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The NFL and ESPN Friday morning denied a N.Y. TIMES report that the league pressured ESPN to pull out of an investigative project with PBS' “Frontline” regarding head injuries in the NFL. The N.Y. TIMES’ James Miller cited two people familiar with the situation stating the league pressured its media partner during a luncheon this week in N.Y. But NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy told THE DAILY, “It is not true that we pressured ESPN to pull out of the film. The lunch was requested several weeks ago by ESPN. We meet with our business partners on a regular basis and this was not unusual.” ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz said, “The decision to remove our branding was not a result of concerns about our separate business relationship with the NFL. As we have in the past including as recently as Sunday, we will continue to cover the concussion story aggressively through our own reporting" (THE DAILY).
SPOTTED AT PATROON: The TIMES' Miller reports that officials last week had a lunch meeting at Patroon in N.Y., with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Network President Steve Bornstein, ESPN President John Skipper and ESPN Exec VP/Production John Wildhack. League officials during the "combative meeting ... conveyed their displeasure with the direction of the documentary, which is expected to describe a narrative that has been captured in various news reports over the past decade: the league turning a blind eye to evidence that players were sustaining brain trauma on the field that could lead to profound, long-term cognitive disability.” Sources said that ESPN’s role “came under intense pressure by the league ... after a trailer for the documentary was released Aug. 6” (NYTIMES.com, 8/23). Both “Frontline” and ESPN Thursday night issued releases detailing the network’s decision to pull its involvement from “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.” "Frontline" Exec Producer David Fanning and Deputy Exec Producer Raney Aronson came out first and wrote on the program's website, "We don't normally comment on investigative projects in progress, but we regret ESPN's decision to end a collaboration that has spanned 15 months" ("Frontline"). ESPN later issued a statement that read, "Because ESPN is neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries, there will be no co-branding involving ESPN on the documentaries or their marketing materials. The use of ESPN’s marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control. As we have in the past, we will continue to cover the concussion story through our own reporting." The statement continued, “In hindsight, we should have reached this conclusion much sooner. That was a mistake on our part. We simply had not earlier focused on the implications of the marketing and promotion strategy around the documentaries” (ESPN).
DETAILS ON THE MOVE: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes ESPN "belatedly focused on the fact that it did not have editorial control of what appeared on 'Frontline' long into a collaboration that has already resulted in nine joint television and online reports." However, Aronson said that ESPN execs had "for more than a year understood the ground rules of the collaboration." Aronson: "We were about to share a cut of our film with them, and we welcomed their input." ESPN's Mark Fainaru-Wada, who worked on the series, said, "We don’t totally understand what happened. Nothing we’ve been told by anybody suggests that they’re [ESPN] backing off on the journalism.” Aronson said that until last Friday, there had been "no hint of trouble between 'Frontline' and ESPN." But in "conversations last Friday and Monday" with ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria and ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Dwayne Bray, Aronson was told that ESPN "did not want its logo to be connected to the films." She said, “It didn’t appear that it was their decision." ESPN last Sunday on “OTL” featured the most recent concussion piece, examining former Jets team physician Dr. Elliot Pellman's role in covering up the severity of concussions. Meanwhile, the NFL was "not supportive of the documentary." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that the league declined to make Goodell and “other executives available" for the film (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23). In DC, Paul Fahri notes ESPN will "no longer permit” "Frontline" to use its “logos nor other credits on the two-hour film, nor two 'Frontline' Web sites related to it." The film is "based on reporting" by "Frontline" and ESPN's Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. "Frontline" said that they will "continue to work on the TV documentary and will appear in it." The title and trailer for the film "portray it is a hard-hitting indictment of the NFL’s handling of head injuries.” ESPN and "Frontline" have been working on the project for more than a year (WASHINGTON POST, 8/23). In L.A., Joe Flint notes the film "includes interviews with former NFL players, and the league is not portrayed in a flattering light for how it has handled the issue of head injuries over the years" (L.A. TIMES, 8/23).
