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Fox led all NFL Week 15 ratings with an 18.1 overnight for its national window yesterday, which featured Packers-Cowboys. That figure is up 5% from CBS' 17.2 overnight for Steelers-Cowboys in the Week 15 national window last season. Fox also saw gains for its regional window, up 3%. The Steelers jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Bengals by the end of the first quarter, hampering the rating for NBC's "SNF" telecast. The game earned a 10.9 overnight, down 28% from 49ers-Patriots last year. "SNF" earmed a 39.4 rating in Pittsburgh and a 33.2 in Cincinnati. CBS also saw a 22% for its singleheader window compared to Fox' 13.8 rating in Week 15 last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).NFL WEEK 15 SUNDAY OVERNIGHT RATINGSNET'13 GAMERAT.'12 NET'12 GAMERAT.% +/-CBS(single)10.8Fox(single)13.8-21.7%Fox(regional)11.1CBS(regional)10.82.8%FoxPackers-Cowboys (83%)18.1CBSSteelers-Cowboys (90%)17.25.2%NBCBengals-Steelers10.9NBC49ers-Patriots15.2-28.3%
AIKMAN PULLS NO PUNCHES: In Dallas, Barry Horn writes, "I always have thought that Fox’s Troy Aikman had a soft spot in his broadcasting heart for the Cowboys," as Aikman often "preferred the analytical to critical" when calling games involving his former team. However, during the second half of yesterday's "Cowboys debacle at AT&T Stadium" in which the team lost to the Packers after having a 23-point lead, Aikman "came out tongue blazing." Horn: "Who could blame him? His credibility was on the line." Aikman and play-by-play announcer Joe Buck "proved an excoriating tag team in their critique of the Cowboys’ play-calling and clock management." Aikman said during the broadcast, "It’s hard to explain, but the clock management by the Dallas Cowboys was about as bad as I’ve seen" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/16). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted Aikman during the first half of yesterday's game "uncorked some uncharacteristically unrestrained declarations" after the Cowboys amassed 332 yards of total offense. But Aikman and Buck later "shared their criticism of the Cowboys' play selection on offense, specifically their decisions in some instances to abandon the run late in the game" (JSONLINE.com, 12/15). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Aikman and Buck "were excellent in the fourth quarter of Dallas's epic collapse" (SI.com, 12/15). Deitsch toward the end of the Cowboys game tweeted, "I haven't seen Fox show Jerry Jones the last couple of minutes. They certainly do when things are coming up roses" (TWITTER.com, 12/15).
REDSKINS WOES: CBS' Shannon Sharpe yesterday said of Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench QB Robert Griffin III, "Race or racism had nothing to do with this." In N.Y., Bob Raissman asks of Sharpe's comment, "Who said it did?" Sharpe "spoke with so much emotion that he must have had someone in mind, someone who claims Shanahan’s move is racially motivated." He "should have identified the person(s)" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16). Meanwhile, in DC, Dan Steinberg noted, "Every week the NFL puts out a press release, listing the NFL markets in which pro football was the highest-rated television program over the previous week," and DC is "almost always on that list, and almost always in the middle or higher of that list." But the Redskins' game against the Chiefs last week "was awfully close to the bottom" as the game earned CBS a 20.7 rating. Steinberg: "That’s obviously still a massive television rating" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/13).
CONFLICT OF INTEREST? CBS' Dan Marino yesterday interviewed Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and team players "during a feature" on CBS’ "The NFL Today," but the N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Raissman notes Marino is a "member of a committee selected by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to review and investigate Miami’s locker-room 'culture'" following the team's alleged bullying scandal. It was "hard to believe he could be an objective member of the panel," and after watching Marino on this piece, it is "even harder." The spot "left a bad perception" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/16).
CRITIQUES ON THE CALL: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Fox' Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch during yesterday's Seahawks-Giants game "recited so many season-long stats -- many of them misleading or irrelevant -- they could have worked from home." Meanwhile, Mushnick asks if the Panthers' success is "predicated on its defense, as per CBS’s Dan Dierdorf’s reminders during the Jets-Panthers game, why did CBS sell it as Cam Newton vs. the Jets?" (N.Y. POST, 12/16).
