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Fox got off to a strong start with its NFL coverage yesterday, as the national window featuring Packers-49ers set a new Week 1 overnight ratings record for the net. The 17.8 rating for the window is up from a 17.2 overnight for the net’s Week 1 national window last year, which also featured 49ers-Packers. Fox aired its “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show from Times Square yesterday and earned a 4.0 overnight, marking the show’s best Week 1 rating since ’03. Meanwhile, NBC earned a 16.6 overnight for the Giants-Cowboys “SNF” opener, down 8% from a 18.0 rating for Peyton Manning's Broncos debut against the Steelers last year, the net’s best regular-season NFL primetime overnight ever. The 16.6 rating for Giants-Cowboys is also down from a 16.9 overnight for Cowboys-Jets in ’11 and up from a 16.4 overnight for Cowboys-Redskins in ’10. Despite the drop, Giants-Cowboys delivered the best Sunday night overnight for any broadcast TV program since ABC's Academy Awards telecast on Feb. 24. The game marked NBC's fifth-best "SNF" overnight and third-best an "SNF" opener. Giants-Cowboys earned a 36.2 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth and a 19.5 rating in N.Y. CBS earned an 11.2 overnight for its lone window yesterday, marking the net’s best Week 1 singleheader rating in 14 years. The window was also up 8% from last year. CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus credited close games with big market clubs like the Patriots and Bears for helping CBS' Week 1 ratings climb to their highest level since '99. "Our guys had told us that they thought we would do a little bit better Week 1 than we did last year," McManus told THE DAILY. "It's about what we expected. But it's always pleasant to see the power of the NFL ratings. It's pretty remarkable. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It really is" (Karp & Ourand, Staff Writers).NFL WEEK 1 OVERNIGHT RATINGSNET
'13 GAMERAT. '12 GAMERAT.% +/-CBS (single)11.2 (single)10.47.7%Fox (regional)10.2 (regional)10.20.0%Fox Packers-49ers (94%)17.8 49ers-Packers (87%)17.23.5%NBC Giants-Cowboys16.6 Steelers-Broncos18.0-7.8%
"A" FOR EFFORT: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Fox' Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch in the final minute of the Buccaneers-Jets game provided "excellent work." There was "no over-the-top-screaming -- just impressions from what they saw on the field and a legit calling out" of Buccaneers LB Lavonte David for "taking a terrible penalty to set up the game-winning field goal." Deitsch also wrote there was "nice work" by NBC's "Football Night In America" analysts Rodney Harrison and Scott Pioli on the impact of the season-ending injury to Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (SI.com, 9/8). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Burkhardt "was spotty." He was "concise, but failed to note who made important open-field tackles, and, in the first half of the season's first game, got hung up telling us who had his 'first sack of the year' and scored his 'first touchdown of the year'" (N.Y. POST, 9/9). Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes under the header, "John Lynch Provides Great Analysis At End Of NY Jets Game Vs. Buccaneers." Fox showed a replay late in the game of Jets LB Demario Davis catching Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson from behind to "save a touchdown." Lynch's "attention to detail, his mention of Davis catching Jackson, may not have seemed like such a big deal at the time." But it "turned into a rare piece of analysis. A game changer." It is "rare when NFL analysts celebrate the art of hustle" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/9).
HAVE IT YOUR WAY: In Dallas, Barry Horn writes NBC during Giants-Cowboys last night labeled a hit on Cowboys QB Tony Romo, one that forced him from the game near halftime, “The Burger King Inside Edge” play of the game. Horn: "Good to know injury timeouts are for sale to sponsors. Would a stretcher warrant a bigger payment?" This is a league that "just settled a concussion lawsuit." Injuries "shouldn’t be for sale." NBC's Cris Collinsworth "sounded nauseated that he was forced to read the promo" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/9).
