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ESPN earned an 11.2 overnight for last night’s Patriots-Panthers “MNF” telecast, up 20% from a 9.3 rating for Bears-49ers in Week 11 last year. That figure marks the net’s second-best “MNF” overnight this season, behind only an 11.6 rating for the Week 1 Eagles-Redskins matchup. In Charlotte, last night’s game earned a 37.8 local rating (17.5 on ESPN, 20.3 on WSOC-ABC). In Boston, the game earned a 36.1 local rating (12.0 rating on ESPN, 24.1 rating on WCVB-ABC). The top markets were rounded out by Providence (25.9), Greensboro-Winston-Salem (22.9) and New Orleans (18.9) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
RULES ARE RULES: Former NFL ref Gerry Austin, who serves as a rules analyst for ESPN, appeared on-air last night to explain of final play of last night's game in which the officials waved off a penalty against the Panthers for pass interference in the end zone. His comments drew heavy criticism on Twitter. NESN's Dale Arnold wrote, "Epic fail by @espn trotting out Gerry Austin for that bogus explanation of an obvious blown call. So any receiver can be tackled?" The Austin American-Statesman's Cedric Golden wrote, "It's one thing to swallow your whistle but to pick up the flag? Gerry Austin is a Hall of Fame ref but that explanation made no sense." Fox' Joel Klatt: "Hey Gerry Austin that excuse was even worse than the no call...protect your buddies at the expense of your credibility!. ... Does any other football fan feel a bit cheated? And why in the world was Gerry Austin in the booth speaking nonsense?" The AP's Tim Reynolds: "Gerry Austin has also confirmed that Maradona did nothing wrong on the Hand of God goal." Writer Joe Posnanski: "Next week, Gerry Austin on how Goldfinger was just trying to prank James Bond" (TWITTER.com, 11/19). Austin was profiled by the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Mark Washburn prior to last night's game. Austin indicated that as he is situated in the broadcast booth, he will give announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden a "thumbs up for a good call, thumbs down for a bad one and open hands for an I-Don't-Know." Austin: "Sometimes I'll give Jon a thumbs up on what I think is a good call, and he'll mouth to me, 'Are you kidding?'" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/16).
QUARTERBACK CLUB? ESPN's Ray Lewis decided to put his money where his mouth is last night while talking about the controversial hit 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks put on Saints QB Drew Brees on Sunday. Brooks was penalized for hitting Brees in the head, and Lewis said, "This is the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the tuck rule and Tom Brady. I’m serious. I’ve just never seen this type of insult to defenders. ... When you look at the hit, Ahmad Brooks took the hit and hit him exactly where he was supposed to hit him. Drew Brees’ neck slid down to that man's arm." Lewis added, "If they fine this kid, if they go on record and they fine this kid, Ahmad Brooks, I’m going to do something personally. I’m going to pay ... half of this kid’s fine." Meanwhile, ESPN's Trent Dilfer said of the NFL's emphasis on safety precautions, "This product is a worse product because they're being hyper-sensitive to this billion-dollar issue. The thing is you’re not protecting Drew Brees from a concussion. You're protecting him from a cut lip." He added, "The quarterback has become the brand, it's become the league. But it doesn't mean you protect them this much" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/18).
FOUL-WEATHER FANS: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reported WBBM-CBS' broadcast of Ravens-Bears "began shortly after noon with a strong 29.2 rating," but when play stopped because of severe weather, ratings "sunk to a low of 18.5." When the game resumed around 3:00pm CT, the ratings "quickly shot back up into the 30's and peaked just before 5 p.m. at a whopping 36.4 -- nearly five hours after the first play of the game." Ratings on Chicago's other local TV stations "struggled to get to a 5.0 for a mix of stuff that aired opposite the marathon Bears game" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/18). In Baltimore, Ryan Sharrow noted WJZ-CBS' broadcast of the first half-hour of the game prior to the delay drew a 26.9 local rating. After the game resumed, the rating grew to a 33.5 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/18).
READY AGAIN FOR PRIME TIME: The NFL yesterday announced that it would keep Giants-Redskins as NBC's "SNF" matchup on Dec. 1 (NFL). In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano noted there "had been speculation -- and even a report -- that the Giants' struggles would cause that game to get bumped to the afternoon." But now that the Giants have won four straight games to "nearly erase their 0-6 start and climb back in the NFC East, the NFL and NBC decided it's once again an attractive matchup" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 11/18).
