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CBS and ESPN’s cable networks saw gains for college football telecasts in ’13 after a few years of audience declines. CBS’ slate of SEC games was the top-rated college football package again this season with 7.4 million average viewers. That figure is up nearly 20% from ’12, fueled by four of the five most-viewed college football games this season. CBS’ mark this season is also its best since ’01, when the net went to a primarily SEC schedule. ESPN also saw gains this season across each of its cable TV networks. ESPN averaged 2.6 million viewers for games on the flagship network, up 2.6% from ’12. ESPN2 also saw an 8% jump for its slate of games, while ESPNU was up 4%. ESPNews aired some regularly-scheduled games for the first time this season, with the net averaging 162,000 viewers. While cable telecasts were up for ESPN, games on ABC saw a drop from ’12. College football telecasts on ABC averaged 4.8 million viewers in ’13, down 4% and marking the lowest average in at least the last five seasons.
WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? Fox averaged 3.1 million viewers for its college football games, up 10% from last year. The net was seeing a decline most of the season, but got a huge boost from the Big Ten Championship that pushed its audience figures into the black. FS1 also had its first season of college football games, with the net averaging 529,000 viewers. Last season, a smaller package of games aired on FX, with those games averaging 611,000 viewers.
AROUND THE SOUTH BEND: Notre Dame telecasts on NBC averaged 3.3 million viewers this season, down 24% compared to last year, when the school made the national championship game. Despite the drop, NBC’s average is still up from figures in ’11 and ’10. NBCSN, which now has a package of CAA and Ivy League games, averaged 62,000 viewers this season, down 39% from last year, when the net still had Mountain West Conference games. NBCSN’s average has dropped sharply in recent years as it has now renewed rights to the Pac-12 and Big 12 as well.COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME VIEWERSHIP TRENDNET'13 (000)'12 (000)'11 (000)'10 (000)'09 (000)CBS*7,3536,1416,8576,9446,993ABC4,7774,9755,5224,9755,522NBC3,3404,3812,6173,1303,684Fox3,1162,839n/an/an/aESPN2,6442,5762,6742,9662,874ESPN21,1081,0281,1791,4161,492FS1**5296111,016n/an/aESPNU400385n/an/an/aESPNews162n/an/an/an/aNBCSN62101366411322
CHART NOTES: * = SEC games only. ** = Compared to FX in '12 and '11.
GAME TIME: CBS’ Auburn-Missouri SEC Championship game telecast topped all games this season with 14.4 million viewers, followed by Fox’ Michigan State-Ohio State Big Ten Championship game with 13.9 million viewers. CBS and ABC each had six telecasts in the top 10 this season. ABC’s top game was the Ohio State-Michigan game with 9.5 million viewers. College football gave FS1 its two best audiences since its Aug. 17 launch. Oregon State-Oregon on Nov. 29 drew a network-record 2.2 million viewers, while Oklahoma-Baylor on Nov. 7 drew 2.1 million viewers. Michigan State-Notre Dame on Sept. 21 was NBC’s top game with 4.8 million viewers, which also marks the net’s best audience for that matchup since ’05. NBCSN’s top audience -- and only game to draw over 100,000 viewers -- was Harvard-Yale on Nov. 23 with 129,000.MOST-VIEWED REGULAR-SEASON COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMESRANKNETDATESTART (ET)
MATCHUPVIEWERS (000)1CBS12/74:00pm SEC Championship: Auburn-Missouri14,3542Fox12/78:20pm Big Ten Championship: Michigan State-Ohio State13,9003CBS11/303:30pm Alabama-Auburn13,7794CBS9/143:30pm Alabama-Texas A&M13,5865CBS11/98:00pm LSU-Alabama11,8346ABC11/3012:01pm Ohio State-Michigan9,5037ESPN9/78:00pm Notre Dame-Michigan8,6538ABC11/28:07pm Miami-Florida State8,3549ABC8/318:22pm Georgia-Clemson8,05010CBS11/233:30pm Texas A&M-LSU7,50511CBS9/283:30pm LSU-Georgia7,39212ABC10/58:05pm Ohio State-Northwestern7,35513ABC12/712:01pm Oklahoma-Oklahoma State7,28414ESPN9/74:25pm South Carolina-Georgia7,04515ABC9/288:06pm Wisconsin-Ohio State6,751
RETURN OF THE MAC: Mid-American Conference telecasts on ESPN2 this season, which typically air late in the season, averaged 927,000 viewers, marking the best “MACtion” figure since ’09. The 927,000 viewers mark also is up 22% from last year. Northern Illinois fueled many of the telecasts as the school attempted another run at an undefeated season. The Bowling Green-NIU MAC Championship on Dec. 6 drew 1.9 million viewers, marking the best figure for that game on record.AUDIENCE TREND FOR MAC FOOTBALL GAMES ON ESPN2YEARGAMESVIEWERS (000)'137927'125757'117748'106873'0961,011
ESPN will "offer six different ways to follow" the BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn on Jan. 6, "beginning with the tent-pole program: the game itself," according to Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY. A "number of game-centric viewing options" across ESPN’s family of networks will be "augmenting the normal broadcast," either televised or online via the net’s ESPN3 service. ESPN2 will air "BCS Title Talk," a broadcast "featuring ESPN college football analysts and a number of guest hosts, including coaches ... and celebrities." ESPNNews' "BCS Film Room" will "feature in-depth, play-by-play analysis of the game from a panel of ESPN experts and guests." ESPN Classic will air the "Sounds of the BCS," a feed of the game without "the play-by-play call heard on ESPN." ESPN Goal Line's "BCS Command Center" will "split the screen with live action and replays of the previous play." ESPN3 will provide "team-specific coverage" online with "each school's radio broadcast teamed with isolation cameras on key coaches and players." However, even with the number of secondary shows across the network, no option "takes precedence over ESPN's game broadcast -- the centerpiece of the entire evening’s programming" (USA TODAY, 12/19).
