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Magic Johnson's agent Lon Rosen on Thursday night refuted a report that the Basketball HOFer left ESPN's "NBA Countdown" show "because of colleague Bill Simmons' growing influence over the show and Michael Wilbon's diminished role in NBA coverage," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Rosen in response to the Deadspin report said, "Magic and Bill Simmons got to be very close and continue to be close." Johnson in a statement said that he "loves ESPN but that his schedule and other commitments prevent him from continuing in his role" with the net (USATODAY.com, 10/10). In N.Y., Bob Raissman cites sources as saying that stepping down "was entirely Johnson's decision, adding ESPN brass was looking forward to him returning to the show" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/11). In Boston, Chad Finn writes Johnson's departure from the show's crew "might be exactly what is needed to make it better." Prior to Johnson's announcement, ESPN had "already begun its seemingly annual tinkering with the cast in its ongoing if unacknowledged quest to match the camaraderie and success" of TNT’s "Inside the NBA." The net on Wednesday announced that former 76ers coach Doug Collins would join "NBA Countdown," while Wilbon, the "de facto host, would no longer be a regular part of the program." SI.com reported Doris Burke also will be joining the show "on some Wednesdays during the season." Simmons and Jalen Rose, who "joined the show last season, have the kind of chemistry ESPN covets." Former NBA coach and player Avery Johnson also is "expected to be part of the program in some capacity," and former Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo "could also be in the mix for a role." Finn writes the recent moves "have been positive steps" for the show (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/11).
BURKE MAKES HISTORY: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted Burke will become the "first woman to serve as a regularly-appearing analyst for a national NBA studio show" when she begins her "NBA Countdown" stint. She will make her debut on Nov. 13. Her new assignment is "timed with her signing a multiyear contract extension with ESPN." When Burke is on "NBA Countdown," she will "navigate most of the ins and outs from commercial breaks." ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Mark Gross said that Burke's role will be a "hybrid between analyst and host." Deitsch noted Burke will "continue to serve as an NBA game and studio analyst and sideline reporter, as well as an NCAA men's and women's basketball analyst" (SI.com, 10/10).
TBS earned a 3.9 overnight rating for Game 5 of the Tigers-A's ALDS. The overnight is up from the comparable Thursday LDS coverage last year, but that day included four games across two networks. Game 5 of the Tigers-A's series from '12 aired on TNT. TBS had three games that day, including Yankees-Orioles Game 4 in primetime, Giants-Reds Game 5 in the early afternoon window and Cardinals-Nationals Game 4 in the late afternoon/early evening window. The Vice Presidential debate and NFL Network's Steelers-Titans "Thursday Night Football" telecast also aired on the same night in '12. Sources said that last night's Giants-Bears game averaged a 5.3 overnight (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). The Tigers with the win will play the Red Sox in the ALCS on Fox beginning Saturday, while the Dodgers and Cardinals start the NLCS Friday night. NBC's Bob Costas earlier in the week said there are "only a handful of teams that really move the needle" in terms of national TV ratings, so Fox "is praying for the Dodgers against the Red Sox" in the World Series. Costas: "That would make a much more dramatic difference than market differences would make in football" ("The B.S. Report," GRANTLAND.com, 10/7).
NO CHEERING IN THE PRESS BOX: In L.A., Chris Erskine notes TBS' crew of Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr., Ron Darling and Craig Sager will call the Dodgers-Cardinals NLCS despite the fact a large amount of Dodgers fans "grumbled through the Braves series, citing perceived favoritism of the Braves." However, TBS insists that there was "no bias at all." Johnson said, "This is my 25th year with Turner and my 32nd year in sports, and if there's one thing I pride myself on it's being impartial." Meanwhile, Erskine writes the TBS booth is "surprisingly flat, given the talents involved," and it is "as if they're stuck together on jury duty." He asked, "Is this really the network you want staging your October floor shows?" (L.A. TIMES, 10/11). However, also in L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote Ripken has "fielded his position cleanly and delivered some timely sound bites" with Darling and Johnson in the Dodgers-Braves NLDS (DAILYNEWS.com, 10/10).
CHANNEL SURF: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes MLB "continues to try to force fans to subscribe to its television outlet, MLB Network, by placing two divisional series games there." MLB Network drew an 8.9 local rating in St. Louis for Game 2 of the Cardinals-Pirates NLDS, "which is only a gnat’s eyelash better" than the Cardinals' regular-season average of 8.8 for its 147 games on FS Midwest. That is a "terrible St. Louis rating for a postseason game, and is even worse than the 11.7 number MLBN drew last year" for Game 3 of the Cardinals-Nationals NLDS. This "isn’t a knock at the quality of MLB Network, which is high," but it is a statement about MLB "putting its own promotional interests ahead of what is best for the general audience" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/11).