INITIAL REACTIONS: The L.A. TIMES' Flint writes there "may be a perception" that ESPN "pulled its logo and credit out of fear of angering its most important business partner." But ESPN sources said that this was "simply a branding issue and had nothing to do with the content" of the film (L.A. TIMES, 8/23). THE NEW REPUBLIC's Marc Tracy wrote ESPN cited the "technicality that it was a 'trademark issue.'” It "wasn’t until Monday, after the latest collaboration was published on 'Frontline'’s website and aired on 'OTL,' that ESPN also requested that language describing collaboration not be used, and that it became clear the collaboration itself was coming to an end." Aronson confirmed that, "under their arrangement, 'Frontline' did not have editorial control over 'OTL' segments and ESPN did not have editorial control over the 'Frontline' documentary." Aronson: "We have weighed in on each other's work, but we don't have control." Tracy concludes it "seems hard to believe that ESPN simply decided this was an unacceptable disservice to its partner league and therefore was shutting it down." But it is "equally hard to believe that ... ESPN professes to have would let the question of editorial control rip up such a fruitful partnership." Tracy: "I do not sense flagrantly foul play ... A general overcarefulness at the media outlet sports fans depend on the most" (NEWREPUBLIC.com, 8/22). ESPN Senior VP/Corporate Communications Chris LaPlaca said, "We should've paid attention to the marketing and the branding much sooner. That was a mistake on our part. We simply had not earlier focused on the implications of the marketing and promotion strategy around the documentaries." The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Erik Hayden noted ESPN had "touted the project on multiple occasions and also partnered with Frontline to create the concussion tracker, Concussion Watch." Fainaru said, "No one is questioning the journalism. We’ve been assured by ESPN that the commitment to the journalism that we’ve been doing, including the journalism that we’ve been doing with Frontline, is completely intact and they support it" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/22). DEADLINE.com's Lisa De Moraes noted Bray talked publicly about the show this summer during the TCA Press Tour. Bray: "Our journalism has been very strong on this issue -- so strong that we partner with Frontline." He added, "We respect Frontline greatly. They respect us. And the NFL is going to have to understand that" (DEADLINE.com, 8/22).
TAKE AIM AT CONFLICT OF INTERESTS: THE ATLANTIC's Abby Ohlheiser wrote because ESPN "makes a lot of money from broadcasting NFL games, there is concern of an acute conflict of interest going on between the editorial and business sides" of the net. ESPN "often cited its collaboration as a rebuttal to that line of questioning" (THEATLANTIC.com, 8/22). VARIETY's Brian Steinberg wrote the move is "sure to raise the usual questions about ESPN's ability to feature independent, hard-hitting sports journalism when so much of its business hinges on its ability to secure rights to televise big sporting events." The history "makes the Wednesday split surprising" (VARIETY.com, 8/22). In Denver, Joanne Ostrow wrote, "ESPN wouldn’t want to bite the NFL hand that feeds them. In PR terms, it’s worse to be seen backing out of a journalistic endeavor than to never have gotten involved in the first place" (DENVERPOST.com, 8/22).
A number of Twitter users reacted to ESPN ending its association with PBS' "Frontline" on a series of concussions in the NFL after possibly being pressured by the league, with many concluding it is a bad look for both the network and the NFL. N.Y. Magazine's Justin Miller wrote, "If true, ESPN has been fatally compromised as a journalistic institution." SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "Crushing for those who care abt. journalism at ESPN." NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote, “Journalistically speaking, if you don't want to be associated with @frontlinepbs who do you want to be associated with? .... Not only a bad sign for ESPN, but it now creates a second problem: an investgation is due into what went on here.” The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch wrote, "Congrats to ESPN and the NFL for a move that’s a PR disaster for both of them. You don’t see lose-lose decisions like this too often." FoxSports.com's Clay Travis: "Stupid PR move by NFL too. This gives way more publicity to the documentary than it would have otherwise received." SI's Pete Thamel: "ESPN backing out of Frontline concussion doc means it's getting way more publicity. Now a must watch." Blogger Tim Karr: "The @ESPN @NFL story could prove to be ratings gold for @FrontlinePBS. See the 'Streisand Effect.'"