A CALL FOR CONSOLIDATION: The N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Raissman wrote, "Watching more and more of the NFL Network is to see vastly improved programming." During football season, it is "hard to switch to another channel." Whenever we "hear the league is considering selling half its Thursday night game package to another network it makes, as it relates to NFLN, no sense." Cutting the package in half "would fatten the owners’ bank accounts but devalue their network." A source said that the league "should roll its Red Zone Channel into NFLN," as that move "would allow NFLN to jack up the rates it charges cable and satellite providers to carry NFLN." It also would "allow more eyeballs to access Red Zone" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/15).
The simulcast relationship between WFAN-AM's Mike Francesa and the YES Network, which has lasted more than 10 years, "will be over by the end of January," according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. YES will "replace Francesa’s afternoon drive show with ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y's 'The Michael Kay Show.'" A source "confirmed the switch." The source said the move is strictly a "matter of economics." The source added that the rights fee WFAN is asking for Francesa’s simulcast was "becoming too pricey for YES and far exceeding what YES will pay to air the simulcast of Kay’s ESPN soiree." WFAN's simulcast contract with YES for Francesa's show "expires January 31." There "has been speculation" behind the scenes that Francesa giving Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez "an exclusive platform on his show may have rankled YES and Yankee brass, thus speeding up" Francesa's departure. However, the source said of the speculation, "Not true." It is likely Kay’s show will "debut the week leading up the the Super Bowl at Met Life Stadium." The YES simulcast is "a coup" for ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y and Kay, who "also is YES’ play-by-play voice of the Yankees." While Kay’s show has "continued to trail Francesa badly in the radio ratings, the YES simulcast should provide it with more visibility and more listeners." It also will "give Kay the opportunity to promote other" ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y shows. Francesa's simulcast days are "likely not over," as CBS, "which owns WFAN, has put out feelers to other TV outlets to gauge their interest in airing Francesa’s show" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/15).
NBC Olympics and Yahoo will "partner to promote video highlights and live streamed video of the Sochi Games, ending years of competition and public sniping over what outlet drove the most traffic during an Olympic Games," according to Mickle & Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The agreement "extends the content, promotional and distribution partnership that NBC and Yahoo signed a year ago and announced to great fanfare" on "SNF." But that partnership "notably excluded the Olympics, in part because NBC and Yahoo historically competed for traffic during the Games." NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo under the new deal will "remain independent and continue to sell their own inventory, but link to each other’s stories and videos in order to boost each other’s traffic during the Sochi Games." Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports staff will "contribute to Olympic news and digital segments that air on NBCOlympics.com, and NBC Olympics will integrate Yahoo Search, Flickr and Tumblr into its website during the Games." For NBC, the deal is "designed to boost video views during the Olympics, so that it can meet its guarantees to advertisers who bought digital inventory during the Sochi Games." For Yahoo, the partnership "bolsters its existing Olympics coverage by allowing it to link directly to highlights and live video on NBCOlympics.com, a move expected to help Yahoo attract more visitors." The previous NBC Sports-Yahoo partnership outside of the Olympics has "generated an extensive amount of content integration," and similar content integration "is expected to happen during the Olympics." Yahoo will "embed some of its staff in Stamford, Conn., where NBC’s digital team is based, to work directly" on integration (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 12/16 issue).
