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NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy this morning tweeted that the league has “not considered” selling another package of Thursday night games in response to a Wall Street Journal article. He tweeted, "Wondering where the idea of Thursday night doubleheaders came from? So are we. We have not considered this." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello added, "Haven't even discussed it" (TWITTER.com, 10/16). The initial report from the WSJ's Futterman & Ramachandran cited a source as saying that the NFL is "disappointed its own cable channel, NFL Network, hasn't attracted more viewers for the 13 Thursday night games it airs each season." The league "believes that adding a second game to create double-headers on some Thursdays could create more national interest." The source added that the process is "still in the preliminary phase," as NFL execs have "discussed the issue with media outlets but the league isn't shopping a specific package and no formal offers have been received." Futterman & Ramachandran report the additional games "would be taken from the Sunday afternoon schedule, now shown on CBS and Fox, and wouldn't affect deals the NFL has with NBC and ESPN." The league also "could move Thursday night games shown on NFL Network to another channel" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/16).
ANOTHER REVENUE GENERATOR: CBSSN's Doug Gottlieb said of an additional Thursday game, “Think of all the more money that they can generate and the revenue they can generate instead of playing at 1:00 Eastern Time, when all those games are stacked up against each other.” CBSSN's Allie LaForce said, "All of those sports networks against each other -- who will pay the most for another Thursday night game? The competition will only raise the price” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 10/15). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said the NFL "could make a lot of money if they were to sell those games to the highest bidder." Greenberg: “What’s it worth to a network? I’m not talking about even ESPN. We would jump on this and so would everyone else, ABC, CBS, NBC. What is it worth to them to win a night?” But he wondered what the financial value is of "growing your network." Greenberg: "They own the NFL Network. ... If you start taking the games off there or don't grow that part of it, how much are you losing and what could the asset be worth?" Meanwhile, ESPN's Mike Golic said the NFL adding another Thursday night game is “not going to make the players very happy at all” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 10/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote it would be "hard to sell more short-week games once the season has begun," and the NFLPA "would have to agree to more Thursday night games." The "better approach could be to sell all of the Thursday night games to the highest bidder" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/15).
TOUGH TURNAROUND: 49ers WR Anquan Boldin earlier this week criticized the NFL for scheduling Thursday games, saying, "If you’re so concerned about player safety then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night when they just competed on a Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy after playing on Sunday? Guys really don’t feel like they’re back till probably Thursday or Friday to prepare for that next week." Boldin added, "The league can say they’re doing things to protect guys, but I’m not one of the guys buying it" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 10/15). In Toronto, Mike Ganter writes the NFL "needs more players like" Boldin. He is "exactly the type of high-profile player that should be making these comments" (TORONTO SUN, 10/16). Meanwhile, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians yesterday added his voice to the subject, saying, "I’m not a fan of Thursday night football. I don’t think [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is] really fair to the players, especially the veteran players. We finished up most of our game plan and practice today, which would be a normal players’ day off" (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/15). LaForce said of the NFL getting entirely rid of Thursday games, “Will they? No. Should they? Yes. If the question is should, then the answer is yes because players are getting hurt and they do need time to recover.” Gottlieb: “They signed an agreement. They should’ve read the agreement. They were locked out and they chose not to use enough leverage so that there couldn’t be a Thursday night game” ("Lead Off," CBSSN, 10/15).