MUSCLE FLEXING: SPORTS ON EARTH's Colin McGowan wrote the "good news is the NFL is apparently taking steps to broadcast better games to non-DirecTV-having plebes." McGowan cited ESPN’s Adam Schefter as saying that the NFL is "planning to cross-flex games next season." That means the league will have the "authority to move more enticing match-ups from the 1 p.m. local time slot into the national one at 4:25 p.m., across networks if they need to." Discussions about the issue are "still fluid." McGowan: "One hopes that [Commissioner] Roger Goodell and company are also mulling over whether or not flex scheduling should begin sooner than Week 11." The NFL "doesn’t get much credit for being progressive," but it is the first major sports league to "acknowledge that schedule-setters aren’t prescient and put in place a counter-measure that allows the league to tweak the broadcast schedule in order to give national audiences more attractive games." But there is "no practical reason why the league couldn’t shift certain games into the 4:25 p.m. or Sunday Night Football slots in Week 8 or, hell, Week 3 if they really wanted to" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 11/18). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "I’m not saying I think it’s a bad idea. But then don’t come ask me why they are having trouble putting people in the stadium.” Greenberg: “They are doing it because it will make them more money from the television markets. But even beyond that, there are probably more people who will now get to watch a better game across the country then there are people affected by this, but there are people adversely affected by this” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 11/19).
The NHL yesterday announced that it will "cooperate with the production and airing of an all-access TV series that will feature players, coaches and support staff as they prepare" for the '14 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series contests and the '14 Sochi Games, according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. The seven-part series, called "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other," begins Jan. 22 on NBCSN and will "initially feature the Kings and Ducks as they prepare for their Stadium Series game on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium." Episodes will "air on NBCSN on Jan. 22, Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 27 (two hours), March 5 and March 12." The episodes also will "air in Canada on the CBC a day later (except for Feb. 27, when it will be seen the same day), and will be rebroadcast in Canada on Sportsnet." NHL COO John Collins said, "There’s been a strong desire to do a lot more of this type of programming. We love the sport, we admire the players, and we want to take all that and put it onscreen for the fans." The concept of the series is "modeled on the HBO '24/7' series," but unlike the original, the NBCSN show will include "some bleeping of raw language ... because of broadcast standards on the networks that will air this show." Show Exec Producer Ross Greenburg said, "You have teammates that are going to become rivals once the Sochi Olympics happen, which is fascinating. So that [Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews and RW Patrick Kane] end up as rivals on the other side of the ice from each other, so that dynamic should be fascinating to cover" (LATIMES.com, 11/18).
ATTENTION GRABBING: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted in addition to the seven TV hours, "a 'director’s cut,' including the game’s often colorful language, will likely land on digital platforms," although the digital plan "was not specifically outlined." Collins said that digital footage could "serve as a preview of sorts leading into the linear TV bow, with other content perhaps following the TV debuts of the different installments." He said that int'l rights-holders have "expressed interest in the series" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 11/18). Collins said of the series, "This is part of the overall plan, the big plan on how to continue to build hockey, to make it more national, to get more people to pay attention to it." Greenburg said that the atmosphere at the outdoor games is "electric and the players respond accordingly." Greenburg added that creates "an appetizing recipe for quality television." Greenburg: "The anticipation of those games and story lines leading into these games gives us unique story lines to cover. And then we will kick off the end of the series by anticipating the playoff run" (USA TODAY, 11/19). On Long Island, Neil Best notes the IOC "has its own very particular rules for access during the Games, but the expectation is that the path will be eased by NBC's status as a longtime Olympics rights-holder" (NEWSDAY, 11/19).
READY FOR PRIMETIME PLAYERS: Collins said that it was "past time for the NHL to use the Olympics to better promote its players." Collins said, "Through all the debate about whether we should be there as a League or not be there. We’re there. It’s a great platform. We should try to take better advantage of it while we’re there." Collins said of whether "NHL Revealed" in addition to "24/7" might be overkill, Collins said, "Again, I see so much opportunity to grow the profile of the sport. I look at other sports that do this on a weekly basis … I think with the quality of the athletes, the quality of the game and the quality of the storytellers, I hope people don’t feel that way" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18). In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist and Islanders C John Tavares are "expected to be among the featured players" on the program, along with Toews, Kane, Penguins C Sidney Crosby, Canucks C Henrik Sedin, Canucks LW Daniel Sedin and Kings G Jonathan Quick (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/19). The NHL said that NBC Sports Group and CBC are "contributing to the production costs of the series but are not paying any rights fees" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/19).
