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Fox earned a 5.7 overnight rating for last night’s Red Sox-Tigers ALCS Game 4, up 36% from a 4.2 overnight for the net’s Giants-Cardinals NLCS Game 4 last year, which aired on a Thursday night. Earlier in the day, TBS earned a 3.0 overnight for Cardinals-Dodgers NLCS Game 5 (4:00pm-7:26pm ET). The rating peaked at a 4.1 overnight during the 7:00-7:15pm window. There was no comparable afternoon Game 5 for the net last year. The net’s Cardinals-Brewers Game 5 in ’11, which was in primetime, earned a 3.9 overnight. Only three of TBS’ NLCS games have aired in primetime this season, and those games have seen a 24% overnight ratings increase thus far.
LOOKING BACK: Fox is averaging a 4.4 final rating and 6.9 million viewers through three ALCS games, up 26% and 28%, respectively, from the net’s first three NLCS telecasts last season. Through three Rangers-Tigers ALCS telecasts in ’11 -- two of which were interrupted or rescheduled due to weather -- Fox was averaging a 4.3 rating. Tuesday afternoon’s Red Sox-Tigers Game 3 finished with a 3.7 rating and 5.6 million viewers, up from a 2.7 rating and 3.9 million viewers for Giants-Cardinals Game 3 last year, which aired in primetime after a three-hour rain delay. Meanwhile, TBS is averaging a 3.2 final rating and 5.0 million viewers through four NLCS telecasts this season, down compared to the 3.8 rating and 5.9 million viewers for the four-game Tigers-Yankees ALCS last year, but up from a 2.6 rating and 4.1 million viewers through four games of the ’11 NLCS (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
NO DEBATING THIS ISSUE: In Boston, Joe Battenfeld noted the local mayoral debate on Tuesday night "got crushed in the ratings" by Red Sox-Tigers Game 3, managing just a 1.9 local rating. ALCS Game 3 peaked at a 31.1 rating from 7:30-7:45pm ET (BOSTONHERALD.com, 10/16).DAYTIME DRAMA: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes yesterday's Cardinals-Dodgers NLCS Game 5 was "a non-sellout" with 53,183 in attendance. MLB has "yet to fully understand the ramifications of selling itself out to television." How is a 1:00pm PT game in L.A. "optimizing exposure for the sport?" Dodger Stadium around 15 minutes before first pitch "was barely half full." Yesterday's "not-ready-for-prime-time broadcast exposes another gaping hole in the MLB's not-ready-to-reach-the-young-demographic strategy." Is there "some kind of compromise that can be discussed to appease viewers as well as the networks trying to recoup their ginormous rights fees?" Daytime games in the postseason "are great for nostalgia's sake, not so much for its future stake" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/17). Blogger Ed Sherman wrote it "really doesn't make sense to play your most important games of the year on weekdays." The day playoff games "aren't about serving the fans: it's about serving the networks." MLB "obviously doesn't want to have the two LCS games competing against each other on Fox and TBS in primetime." However, in the process, the "set-up limits the audience for the weekday game, especially on the West coast." The concept of "airing multiple playoff games at the same time has lifted the Stanley Cup playoffs on NBC's multiple platforms." The one plus of afternoon playoff baseball is "that allows young kids with early bedtimes to watch the games." If LCS games started at 5:30-6:00pm ET, those "young fans still would be able to see plenty of baseball." But MLB "likely won't make any changes to the format" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 10/16).
HURRY UP & WAIT: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan notes the length of the Tigers-Red Sox ALCS games has "been a topic again after a pair of 1-0 games lasted nearly four and 3 1/2 hours." Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "In postseason, we're basically playing -- and I don't want anybody to take this wrong -- a Red Sox-Yankees in-season game. ... You've got the TV; obviously it's longer between innings. You've got the seventh inning, 'God Bless America' and things of that nature, which we're certainly all for. They seem to run a little bit longer" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/17). In N.Y., Tim Rohan notes there are "longer commercial breaks in the postseason." Ads on Fox "take an extra 30 seconds in the postseason." TBS also "adds 30 seconds" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/17).
TALK THE TALK: TBS MLB analyst Pedro Martinez said of making the move to TV, "It's ... a good opportunity to explore something different, because I really want to expand on what I learned in baseball. Some of the guys, like Kevin Millar, Barry Larkin, Manny Acta, they all know the knowledge in my head about the game and they all thought that as loose as I am, I would be a person that could do this" (SI, 10/21 issue).
WGN-AM is exercising an option to reopen its radio contract with the Cubs because it is "strapped with an expensive rights deal and sharply declining ratings" due to the team's struggles on the field, according to Ed Sherman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Sources said that WGN is "losing significant money on the Cubs broadcasts, with listeners and advertisers tuning out a team that has lost 197 games in the last two years." Cubs games still will air on the station in '14, but "beyond that, the two sides will have to agree on a new deal." WGN President & GM Jimmy de Castro said, "The contract calls for us to take a look at it and we're going to do that." Sources said that the current contract calls for WGN to pay as much as $10M a year to the Cubs, "making it one of the most expensive" radio deals in MLB. The Cubs "don't appear to have much leverage if they want to shop their games in the market, which now is an option for them." WGN probably is the "only radio choice for the Cubs," and it is "quite possible that a reworked deal could be tied into a new TV deal with Tribune Co." to keep some Cubs games on WGN-TV (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/17).
Even though the NFL was quick to deny a report that it was considering selling another package of Thursday night games to a different outlet than NFL Network, the mere idea produced a variety of responses yesterday. ESPN's Jemele Hill said, "This is a great idea to have another Thursday night doubleheader. Football is a national obsession in this country. There can never be too much NFL" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 10/16). But the N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said more Thursday night games will "oversaturate the product." SNY's Marc Malusis: "You're taking away from what was the special nature of Sunday football watching" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 10/16).