ESPN earned a 2.7 overnight rating for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday night, down 13% from a 3.1 for last year’s event, which saw Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel beat out Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o to become the first freshman to win the award. The rating from last year also was second-best overnight for a Heisman ceremony since ’94. Saturday’s telecast, which saw Florida State QB Jameis Winston take home the trophy, was also down from a 2.9 overnight for Robert Griffin III’s win in ’11 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).HEISMAN TROPHY CEREMONY OVERNIGHT RATING TREND ON ESPNYEARWINNEROVERNIGHT'13Jameis Winston2.7'12Johnny Manziel3.1'11Robert Griffin III2.9'10Cam Newton2.409Mark Ingram3.6
JOB WELL DONE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes ESPN's Tom Rinaldi deserves credit for alluding to the "sexual allegations and controversy" surrounding Winston "in an interview ... before the award was announced." ESPN does a "decent job introducing all the finalists and looking back at other great Heisman moments, but ultimately, it's a 59-minute pregame show for a one-minute game." Jones suggests ESPN should "consider making the announcement earlier in the broadcast, perhaps even halfway through." That would "leave more time for reaction, and perhaps, add a little interest to the show" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/16).
SAYING NO TO RESTRICTIONS: "CBS This Morning" Exec Producer Chris Licht on his Twitter feed wrote that Winston would not appear on the morning show today because FSU "put restrictions on topics" that could be discussed during his appearance. CBS' Jeff Glor tweeted that he was "scheduled to interview" Winston yesterday, but FSU "tried to put restrictions on interview topics at last minute." Glor: "We said no" (TWITTER.com, 12/15). Winston did appear on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" today, but the closest the hosts came to referencing the sexual assault claim was when Mike Golic said there were "no charges brought against you" ("Mike & Mike, ESPN Radio, 12/16). PR firm Sitrick & Co. Senior Exec Terry Fahn wrote, "I disagree with Jameis Winston's current media strategy. Putting restrictions on interviews raises more questions. Winston will be giving up major opportunities if he insists on restrictions. If he doesn't his tell story someone will tell it for him" (TWITTER.com, 12/16).
STANDING YOUR GROUND: In Jacksonville, Paris Moulden noted Winston's attorney Tim Jansen on Twitter last week accused ESPN's Heather Cox of "ambushing a young man" during her interview with Winston following the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 7. Jansen also accused Cox of "violating terms she agreed to with FSU officials and calling her 'classless and unprofessional.'" Moulden wrote asking a "star college athlete who is headed to the national championship game and a lock for the sport's most coveted award about something that everyone is talking about is not unprofessional." Moulden: "It would be remiss of her to do otherwise." While Jansen asked Cox for an apology, she "thankfully said she won't be giving" one (JACKSONVILLE.com, 12/15).
In an effort to better align all of Golf Channel’s businesses, the NBC Sports property has created a new logo that will roll out around coverage of The Players Championship in May. Golf Channel is getting rid of the old mark that incorporated a 'G' within a circle in favor of a logo with will give greater emphasis to the NBC peacock, as well as the word “Golf.” The new logo was created in partnership with Troika, a Hollywood-based brand consultancy and creative agency. The network will unveil the new mark later today, and execs say it will help unify all of Golf Channel’s businesses, from its coverage of the sport to its growing portfolio of lifestyle businesses. The new version will replace the network’s transitional logo, which has been used on Golf Channel and NBC since the network became part of the NBC Sports Group in '11. Golf Channel President Mike McCarley and Senior VP/Marketing Regina O’Brien spearheaded the creation of a new look. O'Brien in a statement said, “The new logo and its custom font visually synchronizes Golf Channel’s ever-growing portfolio of businesses and creates brand consistency across all Golf Channel and NBC platforms that are rooted in golf.” Golf Channel has set most-watched year records consecutively for the past three years.
