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The World Series got off on a good note for Fox, as the net earned a 9.4 overnight rating for the Red Sox’ 8-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 1 last night. That is up 7% from last year’s Giants-Tigers opener, though it is down from a 9.6 overnight for the Cardinals-Tigers opener in ’11 and a 10.4 rating for Giants-Rangers Game 1 in ’10 (both aired on a Wednesday night). Last night’s game is projected to give Fox a win in primetime and deliver the net’s highest-rated program for the current TV season to date. Wednesday night is also projected to be Fox’ best Wednesday night since an episode of “American Idol” in March. Game 1 opened with an 8.5 rating, which was up 13% from the initial tune-in at the start of last year’s Game 1. The peak rating (10.6) came during the 9:00-9:30pm ET window, but went lower after that as the Red Sox increased their lead. The game closed with a 7.4 rating from 11:00-11:30pm. Locally, the telecast earned a 39.7 rating in Boston and a 36.0 in St. Louis. In ’11, the St. Louis market drew a 47.3 local rating for Game 1. In ’07, Boston drew a 50.4 local rating for the World Series opener. Meanwhile, data from Facebook shows there were five million interactions from 2.6 million unique users on the social media platform around Game 1. Men 25-34 and 35-44 led all buzz/chatter. (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
WORLD SERIES GAME 1 OVERNIGHT RATING TREND ON FOXYEAR
MATCHUPNIGHTRATING'13 Red Sox-CardinalsWed.9.4'12 Giants-TigersWed.8.8'11 Cardinals-RangersWed.9.6'10 Giants-RangersWed.10.4'09 Yankees-PhilliesWed.13.8'08 Phillies-RaysWed.10.3'07 Red Sox-RockiesWed.11.8'06 Cardinals-TigersSat.8.6
TEMPER RATINGS EXPECTATIONS: ESPN's Keith Olbermann said while "everything that TV has touched has exploded in the last few decades ... Major League Baseball has managed to basically kill off what was not just this country's greatest sporting event, but its ultimate non-political shared national experience." Olbermann said MLB and Fox "will be ecstatic if they can average" 10-12 million viewers for the World Series and "they're not even dreaming what they got the last time these two teams met in 2004 which was about 17 million households" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 10/23). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw noted the World Series is a compelling matchup to "hardcore baseball fans," but he predicted it would not be a "big ratings series." Cowlishaw said, "It's not going to approach that 15.0 these teams got back in 2004 when the Red Sox finally broke through." A World Series game could air against the NFL as many as four times, and "going against football is never good." Regardless of whether the football games are good, NFL fans "watch the NFL, and that's going to hurt." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said the World Series would "have been more compelling, had more juice nationally," if the Dodgers were playing. But Blackistone said the ALCS and NLCS "were all great series, great games, they were very compelling." ESPN's Israel Gutierrez noted MLB is the most regional sport among the four major pro team sports in the U.S., though the "highest concentration of that number is in the Northeast." Gutierrez: "Basically fans are watching their local teams and that's it, so you're not going to get people from California, from Oregon and from that part of the country to watch Red Sox-Cardinals." He did note the presence of the Red Sox "will bump up the number some" due to their national appeal, but there is not a "whole lot of appeal for the Cardinals" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/23). CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman said, "What I think gets national people in -- I’m not sure there’s a big face for the Cardinals here. I get it with [Dustin] Pedroia and David Ortiz to some extent, but what’s sexy about the Cardinals and about this series? I’m not sure there is anything” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/23).
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: In Boston, Chad Finn notes former MLBer Mike Lowell is "watching and studying the latest Red Sox entrant in the Fall Classic as an analyst for the MLB Network." Lowell is "articulate and insightful" and has a "baseball sense that comes through during his appearances on MLB Network, which isn’t a full-time gig by his choosing." Lowell, who will be in St. Louis on duty for Games 3-5, said, "Once a month I fly into (New Jersey, where the studios are) for a handful of days. It’s new and exciting, but I don’t know if I’d still have the love of the game if I were doing it 30 days in a row" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/24).
INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Scott Roxborough reports Fox Int'l Channels has "inked a new exclusive, multi-year agreement" with MLB Int'l for rights to games across 30 European territories. The new deal kicks off with the World Series, but "will include rights for all upcoming MLB games," including the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, Wild Card matchups, LDS and LCS across multiple platforms. The games will "go out on FIC’s sports speciality channels, which FIC has been expanding in Europe." Fox Sports recently "launched in the Netherlands and Italy and is also on air in Turkey and Cyprus" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/24).
NFL officials say they still have not decided whether to make a new package of Thursday night games available to a cable channel in the next few years. And network execs say they still have not seen any plans -- either formal or informal -- about such a package. But sources with the networks and league believe there eventually will be a package of at least eight games starting with either the '15 or '16 season. Such a package could bring in as much as $700M per year, sources say. Starting next season, NBC will pay an average $950M per year through '22 for its primetime package, and ESPN will pay an average of $1.9B for "MNF" through '21. While there has been no agreement on what that package will look like, the most popular idea so far appears to be adding three games to NFL Network's schedule to give it 16 games, then splitting that package. The NFL would keep eight games on NFL Network and shop the other eight games to interested networks, which include Turner Sports, NBCSN, FS1 and others. The possibility exists for some of the late-season games to be on Saturdays, sources said. A new package could also include a valuable Wild Card playoff game, sources said. Earlier this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said adding two teams to the postseason is a priority for the league's competition committee. Any playoff expansion would come in '15. Previously, it was believed that any new TV package would only be created if the NFL expanded its schedule to 18 games. But sources said the NFL will be able to create a new package without expanding the season. By contract, the league could take games from its Sunday afternoon broadcast partners, CBS and Fox, to fill out the schedule.
NFL NETWORK WOULD KEEP SOME GAMES: Even if it shops a new package of games, the league is certain to keep live games on NFL Network. This year, the league has put an all-time high 14 games on the net, including the late Sunday night Chargers-Raiders game on Oct. 6 that had to have its game time switched because of a conflict with the MLB playoffs. Starting last season, NFL Network committed to carry 13 games per year; prior to that, it carried 8 games. Distributors pay the league a license fee of more than $1.30 per subscriber per month for NFL Network, according to SNL Kagan. Without live NFL games, the license fee would drop significantly, sources said. "I don't envision a scenario where there won't be games on NFL Network," NFL Network President Steve Bornstein said. "What we do with Thursday is really being discussed and considered right now." Bornstein was open about the league's desire to build up its Thursday night programming, though he reiterated that the league has not made firm decisions on how it would do that. He flatly denied reports that the NFL was looking into putting two games on Thursday nights, saying there was "no truth" to it. "We're trying to make Thursday a very strong NFL night, similar to what we've done on Sunday and for over 40 years on Monday," he said. "We're discussing it today. We haven't come up with any conclusions of what to do. We're considering different alternatives to make the night much more of an NFL night."
FUTURE OF SUNDAY TICKET UNKNOWN: The more pressing concern for Bornstein, who is leaving the NFL following the Super Bowl, is the Sunday Ticket out-of-market package. The NFL and DirecTV currently are negotiating to renew that deal, which expires after next season, and Bornstein said talks "are going well." "The timing of all this stuff is not anything I want to comment on because I honestly don't know," he said. NFL officials have spoken with alternate platforms, like Google, about the out-of-market package. But Bornstein dismissed the idea of a company like Google competing for existing rights. "To me, 'compete' is not the word; it's 'complement,'" he said. "We believe that the network package, along with the two cable packages that we have currently, along with what we do with our out-of-market package and how we¹ve developed the RedZone, is all complementary to the experience and rises all boats."