NBC finished with a 12.7 rating and 22.074 million viewers for the Redskins-Cowboys "SNF" telecast, up 8% and 11%, respectively, from an 11.8 rating and 19.922 million viewers for Packers-Texans in Week 6 last year. The "SNF" games from both years had competition from MLB LCS games on Fox. Redskins-Cowboys finished as the most-viewed primetime program on all of TV for the week of Oct. 7-13, and also led the way among males and females 18-34. Through six weeks of NFL games, NBC is averaging a 13.0 rating and 21.9 million viewers, down 4% and 1%, respectively, compared to the same point last season. Meanwhile, ESPN averaged a 7.7 rating and 12.0 million viewers for the Colts-Chargers Week 6 "MNF," down 6% and 7%, respectively, from Broncos-Chargers in Week 6 last year. "MNF" is averaging an 8.5 rating and 13.4 million viewers through Week 6, down 4% and 3%, respectively (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).TOP PROGRAMS IN PRIMETIME FOR SUNDAY, OCT. 13NET
PROGRAMRATINGVIEWERS (000)NBC "SNF": Redskins-Cowboys12.722,074AMC "The Walking Dead"8.116,111CBS "60 Minutes"7.010,620CBS "The Mentalist"6.19,385CBS "The Good Wife"5.68,460Fox Tigers-Red Sox ALCS Game 25.28,349CBS "Amazing Race"4.98,080ABC "Once Upon A Time"4.57,533ABC "Revenge"4.06,003
THE DOMINATION CONTINUES: In Akron, George Thomas writes the "sheer domination of the NFL in all facets of popular culture remains clear," and there is "little evidence to suggest America’s love affair with football will end any time soon." The NFL as of Oct. 6 "owns the top 12 spots in ratings results since Labor Day." In a time of "audience splintering, the NFL’s clout with television audiences demonstrates why it’s able to command" a reported $3.1B a year in rights fees. That is why viewers who have DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket "might eventually see it go elsewhere." The service is an exclusive on DirecTV, but the NFL "would be wise to consider opening it up to every video provider throughout the country" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/16).
NOT AS RELIABLE AS FIRST THOUGHT: In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes the Giants and Steelers "usually are safe bets for national TV," but with the teams so far a combined 1-10, the clubs "occupy some prime-time slots over the final 11 weeks." Both are "done on Monday night but have prime-time appearances remaining." The Giants are scheduled for Sunday night games on Nov. 17 (Packers) and Dec. 1 (Redskins), although those games "fall into NBC’s 'flex' period, meaning the network can opt out for a better matchup." The Steelers’ "lone remaining scheduled NBC appearance is Thanksgiving night against the Ravens, a game that can’t be swapped." CBS and Fox "could have some issues, too, unless they get some scheduling help." Networks with the NFL’s permission "can try to move other games" into the Giants' and Steelers' late-afternoon slots on Sundays. Unless the teams "go on a run, expect that to happen a lot in the second half" of the season (TIMESUNION.com, 10/15).
Fox earned a 4.1 overnight for yesterday afternoon’s Red Sox-Tigers ALCS Game 3 from 4:00-7:45pm ET. That compares to the net’s 3.1 overnight for Giants-Cardinals NLCS Game 3 on a Wednesday afternoon last year, which also started at 4:00pm, but had a weather delay from 6:45-10:00pm before concluding at 10:45pm. Yesterday's Red Sox-Tigers game peaked at a 6.2 rating during the end of the game from 7:30-7:45pm. The telecast earned a 26.7 local rating in Detroit and a 20.8 rating in Boston. Through three ALCS telecasts, Fox is averaging a 5.0 overnight, up from a 4.0 rating through the net's first three Giants-Cardinals NLCS games last year, and also up from a 4.9 overnight for the first three games of the Rangers-Tigers ALCS in '11. Meanwhile, TBS earned a 4.4 overnight for Cardinals-Dodgers NLCS Game 4 last night, up 7% from the net’s series-clinching Tigers-Yankees ALCS Game 4 last year, which aired on a Thursday night. Cardinals-Dodgers Game 4 is also up 5% from 4.2 overnight for TBS’ Cardinals-Brewers Game 4 in ’11, which aired on a Thursday night. Last night's game earned a 31.1 local rating in St. Louis and a 12.4 rating in L.A. The local figure in L.A. is tied with Game 1 from the series as the best for any MLB telecast in the market since Game 7 of the '11 Cardinals-Rangers World Series. The figure also marks the best local rating for any Dodgers game since Game 4 of the '08 NLCS (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).NEVER SAY NEVER: Fox' Erin Andrews took to Twitter last night after someone asked her if she almost referenced Justin Bieber instead of Tigers P Justin Verlander when talking to Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli after yesterday's game. Andrews wrote, "People are unreal ... If u really think I have Bieber on my mind, then u are soooooo right #sarcasm" (TWITTER.com, 10/15).