FAIR SHAKE: ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte wrote sideline reporter Heather Cox's interview with Florida State QB Jameis Winston following the ACC championship game was "one of the more appropriate and professional interviews of the season." ESPN Exec VP/Production John Wildhack in an e-mail wrote, "I thought Heather did an excellent job. Given this was the first time Jameis spoke since the announcement, we felt an obligation to ask questions which pertained to the case." Lipsyte: "I would make a case that Cox’s questions could justifiably have been more pointed and that the unanswered question about Winston’s prior silence could have been asked sooner." Meanwhile, the net's coverage of the "'Famous Jameis' circus leading up to the Duke game ... was suitably restrained." ESPN analysts "went out of their way to remind the audience that issues more serious than X’s, O’s and trophies were involved" (ESPN.com, 12/18).
The FCC yesterday voted unanimously to "consider a proposal that would end blackout rules for televised sporting events," according to Brendan Sasso of THE HILL. Dropping the rules, which have been in place since '75, would have the "biggest impact on the NFL, which requires broadcasters to black out games if the local team does not sell out the stadium." The rules were "originally intended to encourage fans to buy tickets to see the game live." The FCC said that it "will review public comments before making a final decision on the regulations." But even if the FCC "repeals its rules, it might not end sports blackouts altogether." Leagues, TV broadcasters and cable providers "could still agree to contracts restricting access to games." But critics of the FCC rules argue that the government "shouldn't be involved in enforcing the blackouts" (THEHILL.com, 12/18). POLITICO's Brooks Boliek noted, "The NFL contends the rule is still needed because it helps fill stadiums and enhances the game for both the TV viewer and fans on-site." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said, "We will strongly oppose any change in the rule. We are on pace for a historic low number of blackouts since the policy was implemented 40 years ago." The league's only blackout so far this season was Bengals-Chargers on Dec. 1. While proponents of the rule will "get a chance to argue its merits before the FCC, the commission made it clear that those wanting to retain the rule will have an uphill battle" (POLITICO.com, 12/18). In N.Y., Edward Wyatt notes MLB, the NBA and most other sports leagues are "rarely affected by the rule because usually individual teams, rather than the leagues, negotiate with local broadcasters or cable channels for exclusive television rights" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/19).
COULD CAUSE A SEISMIC SHIFT: The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said lifting the NFL blackout rule "would be seismic for home viewers because people have always been frustrated by the fact that you get to your television and if a game is not sold-out in your region, you can’t watch it." Additionally, if fans "have portability with DirecTV and any of the other things, you get frustrated there.” However, Gay wondered if there is a "potential bad side to this where you are going to see fewer and fewer fans going to NFL games." He noted attendance has been down the "last couple of years" and they are trying improve the in-game experience "because the TV product is so good” ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 12/18).
Showtime averaged 1.3 million viewers for the Marcos Maidana-Adrien Broner boxing main event last Saturday night, making it the "third most watched fight for the network since 2009 when Showtime began tracking individual bouts," according to R. Thomas Umstead of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. Maidana upset the previously undefeated Broner in a unanimous decision win. The average audience for the entire four-fight telecast "also ranks as the fourth-largest live boxing telecast on Showtime" since '04. Network officials added that overall, the Showtime Championship Boxing series’ in '13 is seeing its average viewership up 24% over last year and up 64% over '11 (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/17).
NO MONEY, NO PROBLEM: In L.A., Lance Pugmire wrote Floyd Mayweather Jr. moving to Showtime "still stings HBO." But the net "rallied in the final months of 2013 with new stars," and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman "isn't expecting to be shuttled out of his office anytime during what he assesses will be a big 2014 for his company." Ratings show that HBO "remains the TV home of choice among fight fans, but Showtime enjoyed a remarkable spike in viewership thanks to the Golden Boy link," and Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez "each is due to fight at least twice more next year." Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer on Tuesday said that while his "commitment remains to create 'mouth-watering matchups,' he's not averse to renewing business with HBO in some capacity." Schaefer said, "This was not a divorce. It was a separation. We just had the best year we've ever had at Golden Boy. Showtime had theirs, too. But that doesn't mean you don't take calls if the time is right. I have no hard feelings against HBO." Meanwhile, HBO Sports VP/Sports Publicity & Media Relations Ray Stallone "dismissed chatter that Hershman was in trouble." Stallone: "None of that has tracked back to here ... there's no rumor or gossip to respond to. HBO boxing has been refortified. Look at the stars that still work here" (L.A. TIMES, 12/18).