FROZEN FESTIVITIES: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Christopher Botta noted the Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown this year is "essentially a restart for the league after its earlier attempts to make the game a franchise were halted by last season’s lockout." The Rangers-Bruins game will take place the day after Thanksgiving on NBC. Neither Discover nor the NHL is "tinkering much with the recipe" from the '11 game, which "drew a 0.9 national rating." The one major promotional change is "the addition of a series of commercials directed by Bobby Farrelly," featuring appearances from Bruins President and Hockey HOFer Cam Neely, former NHLer Mike Richter and actor Lenny Clarke. Neely and Richter also will "ride on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float that will promote the game." The 36-by-20-foot float, "returning from its use in 2011, is themed 'Frozen Fall Fun' and also will have young hockey players skating on a synthetic rink, with a 12-foot-tall turkey framing a goal" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/18 issue).
Philadelphia-based WCAU-NBC is "seeking a ratings edge in local TV news," and announced it will "get its sports coverage from the 150-employee Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia," according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. CSN Philadelphia President & GM Brian Monihan said that the RSN beginning in January will "produce and provide complete sports coverage" for WCAU's 6:00pm and 11:00pm ET newscasts. The WCAU sports report "will remain in the same place" in the 6:00 and 11:00pm newscasts. WCAU officials believe that CSN programming "will be more distinctive than what the station produces presently." Comcast/NBCUniversal announced the first arrangement between a Comcast RSN and a local NBC station in S.F. in '11. The RSN in Northern California that year "began supplying newscasts" to KTNV-ABC, which covers S.F., San Jose, and Oakland (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/19).
The Raiders have their own channel on Internet music provider Pandora called the Raider Nation Station, which "plays a mix of Raiders-themed songs and tunes chosen by the players" and will be broadcast on the service throughout the '13 NFL season, according to Jim Harrington of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The playlist is "surprisingly diverse, featuring much more than just the regular stadium anthems that one might expect." Raiders S Tyvon Branch, RB Rashad Jennings, P Marquette King, WR Rod Streater and OT Jared Veldheer "recently spent time at the Pandora headquarters, getting a behind-the-scenes look at how the company allows listeners to customize their own audio experiences." The players also "recorded spots to be played" on the station (MERCURYNEWS.com, 11/15). After listening to the station for an hour this morning, the playlist spans many different genres, including hip-hop, Christian rap and classic rock. All profanities were edited out of the songs that were played (THE DAILY).SAMPLE PLAYLIST FOR RAIDER NATION STATION
ARTIST SONG The Gap Band "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" Jay Z "Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)" Black Sabbath "Iron Man" G. Love "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" Derek Minor "Ready, Set, Go" E-40 "Yay Area" George Thorogood "Bad To The Bone" Meek Mill "Levels" Yo Gotti "Second Chance" Shai Linne "Our God Is In The Heavens" Big Sean "Marvin & Chardonnay" Green Day "Working Class Hero" Kendrick Lamar "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe"
The 200th episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” premieres tonight with a report on corruption and the $50B cost of the '14 Sochi Games. Former Russia Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemstov tells reporter Bernard Goldberg of the $50B expense, “If you calculate the cost of previous Winter Olympics, altogether it’s cheaper then [Russia President Vladimir Putin’s] Olympic Games.” The “Real Sports” report states that Putin is the culprit for the elaborate spending. Goldberg in his narration of the piece said, “Sochi is one of President Putin’s favorite vacation spots, a resort town that has long been a getaway for Russia’s elite -- going all the way back to Stalin and Khrushchev. The message (Putin) wants to send with these Winter Games is clear: that he heads up a strong, modern Russia capable of putting on the biggest show in all of sports.” A 30-mile road and rail line from Sochi to the mountains where the skiing events will take place is said to have cost $9B. Former chess champion and longtime Putin critic Garry Kasparov said he is not proud of the Olympics being held in his homeland. Kasparov: “Picking Sochi and organizing everything there against all the odds, against the nature, against the interest of people who live there, that’s about Putin. That’s about his regime. That’s about stealing money. It’s not about Russia.” The episode debuts tonight at 10:00pm ET on HBO and will be reaired frequently on HBO’s networks during the next two weeks.
The week leading up to the UFC's 20 anniversary event was spent testing the VOD library and other features of the UFC.TV mobile application, developed by NeuLion. Saturday night's UFC 167 in Las Vegas was then viewed on the app, without tuning in to the PPV feed on TV. The app is available on a range of devices including iOS, Blackberry, Android, Samsung Smart TVs and Roku. This review was conducted on an iPhone 5 version 7.0.2, with AT&T service. Overall, the experience was high quality, but with some hiccups and feature oversights. UFC.TV is a free download with in-app purchasing capabilities. Users have the option to purchase UFC PPV events directly from the app for $44.99 (SD) and $54.99 (HD). For $74.98 (SD) or $84.98 (HD), fans can upgrade to a six-month subscription to UFC.TV's fight library, with a 50% discount for users purchasing a live PPV event. According to iTunes, most customers are purchasing single SD PPV fights.
