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ESPN earned its second most-viewed non-conference men's college basketball game Tuesday for the opening game of the State Farm Champions Classic, which saw No. 2 Michigan State defeat No. 1 Kentucky. The game averaged 4,002,000 viewers and a 2.6 U.S. rating. ESPN's most-viewed game was also a matchup of the top two teams with No. 2 Tennessee defeating No. 1 Memphis in February '08. The second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Kansas-Duke, also garnered a large audience, averaging 2,977,000 viewers and a 2.1 rating. The two Tuesday games averaged a combined 3,509,000 viewers and a 2.4 rating, making it the most-viewed and highest-rated Champions Classic in the three-year history of the event. ESPN recently announced it will continue to televise the Champions Classic with the four participating teams for three more years (ESPN). VARIETY's Rick Kissell noted in adults 18-49, the first game "did a 1.4 rating, and the nightcap a 1.3." The only cable program "to rate higher in men 18-49" was FX' "Sons of Anarchy" (VARIETY.com, 11/13).
GREAT BOOST FOR THE SPORT: ESPN.com's Michael Wilbon wrote Tuesday night's doubleheader was "important to college hoops" because the sport "just doesn't matter nationally the way it used to in November. Or December. Or January." The NFL has "become carnivorous," as it "devours all forms of sports/entertainment that dare get it its way." The college basketball season has "pretty much been reduced into a six-week season, from the middle of February until the first week of April," putting it in "danger of becoming a niche sport." The Champions Classic was "college basketball in early November, and not in Alaska or Hawaii, but on the mainland, in middle America, four of the five best teams in the country schools that matter greatly to the history of college basketball." Fans who watched the games because of marquee freshmen Kansas F Andrew Wiggins, Duke F Jabari Parker and Kentucky F Julius Randle will "inevitably discover other players and teams to fall in love with -- which means the doubleheader will have lured a great many people into college basketball's tent long before February or March." Wilbon: "Perhaps what's needed is a foursome just like this the first week of January, one put together by the matchmakers and ESPN or whoever wants to televise the proceedings" (ESPN.com, 11/13). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said the "entertainment value" of these games "is what's important for college basketball." He added, "It's just like the stars are important for the NBA .Well, that's what makes this important because it's as big a time as there is until March" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/12).
TALKERS magazine announced its second annual "Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk -- The 100 Most Important Sports Talk Radio Host in America." The hosts are ranked from 1-100 "based upon a set of criteria that includes a combination of hard and soft factors." Two of the major factors are "ratings and revenue," but the editors also "took into account other qualities." Those include "courage, effort, impact, recognition, service, talent and uniqueness" (TALKERS.com, 11/13). The top 25 are listed below.
TALKERS MAGAZINE'S '13 HEAVY HUNDRED OF SPORTS TALK
RANK STATION NAME 1 WFAN-AM N.Y. Mike Francesa 2 WFAN-AM N.Y. Boomer Esiason & Craig Carton 3 CBS Sports Radio Jim Rome 4 Fox Sports Radio Dan Patrick 5 WXYT-FM Detroit Mike Valenti & Terry Foster 6 WBZ-FM Boston Mike Felger & Tony Massarotti 7 ESPN Radio Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic 8 WXYT-FM Detroit Doug Karsch & Scott Anderson 9 WIP-AM/FM Philadelphia Angelo Cataldi 10 WBZ-FM Boston Fred Toettcher & Rich Shertenlieb 11 WSCR-AM Chicago Mike Mulligan & Brian Hanley 12 Fox Sports Radio Pat O'Brien & Steve Hartman 13 KJR-AM Seattle Dave Mahler T14 WAXY-AM Miami & ESPN Radio Dan Le Batard T14 WPEN-FM Philadelphia Mike Missanelli 15 KTCK-AM Dallas George Dunham & Craig Miller 16 KNBR-AM S.F. Gary Radnich & Larry Krueger 17 ESPN Radio 710 L.A. Steve Mason & John Ireland 18 WXYT-FM Detroit Mike Stone & Bill McAllister 19 WSCR-AM Chicago Terry Boers & Dan Bernstein 20 KNBR-AM S.F. Tom Tolbert 21 Fox Sports Radio Jay Mohr 22 ESPN Radio Colin Cowherd 23 WIP-AM/FM Philadelphia Anthony Gargano & Glen Macnow 24 ESPN Radio Chicago 1000 Carmen DeFalco & John Jurkovic 25 KDKA-FM Pittsburgh Joe Starkey, Josh Miller & Chris Mueller
