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TBS averaged a 3.1 overnight for yesterday’s three MLB LDS games, up 11% from the net’s two games on the comparable Monday last year. All three of TBS’ games yesterday were potentially series-deciding matchups, whereas the comparable day in ’12 had only two Game 2s.
GROWTH CONTINUES: TBS is averaging a 2.3 fast-national rating and 3.5 million viewers through Sunday’s LDS games (11 telecasts), up 5% and 2%, respectively, from the same period last year. The ’12 figure also includes Giants-Reds NLDS Game 2 on TNT. TBS’ Sunday doubleheader averaged a 2.0 rating and 3.2 million viewers, up 19% and 18%, respectively, from the comparable Sunday in ’12 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
TOP TEAM: SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote the TBS studio crew for the MLB playoffs has been "so refreshing, and so fun," and it is "pretty obvious already that this is the best baseball studio crew in recent memory." While most pregame and postgame shows "play it safe," TBS' broadcasters are "funny, they're sharp, they're happy to be critical, they're even a little weird." The studio show "has been an instant highlight." The panel is "bizarrely put together, which is a large part of its charm." Dirk Hayhurst has "proven himself an astute, funny and likable analyst." Gary Sheffield is "surprisingly deft and light on his feet." Pedro Martinez has been "the breakout star of the postseason." He is "quick, whip-smart and brutally honest." Martinez is "so talented and beloved that no one has even told him not to say something, so he just plunges forward, undaunted." He is "not afraid to disagree with his fellow panelists." Keith Olbermann is "clearly reveling in being able to bind this motley crew together" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/7). In L.A., Bill Dwyre wonders if TBS' Ernie Johnson is "trying to bring back the good old days of baseball cliches -- when loaded bases were stuffed hassocks and left-handed pitchers were flossy forkhanders -- with his call the other night that two scoring runners were 'crossing the pay station'" (L.A. TIMES, 10/8).
DROPPING BOMBS: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Kimberly Nordyke noted with the A's leading the Tigers 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth in yesterday's Game 3, Tigers DH Victor Martinez and A's P Grant Balfour "began yelling 'F--- you' at each other." Each of the profanities was "heard loud and clear" during MLB Network's coverage. One of the commentators "went on to apologize for the uncensored feed" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/7).
MARKET WATCH: In Detroit, Bill Shea reported FS Detroit "set another viewership record for Tigers games this season -- and led all teams with the highest average per-game ratings." The RSN's 152 Tigers telecasts averaged an MLB-best 9.59 local rating, "topping last year's record 9.21 average." Finishing second behind the Tigers was FS Midwest's 8.72 local rating in St. Louis for Cardinals' games (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 10/6). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Barry Horn reported local ratings for Rangers' games on FS Southwest this season "dropped about 20 percent from the record 2012 season." The 4.7 local rating was down from a 5.9 rating last season (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/4).
NFL Network finished with a 1.7 rating and 2.5 million viewers for the Chargers-Raiders game late on Sunday night. The net had averaged a 5.5 rating and 8.6 million viewers for its first three "Thursday Night Football" games of the season. NFL Net had aired 11 non-Thursday night games since '06 leading up to Chargers-Raiders (mostly Saturday, Friday night games), averaging a 3.0 rating and 5.4 million viewers for those games. Despite the low audience, Sunday's Chargers-Raiders was not the net's least-viewed game. The same matchup drew a 1.3 rating and 1.9 million viewers in December '08 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes while NFL Net carried Chargers-Raiders, CBS "produced it, and its announcers, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, called the game." NFL Net Senior VP/Programming & Production Mark Quenzel said, "In an ideal world, would I want my guys to do it? Yes. But we had the option of having an experienced team that was willing to help us." Sandomir notes the NFL "compensated CBS," which originally had Chargers-Raiders as part of its 4:25pm Sunday national window. Although Quenzel "would like more games scheduled on NFL Network, he said he was not certain that more games" starting at 11:35pm "would be a good idea." Quenzel: "From a league standpoint, the goal all the time is to have as many of your fans interact with your broadcast [as] possible. I’m guessing that not many people in the Eastern or Midwestern states made it to the second half" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8).