TAKING AWAY THE SPIN: Blogger Ed Sherman wrote, "ESPN can spin all it wants. People are going to believe network caved in to NFL." Website Awful Announcing:, "Good luck to everyone selling the soap for ESPN today. They're going to need it." Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb: "This is a terrible embarrassment for ESPN." WDRB-Fox' John Lewis: "No one buys ESPNs 'branding' excuse." Website Pro Football Talk: "Given the misleading nature of some of the ESPN concussion reports, it's hard to fault the NFL for squeezing its supposed partner." Meanwhile, The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote, "Fox/CBS/NBC awfully quiet on ESPN/PBS doc. Which of those outlets is willing to risk Wrath of Goodell & go all-in WITH PBS? *crickets*"
ESPN RESPONSE: Paul Pabst, the producer of the syndicated "Dan Patrick Show," posted a series of tweets in which he cites an ESPN source as saying, "We made a mistake 12-15 months ago by putting our name on something, while giving up (editorial) control. We started seeing the promos and the other material around the documentary and we realized we made a mistake. The decision was made earlier this week…Monday or Tuesday. It’s not that we don’t trust Frontline…but giving up control was wrong. It’s embarrassing, because we know how it looks. We know that this is a bad day for us, but this is not a larger agenda." Deadspin's John Koblin wrote, "ESPN told me that there was no smoking gun. Just a little debate about editorial control. Amazing."
FS1's peak audience for its 11:00pm ET edition of "Fox Sports Live" came during its inaugural show last Saturday, as the net averaged 476,000 viewers for the program that had a lead-in from UFC Fight Night. That telecast, which featured Chael Sonnen defeating Shogun Rua in the main card, was FS1's best draw on its first day, with the bout averaging 1.8 million viewers. So far, "Fox Sports Live" has had two live lead-in sports event programs, those being Saturday’s UFC bout and Monday's Golden Boy boxing event. Overall numbers show that the 11:00pm broadcast lost audience over its first four nights, while seeing a slight increase on Wednesday evening. In terms of the demo makeup of the “Fox Sports Live” viewership, the youngest audience came on Aug. 18, when the average age was 31.9 years old. The lead-in on that day was another episode of "Fox Sports Live." The nascent program's age peaked on Aug. 20 when the average age was 43.6. That was also the program's lowest audience with 61,000 viewers. A lead-in featured a taped interview with Patriots QB Tom Brady. "Fox Sports Live" was also shown on many of Fox' RSNs. Those telecasts, which typically had a lead-in from MLB games or postgame shows, have delivered a total audienc reach of 67,000 homes per night. Listed below is a comparison of the 11:00pm editions of FS1's "Fox Sports Live" and ESPN's "SportsCenter" from Aug. 17-21.------ 11:00pm "FOX SPORTS LIVE" ------------ 11:00pm "SPORTSCENTER" ------DATEVIEWERS
AGESat., August 1747627334.987238338.5Sun., August 18*1206931.9N/AN/AN/AMon., August 19824641.61,94085640.5Tues., August 20613443.662434338.5Wed., August 21662946.397437840.3
FIGHT NIGHT: During the first day of programming on FS1 last Saturday, UFC programming led the way. The audience for UFC Fight Night marked the second-best UFC cable TV audience since the organization signed on with Fox prior to '12. Among the previous eight UFC fight cards on FX, only the Jan. 19 telecast earned a better audience (1.9 million viewers). That telecast featured Vitor Belfort defeating Michael Bisping from Brazil. Saturday night's UFC debut on FS1 was also well above the 1.3 million average viewers for the previous eight telecasts on FX.DATE
VIEWERS (000)Fri., January 20, 2012