FINDING A NEW AUDIENCE: While mediums such as newspapers and magazines are still trying to adapt to a digital landscape, sports talk radio execs said they have seamlessly transitioned to the current media environment. Speaking yesterday at the '13 Covington & Burling Sports Media & Technology conference, execs from each of the major sports radio operations said their audience has increased through the advent of technologies such as digital audio streaming and podcasting. Additionally, despite fears of cannibalization through the TV simulcasting of many popular sports talk radio programs, in most cases the practice has instead led to improved audiences on radio. "Audio listening is actually way up when you combine all the platforms, especially mobile," said ESPN Senior VP/Productions & Business Divisions Traug Keller. "Our audio audience is 65% higher than what's in (radio measurement outfit) Arbitron figures when you add in these other things. In terms of reach, it's second only to TV." Despite that increasing audience, the panelists acknowledged that they have not done enough to communicate the power and influence of sports talk radio and need to do a better job conveying their successes to both advertisers and audiences. "We've always been second-class citizens to TV," said SiriusXM Satellite Radio Senior VP/Sports Programming Steve Cohen. “It's always been more difficult for us to do our job. But unlike TV, we're an interactive medium. We can bring people closer to the teams they love." Similarly, the panelists said the demands of being a sports talk radio host are often misunderstood. "A lot of people have really underestimated what it takes to host a daily sports talk radio show," said CBS Radio Exec VP/Programming Chris Oliviero. "Mike Francesca goes on for five hours every day with no teleprompter and no script. It's basically him and a phone and a microphone. So you have to have an incredible work ethic and really strong entertainment value" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
ESPN CHICAGO's Jesse Rogers reported the candidates for the Cubs' radio analyst job are "starting to line up after the sudden departure of Keith Moreland from the booth after only three seasons." WGN Sports Dir Dave Eanet said that it "will be a collaborative effort between the station, the Cubs and play-by-play man Pat Hughes." A preliminary list includes former Cubs Rick Sutcliffe, Kerry Wood, Doug Glanville, Ryan Theriot, Eric Karros, Dave Otto and Todd Hollandsworth. Former Cubs announcer Andy Masur also is "on the preliminary list." Eanet said that other names "are being considered as well." However, it is "unknown" if former Cub Mark Grace, who was fired from the D'Backs broadcast booth in '12, is "on the list" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 11/12).
FANATICS GOES MOBILE: ALL THINGS DIGITAL's Jason Del Rey reported online retailer Fanatics recently "poached Groupon’s mobile GM David Katz to build a mobile product team" in S.F. and launch Android and iPhone apps, which "just hit their respective app stores on Friday." Katz said that the company "prioritized smartphone apps over tablet apps because it already had a website that worked well on tablets (though it will likely release an iPad app next year)." Del Rey noted the app right now "does what you’d hope it would: It lets you easily browse by team and product type with just a few finger swipes." Katz: "We want to do a much better job of using information on games in the app. Knowing what games are going on, being location-aware if you’re at the game, making sure we tailor the experience to people when they are most excited about the sport" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 11/12).
TRUE INJURED IN CRASH: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reports Marquette Univ. basketball radio announcer and WAUK-AM host Steve True was hurt in a car accident yesterday and is "being treated for a serious head injury." He is in his 20th season as voice of Marquette's basketball team, and he joined Good Karma Broadcasting in '05, becoming co-host of a weekday afternoon show on the station (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/14).