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MLB postseason games have averaged a 3.0 rating and 4.7 million viewers for 32 telecasts across Fox, TBS and MLB Network through the LCS, up 7% from a 2.8 rating and 4.4 million viewers for 33 games last season across Fox, TBS, TNT and MLB Net. Last season’s playoffs featured all four LDS going to five games, and also featured the Yankees advancing to the ALCS. Fox finished the ’13 ALCS with its best LCS audience since ’10, while MLB Net’s two LDS games saw a smaller audience. TBS averaged a 2.7 rating and 4.2 million viewers for 24 postseason telecasts. That rating is flat compared to ’12, when Turner also aired three games on TNT, but the viewership is up 2% from 4.1 million viewers. Looking at afternoon postseason games (Fox, TBS, MLB Net), those 13 telecasts averaged a 2.1 rating and 3.17 million viewers, down slightly from a 2.2 rating and 3.22 million viewers for 14 afternoon telecasts last season (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
FANS TUNING OUT UP NORTH? YAHOO SPORTS CANADA's Chris Zelkovich wrote MLB fans in Canada "appear to be ignoring the playoffs." Friday's Cardinals-Dodgers NLCS Game 6 "attracted only 416,000 viewers" from the country. That is "not even a quarter of the audience for Saturday's Hockey Night In Canada prime-time offering and less than half what Saturday night's CFL game drew on TSN." Saturday night's Red Sox-Tigers ALCS Game 6 "did significantly better, averaging 499,000 viewers -- a total that did not include the unknown numbers who chose to watch the game on Fox." In a year when Blue Jays ratings were "up substantially, it does seem odd that there would be such a drop-off in playoff ratings" (CA.SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/21).
LEGENDS OF THE FALL: Fox heads into this year's Cardinals-Red Sox matchup coming off a record-low World Series audience for last year's Giants-Tigers four-game set. See the chart below for the most recent appearances by both teams (Karp). Blogger Ed Sherman writes if given the choice, Fox and MLB would take a Mariners-Padres World Series "that goes 7 games over a one-sided 4- or 5-gamer featuring two of baseball's most storied franchises." Sherman: "It's all about games, namely 6 and 7 in the postseason." Fox' Joe Buck said, "Year after year, we talk about the match-up, and who the networks want, and the major markets. To me, if it isn't a compelling series, if it is four or five games and out, it doesn't matter who is playing. If you don't get down to the games that make it fun, like at the beginning of the post-season where it is win or go home" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 10/23). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes both the Cardinals and Red Sox "have big widespread followings, as their frequent selection for national telecasts during the regular season underscores." But whether that "translates into the ratings probably will be more of a factor of how good -- and long -- the Series is rather than the teams' storylines." Fox announcers "aren't looking for a repeat" of the Red Sox' sweep of the Cardinals from '04 (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/23).WORLD SERIES AUDIENCE TREND ON FOXYEARMATCHUPGAMESRATINGVIEWERS (000)MEDIAN AGE'12Giants-Tigers47.612,66053.4'11Cardinals-Rangers710.016,64552.5'10Giants-Rangers58.414,26852.6'09Yankees-Phillies611.719,38749.9'08*Phillies-Rays58.413,63550.5'07Red Sox-Rockies410.617,12349.7'06Cardinals-Tigers510.115,81251.5'05White Sox-Astros411.117,16249.8'04Red Sox-Cardinals415.825,39048.4'03Marlins-Yankees612.820,14248.3
NOTE: * = Game 5 in '08 was suspended after 5 2/3 innings. Play was resumed on Wednesday night. The combined rating for both nights of Game Five was a 9.6 (15.8 million viewers).