Nashville9:00pmFX0.81,271Fri., March 2, 2012 Sydney9:00pmFX0.91,430Fri., June 8, 2012 Sunrise (Fla.)9:00pmFX0.61,086Fri., June 22, 2012 Atlantic City9:00pmFX0.91,306Fri., October 5, 2012 Minneapolis8:00pmFX0.71,084Fri., December 14, 2012 Queensland9:00pmFX0.6972Sat., January 19, 2013 Brazil9:00pmFX1.11,857Sat., May 18, 2013 Brazil9:00pmFX0.81,329Sat., August 17, 2013 Boston8:00pmFS11.01,782PROGRAMMING FOR FIRST DAY OF FOX SPORTS 1TIME SLOT (ET) PROGRAM/EVENTVIEWERS (000)8:00-10:43pm UFC Fight Night: Chael Sonnen d. Shogun Rua1,7826:00-8:00pm UFC Fight Night Prelims88112:31-2:35pm NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Michigan78310:43pm-12:00am "Fox Sports Live"47611:00am-12:00pm NASCAR Sprint Cup final practice39712:00-12:31pm NASCAR Camping World Truck Series setup3922:35-3:06pm "Fox Sports 1-on-1: Strahan-Brady"3499:30-11:00am NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying2573:06-3:30pm "Fantastic Finishes"2545:00-6:00pm "UFC Fight Night Prefight"2493:30-4:30pm "Fox College Football Kickoff"1738:30-9:30am NASCAR Sprint Cup practice1644:30-5:00pm "UFC Ultimate Insider"1458:00-8:30am "NASCAR Live"806:00-7:00am "Fox College Football Kickoff"627:00-7:30am "Fantastic Finishes"357:30-8:00am "Fantastic Finishes"23
FS1's "Fox Sports Live" could "prove a worthy challenger" to ESPN's "SportsCenter" if it "focuses on its strengths and tries to become its own show," according to Chris Chase of USA TODAY. Chase reviewed both programs on Sunday and Monday and noted "Fox Sports Live" on Sunday was "starkly different than SportsCenter" and "aired 18 uninterrupted minutes before the first commercial." The show was "wall-to-wall" with highlights, as there was "little discussion of sports, just coverage of them." Compare that to the 11:00pm edition of "SportsCenter" on Monday, when the net "led with eight minutes of coverage of the preseason Monday Night Football game that had just aired." There were "some highlights, but mostly talk about the game." Meanwhile, "Fox Sports Live" panelist Andy Roddick "will shine once given the opportunity," and fellow panelist Gary Payton "has room for improvement." However, co-panelist Donovan McNabb is "stalling the whole operation," as he is "trying to make waves, which is the wrong way to go about it." There is a "need for a panel" on "Fox Sports Live" because the show "can't simply survive in showing highlights." If the panel concept is "refined and tightened, FSL can make it work" (USA TODAY, 8/22).
MIXED REVIEWS FOR SHOW: In Boston, Chad Finn writes "Fox Sports Live" so far is "fairly good." Host Charissa Thompson "can deftly moderate a discussion and Roddick "comes across as a lifelong sports nut," while McNabb and panelist Ephraim Salaam are "works in progress." Anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole "are an acquired taste -- and one I’ve acquired." Beneath their "earnest friendliness is a wry subversiveness that may not be evident on a couple of views." Fox deserves "kudos ... for bringing them stateside," as Onrait and O'Toole give the show "plenty of promise and a few laughs" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/23). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes it is "probably not polite to begin thrashing and bashing away at something that’s just up and running," but Fox "seems to have forced us into doing this." Hoffarth: "Stop trying so hard." Onrait and O'Toole "are the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time players who should be smart enough to realize they could carry this thing if they don’t get carried away with themselves." Meanwhile, Hoffarth writes of the Audi Big Board on the show, "Is this the Bloomberg News stock report, or is there actually a Dodgers-Marlins score buried in there somewhere?" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/23).
