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TBS’ primetime coverage of Dodgers-Braves NLDS Game 1 Thursday night earned a 2.8 overnight rating, up 17% from the comparable Giants-Reds NLDS Game 1 in '12. That game drew a 2.4 on a Saturday in the same window. Pirates-Cardinals NLDS Game 1 earned a 2.0 overnight from 5:00pm-8:30pm. The game was up 5% from Nationals-Cardinals NLDS Game 1 in ‘12, which was played in the same telecast window on a Sunday (THE DAILY).NEED TO TIGHTEN UP: In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes TBS "continues to show its baseball production inexperience when it comes to postseason." After producing one game per week during the season, the net "suddenly is entrusted with four Division Series (i.e., four crews), and the sloppiness shows." Wednesday's Rays-Rangers AL Wild Card game "was marred by the sound and pictures not being in sync." The "good news" is that FS1 "gets two Division Series and ESPN one wild-card game next year" (Albany TIMES UNION, 10/4). Meanwhile, in Boston, Chad Finn writes TBS’ "revamped postseason baseball studio programming is promising, but it could stand to be streamlined to a more manageable number of contributors." Anchor Keith Olbermann, analyst Pedro Martinez, and co-host Tom Verducci "would be an ideal trio." Finn: "Problem is, TBS is cramming five personalities onto the set, which leaves little literal or figurative room for anyone to stand out." One solution would be to move analyst Dirk Hayhurst "to a booth role, eliminate the 'active player' position (sorry, Mark DeRosa), and watch Olbermann, Martinez, and Verducci thrive" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/4).
Fox and NFL Network are beginning the NFL season with fast starts through Week 4, while ESPN and CBS are relatively flat and NBC is seeing declines over the same period from last year. NFL games since Labor Day rank as the nine most-viewed shows on all of TV and are the only programs -- along with the season premieres of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS” -- to draw at least 20.0 million viewers. Fox is averaging a 12.7 rating and 21.4 million viewers, up 10.4% and 13.2%, respectively, from an 11.5 rating and 18.9 million viewers from '12. The net's national broadcasts are off to their best start, as the two games (Packers-49ers in Week 1 and Eagles-Broncos in Week 4) have averaged a 16.3 with 27.7 million viewers. That is up 12% and 14% respectively, from '12 and tops the previous highs from '10 in both categories (15.2, 25.6 million viewers). Meanwhile, NFL Network has averaged a 5.5 rating and 8.6 million viewers for its first three “Thursday Night Football” telecasts (not including Thursday's Bills-Browns game). That is up 8% and 9%, respectively, from the same point last year and puts the net on pace to have its most-watched season yet. The increase was fueled by a 6.0 rating and 9.4 million viewers for the Sept. 19 Chiefs-Eagles game, which saw Andy Reid return to Philadelphia after coaching the Eagles for 14 years. That stands as the highest-rated game telecast ever on the league-owned net and fourth-best game viewership.
HOLDING THEIR OWN: ESPN’s “MNF” is averaging an 8.8 rating and 14.0 million viewers after five games. While that rating is down 2% from the same point last season, viewership is flat. “MNF,” however, continues to be the most-watched program on cable TV. CBS' viewership through four weeks is at 17 million, up 1% from last season's 16.8 million. This ends CBS' two-year run of declining viewership through the first four weeks of the season. The net's average rating is 10.4, up 2% from a 10.2 in '12.
SOME WORK TO DO: NBC is averaging a 13.5 rating and 22.6 million viewers for its five broadcasts through Week 4, down 5% and 3%, respectively, from a 14.2 rating and 23.3 million viewers through the same point last season. The 22.6 million viewers is the lowest mark for NBC through four weeks since the ’09 season. Despite the drop, “SNF” continues to be the highest-rated show on primetime TV across all broadcast and cable networks.