THE NEW GUYS: Former NFLer Brian Urlacher said of appearing on FS1's "Fox NFL Kickoff" studio crew, "I wasn't sure if I wanted to do TV because the media side gets a little tricky. But I wanted to try it out. And I've actually enjoyed myself a whole bunch." In Chicago, Vaughn McClure noted Fox' Jay Glazer convinced Urlacher "to join forces" at FS1. Urlacher: "I thought Fox was a great fit, No. 1, especially with Jay being on the show. And Fox has done our games my entire career because we're in the NFC. I know most of the crews that had worked there." He added, "I'm not going to really kill anyone. I'm not going to be like Keyshawn (Johnson) or one of those guys who just kill people" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE 9/8). Meanwhile, the N.Y. POST's Mushnick wrote former NFLer Randy Moss is "one of the most repugnant humans to wear an NFL uniform," and FS1's hiring of him is "extraordinary, a sick, twisted parody come real" (N.Y. POST, 9/8).
ESPN analyst Ray Lewis yesterday had an "outstanding debut" on "Sunday NFL Countdown," according to David Zurawik of the Baltimore SUN. After one week, Lewis is "already better than two-thirds of the ex-NFL-players drawing paychecks as TV analysts." His "greatest contribution" to the show was the "genuine sense of energy, enthusiasm and even joy that he brought to the conversation." The show last year "felt flat and, frankly, kind of old," but "not today." It was "jacked up and juiced from beginning to end with energy, information and insights." Lewis "added to those insights with his keen understanding of the game." However, the "triumph of Lewis' debut was not all his doing." The show's producers "time and again ... put him in a position to succeed, and his TV teammates were skilled and gracious helping him." Some of Lewis' best moments came in a discussion with Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson about former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez and the "issues of character, criminality and the NFL" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/8). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote the show's producers were "smart to let him blend into the show rather than make it all about Lewis, even as his colleagues genuflected his way throughout the show." Lewis "clearly ... is not a game-changing television hire at this point but he was more than adequate on opening morning." He has a "charismatic manner and had moments where you drew closer to the screen to hear what he had to say." He was "particularly interesting when explaining how to stop the read-option and the importance" of Saints coach Sean Payton. However, ESPN producers "should immediately let Lewis know that he should stop referring to the Ravens as 'us'" (SI.com, 9/8). Ravens play-by-play announcer Gerry Sandusky wrote on his Twitter feed, “Had a chance to watch Ray Lewis a little on ESPN today. I think he'll be a big star in the media world too."
TELL IT LIKE IT IS: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes,"The strongest segment of the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows, by far, was ESPN's look into the Aaron Hernandez situation." The segment "concentrated on how teams vet players coming out of a college and if they, especially the Patriots, should have known" that Hernandez was "headed for trouble." Lewis, Johnson and Carter all "addressed their personal issues and talked about how certain teams helped lead them on the path to more productive lives on and off the field." Jones writes, "Good for ESPN and good for the analysts, particularly Lewis and Carter whose issues were more serious than the former Buc receiver Johnson, for using their stories as the backbone for a compelling and intelligent discussion" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/9).
TRASK MASTER: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes former Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask "stole the show" during her debut on CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show." She "came off as a stern, well-prepared professor of NFLology." Trask "came out swinging, wondering 'if there was a volume button'" to turn down host Adam Schein down. Raissman: "We also liked the way she dismissed her colleagues’ points by waving her pen in their faces." Whoever "assembled this cast must know something about chemistry," because "That Other Pregame Show," "aka The Amy Trask Show, revealed major potential on its maiden voyage" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/9).