If the first installment of HBO's "24/7" series chronicling the upcoming Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs is "any indication of what's to come, hockey fans are in store for a real treat," according to Brendan Savage of MLIVE.com. The cameras "go inside the Red Wings' dressing room" during last week's 2-1 home loss to the Panthers and they capture coach Mike Babcock's "instructions to his club before the game and during intermission." The cameras also provide "a glimpse inside the Red Wings' team plane, they go inside goaltender Jimmy Howard's hotel room on the road and they capture sights around Detroit." It is "surprising how current the topics are in the first episode." HBO producers "make sure that the screen time is divided almost equally between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs." The Leafs are shown "before, during and after a 5-2 loss" to the Bruins, which allows producers "to flashback to last season, when Toronto blew a 4-1 lead" in the third period of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 7 against the Bruins. The episode also gives viewers "an idea of what's said during the games" as Babcock and Leafs coach Randy Carlyle wear microphones and "can be heard shouting instructions to their teams and jawing with officials." That is one thing "to be aware of -- the language is rather salty at times and there are a decent number of F-bombs although it's far from excessive" (MLIVE.com, 12/15). SPORTSNET.ca's Shannon Proudfoot wrote Carlyle and Babcock in the first episode "emerge as the most interesting personalities by a long shot." That is "more because they turn out to be cartoonish versions of exactly who you think they are than it is due to any surprising revelations" (SPORTSNET.ca, 12/15).
MR. CLEAN: In Detroit, Steve Schrader wrote, "Unlike previous coaches who did the show, at least Mike Babcock kept it pretty clean." He got to "about the 48-minute mark before he dropped an F-bomb." Behind-the-scenes stuff included Babcock’s "fiery -- but clean -- dressing-room talks." There was a "nice segment on [Red Wings RW] Daniel Alfredsson’s family making the transition from Ottawa to Detroit." The show also highlighted Maple Leafs D Dion Phaneuf’s "extensive wardrobe -- including bow ties -- and actress wife Elisha Cuthbert" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/15). In Toronto, Steve Buffery noted with the "exception of a few F-bombs and a chuckle here and there, there is nothing particularly colourful about the opening episode." Nary a player or coach "goes on any angry or bizarre tangents." Viewers get to see the players "in the dressing room, during practice, in restaurants, on the plane, but nothing particularly exciting happens." But of course "24/7" always is "professionally done and this year’s version brings home just how important the sport of hockey is to the two cities involved in this year’s presentation, Detroit and, especially, Toronto" (TORONTO SUN, 12/15). Also in Toronto, Damien Cox wonders why HBO "bothered with the warning" for viewers to "beware of violence, coarse language and mature subject matter." Maple Leafs LW Joffrey Lupul said "shit" twice, but "otherwise the version delivered to Canadian viewers on Sunday night was one you wouldn't mind watching with your elementary school child." Cox: "Pretty vanilla, actually. Which is fine. It was the season opener, and we'll see where it goes from here" (THESTAR.com, 12/16).
HITS & MISSES: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes just like "Hard Knocks" involving NFL training camp, "24/7" has "become must-see TV." The formula of "peeking behind the curtain never gets old." However, one complaint comes from the first episode, as Phaneuf "had a telephone hearing with the NHL for a dangerous check on an opponent." He was suspended for two games but the hearing "was not televised in the show" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/16). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski wrote there is "some juicy stuff" in the debut, as viewers are "afforded a view of some" of Carlyle and Babcock’s between-period messages. A fight in last week's game against the Kings involving Lupul "is particularly riddled with coarse language, but that’s expected." However, the bulk of the show "follows a simple narrative, revolving around " Phaneuf and Lupul, and "spliced with a profile" of Carlyle and Babcock (TORONTO STAR, 12/15). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle wrote while the "on-ice action remains compelling here given its unique point of view, hopefully [the] first episode was all setting the table for more in the next three episodes, as there wasn’t a lot of depth to the portraits of the players and coaches involved" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/15).
SI last night named Broncos QB Peyton Manning its ’13 Sportsman of the Year, marking the fourth NFL QB to receive the honor in the last decade. SI announced the selection of Manning last night during halftime of the Bengals-Steelers “SNF” broadcast. Manning will be feted tonight at a ceremony in Denver. Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum said, “There are some years where Sportsman is more of a lifetime achievement award, and some years where it’s more about dominance in that particular year. With Peyton you actually have both. It’s sort of the best of both worlds.” Manning, despite a career-threatening neck injury two years ago, is challenging the NFL single-season records for both passing yards and touchdowns. Recently retired Yankees P Mariano Rivera was among those seriously considered for the award. Fichtenbaum: “Mariano was right there on this. We thought long and hard about him." Red Sox DH David Ortiz also was a finalist. Lee Jenkins wrote the main story on Manning for the Sportsman of the Year issue of SI, the second straight year he has written the main piece for the annual award, with essays and contributions from several other SI writers including Peter King and Tim Layden (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In Denver, Mike Klis noted Manning is the "first Bronco and first Denver athlete to receive the prestigious award." Being named Sportsman of the Year "may trump a fifth MVP award" (DENVERPOST.com, 12/15).
