthly and annual packages will be available. “Each of the schools has been streaming content on their own platforms, which meant that you could watch your team play if they’re at home, but if you wanted to see them play on the road, you had to buy that other school’s package too,” said Ivy League Exec Dir Robin Harris. “The digital network will be a huge step forward because now we’ll be able to offer all of the digital content on one platform.” NeuLion, which handles the digital and mobile programming technology for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, as well as close to 200 individual school sites, will make the Ivy League content available through online, mobile and tablets. The digital network will be accessed online through IvyLeagueSports.tv. The TV Everywhere model is critical these days, as NeuLion co-Founder and Exec VP/Marketplace Strategy Chris Wagner said the company is seeing that 30-40% of its content is being consumed on mobile devices and tablets.
LIVE, ON-DEMAND CONTENT FEATURED: The live programming will consist of football and basketball, in addition to most Olympic sports. On-demand content will feature archived games. Four schools already work with NeuLion, so they will easily move their old games to the new format. The other four are beginning to work on the transition over to NeuLion’s video platform. Schools handle production for events on their campus, while the Ivy League office will cover production for conference championship events. Events televised live by the conference’s media partner, NBC Sports Network, or games sold to any other TV network will not be available on the digital network. The men’s lacrosse championship rights are owned by ESPN. Advertising will be sold by NeuLion and the multimedia rights holders for each school. NeuLion’s technology will enable the digital network to run traditional advertising, such as banner ads and pre-rolls, as well as dynamic advertising in the broadcast of a live event that targets advertising to specific markets. Promotion will be coordinated jointly by the league and NeuLion, and most of the outreach will focus on alumni through online and print advertising.
The Jets’ release of QB Tim Tebow dominated the morning editions of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” today. The net broke into its replay of the overnight “SportsCenter” at 8:30am ET to first discuss the news, which was broken by the N.Y. Post’s Brian Costello. The 9:00am hour led with ESPN’s Adam Schefter discussing the move, followed by ESPN’s Ron Jaworski and Bill Polian talking Tebow’s future in the NFL. ESPN’s Cris Carter then weighed in on the move, with the first non-Tebow report -- the Spurs sweeping the Lakers in the NBA Playoffs -- airing about 30 minutes into the hour. Later that hour, ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck and Stephen A. Smith discussed Tebow, with N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica adding his opinion. The 10:00am hour again led with the Tebow news, including a call from ESPN NY’s Rich Cimini. Nearly the first 20 minutes of the hour was focused on Tebow. Throughout the 9:00am and 10:00am hours, Tebow’s picture and the caption “Released by the Jets” was featured on the top of the scroll of upcoming stories from the left-side of the television screen. It was not until the 11:00am hour that the net seemed to cut back its Tebow coverage and work in other several other news stories. This comes after ESPN President John Skipper late last year said he wanted the net to dial back its coverage of Tebow. Meanwhile, NFL Network devoted a fair amount of the final two hours of "NFL AM" today to Tebow, with Costello and NFL Net's Albert Breer calling in to discuss the transaction. The 9:00am hour of the show led with a re-air of Breer’s phone call, followed by Metro N.Y.’s Kristian Dyer and Newsday’s Kimberly Martin on the phone. The first 35 minutes of that hour were solely dedicated to Tebow. Outside of the sports world, several mainstream news outlets, including CNN and the L.A. Times, sent Tebow’s release out as a breaking news alert (THE DAILY).