THE HEIGHT OF GREED: ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "This is what a greedy, gluttonous beast that can't be stopped would do." He added, "If you're the NFL and you want to control TV programming, this would be a monster to have more Thursday night football. You could buy primetime slots. It's a huge night for television elsewhere. If you can go to another cable provider and get football, of course they're going to do this. And of course they don’t care about the safety of the players" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 10/16). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "You know the reason they're doing this is because the owners have been unhappy that they're not getting $600 million from an outside network. They're just taking their money out of one pocket and putting it into another. So they're going to add more games ... and produce more income for themselves. It's not about player safety" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/16). The Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom: "The NFL is all about greed. ... The only time the NFL cares about player safety is when it's a quarterback or when Congress tells the NFL to worry about it. They're frauds" ("Deal With It!," CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 10/16). CBSSN's Jim Rome said, "Everybody loves those games, except the 22 guys that are on the field. Better yet, give me some doubleheaders because all my rowdy friends are coming over Thursday night and they’re the folks that the NFL cares most about, not its players” ("Rome," CBSSN, 10/16).
HOW DOES THIS HELP PLAYER SAFETY? SNY's Adam Schein said adding more games on Thursday is the "dumbest idea in the history of ideas." He said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "speaking out of both sides of his mouth" in terms of player safety ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 10/16). The Orange County Register’s Dan Woike: “This is a league that has always been hypocritical when it comes to player safety. They can cry foul and say they're doing all these things about injuries and stuff like that. But then you go to the website and you see the photos of the big hits. They can say they care about player safety, but what they really care about is making more money" (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/16).
NOT BUYING WHAT LEAGUE IS SELLING: Fox Business' Dennis Kneale said despite the denial, "something clearly is going on here." A deal with YouTube for Thursday night games would make it "ready for primetime as a major TV service" and a candidate to acquire the "Sunday NFL Ticket" package. It would be akin to what the NFL did "for the fledgling Fox broadcasting network over two decades ago." But Kneale added, "Then again it may just be an NFL juke move to scare DirecTV into a higher price" ("Markets Now," Fox Business, 10/16). SI’s Jim Trotter said, “The only reason why I’m skeptical, even when the league says it’s not considering this, is that Roger Goodell has already told the owners that revenues are going to increase above $20 billion by the end of the next decade." Trotter: "That money has to come from somewhere, and usually the place it comes from is TV” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/16).
TECHNICAL ISSUES: ESPN's Bomani Jones, on other possible competitors entering the NFL media rights landscape, said, "All the TV companies better get their weight up because if Google and Apple are talking about getting involved, Apple's got enough cash -- cash! -- to buy every franchise in American sports" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 10/16). But FS1's Trevor Pryce said, "I know Netflix and Google are the TV of the future. ... But pro football and sports in general is a one-time thing. Once it comes on, nobody watches that game again” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 10/16).
Orange County Register sports columnist T.J. Simers has sued his former employer, the L.A. Times, for discrimination and wrongful firing, "claiming he was warned to 'go easy' on former Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt because of McCourt's relationship with the newspaper's publisher," according to Matt Reynolds of COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE. The lawsuit named the paper, its corporate parent Tribune Co. and affiliates, L.A. Times editors Marc Duvoisin and Davin Maharaj, and McCourt as defendants. Simers also claims that he "suffers from a complex migraine syndrome, a condition his employers knew about when they pushed him out of the company in September." Simers claims that his troubles began in '11 when he "was told he might lose his job if he wrote about a charity close to his heart, the Mattel Children's Charity." He alleges that he was "warned to stay off the subject because of concerns that he was encouraging Dodgers players to donate to Mattel instead of to McCourt's Dodgers charity." Simers says that things "came to a head ... when he appeared in video with his daughter shooting hoops" with Rockets C Dwight Howard. After the video "went viral," Mandalay Sports Entertainment "announced plans to make a television show about Simers' family." Simers claims that Duvoisin and Maharaj "accused him of violating the company's ethics codes by pitching scripts to Hollywood." Simers "seeks exemplary damages for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, negligent and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, breach of faith and other counts" (COURTHOUSENEWS.com, 10/16).
The evolution of videogames was examined on ESPN's "E:60" on Tuesday, with the program noting the game Pong "began the videogame revolution and after that the sports video game world just went crazy," according to Chris Connelly of ESPN. Tiger Woods noted "all sports videogames have, probably in the last decade, just become so real." Woods: "Now we're doing motion-capture. The detailing is absolutely incredible." Nintendo's "RBI Baseball" was the first video game to use real MLB players' names in the game, with Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell noting that "whenever you have stars you can always get a halo effect by engaging them in your product." Pro Football HOFer Barry Sanders said early "Madden NFL" games "integrated so many things into the video game that are on the field. Kids understand the language of the game (and) they really just took the football videogame to a different level." Skateboarder Tony Hawk said, "At some point, the name Tony Hawk just became synonymous with video game as opposed to a person. I've met people that didn’t know I was actually a real person" ("E:60," ESPN, 10/15).
MORE OF THE SAME: The N.Y. TIMES reviewed the new "NBA 2K14" videogame, noting it is "possible that basketball fans have been spoiled by the highly polished NBA 2K series." But the newest iteration "appears to invoke a prerogative of a well-made series, choosing not to fix what isn’t broken." That is "not to say this is a no-frills product or a disappointment." But "unfortunately, a palpable sameness has been carried over from last year’s edition in the game’s two principal career modes" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).