LOCAL PLANS: In Boston, Chad Finn reports Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo, who "again proved his bona fides as a national play-by-play announcer" during the Tigers-A's ALDS, will "contribute to NESN’s programming on game days" through the rest of the Red Sox' run. Analyst Dennis Eckersley, who was paired with Orsillo, "will be a studio analyst on NESN for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the ALCS" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/11)....Cardinals radio broadcasters Mike Shannon and John Rooney will handle the team's NLCS home games on KMOX-AM and the rest of Cardinals Radio Network. But Shannon "will not travel for the contests" in L.A. Cardinals Radio Network coordinator Anne Carroll said that FS Midwest analyst Rick Horton "will work with Rooney for those contests" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/11).
NBC has reached a long-term deal with the PGA of America that will see the Ryder Cup stay on the net through ’30. The biennial tournament has been broadcast by NBC since the infamous ’91 “War by the Shore” at Kiawah Island. The deal, which officially begins in ’15, will see coverage and programming span across several different NBC Sports Group properties, including Golf Channel and NBCSN. A Ryder Cup documentary series, live practice-round coverage and live coverage of the Ryder Cup captain’s selection show are included in the agreement. The PGA of America hopes to expand Hispanic viewership with a new Ryder Cup highlights show on both Telemundo and mun2. The agreement also extends NBC’s rights to the Senior PGA Championship through ’30. The deal to keep the Ryder Cup at NBC comes just two months after the net lost the U.S. Open to Fox beginning in ’15. However, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said the impending loss of that tent-post event did not factor into the extension with the PGA of America. “I don’t look at it as anything other than a completely independent decision,” Lazarus said, “and one we were going to make regardless of the outcome of any other rights deal we make.” In what could have been a thinly veiled shot at Fox and the USGA, PGA of America President Ted Bishop indicated the timing of the announcement was not an accident. “We certainly respected the Presidents Cup last week,” he said. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua noted the two sides felt they had an unofficial agreement for a long-term extension last month after announcing Bethpage Black as the site of the ’18 Ryder Cup. “It was just a matter of what worked best for the PGA of America and certainly what worked best for NBC and what worked best for overall golf in America.”
CBS is veering a bit from its typical plan of attack for NFL coverage this Sunday, as three members of "The NFL Today" studio crew will venture out to various games to serve as the third man in the booth. Adding to the intrigue of the "Road Trip" is the fact that each assignment features a link to the analyst's former team -- Bill Cowher will call the Steelers-Jets game, Boomer Esiason will call Bengals-Bills and Shannon Sharpe will call Jaguars-Broncos. To fill in for the trio, CBS is having Bart Scott and Amy Trask from CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show" make the trek across the hall at CBS' N.Y. studios to sit in with James Brown, Dan Marino and Jason La Canfora on "The NFL Today." CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said despite being assigned around the country, the traveling analysts will have a "fairly major part in the pregame." McManus said the "Road Trip" idea came about more or less organically. McManus: "When we looked at the schedule, we noticed that we had games involving the former teams of three of our analysts. We just decided that it would be fun to try. We're not going to do this on a regular basis." McManus credits CBS Sports President David Berson for generating the idea to have a studio analyst hit the road. "We looked at the schedule, and we saw, 'Wait a second, there's three opportunities here.'" Is McManus worried about the analysts cheering for their former teams from the press box? He said, "I expect them to still be objective and honest in their calling of the game. Obviously, there's an emotional attachment that each one has, and everyone understands that. But they're not going to be outwardly rooting, or hopefully even inwardly rooting for their teams. If they are, we will chain them to their desks in the broadcast center for the foreseeable future, and we will never let them out of the studio again."
Highlights from the Lynx-Dream WNBA Finals Game 3, which the Lynx won 86-77 to claim the league's championship, aired about 12 minutes into the 10:30pm ET edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter" Thursday night. The broadcast began 25 minutes late because of the net's coverage of Rutgers-Louisville, which led "SportsCenter." Lynx-Dream was the fourth report of the broadcast and the last one before the first commercial break. A "Breaking News" alert introduced approximately one minute of highlights. The amount of coverage was close to what ESPN has been devoting to the league, but the placement in the broadcast was the highest it has received this postseason. Meanwhile, FS1's "Fox Sports Live" did not air Thursday due to Arizona-USC. The title is the second for the Lynx in three years, and both the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press had Lynx stories above the fold on the front page. The Star Tribune's Kent Youngblood writes, "Let the dynasty talk begin." The Pioneer Press' Tim Leighton writes under the header, "Minnesota Lynx Return To WNBA Throne With Sweep Through Postseason." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Doug Roberson writes under the header, "Dream Swept By Maya Moore, Minnesota."
