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ESPN earned a 2.6 overnight rating for the NBA Draft on Thursday night, which is tied with '07 as the best figure for the event since the net began airing the event in '03. Thursday night's telecast is also up 13% from a 2.3 overnight for last year's Draft and up slightly from a 2.5 overnight in '11. The telecast peaked at a 3.3 rating from 8:30-8:45pm ET. Louisville once again topped all markets with a 6.9 local rating, followed by Memphis with a 5.6 rating. Rounding out the top five were Cleveland-Akron (5.0), Indianapolis (4.7) and Oklahoma City (4.3) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
MIXED REVIEWS: SI.com's Ben Golliver reviews the winners and losers from the Draft and includes ESPN's Bill Simmons in the losers column. Simmons "brought good energy and genuine reactions during a wild night" as part of the net's Draft set for the first time. However, his "constant use of 'We' when referring to colleague Jalen Rose was just too much." Golliver: "There was just no need to force a consensus opinion on player after player. Fully independent perspectives are more entertaining and informative" (SI.com, 6/28). The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde wrote, "If Bill Simmons was critiquing Bill Simmons as Bill Simmons, he'd have a field day." The AP's Tim Reynolds wrote, "The next trade I want to hear about is ESPN moving Simmons after the first round for the kid who said 'Boom goes the dynamite.'" USA Today's Dan Wolken wrote, "Simmons needs to go back to monitoring Woj's Twitter feed." But SI.com's Jimmy Traina wrote, "Shocked by people complaining that Simmons was acting like a fan. Give me a passionate fan over an talking head discussing wingspan any day." Meanwhile, The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote, "ESPN struck gold with Bilas/Rose/Simmons. Helps that this draft is wacky wild kool-aid style, but I'm enjoying the banter." Sporting News' Michael DeCourcy wrote, "Love Jay Bilas' analysis because he actually judges players on what he sees and experiences, not what he reads on Twitter or someone's blog."
RIVERS RUNS THROUGH IT: Simmons several times during the course of the night referenced that Clippers coach Doc Rivers "quit" on the Celtics. ESPN's Shelley Smith interviewed Rivers during the second round and said, "Bill Simmons tonight said he thought you quit on the Celtics. What's your response to that?" Rivers said, "I would like to call him an idiot, but I'm too classy for that. But that's just his opinion. That didn't happen and he really needs to know the whole truth, which he doesn't." Simmons said after the interview, "The truth keeps changing. I mean, he's given different quotes about this. He didn't know, he did know, he kinda knew, he wanted the trade to happen, he was coming back, he needed a year off. When he sticks to a story, I'll believe the truth" ("2013 NBA Draft," ESPN, 6/27). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "The Doc Rivers-Bill Simmons sequence was honest, tense television. Bravo, ESPN. Bravo times two." ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde wrote, "I thought Simmons handled well. Rest of panel seemed flustered." The National Post's Bruce Arthur wrote, "Bill Simmons is being broken up with by his longtime girlfiend on ESPN basically and it's getting weird. ... I will say this: Bill Simmons isn't trying to make friends on TV, and that stands out like a beacon." Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell wrote, "Always liked Doc Rivers, but now that he's called out Simmons...Tremendous."
BEGINNER'S LUCK: Heat F Shane Battier handled the post-selection interviews for ESPN, and The Big Lead's McIntyre wrote, "Damn, Shane Battier is flawless as a sideline reporter. Dude is really, really good." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman wrote, "Not surprising Battier handling his interview role well. He actually takes time to listen, even when we're the ones asking him questions." ESPN's John Buccigross wrote, "College students, Shane Battier is great role model as 'sideline reporter' at the NBA draft. Short, simple questions. It's about the player." True Hoop's Henry Abbott wrote, "Shane Battier can do everyone's job better than they can." CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb wrote Battier was "crushing it!" But FoxSports.com's Jason Whitlock wrote, "Shane Battier should practice for his TV career by sideline reporting a MAC game on ESPNU. He's in over his head tonight." USA Today's Wolken wrote, "Battier proves that being great at answering questions doesn't necessarily translate to being great at asking them." SI.com's Deitsch when asked who was a better Draft interviewer between Battier and NFL Network's Deion Sanders replied, "Oh, my God, I have to say Deion." ESPN's Jill Montgomery wrote, "For all you rippin on Battier..... Guarantee you he says its not as easy as he thought!"