TWITTER REAX: Twitter as expected was full of reaction to ESPN's coverage of the Tebow news. ESPN's Damien Woody wrote, "Tebow's release is bigger than Super Bowl media day!" The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein noted Jaworski said there is "no market" for Tebow around the league. Greenstein: "So ESPN has spent 44 consec minutes of S'Center talking about a non-NFL player?" Awful Announcing's Twitter feed read, "It was 10:37 AM before SportsCenter moved to a topic not related to Tim Tebow or the Lakers." Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky: "I think TV sports shows should make it easy for everyone...just start a rumor that the Lakers will sign Tebow. -please stop the madness." WFXR-Fox' Bob Grebe: "Dear ESPN, Tim Tebow was a third-string QB and Sanchez is a future back-up. We (everyone outside of NY) really could not care less. Move on." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien: "ESPN to go dark until alternate programming can be arranged." The National Post's Bruce Arthur: "If he can't find a quarterbacking job, Tim Tebow should just sign with ESPN and sit in the studio while people argue loudly over him." Suns Social Media Specialist Greg Esposito: "Stephen A.Smith talking Tim Tebow is epitome of how far ESPN's fallen since @dpshow @KeithOlbermann heyday. Type of thing they'd make fun of."
A strong start to the season by Mets P Matt Harvey is having a positive impact on the club beyond the standings. Harvey’s 4-0 record in five starts heading into tonight’s game against the Marlins has the 24-year-old turning heads on TV and social media. SportsNet N.Y., the Mets’ RSN, is seeing a spike in ratings when the No. 7 pick in the ’10 draft is on the mound. Overall, Harvey’s starts are drawing 14% more viewers than the team’s other games. Ratings among adults 25-54 are up 35% for Harvey's starts, while ratings among males 25-54 are up 38% compared to non-Harvey games. Another feather in SNY’s cap has Harvey's starts outpacing head-to-head against Yankees broadcasts on YES Network in the N.Y. market. Those Mets games have drawn a 2.55 local rating, while the Yankees have posted a 2.42 rating. SNY President Steve Raab said, “At the end of the day, while he’s been fantastic, it’s a team winning and playing exciting baseball; it’s that umbrella that moves the needle on a more macro scale for a team and in our case, SNY.” Making the increased interest is these games more impressive is that they are going up against not just the Yankees, but playoff pushes by the area’s NHL and NBA teams.
CREATING A BUZZ IN THE BOROUGHS: There have been only a few examples of a player impacting Mets' ratings the way that Harvey has done. Raab said, “We saw it years ago pre-SNY when Pedro (Martinez) came to the Mets. He brought a different level of credibility. I think we saw it when (Johan) Santana first joined the Mets. I would say we’ve seen it mostly with pitchers, but back in the day we saw this with Mike Piazza.” He added, “The difference is Pedro, Santana, Piazza -- they were established stars. Dwight Gooden, back in the ’83, ’84 time period, Dwight Gooden had some of the same impact. There was buzz of a home-grown talent.” The hype around Harvey, arguably the Mets’ top pitching prospect in nearly two decades, extends beyond the Big Apple -- ESPN analyst Curt Schilling recently said that he would take Harvey over Nationals P Stephen Strasburg.
SOCIAL GRACES: Harvey has more than 33,000 followers on his verified Twitter account. On April 1, he had 23,110 followers and added nearly 2,000 in the following week. By April 15, Harvey had approximately 29,000. A Twitter spokeperson said “follower growth” for accounts belonging to MLB pitchers “seems steady, and then there's a very big jump on the day of or following their start.” Meanwhile, it is still too early to predict Harvey’s overall appeal and marketability. Marketing Evaluations VP Henry Schafer, whose company creates Q Scores, said Harvey’s first measurement will come in July and among sports fans next March. An average sports personality gets about 30% level of awareness nationally and about a 16% positive Q Score. Schafer said of Harvey, “If he continues along the lines he is now, I think he’ll surpass those averages.” The one area where Harvey has yet to create a bump is at the gate. Mets games at Citi Field are averaging 26,344 fans, while Harvey’s three home starts -- two Wednesdays and a Friday -- have drawn an average of 24,348.
Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports made their first combined listing in comScore traffic reports for March, ranking first overall in the Media Metrix Multi-Platform rankings among U.S. sports sites. The rankings, now in their second month of public release, blend online, digital video and mobile measurement data. The other significant change in the rankings compared to February was the elevation of Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network to third overall, buttressed in part by heavy March Madness-related traffic during the month. The rise of Bleacher Report-Turner to third broke a traditional hold of the top three spots held for years by Yahoo, ESPN and Fox Sports. ESPN again led by far in consumption, generating an average of 101.9 minutes per visitor during the month. The NHL, traditionally part of NBC's online rollup for traffic reporting purposes, has its own listing again, ranking 15th in the category with 7.44 million unique visitors. The NHL and NBC Sports remain partnered on their long-term media rights deal, but following the Yahoo-NBC Sports digital partnership announced late last year, the league elected to opt out of the NBC Sports rollup.RANK
SITEUNIQUES (000)1) Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network*59,2102) ESPN54,8803) Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network**45,1304) FoxSports.com on MSN36,8645) USA Today Sports Media Group***29,5276) CBS Sports29,3707) Perform Sports22,4198) SB Nation22,0869) MLB17,60310) NFL Internet Group15,79711) Sporting News12,90712) Sports Illustrated sites12,86313) Active.com sites10,39614) Stack Media7,66215) NHL Network7,441
MLB Productions has partnered with Maryland-based film production outfit 3 Penny Films on "Bryce Begins," a one-hour documentary on Nationals CF Bryce Harper that will air tomorrow night on ESPN at 9:00pm ET. The film blends footage taken over the past two years by 3 Penny Films, led in part by former NFLer and WUSA-TV sports anchor Jess Atkinson, with more recent material shot by MLB Productions. Unlike many sports documentaries that chronicle an athlete after his career is over, "Bryce Begins" seeks to take the exclusive access it received and capture Harper early in his MLB playing days. MLB Productions Exec Producer David Gavant said, "We were looking for the right opportunity to catch a player at the beginning of their career, and we think we've got something here with Bryce." Among those appearing in "Bryce Begins" are Harper's agent Scott Boras, writers Tom Verducci and Will Leitch, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and 3B Ryan Zimmerman, Angels LF Mike Trout, and Baseball HOFer Cal Ripken Jr. Filmmakers from both outfits said the documentary shows a very different aspect to Harper than the brash reputation he carried when he was selected first overall in the '10 MLB Draft. Atkinson said, "He's a completely different person than the preconceptions, and for any filmmaker, that's a pretty important gap." He added, "We were basically asking a 19-year-old to be reflective, which isn't a natural thing at that age. But he was more than up to the task, and we were basically there as he transitioned from a young man to his own man" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Gavant said, "To be able to document somebody's career from that first chapter, we've never done this before. We're hoping there are many chapters of this book, so to speak, so that we can continue to add to this story" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/28).
"Rocky the Musical," the new stage production based on the Academy Award-winning film, will "arrive on Broadway in February 2014 at the Winter Garden Theatre," according to Adam Hetrick of PLAYBILL.com. The musical "premiered in Hamburg, Germany, last fall," and will "officially open on Broadway in March 2014." An on-sale ticket date "will be announced shortly." Actor Sylvester Stallone, who starred in the "Rocky" film series, "produces the stage production along with Stage Entertainment," while Alex Timers directs. Casting for the production "has not been announced" (PLAYBILL.com, 4/28). In N.Y., Patrick Healy noted at its premiere, "Rocky the Musical" received "positive reviews from German theater critics for its gritty realism and inventively staged boxing sequences." That production cost about $20M, a "sum that included years of development expenses." Stage Entertainment Managing Dir Bill Taylor said that the Broadway version "is expected to cost about $15 million." Taylor denied a N.Y. Post report from earlier this month that the Broadway production could cost around $30M, which "would have made 'Rocky' one of the most expensive musicals in history." The Broadway production "generally follows the plot of the first 'Rocky' movie." Taylor said that it is expected to be "fairly similar to the one in Hamburg," including Rocky’s climatic fight against Apollo Creed "in a regulation-size boxing ring" and the "use of music from the movies, like Bill Conti’s theme music and 'Eye of the Tiger'" (NYTIMES.com, 4/28).