The NFL has signed a multiyear renewal with Sporting News Media to allow league video highlights to be part of the company's SN ePlayer syndicated digital video platform. The NFL signed a one-year trial deal last year with Perform, the majority owner of Sporting News Media, making the league one of the last and by far the largest U.S. pro sports league to license its content to the platform. After that successful test, the new deal includes distribution on both personal computers and tablets, with smartphones withheld to protect the NFL's existing content and sponsorship deal with Verizon. "This renewal is a sign that we were able to prove out our scale and our audience," said Juan Delgado, Sporting News Media Managing Dir. "We think this will be particularly helpful in reaching out to casual fans." The SN ePlayer is distributed to hundreds of media outlets, with major clients including the N.Y. Times, L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune. The league's interest in the deal revolves in large part around growing online traffic for many local newspaper sites served by the SN ePlayer. "The sports video market has experienced tremendous growth, and we are excited to leverage our relationship with Sporting News Media to distribute NFL video in new places," said Vishal Shah, NFL VP/Digital Media Business Development. Both the NFL and Sporting News Media will sell against the league's content within the SN ePlayer. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal includes a mix of upfront payments to the NFL and a revenue share of ad revenues generated through the content. Perform's joint venture partner in Sporting News Media is American City Business Journals, the parent company of SportsBusiness Journal and THE DAILY.
Bill Bonnell, the Exec Producer for ESPN's "Saturday Night Football" broadcast, defended rapper Eminem's much-talked about appearance in the booth during Notre Dame-Michigan Saturday night, claiming what fans "did not immediately recognize was that Eminem took on the persona" of a character in his latest music video, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. A clip of the video for "Berzerk" aired prior to ESPN showing Eminem in the booth, and Bonnell said, "He was just messing with everyone. ... You clearly saw after the video was over, he became Marshall Mathers again. He was goofing around." Bonnell said that Eminem arrived at Michigan Stadium "with a small group in the second quarter, and hung out on an ESPN bus for 10 minutes before ESPN escorted him to a room next to the broadcast booth." Prior to the interview, Bonnell described Eminem as "legitimately nervous doing a live interview." The rapper spoke with ESPN's Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit before the interview began and asked them, "How do you guys do live TV week to week?" Deitsch reported "Berzerk" will become the intro for "SNF" beginning next week, and ESPN last Thursday "shot its opening featuring the song" (SI.com 9/8).
WILL THE REAL SLIM SHADY PLEASE STAND UP? The AP noted Eminem initially seemed "slightly confused, with his mouth hanging open," but he soon "seemed to relax." The rapper "rarely does interviews, and certainly not live on ESPN" (AP, 9/8). In N.Y., Ethan Sacks noted Eminem began the "awkward three-minute, 44-second interview without making eye-contact" with Musburger and Herbstreit, then was "swiveling his head slowly and not blinking." Eminem appeared to "hit his stride when the conversation turned" to his hometown Lions (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 9/8). ROLLING STONE's Miriam Coleman wrote Eminem looked "distinctly out of sorts and vaguely alarmed." When asked what excited him about the Nov. 5 release of his new album, he said, "Nothing" (ROLLINGSTONE.com, 9/8). NBC's Al Roker said Eminem had a "deer-in-the-headlights look" during the appearance. Google's Daniel Sieberg said the appearance was "just one of those buzzy moments," but the interview was "actually quite congenial towards the end." NBC's Willie Geist said Eminem in the beginning when he had a blank look on his face "was acting, trying to get some attention." It got "less weird as it went" ("Today," NBC, 9/9). SI.com's Stewart Mandel writes it was an "awkwardly forced cross-promotional segment that some ESPN exec probably pegged as a really cool idea for the 18-to-35 crowd" (SI.com, 9/9).
TWITTER REAX: Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wrote, "I've now watched that Eminem booth visit close to 10 times, and I still find myself cringing. Holy awkward." ESPN’s Sage Steele: “I'm covering my eyes watching @Eminem w Musberger right now... Is it over yet? #iCant.” NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski: "Just caught up on the eminem interview during the football game. #WowwwW." The National Post's Bruce Arthur: "Eminem and Brent Musburger just woke up in a hotel room with a baby in the closet and a tiger in their bathroom." Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson: "Eminem's appearance at halftime of UM-ND was truly Andy Kaufman-esque. After watching it again, he obviously meant for it to be that way."