Fox' Tim McCarver will call his 24th and final World Series beginning tonight, and MLB this morning released a special commemorative online video honoring him. The three-minute clip, developed by MLB Productions, showcases McCarver during historic moments of many World Series over the past two-and-a-half decades (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). McCarver on Monday said that he is "a little concerned about people making a big deal out of his swan song" broadcast of the World Series. He said Fox has "just been terrific ... in understanding what I want, and what I want is for the Series to be about the players and the game. But believe me, I'm elated, I'm delighted, and I've made it perfectly clear that the person I'm going to miss the most after things have subsided is Joe Buck." Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks on Monday said that it is "too early to speculate" on any talent hirings for '14 (MLB.com, 10/21). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes Fox has been "remarkably restrained regarding McCarver’s exit all season, honoring his wishes." This despite the fact that TV networks "love to drum up publicity for anything they think can lure extra viewers" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/23). In San Diego, John Maffei writes he has "never been a McCarver fan," as he finds him to be a "master of the obvious." Maffei: "Often I question his commentary where strategy is concerned. That, however, doesn't mean I don't respect the man for what he accomplished on the field and his longevity in the booth. And I think it's fitting his last hurrah as a player and broadcaster finds him calling one of his old teams ... the Cardinals" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/23). The N.Y. TIMES' Richard Sandomir gets some of McCarver's former broadcast partners to speak about his career.
UTILITY PLAYER: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes MLB Network's Bill Ripken, who will be part of the net's World Series coverage, is "engaging and insightful" as an analyst. Ripken called one game with Bob Costas this year, but said he would rather be in the studio "if you were going to give me the choice." Ripken: "There's a lot more you can do. ... In studio, you have a way and you have some time to see something that maybe happened the night before. And in your pregame, you can really address it." He said of how he feels he has done this season, "The people up at the network seem to think I have enough versatility to get the job done. I seem to be in pretty decent standing up there. I don't know, maybe I found a niche" (Baltimore SUN, 10/23).
ENERGETIC ECKERSLEY: SPORTS ON EARTH'S Kevin Koczwara profiles NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley, whose "energy practically pulses off the television." He "feels the game," and even though he "used to play, he says he's not there to educate fans." He said, "I'm not there to teach. I'm there to bring excitement to the game." Koczwara notes Eckersley "feeds off the exhilaration that live TV brings." It "took time for Eckersley to harness his energy and adjusting to working in the moment." NESN's Don Orsillo "helped him focus and bring out the personality that Eckersley displayed this season during games." Orsillo let Eckersley's "famous and particular way of speaking emerge, too, by giving him the comfort he needed to be himself" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/23).
The Rockets have "broken ranks with the Astros, their partners in the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston, by informing a federal bankruptcy court they agree with a motion by four Comcast affiliates to keep the partnership under Chapter 11 protection," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The 18-page statement filed Monday marks the "first time the Rockets have shown their hand in the contentious disagreement." U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Marvin Isgur will "preside next Monday over a hearing on the Astros’ motion to dismiss the case and Comcast’s motion to name an interim trustee for the network." If Isgur "dismisses the case, attorneys for the Rockets say the Astros are likely to reclaim their broadcast rights, which were not paid during the last three months" of the MLB season. The Rockets in a statement said allowing the Astros to pull their rights from CSN Houston “would compel the Rockets entities to terminate the Rockets agreement, thereby causing the network to implode.” The Rockets’ statement generally "strikes a more moderate tone than the sharply worded filings by the Astros and Comcast, although it does agree with Comcast that bankruptcy reorganization is the best way to ensure the network’s survival." Attorneys for the Rockets in a statement said, "The alternative is liquidation, resulting in huge losses for creditors, no return on equity, terminated employees and no ability in the near term for Houston fans to see their favorite teams on television." The Rockets also said the team has "no interest in placing blame on any party as it relates to the current predicament." However, the Rockets "oppose Comcast’s request for an interim trustee." They said naming a trustee “will defeat one of the core purposes of the Chapter 11 process … namely, to bring divergent parties together to forge a consensus that will maximize value for all stakeholders.” Instead, the Rockets propose "naming a 'responsible officer' to run CSN Houston’s day-to-day operations and suggest the court order Comcast, the Astros and Rockets to negotiate for one week" (CHRON.com, 10/22).