INSTANT ELECTRICITY: Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig has come under fire for celebrating an apparent home run in NLCS Game 3 that stayed in the park. He ended up with a triple. SportsNet N.Y.'s Chris Carlin said he has "no problem" with Puig's actions. Carlin: "This game needs some infusion of electricity, and that's what Yasiel Puig brings." SNY's Adam Schein said, "Baseball needs this kind of ballplayer." He added Puig is "so great for the game, so great for the kids of the next generation" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 10/15). SI's Jim Trotter said, "This guy brings a level of excitement back to the game. The casual fan now has something to watch. He brings an energy and an entertainment value” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/15). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley: "The culture of baseball needs a revision right now to keep up with the sign of the times, which is happening in football, which has happened in the NBA. Spirit, personal expression, celebrating successes are things that fans gravitate towards. You want to know why TV viewership is declining in baseball? You want to know why the young fans are not looking at baseball as a popular sport? It's because they don't allow these guys in critical moments when they come through with a triple to celebrate such success" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 10/15). ESPN's Pablo Torre said Puig "may not be the hero that baseball deserves, but he is the hero they need." Torre: "Baseball right now has a problem connecting with people of my ilk, us folks who like viral videos and the Internet" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/15).
A CLOUD OVER THE PLAYOFFS: Baseball writer Peter Gammons yesterday wrote under the header, "PEDs Lasting Impact On The MLB Playoffs." MLB and the MLBPA have "established rules" that allowed Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta to participate in the postseason following his 50-game ban for PED use, but there are "several Red Sox players who have complained privately that Peralta is allowed to play." They "wonder what remains in his body." Red Sox LF Jonny Gomes downplayed that, saying, "We all play by the rules, and he is playing by the rules. So go out and play." But Gammons noted it is a "risk-and-reward thing, and the reward for Jhonny Peralta and the Detroit Tigers is far more important than a so-called moral judgment about so-called 'cheaters.'" Gammons: "If Peralta is the MVP of the ALCS or the World Series, the Tigers will have won, and we will forever be left to remember that the risk and the punishment was worth the reward" (GAMMONSDAILY.com, 10/15).
Comcast and the Astros yesterday "traded tartly worded legal documents in their struggle over the future" of CSN Houston, with "less than two weeks to go before an Oct. 28 court hearing that could decide the fate of the network and its 130 employees," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Astros "accused Comcast of using bankruptcy court as a 'smoke screen' for plans to cheat the ballclub out of its share in Houston Regional Sports Network, the Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership that owns CSN Houston." Meanwhile, four Comcast-affiliated companies said that if Judge Marvin Isgur "dismisses the bankruptcy case, the network faces 'near-term, fire-sale liquidation.'" Comcast attorneys wrote, "If this bankruptcy case goes forward, the business can survive. If the case is dismissed, it will not." Comcast added of the Astros possibly being allowed to shop their games to another carrier, "At best, the network’s remaining assets would be sold in a fire sale. All of its 130 employees will lose their jobs." Meanwhile, Barron reported the Astros' argument "in favor of dismissing the case includes a couple of revelations." In one case, it states the Rockets and Astros "have the right as of the network’s first anniversary, which was Oct. 1, to force Comcast to accept carriage agreements." The Astros said that Comcast "does not have that right and is making an improper bid to expand its authority." They added that the team and Comcast "agreed in May to make capital contributions to the network, payable in three installments." But Comcast "refused to make its third contribution unless all three partners agreed, and the Rockets 'elected to secure an appraisal of the network prior to making a funding decision'" (CHRON.com, 10/15).