LOOKING AT OTHER PROGRAMS: In Akron, George Thomas reviews FS1's "Fox Football Daily" and writes Fox "looks wise to have brought in Curt Menefee, who hosts 'Fox NFL Sunday,' to serve as the show’s traffic cop." His "affable nature and knowledge make this look like a shrewd move." Show co-host Jay Glazer "possesses boundless energy," as he "genuinely loves what he does, and that alone can’t be underestimated when it comes to pulling in viewers" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/23). In California, Michael Lev writes the most "promising show" on the net is "Fox Football Daily." The "perpetually sarcastic and self-deprecating" Onrait and O’Toole take some "getting used to" on "Fox Sports Live," though afternoon show "Crowd Goes Wild" is "unpolished but promising" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/23). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel writes Thompson is "reason enough to watch Fox Sports 1, no matter how dizzy I get looking at all the graphics." Meanwhile, "Crowd Goes Wild" co-host Regis Philbin "should just go away" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/23).
BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE: THE MMQB's Richard Deitsch wrote FS1 analyst Randy Moss gave the "perception that he wanted little part of the media during his career," which is why his presence on "Fox Football Daily" is the "most intriguing NFL broadcasting hire of the offseason." Fox Sports VP/Production Jacob Ullman reached out to Joel Segal, Moss’ agent, "upon hearing that the wide receiver might be interested in television work after a limited role with the 49ers last season." Fox execs were "impressed by the receiver’s knowledge and enthusiasm." Moss during a one-day audition was "asked to give his opinion on a series of NFL topics, and Fox Sports executives came away impressed." Fox Sports Exec Producer John Entz: "The things we are always looking for are likeability and credibility. He has the credibility based on how successful he was at playing. The other part is harder to tell, and we found him to be likeable." Deitsch noted it has only been a "limited sample size, but Moss has been interesting television so far," as he is "bright, with an engaging manner of speech." A Fox spokesperson said that the net "already thinks enough of him ... that Moss will make regular appearances on Fox NFL Sunday, the network’s long-running pregame show, throughout the season" (MMQB.SI.com, 8/22).
SIMMS TO SIMMER UP FOR FS1: In Austin, Kirk Bohls reports former NFLer Chris Simms will be a "rookie color analyst" for FS1 this college football season. Bohls writes, "I’m betting he’ll be good at it. Simms knows the game. He’s smart. He’s photogenic. And he obviously has a name." Simms: "I definitely won’t sugarcoat a lot. I want my style to be informative" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 8/23).
MISSION: POSSIBLE: FS1 will debut an MLB series Monday that takes a behind-the-scenes, "Hard Knocks"-style look at playoff contenders. MLB Productions and Fox Sports will produce "Mission October," an eight-episode, weekly series that debuts with the Pirates Aug. 26 at 7:30pm ET. The first seven episodes, which will be 30 minutes long, will air Mondays. The final episode will air the Monday after the World Series and will be 60 minutes. MLB and Fox plan to highlight different teams involved in the pennant race each week. Camera crew will follow the team over a weekend series, with the episode ready to air by Monday night (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
ESPN Senior VP/College Networks Programming Justin Connolly on Thursday said that "no carriage agreements are imminent" for the Longhorn Network with either Comcast or Time Warner Cable, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Connolly said of talks with Comcast, "The pace of conversation is slow right now." He noted that the net is available in "about 1.5 million households in Texas and about 4 million nationwide." However, Barron reported there are "more than 680,000 subscribers" to Comcast in the Houston area alone. LHN will air three Univ. of Texas football games this year -- New Mexico State (Aug. 31), Ole Miss (Sept. 14) and Kansas (Nov. 2). ESPN next year is launching the SEC Network, which has "led to speculation that the company could market the two together, using the SEC channel as leverage to convince distributors to carry" LHN. But Connolly said, "We don't tie our networks together" (CHRON.com, 8/22). Connolly said of signing a deal with TWC, the predominant cable provider in Austin, "With patience and hard work, I hope we'll be able to get there within the next year or future years." He added that ESPN "is in talks with Dish Network, and that it's possible a deal might be reached to add LHN to its lineup" (STATESMAN.com, 8/22).