ESPN finished with an 8.4 rating and 13.2 million viewers for its Week 7 Vikings-Giants “MNF” telecast, up from a 6.6 rating and 10.7 million viewers for Lions-Bears last season, which aired up against Fox’ Giants-Cardinals NLCS Game 7. Through eight “MNF” telecasts, ESPN is averaging an 8.5 rating and 13.36 million viewers, down slightly compared to the same point last season (8.6 rating, 13.42 million viewers) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). The fact that Monday's game featured two teams that were a combined 1-11 and some less than quality football had some critics calling for the NFL to expand the flex-schedule component that exists for NBC's Sunday night game to "MNF." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "We as people who are watching on Thursday night, on Sunday night, on Monday night deserve the best possible games. You don’t just throw teams in there." He added, "I think America will take flexing over having to watch those two teams." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "There doesn't seem to be any law, any amendment written that says we have to have good football on Monday night. We have plenty of other good football all weekend long and we have the flex deal for Sunday night so that we're guaranteed a pretty decent matchup then. Every 'Monday Night' season there comes a game where people go, 'Oh my goodness, this is horrible. They've got to fix this.'" However, he noted the league logistically "can't flex Monday night" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/22). CBSSN's Jim Rome said to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, "We know you love flexing your muscles, flex the schedule because the Vikings are going national again Sunday night. This nation will slam ice picks in their eyes before they watch that mess again" ("Rome," CBSSN, 10/22).
NBC ON A GREAT PACE: NBC is averaging a 13.4 final rating and 22.7 million viewers for its NFL telecasts this season, marking the best audience for the league’s primetime package through seven weeks since ABC was averaging 24.8 million viewers for “MNF” in ’96. This year’s figures are also up 2% and 5%, respectively, from the same point last season. NBC this season had the benefit of no MLB postseason competition in Week 7, whereas last year’s Week 7 game aired up against NLCS Game 6. NBC’s NFL Kickoff game last season was also played on a Wednesday night to accommodate President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. This past Sunday’s Broncos-Colts “SNF” telecast finished with a 15.9 rating and 26.9 million viewers, marking NBC’s best NFL regular-season game audience since the Steelers-Broncos “SNF” opener in ’12 drew a 16.5 rating and 27.6 million viewers. Broncos-Colts also marks the most-viewed October NFL primetime game in 21 years and the most-viewed October primetime telecast of any kind since ’05 (Karp).
HUMAN INTEREST: ADWEEK’s Anthony Crupi noted Fox, after months of promoting its new series “Almost Human,” has “decided to call an audible,” announcing that it will now roll out the show as a two-night event on Nov. 17-18. Switching from the originally scheduled Nov. 4 debut was “devised to make the most” of Fox’ Nov. 17 NFL doubleheader, “which should provide a powerhouse lead-in." The scheduled games -- Redskins-Eagles and 49ers-Saints -- are “particularly promising.” Crupi wrote, “As much as Almost Human will almost certainly have a lead-in audience in excess of 26 million viewers -- Fox’s national late game is the most-watched, highest-rated program on the tube -- it also will be competing with NBC’s late Football Night in America segments and a good half-hour of Sunday Night Football” (ADWEEK.com, 10/22).
The Bears have "taken a bold move into the 21st century by building the most advanced in-house multimedia facility in the NFL," according to Ed Sherman in a special for USA TODAY. Bears Dir of Broadcasting Greg Miller said that much of the "40,000-square-foot addition to Halas Hall features state-of-the-art TV and radio studios; deluxe new interview rooms for use by the team and network studio shows; and a technical center." There also is "event space, allowing the team to bring in studio audiences for shows." Individual NFL teams have "become media content companies to cash in on the insatiable demand for all things football." The Bears produce "multiple team-branded TV shows that are distributed locally in Chicago." They also air "regular video features on the team's website, and the Bears were the first -- and still one of the few -- teams to produce their preseason game coverage." In addition, there is a "new radio studio that could enable the team to have its own station on HD radio." Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips: "What we've found is that you can't give the fans enough, especially the inside access." NFL VP/Club Business Development Brian Lafemina said from a media standpoint, the Bears' new facility is "a very forward-thinking move." However, Sherman notes the in-house setup "does raise the question of whether teams such as the Bears are trying to control the message." Is this "an attempt to provide a more sanitized perspective to fans?" Phillips "denied that media control was the motivation." He said, "If there's one thing I've learned in 30 years with the Bears, it's that you can't control the message." Dan Jiggetts, who does analysis for several Bears-produced shows, said that the team "hasn't tried to censor him." Phillips noted Bears-produced content "allows the team to showcase community initiatives and go behind the scenes for features that spotlight a player away from the field" (USA TODAY, 10/23).
ESPN's Keith Olbermann recently discussed a number of topics in a Q&A with Michael Hainey of GQ, including his return to the net after a lengthy absence and what his identity is. The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Do you believe in redemption?