The Astros yesterday asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur "to dismiss an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed Sept. 27" against Houston Regional Sports Network, the parent of Comcast SportsNet Houston, "describing efforts to restructure the Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership as a 'road to nowhere,'" according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Isgur on Oct. 28 "will decide whether to dismiss the case filed by four Comcast affiliates." The Astros said that the RSN is "solvent and claim Comcast 'orchestrated the filing in bad faith' to gain a 'tactical advantage over the Astros.'" The team also said that the RSN "did not pay rights fees due July 31 and Aug. 30 and that the ballclub informed Comcast it would retake its broadcast rights Sept. 30 if it was not paid by Sept. 29." The Astros said that the bankruptcy filing is an effort by Comcast to "gain control over the Astros’ most valuable asset, the media rights" to televise their games. They said that Comcast has "tried to force the Astros to accept 'a handful of informal verbal proposals' for carriage deals." NBC Sports Group officials, whose company manages CSN Houston, yesterday had no comment (CHRON.com, 10/7).
CHEERING FOR SOLVENCY: In San Antonio, W. Scott Bailey writes, "If you are a baseball fan, now is a good time to root for Comcast SportsNet Houston to pick itself up by the bootstraps and avoid an economic dismantling." The Astros and Rangers "compete for television exposure" in San Antonio. However, if CSN Houston "goes under," the city "could get another heavy dose of Astros games." Bailey: "If you love baseball and despise an owner who is clearly in it for the money, fans be damned, then you have to cross those fingers and toes and pray that [Astros Owner Jim] Crane doesn't get out of the CSN Houston deal, and that he doesn't find a way to knock Texas' better baseball team off of San Antonio TV" (SAN ANTONIO BUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/4 issue).
Billed as the "hidden story" of the NFL and concussions, Frontline's "League of Denial" investigation offers "no jaw-dropping revelations," according to Nathan Fenno of the WASHINGTON TIMES. The program, which debuts tonight at 9:00pm ET on PBS, is a "methodical, sedate assault of uncomfortable fact after uncomfortable fact that sends an unmistakeable message to those unfamiliar with the crisis or unwilling to engage. This matters." Each minute of the film builds a picture of the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell "that couldn’t be less flattering." The children and widows of men "whose minds and lives unraveled" from concussions in the league are the "most powerful part of the two-hour film, the tear-stained reality of losing your father or husband before he’s actually dead" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/7). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote it is "engrossing," and examines the "troublesome path followed by the league in detailing the problem that has affected numerous former players" (DENVER POST, 10/7).
COMPARE & CONTRAST: In Houston, David Barron wrote if late NFL Films President Steve Sabol's '66 film "They Call it Pro Football" is the "Citizen Kane" of football movies, "League of Denial" "could be its 'And the Band Played On,' the 1990s film on the early days of the AIDS epidemic" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/7). VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote the program creates an "image that persuasively links big money and exploitation, not that such revelations will deter the sport’s devotees in either instance." It "methodically builds a compelling case." Lowry: "How bad does 'League of Denial' look for the NFL? Put it this way: Whenever you are compared with Big Tobacco in the 1960s, your PR department has every reason to be concerned" (VARIETY.com, 10/6). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes what the documentary "does well is put the story of CTE into a cohesive narrative." Arace: "What it does best is describe how the NFL fits in this narrative. The tone is like 'Barbarians at the Gate'" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/8). In S.F., Scott Ostler writes the documentary and the book on which it is based "show that for NFL leaders, delusion was not the diagnosis, it was the goal" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/8). In N.Y., Neil Genzlinger writes the film will "certainly be eye-opening for anyone -- especially parents with children of Pop Warner league age -- who hasn’t followed the subject closely." Genzlinger: "Eye-opening, but at the same time oddly unsurprising" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8).