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column wrote ESPN "could be proud of its contributions" to Frontline's "League of Denial" documentary. After all the "questioning, the carping and the confusion over credits, it was clear that serious journalism had won." However, questions "remained unanswered about both ESPN and the NFL." Lipsyte asked, "Exactly how much did the league know about the dangers of head trauma and when did it know? How much was actively concealed? ... Just how was that settlement with players arrived at and how will the plaintiffs ultimately be affected?" And "more pertinently," will ESPN’s "powerhouse investigative unit go after those stories?" Lipsyte: "Why didn’t it produce such a documentary in the first place? How far can ESPN go reporting on the NFL?" To the "surprise of some, during the week leading up to the Oct. 8 debut" of the film, various ESPN TV and radio shows -- as well as ESPN.com -- "promoted the documentary." That "clearly happened" with the support of ESPN President John Skipper. Lipsyte: "Cynics claimed ESPN’s promotion of the book and documentary were merely attempts to salvage its journalistic integrity." But "whatever the motive, it buoyed internal journalistic spirits and drummed up interest in the book and show." The film itself was "a triumph -- compelling and beautifully crafted." Lipsyte noted "OTL" host Bob Ley "liked the Frontline piece" but "found the moment 'bittersweet' because ESPN’s name wasn’t on it." Ley said, “The main points were all from original OTL reporting. We’ve been on the story for a decade.”
ESPN CAME OFF WELL: PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said, “ESPN came off well. The Fainarus and Keating upheld journalism.” Some ESPN journalists said that they were "thrilled by the results of ESPN’s participation in the project, but felt a certain foreboding, even 'weirdness.'" Despite recent "pep talks by newsroom leaders, they wondered about the future of investigative journalism" on the net. One "important question is why didn’t ESPN do this show by itself in the first place." ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria: "The majority of documentaries here are done by ESPN Films. ... By and large they are terrific story-telling vehicles, but they are director-driven films, not typically executed by investigative reporters, nor do they purport to be investigative in nature. On the news side, we’ve taken the approach that we will execute stories in a report-the-news-as-we-learn-it approach, hence the notion of doing lengthy pieces, 10-14 minutes, as the reporting occurs, rather than gather string for a one-hour or two-hour show." Doria added, "Much of the reporting in the documentary had appeared in shorter form on our air. ... In this case, Frontline came to us with the idea ... No more complicated than that." Lipsyte wrote ESPN, in this "triumphant yet bittersweet moment, has something to prove, and the means to prove it." It can "continue to turn loose the Fainarus and Keating and [Don] Van Natta, and its stable of hard-nosed reporters such as T.J. Quinn, Tom Farrey, Mike Fish and Shaun Assael." Despite what at times "seemed like sloppiness or naivete or compromise, ESPN journalism won." It may have "won ugly, but it won" (ESPN.com, 10/15).
CBS has averaged a 4.6 rating and 7.3 million viewers for its five SEC football games to date, marking the net's best audience through this point in the college football season since it began airing the SEC-only schedule in '01. This year's five-game audience figures are up 48% and 49%, respectively, from a 3.1 rating and 4.9 million viewers through the same point in '12 (CBS).
GAMERATING Alabama-Texas A&M8.6 Florida-Tennessee2.8 Georgia-LSU4.6 Georgia-Tennessee3.5 Florida-LSU3.1
NEED TO EARN THEIR STRIPES: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon noted the undefeated Univ. of Missouri football team is ranked 14th in the AP poll this week and leads the SEC East, but CBS "won't be showing" either this week's game against No. 22 Florida or next week's game against 11th ranked South Carolina. CBS has the "first pick of SEC games," and cited several factors for its selection choices, including "national rankings, standings, star power, injuries, rivalries, tradition, and past ratings." Prior to Missouri's win at Georgia last week, CBS "selected Georgia-Vanderbilt and Auburn-Texas A&M as its doubleheader for this Saturday." But the net picked Alabama-Tennessee on Oct. 26 after Missouri upset Georgia. The team's game against Florida will be "shown on SEC Network syndicated affiliates" at 12:21pm ET, while South Carolina-Missouri next week will be on ESPN or ESPN2 at 7:00pm. Airing South Carolina-Missouri next week "would have carried a risk CBS usually doesn't take." Of the past 50 SEC regular-season games on CBS, 47 "involved at least one of the SEC's traditional powers" -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Missouri was on CBS "twice last year, drawing a 2.1 in its 32-point loss to Alabama and a 2.5 in its 21-point loss to South Carolina." CBS Senior VP/Programming Dan Weinberg said the ratings for Missouri's games were discussed "no more than any other factor we talked about." Solomon noted CBS "often picks the highest-ranked available team, particularly if that school is ranked No. 1." Alabama has "been No. 1 all year, but has so far appeared only once on CBS" (AL.com, 10/15).