NBC finished with a 1.9 rating and 2.7 million viewers for Sunday’s coverage of the Presidents Cup, which saw the U.S. defeat the Int’l squad 18.5-15.5. That figure is down from a 3.0 rating and 4.2 million viewers for the final day in ’05, which was the last time the event aired from the East Coast of the U.S. Final-round coverage in ’09 from S.F. earned NBC a 2.4 rating and 3.5 million viewers. Golf Channel saw gains for its live early round coverage compared to ’05. However, the net’s average of 757,000 viewers for Thursday and Friday was down 28% from ’09 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
FAMILY MATTERS: Nielsen and Twitter released their first rankings showing the TV-related conversation on the social media website. There is “practically no overlap between the most-tweeted shows on TV and the highest-rated shows.” ESPN’s “The Book of Manning” documentary was ranked fifth for the week of Sept. 23-29 (VARIETY, 10/7 issue). ESPN averaged 2.24 million viewers for the premiere of "The Book of Manning" on Sept. 24, marking the net’s sixth-best documentary audience since “30 for 30” began (Karp)
NOTES: HBO earned 1.6 million viewers for the Miguel Cotto-Delvin Rodriguez fight last Saturday, the net’s best for “HBO Boxing” this year. The rating topped a fight held a week earlier, featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera. HBO also showed Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin, which drew 534,000 viewers. The replay had 705,000 viewers in primetime (MMAPAYOUT.com, 10/9)….Fox Deportes finished first among U.S. Spanish-language sports networks in total-day and primetime viewers for September. The net also had four of the top 10 U.S. Spanish cable sports programs in total viewers (Fox Deportes).
The charts below lists final ratings from recent sports telecsts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on CBS": Broncos-Cowboys (100%)10/6CBS4:31-7:43pm16.628,323 "NFL on Fox": (single)10/6Fox1:00-4:05pm11.719,600 "Sunday Night Football": Texans-49ers10/6NBC8:31-11:11pm10.417,686 "NFL on CBS": (regional)10/6CBS1:03-4:13pm7.011,197 "Football Night in America"10/6NBC7:30-8:15pm4.57,775 College Football: Ohio State-Northwestern10/5ABC8:05-11:49pm4.47,355 College Football: Georgia-Tennessee10/5CBS3:30-7:38pm3.55,613 "Fox NFL Sunday"10/6Fox12:00-1:00pm3.45,100 College Football: (regional)10/5ABC3:30-7:00pm2.94,423 College Football: Arizona State-Notre Dame10/5NBC7:30-11:27pm2.33,681 "The NFL Today"10/6CBS12:00-1:03pm2.12,893 Golf: Presidents Cup10/6NBC12:00-6:00pm1.92,700 Golf: Presidents Cup10/5NBC8:00am-7:09pm1.82,400 Liga MX: Club America-Chivas de Guadalajara10/5Univ.5:50-8:02pm1.02,115 College Football: TCU-Oklahoma10/5Fox7:06-10:20pm1.22,022 "College Football Today"10/5CBS3:00-3:30pm1.31,976 "Driven: A Race Without Boundaries"10/6Fox4:30-5:30pm1.01,400 College Football: Air Force-Navy10/5CBS11:30am-3:00pm1.01,394 "College Football Countdown"10/5ABC3:00-3:30pm0.6945 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football": Dolphins-Saints9/30ESPN8:28-11:49pm8.613,717 "Thursday Night Football": Bills-Browns10/3NFLN8:30-11:41pm4.26,866 AL Wild Card: Rays-Indians10/2TBS8:00-11:56pm3.14,743 NL Wild Card: Pirates-Reds10/1TBS8:00-11:31pm3.04,599 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Kansas10/6ESPN2:00-6:01pm2.64,162 NLDS: Dodgers-Braves: Game 210/4TBS6:43-9:38pm2.74,136 ALDS: Tigers-A's: Game 110/4TBS9:39pm-1:07am2.43,560 NLDS: Dodgers-Braves: Game 110/3TBS8:30pm-12:12am2.33,531 NLDS: Dodgers-Braves: Game 310/6TBS8:01pm-12:13am2.13,362 ALDS: Tigers-A's: Game 210/5TBS9:00pm-12:37am2.13,311