NFL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK 4
NET'13 (000)'12 (000)'11 (000)'10 (000)'09 (000)'08 (000) NBC*22,58423,32023,16822,85320,75617,814 Fox21,40018,90020,50019,67717,91615,192 CBS17,01816,80017,50018,69915,67115,221 ESPN13,98713,96913,08714,78615,68412,972 NFLN8,5737,895n/an/an/an/a
Sunday night's Chargers-Raiders game will air at 11:35pm ET on NFL Network, and because only about 60% of the market subscribes to the net, the NFL "put the game up for bid" for about $50,000, according to John Maffei of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. San Diego-based KFMB-CBS “secured the contest," and as a result, KFMB "gets three NFL games Sunday.” KFMB VP & GM Pat Nevin said, “This is the first time we’ll have three NFL games on our air. This is a huge win for us. It will likely do the biggest ratings in the history of the station.” Maffei notes viewers in the market will “miss the CBS Sunday prime-time shows" because of the game telecast. Nevin said, “The network allows its affiliates a certain number of prime-time exceptions. We had to get network approval to do this. We'll have those prime-time shows starting at midnight and viewers can also watch them On-demand. ... But we felt we had to have the Chargers on our air.” Maffei notes Chargers games “average about a 50 share of the audience in San Diego" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 10/4). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Scott Bair noted the Raiders organization "sold out its allotment of general tickets” for Sunday night's game, allowing the NFL “to lift the television blackout.” This marks the Raiders' third straight sellout, "a task made easier by an offseason decision to decrease Oakland Coliseum’s football capacity nearly 10,000 seats to 53,200,” the NFL’s “smallest stadium capacity” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/3).
GONE FISHIN': In Miami, Barry Jackson notes Dolphins games are "the highest-rating programming on local TV over the last month." But the jump in the average rating for Dolphins games over last season “isn’t dramatic (17.7 to 18.5).” Not counting two-team NFL markets -- N.Y. and the Bay Area -- the Dolphins’ local ratings this season “are the NFL’s second-lowest, ahead of only Rams ratings in St. Louis.” Monday’s Dolphins-Saints game on ESPN and WSFL-CW “drew a 17.1 local rating, extremely weak for an NFL Monday night game even factoring in the lopsided score” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/4).
Former Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask's presence on CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show" should "already make other networks wonder why their scouting departments didn’t pluck her up first," according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Trask on Wednesday said, "It’s very liberating after all these years with a team to now speak on things where I’m accountable to me. I’m also coming to the realization that sometimes I’m not necessarily best at following direction." NFL Network's Andrea Kremer said Trask is an "amazing breath of fresh air admist the testosterone-laden legions of screaming men." Kremer: "She is so knowledgeable about all aspects of the game, beyond her expertise on the business and financial sides of football, and I’m glad she has an outlet to showcase that information. She is opinionated but it’s informed opinion, not something said to create a headline or debate." Trask called her decision to resign from the Raiders in May after 26 years with the franchise the "hardest decision I have ever made -- I agonized over it -- but it was the right decision for many reasons." Hoffarth notes as Trask "becomes more comfortable with the TV gig, colleagues are noticing." CBS' Bill Cowher on last Sunday's show referred to Trask as the "voice of reason." Hoffarth: "For good reason." She will "have even more exposure when CBS adds her to the 'NFL Today' team Oct. 13 because the show is sending Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe out to game sites." CBS Sports President David Berson said, "Is it nice to have a woman making a meaningful contribution? Certainly. But to be clear, she’s not here because of gender. She just makes us better" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/4).
Time Warner Cable SportsNet has "expanded its on-air Lakers broadcast team" by adding former NBAers Byron Scott and Luke Walton, according to Eric Pincus of the L.A. TIMES. Scott and Walton "will join James Worthy and Robert Horry, giving the team a combined 15 NBA championships on set." Scott and Walton "will appear on '#LakeShow,' 'Access SportsNet' and the network's regular pre- and postgame shows." Scott will "make his debut Sunday, covering the Lakers' second preseason game," while Walton will "first appear Tuesday before the team's third." Both games are against the Nuggets (L.A. TIMES, 10/4). Meanwhile, the Lakers and ESPN Radio 710 L.A. have agreed to a seven-year extension of their radio deal through the '19-20 season. ESPN Radio 710 will carry all 82 regular-season Lakers games as well as all preseason and playoff games. The network has been the official radio home of the Lakers for the last four seasons. John Ireland will continue as play-by-play commentator with Mychal Thompson as color analyst (Lakers).