EAST COAST BIAS? Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner & COO Kevin Weiberg indicated that the conference's late games on Saturday nights (10:30pm ET starts) "have been successful." Weiberg: "Two of ESPN's games -- Wisconsin-Arizona State and Washington-Stanford -- were the highest-rated games on the network that day. The night window has held up." In Portland, Kerry Eggers notes the majority of the fan base in most Pac-12 markets is "more than an hour away," which leads to "late-hour drives." Having games that start so late is a "travesty," as there is "no reason to start a game" after 6:00pm PT (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 10/16).
The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Int'l signed its first media deals for all 26 of its major events with YouTube, ESPN and Facebook. The deal with YouTube will see ASP launch its own channel and stream all 26 events live worldwide for the first time. ASP and YouTube work together on advertising and sponsorship sales, and they will share revenue from the channel. The live YouTube coverage will be complemented in the U.S. by TV coverage from ESPN, which signed a three-year deal to be the exclusive broadcaster of 26 recap shows following all of the ASP’s events. Financial terms of the ESPN deal were not available. To help drive viewers to both YouTube and ESPN, ASP signed a partnership with Facebook and Instagram, which will serve up videos, photos and other content to surfing fans. The ASP has developed a digital service to notify fans when live coverage is available on its YouTube channel and when their favorite surfers are riding. Facebook will help deliver that information to them. ASP Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer Michael Lynch said, “We think we got the absolute best partners to launch our new global sports league. We felt they were the right partners to lead us forward into the future of surfing. For the fans, this is nirvana because they will see surfing go mainstream on linear television and have one global, digital home to go to for live surfing content.”
PRODUCTION PROVIDED BY ASP: Production for both YouTube and ESPN will be provided by ASP, which has been building its own broadcast and production team to cover its events in '14. ASP is offering the first consolidated media rights package for all its events for the first time. In the past, surfing competitions sold media rights independently, but Zosea Media, led by surfing agents Terry Hardy and Paul Speaker, bought the tour last year and consolidated the rights into a single package covering all 26 of ASP’s major women’s, men’s and big wave events. ASP currently is selling TV rights in key markets outside the U.S., including Australia, Brazil, France and Portugal. Lynch said that ASP hopes to be on TV in more than 100 countries worldwide before the start of the '14 season.
In Florida, Craig Handel reports golfer Greg Norman acknowledged he has "talked with USGA as well as Fox officials" about becoming an analyst for the net when they broadcast the U.S. Open beginning in '15. Norman added that talks are "on hold for the next couple of months." Norman: "I like what I hear from the two organizations. Where they see things going and how they want to take it is impressive. With all the sports Fox has shown in the last decades I see a lot of pretty good ideas" (Ft. Myers NEWS-PRESS, 10/16).
SILVER FOX: In Minneapolis, Steve Alexander reports ESPN's Nate Silver "hopes to branch out into other fields that could benefit statistical analysis." Silver, speaking at the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association's annual summit, said, "I think of FiveThirtyEight as a data blog, not a politics blog. ESPN has the resources to expand FiveThirtyEight out to a lot of areas, such as economics, business, education, health, even weather a little bit." Silver also sees the move to ESPN "as broadening his base of business." Silver: "Diversifying your risk is a good strategy in many walks of life" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/16).
SABRES RATTLED: In Buffalo, Alan Pergament notes local TV viewership for Sabres games "slipped more than 50 percent from the 9.8 rating for the season opener" against the Red Wings to a 4.8 rating for Saturday's game against the Blackhawks. The Sabres' ratings are "down sharply but they are still higher than many prime time broadcast networks get these days." But the loss of "more than 30-50 percent from the season opener is a clear indication that the NHL team is losing its fan base" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/16).