The Izod IndyCar Series saw its viewership drop 22% for 19 race telecasts across ABC and NBCSN compared to 15 telecasts last season. The series averaged 953,000 viewers, down from 1.2 million viewers last season. While IndyCar did see a drop in average viewership, an increase in the number of races allowed the series to see a gain in total reach compared to '12. On its own, NBCSN averaged 282,000 viewers for its 13 telecasts, marking a second straight year of record low viewership for the series on the cable net. Last season’s average for nine races was 292,000 viewers. IndyCar’s audience also is down 64% from the final season on ESPN/ESPN2 in ’08, when race telecasts averaged 778,000 viewers for 11 races. NBCSN’s top race was the Aug. 25 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, which drew 391,000 viewers (up from 308,000 in ’12). The top cable TV race in ’12 was the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with 468,000 viewers. The Long Beach race drew 375,000 viewers this season. For the series finale this past Saturday night, NBCSN drew 322,000 viewers, up 41% from the same race last year. ABC averaged 2.1 million viewers for its six telecasts this season, which included the Indianapolis 500. That figure is down from 2.5 million viewers last season, when the end of two ABC races were moved to ESPNews. The audience for the finishes on ESPNews were not included in the ’12 average. There was sharp audience drop for the Indy 500 after an increase last season. The May 26 race averaged 5.7 million viewers, down 16% from ’12.
Mike Tollin's Mandalay Sports Media has launched a digital video project with the MLBPA and USA Today called "Livin' the Dream." The video series has signed 2K Sports as a sponsor and will be featured on USAToday.com. The series offers vignettes on what MLB players are doing off-field during the playoffs. Cameras followed Cardinals 2B Matt Carpenter, Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury and Tigers P Max Scherzer. Over the next week, the project will produce video on Cardinals P Lance Lynn and Red Sox RF Shane Victorino. Each video promotes MLB Players Trust.
In Baltimore, Jeff Barker writes ESPN's Scott Van Pelt is in "unusual territory" in that he "discusses sports and sports fans for a living and is clearly a fan himself." Many broadcasters "avoid public discussions of their own sports loyalties in the same way that many political reporters avoid talking about their party affiliations." But "not Van Pelt," who is treated on the Univ. of Maryland campus "as Terrapins royalty." He "not only attends" UM football and basketball games, but he also "communicates regularly with the school's current and former athletes." Van Pelt said that he is "not concerned about his ability to remain objective professionally." Van Pelt: "If I am off work and choose to go to a game and cheer for Maryland, who am I bothering? I didn't sign some media version of the Hippocratic Oath to be on TV or radio" (Baltimore SUN, 10/24).
A PERFECT 10: NBC Sports Group yesterday announced that former U.S. Winter Olympians Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski and Tanith Belbin will join NBC Olympics' on-air team for coverage of the '14 Sochi Games. Weir and Lipinski will serve as figure skating analysts, while Belbin will be a reporter for NBC Olympics' Sports Desk and will present features for the 30-minute daily show "The Olympic Zone" (NBC Sports). Weir said that despite being gay he "planned to hold his tongue in Sochi, at least when it comes to speaking out against" Russia's anti-gay laws. Weir: "I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement." NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said that the net "had not -- and would not -- muzzle Weir" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/24).
FLY LIKE AN EAGLE: SI's Andrew Lawrence writes CBS' Ian Eagle's "disdain for cinematic flourishes is what makes him so pleasant on Sunday afternoons, when he calls NFL games" for the net. Eagle's "enunciation isn't forced, nor is his vocabulary self-coined." He "doesn't get carried away," and his "niche is keeping things honest." Eagle "doesn't just have the correct down-and-distance or the obscure rule or the stakes of each situation -- he also knows exactly when to layer each detail on the viewer." His "magic is as much about patience as it is precision." Eagle is the "safecracker of announcers, breaking into the scene with a touch so light you'll barely notice" (SI, 10/28 issue).
SEEING RED: USA TODAY's Chris Strauss notes DirecTV host Andrew Siciliano and VP/Production James Crittenden run the company's NFL RedZone Channel, "attempting to show viewers as many real-time scoring plays" as they can. Siciliano "frantically clicks his pen between voice-overs, cracking one-liners as if he were a viewer watching with his buddies." Perhaps the "only one who can sympathize with Siciliano's game-day routine" is NFL Network's Scott Hanson, who runs the similar NFL RedZone. Siciliano said, "It's the greatest job on earth. I get to stand here and watch every game and lose my mind within reason" (USA TODAY, 10/24).