MLS' TV ratings "won't just have to improve, they'll have to experience a Lazarus-like revival" if the league wants to "reach its oft-repeated goal of being one of the world's top leagues" by '22, according to Seth Vertelney of GOAL.com. The league has "advanced to the point where its long-term existence is no longer in doubt," but its TV audience in '13 has "taken a downturn." NBCSN is averaging 102,000 viewers this season to date, down from 125,000 last season. NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller said, "To be honest with you, I was hoping that we would maintain last year's numbers." Vertelney noted the decreased viewership "comes at an inopportune time for MLS, as this month, the league will begin negotiations with all of its network partners." Still, MLS "will have a few aces up their sleeve," including Sounders F Clint Dempsey's arrival and expansion club NYC FC. MLS Business Ventures President & Managing Dir Gary Stevenson's hiring "may have flown under the radar this June, but it could end up being the most significant move the league made all summer," as he will "take up a prominent role in TV contract negotiations." ESPN has "been a partner from the league's beginning, and seems likely to re-up," while NBC "is a much more ambiguous case." Miller insisted that NBC's recent NASCAR deal "will have little impact" on talks with MLS. However, it is clear that NBC "can afford to lose MLS and, at worst, the league's departure will help the network clear some valuable airtime." Miller said, "If you ask me today, would I like to see MLS on NBC going forward past 2014? Most definitely." Vertelney noted if NBC departs, "that leaves two likely candidates to fill the void: Fox and beIN Sport" (GOAL.com, 9/8).
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column compared the net's coverage of Eagles WR Riley Cooper's use of the N-word to an incident in which former ESPN host Hugh Douglas reportedly used the word to his "Numbers Never Lie" co-host Michael Smith prior to being let go by the net. Lipsyte wrote the incidents "were very different." Cooper's situation had "witnesses and pictures." It was "an easy story to cover and chew on, which ESPN did incessantly, although sometimes interestingly." The Douglas incident, which occurred during the National Association of Black Journalists' annual conference, "seemed at least as important as a wide receiver’s outburst." Douglas and Smith were "representing a network that offers news and commentary." Lipsyte asked, "Don’t fans have a right to know as much about them as about a 25-year-old backup player caught in what seems to have been a moment of alcohol-fueled frustration?" An "airing out of why corporate decisions were made in the NABJ case was in order -- or at least some discussion" by the likes of ESPN's Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. Lipsyte: "So just why was there little or no coverage or commentary about Douglas on ESPN?" ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria said, "We generally have avoided covering our personnel matters. With higher-profile talent, we have made exceptions when we felt the story has resonated at a certain level. While the Riley Cooper story brought some attention to the Douglas story because of some perceived similarities, we didn't feel it merited coverage in 'SportsCenter.'" Lipsyte wrote, "I disagree. The media’s role is a critical and ongoing aspect of sports coverage. ... Sometimes we need to know as much about the media as we do about the sports it covers if we want to fully understand the sports" (ESPN.com, 9/6).
NESN and the Bruins tonight will debut a new TV series, called "Behind the B," at 8:00pm ET. Thirteen episodes are slated to air during the '13-14 season. The Bruins allowed access to the team's locker room, exec boardroom and players' homes that will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the organization (Bruins). Bruins President Cam Neely said, “I watched ‘24/7,’ my family was into it, my kids and my wife. And for me, I felt like, if my family is really interested in sitting down and watching this as a family, there are plenty more out there that are doing that. And then after an episode aired, you’d hear people talking about it, commenting on it, and even the casual fan tuned in to see what it was all about. It made me really think about how we could do something like this with our team and NESN. I really wanted to do some kind of show." He added, "Knowing that we would edit it ourselves, that was reassuring to anyone who might have not been comfortable at first about what might end up on air. That was extremely important, for them to know that nothing that would air to cause concern for anybody.” In Boston, Chad Finn noted all episodes but the premiere will run a half-hour, while actor Denis Leary, a "friend of Neely’s, narrates" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/6).