RICKY DON'T LOSE MY NUMBER: LHN announced that former NFLer Ricky Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy in '98 while at UT, will join the net as an analyst during pregame, halftime and postgame coverage of the '13 football season. Also joining the net's roster are Kaylee Hartung, Kevin Dunn and former NFLer David Greene. Play-by-play man Dave Lamont and analyst Ray Bentley will call the Aug. 31 New Mexico State game, while Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen will call the Sept. 14 Ole Miss game (LHN).
ESPN's Chris Fowler is one of the "more versatile and respected" broadcasters in sports, but he “wants more play-by-play college football assignments,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Fowler has hosted “College GameDay” since ’90 and is the net’s ”lead anchor” for the four tennis Grand Slams. Fowler said, "I have a lot more to do and there are other things I want to do that I have not done. I don't think it is anything secret internally what I want the next step for me to be at ESPN. I don't think that is a mystery given the landscape.” He added, “Hosting is wonderful and remains really satisfying but the joy for me is calling big matches and it was very hard for me to give up calling Thursday Night Football on ESPN. It became too much to manage with GameDay's increased schedule and travel. But giving up calling football in the booth was the toughest decision I have had to make." He said “GameDay” does not “act or feel like a studio show.” Fowler: “Doing a show in a studio would not be the same for any of us, and I don't know if we would have lasted this long. Taking it on the road gives it an energy, and we try hard to make sure that comes across differently every week.” “GameDay” co-host Lee Corso is 78 years old, and Fowler said of his eventual departure from the show, “None of us want to face that reality because to some degree part of GameDay will have to be reinvented when and if that happens.” He said he wants Corso “to stay as long as he wants to and he still remains an extremely important part of the show” (SI.com, 8/20).
MORE "GAMEDAY" EVERY SATURDAY: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith notes "GameDay" will expand to three hours on ESPN this season after airing two hours on ESPN and one hour on ESPNU "in the past." The Aug. 31 show will kick off the regular season from Clemson Univ. and "will run four hours." The "common reaction throughout the industry is that this is ESPN's response" to FS1's new "Fox College Saturday" pregame show. However, ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for College Sports Studio Shows Lee Fitting said that it is "more about fan appetite." Fitting: "We're not going against any other shows. What I tell my staff is that we have so much we have to do every week, we need to worry about our four walls. If we start to look outside, we'll get in trouble" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/19 issue).
Many analyst positions at Golf Channel are "being filled by former players ... who don't have the cachet of having Hall of Fame resumes," according to Ed Sherman in a special to GOLF WORLD. Between analysts Brandel Chamblee, Tripp Isenhour, Frank Nobilo, Charlie Rymer, Steve Flesch and Notah Begay III, the combined "number of major-championship victories: zero." Pro golf is the "only sport in which the top stars seem to play forever," and as a result, the "roster of big-name talent for TV is much slimmer; or nonexistent." Chamblee has "emerged as Golf Channel's most important player when it comes to interesting TV." Following a 14-year career that included one PGA Tour win, Chamblee joined Golf Channel in '04 and has since "separated himself by voicing blunt opinions backed by an endless stream of facts." He has a "strong, almost bulldog, mentality when making his point." Having not "reached the competitive pinnacle is a reality for many of the golf analysts who don't speak from experience when critiquing big stars." Flesch admits he "can't talk about feeling the pressure of being the leader on the 72nd hole of a major because 'I've never walked in those shoes.'" Rymer said, "I'm not going to make statements I'm not qualified to make. I'm not going to try to get inside a major champion's head." Sherman notes the odds of "marquee stars stepping into an analyst's seat on a regular basis in the future seems remote" because, besides the "long-term option of the Champions Tour, those players likely won't have the financial incentive to go into TV." Golf Channel will not disclose financial figures, but sources said that salaries "are in six figures for analysts such as Rymer and Isenhour; with outside opportunities to supplement their income with appearances thanks to their TV exposure" (GOLF WORLD, 8/26 issue).