CELTICS TAKE A SHOT: In Boston, Chad Finn notes there is "no recent precedent for a prominent executive calling his team’s games" after news broke Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge will serve as color commentator for some Celtics road games on CSN New England this season. However, it is "not unprecedented in Celtics lore," as late Basketball HOFer Red Auerbach "provided color on WKBG’s broadcasts" from '67-71. Ainge was a "terrific analyst for TNT" from '01-03. Meanwhile, there is "frustration among the rank-and-file at CSNNE" that Celtics sideline reporter Greg Dickerson, who had been on team broadcasts since '02, will not return. Dickerson was "easygoing, respected, and had genuine institutional knowledge of the team." Dickerson, who has battled neurological health issues in recent years, "deserved better" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/4).
Two new films centered on Muhammad Ali's involvement with the Nation of Islam and his refusal to be drafted "portray a time when a singular fighter and his extraordinary era intersected in profound ways," according to Richard O'Brien of SI. "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight," which debuts on HBO Sunday and is directed by Stephen Frears, is a "glossy and engaging docudrama that focuses on the Supreme Court's inner-chamber battles in 1971, when the justices rules on Ali's appeal of the conviction that had cost him 3 1/2 years of his career and threatened to send him to jail for five more." Ali appears "only in archival footage, but those glimpses send a jolt through the film, showing not only how vibrant he was but also the depths of the passions that swirled around him." That sense is "amplified in the richly textured and exhaustively researched 'The Trials of Muhammad Ali.'" The documentary from the producers of "Hoop Dreams" was directed by Bill Siegel and opens theatrically this week, combining "archival footage with current-day interviews with figures from Ali's life" (SI, 10/9 issue).
DOESN'T QUITE GO THE DISTANCE: VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" is "filled with interesting tidbits" but "never quite coalesces." If Frears' "earnest interpretation isn’t quite a missed opportunity, it’s an under-realized one." It is "worth watching for the historical moment it represents -- particularly since that moment continues to echo through to the present -- but it’s less compelling than it might have been" (VARIETY.com, 10/2). In S.F., David Wiegand wrote Frears and screenwriter Shawn Slovo "seem to have forgotten" that "films based on historical events work best if they are at least equal parts drama and documentary." The "fundamental problem with the film" is there is "no drama." The actors make the film "seem better than it is, but the real Ali, with all his youth, vigor, bravado and passion, convinces us that he and his case deserved much better" (SFGATE.com, 10/2). The AP's Bruce Schreiner wrote the film does "tell a story ... though some liberties are taken for entertainment's sake." It is "surprisingly engrossing ... for a movie that revolves almost entirely around the legal process" (AP, 10/2). The AP's Lynn Elber wrote, "The dynamic Ali is represented by the legend himself through news clips woven effectively into the drama," but the emphasis is on "the camaraderie and give-and-take among the justices" (AP, 10/1).
This week's SI cover previews the MLB Playoffs and features swimsuit model Kate Upton with Braves OFs B.J. and Justin Upton, but it has inspired some backlash on social media. FS1's Clay Travis tweeted, "Really appreciate Sports Illustrated reaching for the journalism stars with Kate Upton on the cover of this week's baseball playoff issue," while Sports Media Watch's Paulsen tweeted, "Glad to see Sports Illustrated continue its long tradition of featuring women on its cover. Real progressive stuff." The Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones noted, "Kate Upton has been on 3 SI covers (2 swimsuit) since 2012. NASCAR hasn't had a cover since Oct. 2011." SI Senior VP/Communications & Brand Development Scott Novak defended the cover, pointing to pop culture icons ranging from Bob Hope to Stephen Colbert that have made appearances on the magazine's cover. "This is fun and games. If the Braves win, this might just be the year of the Uptons," Novak said. "From the beginning, Sports Illustrated has had Academy Award winners, pop culture icons, governors, presidents, celebrities. You put a swimsuit model on the cover and that's a problem? I'm scratching my head."