Fox Sports on Thursday announced that it has signed commentator Bill Raftery to serve as its lead analyst for Big East basketball games, where he will be working alongside play-by-play man Gus Johnson. Raftery and Johnson will call all Big East regular-season and conference tournament games televised on the forthcoming FS1. Raftery will continue in his role as lead analyst for men's regular-season and NCAA tournament contests on CBS (Fox Sports). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Joe Lucia wrote of the move, "This is a big blow to ESPN, but not something that will mean the end." Raftery "mainly worked alongside Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas calling Big East games on ESPN, and while the trio was excellent, McDonough and Bilas should be fine on their own." It is "more of a coup for Fox than anything else, and now their basketball schedule has a solid backbone to build off of" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 6/27). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes the move is "more a function of Raftery wanting to remain with the network that is connected" with the Big East's rights holder than him wanting to leave ESPN, and FS1's plan is to "cover more than 100 games for the conference that will soon undergo major renovation with top-flight schools leaving" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/28). SPORTING NEWS' Roger Kuznia wrote, "Johnson and Raftery are known for their gregarious, energetic styles, which should make every Big East game artful entertainment" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/27).
OH, GOODBYE CANADA: The NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald notes TSN "SportsCentre" hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole's "final spin through the Canadian highlight reels will take place on Friday" in advance of their move to FS1. They will be in L.A. on July 8, "beginning rehearsals" for their roles as lead anchors of the network's flagship program "Fox Sports Live." O'Toole said, "Jay and I were back and forth between: ‘Yeah, we’re going, no we aren’t; yeah we are.'" Onrait added, "In the end, it was like, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?' We didn’t want to be 75-year-old men saying, 'Why didn’t we just go to L.A. for a couple of years in our 30s? We could have always come back. What the hell were we thinking?'" TSN Senior VP/Production Mark Milliere said that the "door for Onrait and O'Toole to return is 'absolutely' open" (NATIONAL POST, 6/28).
ABC averaged 2.8 million Hispanic viewers for its coverage of the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals, up 31% from last’s year’s Heat-Thunder matchup. Among all viewers of the NBA Finals on ABC, 17% were Hispanic, up 13% from last year. Game 7 on June 20 averaged 4.1 million Hispanic viewers, marking the second best Hispanic audience for any sports event on TV this year, behind only UniMas’ audience for the U.S.-Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier on March 26.
PREP WORK: ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 485,000 viewers for the 12 group stage matches at the FIFA Confederations Cup, up 26% from 384,000 viewers for the group stage in ’10 from South Africa. The Brazil-Italy match last Saturday averaged 933,000 viewers, marking ESPN’s best audience on record for a Confederations Cup group play match. The previous best was 801,000 viewers for the U.S.-Italy match on June 15, 2009.