Facebook for the first time is working with tennis’ U.S. Open on the tournament’s social media outreach. The social networking site will have advisers on the ground next week to advise the USTA on the best content to put on its own Facebook and Instagram account. There will be an “Instastop” on the grounds where celebrities and athletes can have their photos taken and uploaded to the U.S. Open Instagram page. Those photos will also go on a new social media wall that will show content from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The wall is 50 feet long and nine feet high, and located in the middle of the grounds. Tournament sponsors JPMorgan, Xerox and Esurance are promoting the wall. Facebook Dir of Partnerships in Charge of Sports Justin Osofsky said that the company would also be working with athletes. He highlighted a Facebook chat that Andy Murray hosted shortly after his Wimbledon victory, and Maria Sharapova using Facebook to announce her withdrawal from the tournament. Osofsky noted that Facebook does not pay the tournament or the athletes. Osofsky: “We offer them partnership support and advice on how to build an audience.”
The Packers will play the Seahawks at Lambeau Field in a preseason game at the same time the "majority of area prep football teams open their season," the fourth time since '09 the team has "gone head-to-head with area high schools on a Friday night," according to Mike Vandermause of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. However, the Packers "had no say" in when the game would be played as it is being broadcast nationally by CBS. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said, "The league just says, 'This is when you're playing.'" Murphy said the team is "sensitive" to preseason games overshadowing high school games. Vandermause wondered if it is time the NFL "stopped playing Friday games out of deference to prep teams." Murphy said, "It's a good goal but to have a set policy would be really hard because of TV and some of the other issues, in terms of teams and putting together their schedules" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 8/22). Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Exec Dir Dan Brunner said, "In a perfect world we'd certainly prefer to have Friday night being held sacred for high school football." He added, "A few years ago, we wrote a letter to the NFL asking them to try to hold Friday nights for high school football. We really didn't get a lot of cooperation from the NFL along those lines" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/22).
EXPANDED SPOTLIGHT ON THE PREPS: USA TODAY's Jim Halley examined the growing trend of high school football games airing on national television and noted between ESPN and FS1, there will be high school games "on every weekend through Nov. 1, including games each day of the week except for Tuesday and Wednesday." Halley: "Is all this exposure good for high school sports?" Joe Kinnan, the coach at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., said, "The whole landscape of high school football has changed because of television." Manatee has played games on ESPN networks in two of the last three seasons, and Kinnan said, "It's great notoriety for the kids and you program. It certainly doesn't hurt your kids' marketability as far as recruiting. The TV games help us at the gate. I really think a lot of people come because of the excitement of being on national TV." But Harry Welch, the coach of California's Santa Margarita High School, "worries TV games encourage misplaced priorities." Welch: "We're almost prostituting ourselves putting high school gmaes on TV. ... It's supposed to be something for the family and friends and people to come to have a good time" (USA TODAY, 8/22).
Golf Channel averaged 521,000 viewers for live coverage of the Solheim Cup last Friday-Sunday, up 121% from ’11, when the event was in Europe and coverage aired primarily in the morning. It was down, however, 10% from ’09, when the event was in the U.S. Sunday afternoon’s final day of play was the most-viewed day this year with 780,000 viewers, but that figure was down from 956,000 viewers for the Sunday finale in ’09.
STARTING LINE: ESPN’s four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series telecasts for the ’13 season to date have averaged a 3.1 rating and 4.8 million viewers, flat compared to the same four races last year. The net’s first two races from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway saw gains, but the subsequent races from Watkins Glen and Michigan Int’l Raceway both saw year-over-year declines. ABC on Saturday night airs its first NSCS race of the season from Bristol Motor Speedway.