MODEL BEHAVIOR? Last month at SBJ/SBD's Game Changers conference, former SI writer Selena Roberts criticized the magazine for focusing too much on models at the expense of women athletes. "When I was at Sports Illustrated, it's disappointing because there were not many women in leadership. It's no surprise that Sports Illustrated had more women on the covers in the 1950s and 1960s than they do now," she said. "The travesty of Sports Illustrated is that it has a rare opportunity to shape the agenda and to reflect society and it has chosen to revert back to what it was prior to the 1950s. That's unfortunate. You have such an iconic magazine that, ironically, is fueled by women. Nothing makes more money for them than women. It's women with bathing suits on. Women save the day at SI every single year. That's the great irony. Women fund the stories on men for the entire year."
NBCSN drew an average of 935,000 viewers for its coverage of Capitals-Blackhawks Tuesday, making it the most-watched season opener on record for cable, and the second most-watched regular-season game ever on the net. Viewership for the game was up 7% compared to the Flyers-Bruins season opener in '11-12, which was the last time the season began in October. Chicago saw a 7.32 rating for Tuesday's game, the highest ever for a regular-season game in that market on NBCSN. Meanwhile, more than 2.3 million viewers tuned into the CBC for Maple Leafs-Canadiens at 7:00pm ET, the first of a season-opening doubleheader. The game overall reached nearly 7.6 million Canadians. The CBC's late game, Jets-Oilers at 10:00pm, showed a 5% increase compared to the first Prime West game of the '11-12 season, with an average audience of nearly 1.05 million viewers (THE DAILY).
LEADING THE WAY: Fox led all NFL Week 4 telecasts with a 16.1 final rating and 27 million viewers for its national window, which featured Eagles-Broncos. Regional coverage in the 1:00pm window earned a 9.4 rating with 14.3 million viewers. The net’s “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show posted a 3.2 final rating with 4.7 million viewers. CBS’ singleheader had an 8.2 rating with 13.3 million viewers. The net’s “The NFL Today” pregame show earned a 1.9 rating (2.9 million viewers). The Patriots’ 30-23 victory over the Falcons on “SNF” averaged 20.5 million viewers with a 12.5 rating. ESPN’s Raiders-Broncos “MNF” game earned a 8.9 rating (13.9 million viewers) (THE DAILY).
ON THE RISE: Nielsen data shows that ESPN's coverage of the '13 MLB season delivered a 14% ratings increase from last year. ESPN finished with a 0.8 U.S. rating in '13, up from a 0.7 in '12. ESPN's audience also was up 8%, averaging 1,101,000 viewers in '13 compared to 1,018,000 in '12....TBS' coverage of MLB Wild Card games -- Reds-Pirates on Wednesday and Rays-Indians on Thursday -- saw an average of 4.7 million viewers, up 2% from '12. The net aired both games on a Friday last year and averaged 4.6 million viewers for those contests....Viewership for Fox Sports K.C.'s coverage of Royals games this season reached an all-time high, with a 70% increase marking the largest in MLB. The 143 regular-season broadcasts averaged a 6.4 household rating, up from a 3.8 in '12. The Royals ranked sixth among all clubs, up from 15th last season. The highest-rated Royals game ever on the net came Aug. 13 with a 12.3 in a game versus the Marlins (THE DAILY).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) College Football: South Carolina-UCF9/28ABC12:00-3:45pmnana College Football: (regional)9/28ABC3:45-7:00pmnana College Football: Wisconsin-Ohio State9/28ABC8:06-11:43pm4.06,751 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing9/28CBS2:00-3:00pm0.1426 "College Football Today"9/28CBS3:00-3:30pm0.7897 College Football: LSU-Georgia9/28CBS3:30-7:30pm4.67,392 MLB: (regional)9/28Fox1:00-4:00pm1.11,600 College Football: Arizona-Washington9/28Fox7:05-10:27pm1.11,821 EPL: Swansea-Arsenal9/28NBC12:30-2:30pm0.5710 Red Bull Traxxas Torc Series9/28NBC2:30-3:30pm0.4494 College Football: Oklahoma-Notre Dame9/28NBC3:30-7:15pm2.63,890 "The