NOTES: NBA TV drew 113,000 viewers for last Friday’s WNBA Storm-Silver Stars matchup, marking the net’s most-viewed WNBA game on record. NBA TV has been airing WNBA games since ’03. Meanwhile, ESPN2’s WNBA games are averaging 289,000 viewers to date this season, up 26% from the same point last year (Karp).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA Finals: Heat-Spurs: Game 76/20ABC9:00-11:52pm15.326,319 NBA Finals: Heat-Spurs: Game 66/18ABC9:00pm-12:19am12.320,636 NHL Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks-Bruins: Game 46/19NBC8:10-11:37pm3.86,459 NHL Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks-Bruins: Game 56/22NBC8:10-11:00pm3.25,632 MLB: (regional)6/22Fox7:12-10:15pm2.03,088 PGA Tour: Travelers Championship: Final Round6/23CBS3:00-6:30pm1.9n/a PGA Tour: Travelers Championship: Third Round6/22CBS3:00-6:00pm1.3n/a FIFA World Cup qualifier: U.S.-Honduras6/18UniMas8:52-11:25pm0.61,328 U.S. Track & Field Championships6/23NBC4:00-6:00pm0.91,248 IndyCar: Iowa Corn Indy 2506/23ABC2:30-5:00pm0.7928 "ESPN Sports Saturday"6/22ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5n/a Dew Tour: Ocean City Beach Championships6/22NBC4:00-6:00pm0.4546 Dew Tour: Ocean City Beach Championships6/23NBC2:00-4:00pm0.4499 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing6/22CBS2:00-3:00pm0.4n/a AMA Motocross6/22NBC3:00-4:00pm0.3432 Stadium Super Truck Series6/23NBC1:00-2:00pm0.3327 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup: Sonoma6/23TNT3:00-6:25pm3.04,660 NHL Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks-Bruins: Game 36/17NBCS8:00-10:55pm2.34,001 NASCAR Nationwide Series: Milwaukee6/22ESPN5:00-8:35pm1.21,708 Boxing: Adrien Broner d. Paulie Malignaggi6/22Showtime11:31p-12:23am0.81,280 FIFA World Cup qualifier: U.S.-Honduras6/18ESPN8:30-10:59pm0.71,127 College World Series: UCLA-North Carolina6/21ESPN8:00-11:44pm0.71,099 College World Series: Oregon State-Indiana6/19ESPN8:00-10:55pm0.71,044 MLB: Rangers-Cardinals6/23ESPN11:00pm-2:09am0.71,017 College World Series: North Carolina-N.C. State6/20ESPN8:00-11:43pm0.61,008 College World Series: Mississippi State-Indiana6/17ESPN28:00-11:35pm0.6969
In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the similarities between the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation and the one that surrounded ESPN's Ray Lewis in '00 are "too remarkable" to miss, yet ESPN "seems to have chosen to miss them in self-service to its recent, unconscionable, this-is-how-we-roll hire of Lewis." Mushnick: "A been-there, done-that interview with Ray Lewis would be in order -- except we’re too stupid to know ESPN doesn’t want to remind us we know Lewis is now on ESPN’s staff" (N.Y. POST, 6/28). In Boston, Chad Finn writes, "Still cannot believe ESPN cut away from Aaron Hernandez’s live arraignment Wednesday to get legal analyst Roger Cossack’s opinion." Nothing the network "could have aired at the moment would have been more compelling than watching the stone-faced Hernandez listen as the prosecution revealed in extraordinary detail what it believes to be the timeline of the crime" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/28).
JUST WHAT THE YANKS' DOCTOR ORDERED: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Yankees GM Brian Cashman's pointed suggestion to Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez earlier this week has "taken a sleep-inducing New York baseball season, during which ticket sales and TV ratings have tanked, and put the buzz back." For four days and counting, Cashman and Rodriguez have "put the media focus back on baseball and returned the game to those more into intrigue than pitch counts." If it "weren’t for Aaron Hernandez’s murder arrest, the story would have reached 24/7 status" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/28).
TOUR DE FORCE: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports NBC's Steve Schlanger is "set to be a host and reporter" for Tour de France coverage this year. Schlanger said, "I will be ... doing features and interviewing the winners and the overall leader every day as the race unfolds. I’ll be on at various times throughout the pregame show, race coverage and then the postgame report." He has "covered cycling before, but this will be his first run with the sport’s marquee event" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/28).
WRITER WIRES: 1500 ESPN Radio Twin Cities Senior Editor Tom Pelissero has confirmed that he is "leaving the station to take a job with USA Today" (TWINCITIES.com, 6/25). NBC Sports on Thursday announced that former SI.com writer Nick Zaccardi has joined NBCOlympics.com as the lead writer for OlympicTalk in advance of the '14 Sochi Games. He wrote pieces for SI.com on last summer's London Games, and has also previously had stints with MLB.com and PGATour.com (NBC Sports).