KNOCKOUTS: Bonus features are offered within the live streaming player after the prelims have concluded. Fights are viewable in English and Spanish and from three camera angles: live, Red Corner and Blue Corner. The corner camera angles were stripped of the broadcast voiceovers, offering crisp, raw sound, like being in the front row at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Live scoring and pre-fight stats are available for most matches on the fight card. Users can submit their own round-by-round scores to see how they compare to the audience.
SPLIT DECISIONS: In addition to live video, a PPV subscription includes access to fighter profiles, news and free video. Event replays are well done, but a bit lengthy. The replay of UFC 167 is over 2 hours and 40 minutes long. The fight library offers a large selection of video including preliminary fights, UFC title fights, UFC Hall of Fame and submission of the week. Also available is a listing of featured fighters, fights by weight class, UFC en Español and episodes from the TV series "The Ultimate Fighter." Basic news is available along with a TV schedule, link to UFC.com for mobile, the UFC shop and Octagon Girl profiles. There is no advertising within the app.
FISH HOOKS: Watching live events from a mobile device proved confusing during UFC 167, as each segment has a separate stream. When the early prelims ended, I had to close the video and locate the feed for the next set of prelims (which in this case was unavailable due to Fox broadcast restrictions). Purchasing an event on UFC.TV for mobile is not exactly user-friendly. Clicking purchase prompts users for an iTunes login. The assumption is that entering this information charges your account instantly, and pricing tiers are not made available within the app. A section explaining the subscription products is recommended, as the current path to conversion may cause hesitation with potential buyers. On the flip side, subscriptions purchased on UFC.TV's desktop site are easily transferred to mobile devices with a simple log-in in the account section. During UFC 167, the Red Corner camera angle was pulling a feed from the rafters, definitely not showing live action from the Octagon. User scoring is a cool feature, but there is not really a payoff. This could be an opportunity for some deeper user engagement. The Twitter chatter section simply did not work, as not a single tweet populated during the event. With the exclusion of preliminary fights, many of the fight library sections are outdated, offering video from over nine months ago.
BOTTOM LINE: UFC.TV offers a highly compelling selection of live and on-demand video for fans. Non-paying users have access to almost nothing, so this is a quality example of corralling avids and upselling casuals without giving away product. Wish list items include improved in-app purchasing instructions, proper social media integration, fight alerts, and shorter replays in the vein of NBA or NHL condensed games that are focused on highlights. UFC.TV has the content, but broken features like Twitter integration and the Red Corner camera leave room for improvement.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer in Philadelphia.
See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
- NBC Sports Live Extra For iPhone Loaded With VOD, But Heavy On Ads
- NBA Game Time For iPhone Offers Intuitive Streaming, Social Savvy
- The World Series Experience With MLB At Bat 13 For iPhone
- NHL GameCenter For iPhone Scores With Video Offerings
- NFL Mobile From Verizon Great For Stat Junkies, But Short On Social
In N.Y., Christine Haughney notes Bloomberg News yesterday "starting laying off and reassigning employees." The layoffs "cut across several departments, including culture and sports." It will "stop covering sports matches and focus more on sports stories that intersect with business." Bloomberg News Head of Communications Ty Trippet said that the company "expected to lay off fewer than 40 employees, less than 2 percent of Bloomberg News's 2,000 employees" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/19).
SUBSTITUTE ANNOUNCER: In Portland, Mike Tokito noted veteran broadcaster Scott Lynn "will fill in for ailing Brian Wheeler as the radio play-by-play man" for two Trail Blazers games, starting with yesterday's game against the Nets. The Blazers "went with a simulcast format for the first two games of the trip, using the audio of the team's television broadcast on their radio network" (OREGONLIVE.com, 11/18).
HEADED NORTH: The CFL Divisional Finals on TSN on Sunday delivered an overall audience of 7.3 million viewers. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats-Toronto Argonauts Eastern Final averaged 1.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched English-language Eastern Final ever. The Saskatchewan Roughriders-Calgary Stampeders Western Final averaged 1.9 million viewers, up 2% compared to last year's Western Final (Bell Media).
FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead noted while the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez bout last November and Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley bout in June "averaged 1 million buys each, it's unclear whether the former champion still has enough juice to reach PPV boxing's gold standard." If Pacquiao-Brandon Rios on Saturday "approaches 1 million buys, that should be enough for the boxing category to match or surpass the nearly 4 million buys generated by the category" in '12. Showtime Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza said that the net in '14 "plans to offer Floyd Mayweather PPV fights on May 3 and Sept. 13." He added that Showtime also expects Canelo Alvarez to "fight at least three times in 2014, the first of which will be March 8 on PPV" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 11/18 issue).