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS: THE MMQB's Peter King conducted a Q&A with ESPN's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, whose book served as a basis for the film. King asked, "What was your reaction when ESPN suddenly parted with PBS on the documentary?" Fainaru said, "We were as surprised as everybody. We got a call from our editors telling us that this decision had been made to pull out of the partnership. A lot of it didn't really make much sense to us. ... I mean, Mark and I were both obviously disappointed, particularly with the implication that the NFL got involved and put pressure on the network. But I think our position has been that the journalism piece did not change." Fainaru-Wada said, "It was really frustrating for us because we had a phenomenal relationship with Frontline for those 15 months and produced a lot of stuff we were really proud of." King asked, "Do you believe the NFL told your bosses to lay off?" Fainaru said, "I don't think we know. I don't think either of us would be surprised at all, because they never cooperated; they wouldn't make anyone available for either the book or the film" (MMQB.SI.com, 10/7). The brothers said that the "goal of their reporting was to inform people about concussions, not advocate for the end of football." Fainaru said, "There are a lot of great things about football. ... But I do think we've laid out in a 400-page book with a lot of evidence that this is a real problem" (USA TODAY, 10/8).
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: ESPN’s “PTI” had a copy of the book in the background between hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon during yesterday’s episode. The book only stayed up until the first commercial break and was taken down after that (THE DAILY).
With FS1 entering its eighth week on the air, SI.com's Richard Deitsch caught up with "Fox Sports Live" co-hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole. The pair was "plucked from Canada's TSN SportsCentre to anchor the highlight portion" of FS1's flagship program. Below are excerpts from the conversation.
Q: How do you view ESPN? Are they head-to-head competition or do you view them through another prism?
Onrait: Of course, they are our competition. It would do us no good to try to emulate anything they did. We have to do it our way and offer an alternative. We've been surprised how well it has gone over, at least in terms of the reaction on Twitter.
O'Toole: I look at them as the figureheads for what they have accomplished and the foothold that they have in the American market. They deserve to be looked at that way. The legwork and all the time they have put into their product, we just want to some day get to that point, and it will take a lot of time. Just to be in the same sentence as ESPN, we are happy with that.
Q: Has your humor translated to the States?
Onrait: Well, I will say this: We are used to being an acquired taste. ... But shockingly, we are surprised that the critics have seemed to enjoy our stuff so far.
O'Toole: A lot of people on Twitter said they did not like us at the start but we have them as fans now. That's exactly how it began in Canada and that's how we see it now -- get one new viewer at a time.
Q: How will Fox Sports Live evolve over the next 6-12 months?
O'Toole: You have already seen it evolve. The first two months we've been on air, we have shaped the show and it is finding its own identity. We are finding things that work, finding things that don't. Where it will be in six months to a year? I have no idea. But I like where it is going. It is more streamlined, focused and the highlights are an integral part of it.
Q: How will -- and should -- Fox Sports Live play hockey?
O'Toole: If you are affiliated with the NHL, people want your product, they want to be associated with it, and that is what the powers that be at Fox Sports are starting to see. NHL fans want to know each and every night that they will get a glimpse of hockey -- not hoping they will see it but knowing they will see hockey highlights.
Onrait: I realize the sport is not as big baseball, football, basketball and college stuff, but the ratings for NBC Sports Network last year were pretty strong and the opening night game on that network was strong. It is a growing sport and this is an area where we can take the reins and carve out a little niche (SI.com, 10/6).