KICK START: NBCSN averaged 192,000 viewers for the EPL Chelsea-Aston Villa match on Wednesday afternoon. That game went head-to-head with FS1’s Arsenal-Fenerbahçe match as part of the UEFA Champions League, which drew 59,000 viewers. Coverage of the opening weekend for the EPL on NBC and NBCSN averaged 443,000 viewers last Saturday and Sunday, up 78% from 249,000 viewers for five games on opening weekend last season on ESPN and Fox Soccer (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
BUCKEYE STATE BASEBALL: FS Ohio has averaged a 8.04 local rating in Cincinnati for Reds games in August to date, up 16% from the July audience and up 5% from the Reds’ season average. The Brewers-Reds game last Friday drew an 11.0 local rating, marking the “highest-rated game this season other than Opening Day.” However, ratings this season are still down 10% from last year (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/20)….SportsTime Ohio’s rating for Indians games this season “have increased nearly 30 percent compared to this time last year.” Game audience “reportedly increased” 33% in July and 168% in August (CLEVELAND.com, 8/22).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NFL Preseason: Colts-Giants8/18Fox7:11-10:07pm4.16,469 NFL Preseason: Buccaneers-Patriots8/16Fox8:11-11:13pm3.04,659 MLB: (regional)8/17Fox4:00-7:30pm1.72,400 P&G Gymnastics Championships8/17NBC8:00-10:00pm1.52,270 PGA Tour: Wyndham Championship: Final Round8/18CBS3:00-6:10pm1.2n/a Soccer: Int'l friendly: Mexico-Ivory Coast8/14UniMas8:50-11:04pm1.01,860 World Track & Field Championships8/18NBC2:30-4:00pm1.11,700 Little League World Series: Westport (CT)-Sammamish (WA)8/18ABC2:00-5:00pm1.01,479 Little League World Series: Nashville (TN)-Corpus Christi (TX)8/17ABC3:00-5:30pm1.01,431 World Track & Field Championships8/17NBC2:30-4:00pm0.81,100 PGA Tour: Wyndham Championship: Third Round8/17CBS3:39-6:00pm0.8n/a P&G Gymnastics Championships8/18NBC1:00-2:30pm0.6955 World Track & Field Championships8/17NBC12:00-12:30pm0.6803 EPL: Swansea City-Manchester United8/17NBC12:30-2:30pm0.6792 X Game L.A. (repeat)8/17ABC1:00-3:00pm0.6733 ATP Western & Southern Open Final: Rafael Nadal d. John Isner8/18CBS12:30-3:00pm0.6n/a Golf: U.S. Amateur Championship: Final Round8/18NBC4:00-6:00pm0.5641 ArenaBowl: Arizona Rattlers-Philadelphia Soul8/17CBS1:00-3:39pm0.5n/a Golf: U.S. Amateur Championship: Third Round8/17NBC4:00-6:00pm0.4560 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Michigan8/18ESPN1:00-4:10pm3.04,585 MLB: Yankees-Red Sox8/18ESPN8:00pm-12:20am2.13,098 NFL Preseason: Chargers-Bears8/15ESPN8:00-11:15pm2.02,969 Little League World Series: Chula Vista (CA)-Newark (DE)8/18ESPN5:00-6:55pm1.21,872 UFC Fight Night: Chael Sonnen d. Shogun Rua8/17FS18:00-10:43pm1.01,782 "NASCAR Countdown"8/18ESPN12:00-1:00pm1.21,645 Little League World Series: Urbandale (IA)-Grosse Pointe (MI)8/17ESPN8:03-10:30pm0.81,329 NFL Preseason: Packers-Rams (repeat)8/18NFLN4:00-7:00pm0.81,293 NASCAR Nationwide Series: Mid-Ohio8/17ESPN2:30-5:40pm0.91,287 NFL Preseason: Cowboys-Cardinals8/17NFLN4:30-7:37pm0.91,235