NFL Today"9/29CBS12:00-1:00pm1.92,868 "NFL on CBS": (single)9/29CBS1:00-4:05pm8.213,264 Bull Riding: 15/15 Bucking Battle9/29CBS5:00-6:00pm1.31,907 "Fox NFL Sunday"9/29Fox12:00-1:00pm3.24,800 "NFL on Fox": (regional)9/29Fox1:00-4:15pm9.415,300 "NFL on Fox": Eagles-Broncos (69%)9/29Fox4:15-7:33pm16.127,000 "The OT"9/29Fox7:33-8:00pm7.712,885 Fishing: FLW Forrest Wood Cup9/29NBC2:30-3:30pm0.3489 MLS: Galaxy-Timbers9/29NBC3:30-6:00pm0.3433 "Football Night in America"9/29NBC7:30-8:15pm5.18,152 "Sunday Night Football": Patriots-Falcons9/29NBC8:31-11:17pm12.520,493 Liga MX: Chivas de Guadalajara-Atlas9/29UniMas5:50-8:00pm0.5898 Liga MX: Cruz Azul-Leon9/28Univ.5:50-8:00pm0.4706 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football": Raiders-Broncos9/23ESPN8:27-11:43pm8.913,918 "Thursday Night Football": 49ers-Rams9/26NFLN8:30-11:57pm4.97,610 College Football: Ole Miss-Alabama9/28ESPN6:30-9:52pm2.34,022 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Dover9/29ESPN2:00-5:49pm2.43,969 "Thursday Night Football Pre-Kick"9/26NFLN8:00-8:30pm2.02,952 College Football: Oklahoma State-West Virginia9/28ESPN12:00-4:06pm1.92,788 College Football: Texas A&M-Arkansas9/28ESPN27:01-10:22pm1.72,761 "Monday Night Countdown"9/23ESPN6:30-8:27pm1.92,524 College Football: Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech9/26ESPN7:25-10:42pm1.52,314 "The Book of Manning"
In Colorado Springs, Tom Roeder reported the Armed Forces Network "will only be showing news updates" during the partial government shutdown. The network is a "morale builder for the military, especially during football season." It is "common to see troops congregated around screens in the middle of the night overseas as they watch the a live game half a world away from home." The net also broadcasts "entertainment and family programming for American bases worldwide, including Europe and Asia, where American programs aren’t available off base" (GAZETTE.com, 10/3).
NIGHTTIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott Thursday night "defended the late start times" of several recent conference football games. Scott said, "The truth is they rate well. We get a lot of attention because there’s not a lot that’s going on. But we’re very mindful to spread it amongst all of our campuses. We realize it is a burden for fans. It’s a burden for campuses." Scott "credited these national television spots for contributing [to] the conference’s increased profile." He said, "All of this has conspired to see the Pac-12 get a lot more love from the national media" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/4).
PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann wrote Golf Channel's telecast of the first day of the Presidents Cup Thursday was "technically proficient, but certainly not flashy." When U.S. golfer Keegan Bradley "eagled the fifth hole, for example, we saw a graphic showing he had the best par-5 scoring average on Tour in 2013." But a minute later, after seeing a live shot and replay of U.S. golfer Hunter Mahan "stiffing his approach on No. 9, the crew didn’t even bother to track the flight" of International golfer Graham DeLaet’s approach, which was "almost as good, judging by the crowd’s reaction." It was a "minor flaw, but it just fuels the perception ... that NBC sometimes gets so caught up covering American teams that it forgets to cover the story." The broadcast also needs "a running scroll of scores," as "even with only six matches on the course, viewers need to be updated on what is going on" (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/3).
TRUE TO THEIR ROOTS: In Miami, Barry Jackson writes WAXY-AM's Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner have "maintained their irreverent, self-deprecating approach while breaking in a new audience on ESPN Radio," and their show "hasn’t changed much since going national this week." Le Batard said, "We’re looking to keep the local audience happy while not alienating a national audience. This is going to take some (audience) training" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/4).