Fox Sports has quietly released on Apple's iTunes app store Fox Sports Go, its live streaming mobile application that had been originally intended to become available in conjunction with the August debut of FS1. In the days just before the Aug. 17 launch of FS1, the app was delayed to ensure performance reliability. Fox Sports Go, representing the network's push into TV Everywhere, provides live streaming of NASCAR, UFC, NCAA football and basketball, UEFA soccer and its FS1 studio shows. At present, Fox Sports Go is available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of Comcast, AT&T U-verse, Optimum, Suddenlink, WOW!, and Midcontinent Communications. Fox Sports plans to begin promoting Fox Sports Go more aggressively, including on-air mentions, later in the year. The network previously planned to fold its standard Fox Sports mobile app, providing scores, news, gametracking and other content, into Fox Sports Go. But for the time being, Fox Sports and Fox Sports Go will exist as two separate apps.
After a week with NFL Mobile that included a full Sunday of live game streams from NFL Network, NFL RedZone and NBC's "Sunday Night Football," I experienced the good, the bad and the mediocre. The app was reviewed using an iPhone 5 version 7.0.2 with AT&T service and a Droid Ultra version 4.2.2 with Verizon, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.
WHAT'S GOOD: Scores and stats are plentiful. Real time updates, down to current drive by game, make NFL Mobile a must-download for football stats junkies. The app offers a two-pronged information experience: NFL and the user's team of choice. The app houses a deep library of video, categorized by content type. Load time and playback is smooth and timely. Game highlights and spotlight libraries are standouts. By 2:45pm ET on Sunday, there were 10-15 gameday videos in each team section. Impressive. Users can opt to receive team and/or league-based push notifications like injuries, red zone drives and fantasy lineup reminders. This is a nice feature that works well, even outside of the app environment. The NFL Shop integration is well done, and season-ticket members can access NFL RedZone for free.
A LESSON IN MEDIOCRITY: Reserved for Verizon customers only, NFL Mobile’s live streaming features require user authentication, which was seamless and simple. Once verified, premium features are revealed and Verizon customers are presented with a subscription offer. For $5 per month, they can watch live feeds of the NFL's three weekly primetime games from their mobile device. Subscribers also get access to NFL RedZone on Sundays and 24/7 access to NFL Network. But aside from time delays, watching NFL Net is the same as watching live TV: identical advertisements and no add-ons. Nothing on the screen is clickable. I would have expected at least one bonus feature. The app's second screen experiences -- Thursday Night Football Xtra and A Football Life Xtra -- offer points for answering polls and interacting with content during TV broadcasts. The games work, but feel like a forced effort to put a stake in second screen. Rotating banner ads are non-intrusive but hardly effective, and in-stream ads appear inconsistently.
WHAT FAILS? In many instances during the review period, I was greeted with a spinning load icon. Though not consistently observed, connection hiccups were cumbersome. NFL.com/live showed a blank screen during Sunday’s games. Also, NFL Mobile lacks a social media influence. Where are the sharing tools? Within the live game streams, why not include a Twitter feed? Where is the incentive to pay an extra $5 a month to watch the same game on your phone that you are likely already paying for in a premium cable upgrade package? I am tempted to congratulate non-Verizon customers for not having access to the app’s premium features. While the video section is healthily populated, the lack of sharing tools and haphazard organization are thoughtless. Aside from featured video, content is listed neither chronologically nor by relevance. One of the few sponsored sections, Sound FX is a cool concept offering memorable audio clips, but is buried at number 18 on a list of 25, some outdated. The app offers the NFL Ticket Exchange, but the user experience struggles. One game selection might open a desktop site and another the mobile web. Neither offers a satisfactory load time.
BOTTOM LINE: NFL Mobile is a robust experience jam-packed with sleek features and statistical information; however, casual fans could find the data overwhelming. Gameday video (available to all users) is the real win here. It’s not quite instant replay, but the compilation of Can’t Miss Plays is close, and the content groupings are nice for both avid and casual fans. Overall, the NFL can do a better job at bubbling up the app’s best features and minimizing the clutter to offer fans a cleaner, more intuitive, social experience.
Amie Sheridan (email@example.com) is a writer in Philadelphia.