THE PICK IS IN: THE MMQB's Peter King notes SI Managing Editor Chris Stone and the editors of SI pick the award, but King writes he supports the choice of Manning because, "at 37 and maybe 85 percent of his former grip and arm strength because of his four neck procedures in 2010 and 2011, he is apace to challenge the two big single-season pro football passing records." Having one’s "best year under the circumstances and with so many young pups with stronger arms and faster legs chasing him is worthy of our praise and respect." King: "And the way he approaches life -- this not Athlete of the Year; it’s Sportsman of the Year -- and his job is something admirable" (MMQB.SI.com, 12/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote Manning is a "good guy who does good things in the community and he's probably going to set the record for passing yards in a single season and touchdowns in a single season." From a "pure 'athletic achievement' standpoint, he's certainly a worthy winner" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/15). In DC, Cindy Boren writes, "Taking nothing away from whether he is the embodiment of sportsmanship, it seems like something of an odd choice, one made more for the Broncos’ record and his assault on the offensive record books than anything else." But it was "that kind of year in sports, sort of a meh year when it comes to these kinds of awards" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/16).
In N.Y., Christopher Clarey reports tennis player Maria Sharapova will "soon be on the other side of the camera for a change, taking another tennis break in February to debut as a television presenter with NBC for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia," where she lived "from ages 4 to 7." She is "also expected to play a role in Sochi's opening ceremony." Sharapova said of the NBC offer, "I was planning on going anyway, and this just kind of came about. Personally, selfishly, it’s just really good experience for me, because I’ve never done anything like that with television, and I’m keen to learn. I’ve never been to a Winter Olympics before. I’m certainly not going to be commenting on bobsledding or anything" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/16).
BOWLING FOR SOUP: In DC, Norman Chad wrote, "The PBA on TV is broke, and frankly, I'm not sure how to fix it." The league this year has "gone with groundbreaking blue dye on the lanes to show the oil patterns, and that means they talk a lot about, well, oil patterns." Listening to ESPN analyst Randy Pedersen discuss oil patterns "isn’t exactly like listening to Gore Vidal discuss the classics." The blue dye is "almost unnoticeable and not nearly as annoying as, say, TBS’s PitchTrax," but now there is "even more emphasis on oil patterns, with Pedersen talking endlessly about friction" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/15).
FORBIDDEN LANGUAGE: In West Palm Beach, Frank Cerabino noted ESPN execs have "issued a directive to their on-air talent to stop saying the word 'sucks' during their broadcasts." Years ago, you would "never see the word printed in a newspaper or hear it spoken on a newscast," as newsmakers "didn’t say the word when reporters were taking notes or cameras were rolling." But now, it has "become common." Cerabino: "We have gradually turned into a two-adjective nation, where everything either sucks or is awesome. So, let’s all applaud ESPN for taking a bold step to force its broadcasters to combat half of that problem" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/13).
A SECOND CHANCE: NESN last week announced that former Hawks sideline reporter Elle Duncan in February "would be added to the roster" of the net's on-air personalities. But in Boston, Gayle Fee notes the net "made no mention" of Duncan's arrest for "a DUI following a Hawks playoff game." NESN execs said that Duncan was "'totally upfront' with her future bosses about the arrest when she interviewed for the Boston gig." NESN Marketing & Communications Manager Gary Roy said, "She expressed remorse and responsibility for her actions" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 12/16).