Olbermann: I wound up working for ESPN again because I believe in it and because I was pursuing it. ... So I believe in it, and it's not necessarily a permanent thing, but in this case I want to try and make it as permanent as circumstances will allow.
Q: Do you suffer from fear?
Olbermann: Television is a mental illness. Wanting to be on television is a mental illness. ... If you need to be approved of simultaneously by more people than are in this room now, there's a problem. I don't know what would happen if television -- or fame -- stopped tomorrow for all the people who are pursuing it, what they would do.
Q: People out on the streets...
Olbermann: You find yourself at various times in your life being fearful, because you don't know how to function in some environment in which you're not being applauded by a thousand people or more at once. So many times I've looked back with a kind of sympathetic disgust at my personal conduct till age 40.
Q: What do you think of the whole generation that's stolen your act?
Olbermann: They missed the point.
Q: What president would you be if you were a president?
Olbermann: Teddy Roosevelt. Endless energy. I don't have it.... (pause) This is how bad leaving SportsCenter was for the psyche. It was like my last crisis, psychologically, and then fortunately I got some great therapy. Dan (Patrick) had once told me he could never leave ESPN, because he couldn't spend the rest of his life answering the question "Why did you leave ESPN?" So I stepped out from this town under a dome, and here was "Hey, missed you on SportsCenter!" It killed me, until I remembered a conversation that I'd had when I met Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched). ... She said, "Be gracious and you remember as they remember, and be honored." I forgot this until about a year into this torture of "When will you go back to SportsCenter?"
Q: What is your identity then?
Olbermann: Largely, and to some degree this has been a convergence of the two personalities, because I didn't have much of one before I got into broadcasting. ... But what it has become over the years is, the television version is me with a script and a teleprompter. It's easier. Not much difference. ... That's why I have been gainfully employed doing this. I'll always deliver what an employer wants. At some point they decide the result is more trouble than they want, or they convince themselves that they have created all this success that I created for them. As in my last prominent employer at NBC, which they're learning that perhaps they were wrong about that (GQ, 11/'13 issue).
BSkyB and Twitter have agreed to a deal "to share video highlights from UEFA Champions League football games in real time," according to Robert Cookson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Sky sharing "some of it most valuable sports clips free of charge with social media users is a coup for Twitter." Starting yesterday with three Champions League games including La Liga club FC Barcelona against Serie A club AC Milan, the Sky Sports Twitter account is sharing "highlights including instant replays of the best goals and post-match interviews." Sky is "paying Twitter an undisclosed sum to promote its tweets to people across the social media service in the UK." The broadcaster has "faced increased competition from BT this year over sports content." Sky's move "follows a trial on transfer deadline day in September." U.K.-based Grabyo, whose software is used by Sky to grab and share clips, said that the trial "involved 6,000 clips and generated more than 570,000 views in 12 hours" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/22).
Golf Channel this week debuts Playing Through, a split-screen commercial break, which provides more continuous coverage of tourney action while showing ads. Playing Through will be used during the European Tour Final Series, starting with this week’s BMW Masters. Golf Channel’s coverage will go to a split screen during commercial breaks with simultaneous live golf and ads. The commercial’s audio will be featured during the Playing Through breaks. The format will be featured during the final two hours of tourney coverage, which will include eight Playing Through breaks and four traditional commercial breaks (Golf Channel).
LACK OF INTEREST: In S.F., Eric Branch notes of Sunday’s 49ers-Jaguars game in London, “A quick scan through the newspapers at Heathrow Airport revealed only a few paragraphs about the upcoming annihilation, um, game.” Another plausible explanation for the “collective media yawn, of course, is that nobody gives a flip about an NFL game five days away when [EPL clubs] Arsenal and Chelsea both played real football Tuesday night” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/23).
CRUNCH TIME: In Syracuse, Lindsay Kramer noted that although no TV deal between Time Warner Cable and the AHL Syracuse Crunch for a “package of games this season has been announced yet, the team is optimistic that one will be reached soon.” Crunch COO Jim Sarosy said that “negotiations are ongoing and there could be an agreement in the near future.” Kramer noted in past seasons, “at least part of a broadcast package was settled by the time the season started” (SYRACUSE.com, 10/22).