Fox Sports Radio in a memo revealed a new lineup for early '14 that has left Pat O’Brien, Steve Hartman, Rob Dibble and Amy Van Dyken "without a place to call their show," according to sources cited by Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The new schedule, debuting on Jan. 6, "marks a notable change" in the 3:00-6:00pm ET slot, which O’Brien and Hartman "have held for the last several years." The memo said the “Fox Sports Primetime” slot "will be replaced by a new program to be announced shortly." For the 6:00-10:00pm national slot, Fox will move Las Vegas-based John “J.T. The Brick” Tournour with partner Tomm Looney "from late nights to the earlier slot." From 10:00pm-2:00am, Fox has replaced Dibble and Van Dyken with Jason Smith. Fox’ national lineup also will "move Ben Maller from weekends to weekdays" from 2:00-5:00am, followed by “Fox Sports Daybreak” with Andy Furman and Mike North from 6:00-9:00am. The new lineup keeps Dan Patrick (9:00am-12:00pm) and Jay Mohr (12:00-3:00pm) "in their usual spots" (DAILYNEWS.com, 12/18).
THE CABLINASIAN IS LEAVING: Houston-based KGOW-AM Owner David Gow yesterday said that Sean Pendergast, one of the original hosts on the station for its '07 launch, "has informed the station he will leave at the end of the week." In Houston, David Barron reported Pendergast's expected move to KILT-AM "could come as early as" today (CHRON.com, 12/18).
MLB.com's At Bat app for the fifth consecutive year "was named the highest-grossing sports app by Apple in its annual Best of the Year rankings for the App Store," according to Mark Newman of MLB.com. At Bat finished the year in the overall App Store rankings "as the only sports app to place among the Top 100 highest-grossing applications for both iPhone and iPad." At Bat finished 19th and 37th for iPhone and iPad, respectively (MLB.com, 12/17). FORBES.com's Maury Brown noted the only other sports-related apps to "make any of the six different year-end App Store rankings by Apple were NHL GameCenter (iPad highest grossing, 99th) and WatchESPN (iPad free, 74th)." Meanwhile, download figures of the At Bat app this year "were impressive." MLB fans in '13 downloaded the app "more than 10 million times," with 60% of its subscribers "accessing At Bat and its premium features, such as live audio broadcasts and the MLB.TV Game of the Day, daily" (FORBES.com, 12/18).
Dreamworks' "Turbo" is "morphing into a cartoon series -- Turbo Fast -- that will be launched on Netflix in time for Christmas," and if the series "becomes a hit, it could give rise to a line of games, toys and other merchandise and might pave the way for a movie sequel," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The series will "revolve around racing in the fictitious Snail Racing League." It does "not feature the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in its first few episodes, but the Borg Warner Trophy ... is presented to the winner of the snail series." IMS officials hope the series "will cause more people to watch the movie -- which prominently features" IMS and IndyCar racing. IMS officials initially said that IndyCar drivers "will not have a role" in the series. But track President Doug Boles said that the speedway "could be featured in later episodes." The first five installments of the 26-episode season "will be released Dec. 24, with each half-hour broken into three segments" (IBJ.com, 12/18).
WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY's Alexandra Steigrad reported Deadspin's John Koblin has been hired by the N.Y. Times "as its next Styles reporter." Koblin while at Deadspin "focused primarily on writing news and features on ESPN and sports media." His last day at Deadspin will be Jan. 6, and a Times internal memo stated he will join the paper "early next year" (WWD.com, 12/18). SI's Richard Deitsch noted Koblin "covered ESPN like the Pentagon." Media writer Ed Sherman posted, "Deadspin now in market for another writer to take down ESPN" (TWITTER.com, 12/18).
GENIUS OF LOVE: The NFL said its "Fantasy Genius" feature on NFL.com, offering fantasy advice and influenced in part by crowdsourcing and online message boards, received 1.9 million questions during the course of the season, with 17.5 million answers given back by the online community. Many leagues across fantasy football are playing their championship games this weekend, and an NFL.com team, dubbed "America's Team," guided entirely by the Fantasy Genius is playing in the finals of the NFL.com Experts Fantasy Football League. Fantasy Genius debuted in July, allowing users to get their teams rated, ask questions, and offer advice to other players (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
INSIDE INFORMATION: The Atlantic 10 Conference announced that it has formed a partnership with Campus Insiders, allowing the digital college sports network to show 27 basketball games. The slate of games will consist of 18 contests as part of an A-10 media rights package, plus an additional nine Fordham Univ. games. The league also will air those games on SportsNet N.Y. as part of an existing deal with the RSN. The Campus Insiders deal supplements the A-10 media rights packages currently held by ESPN, CBSSN and NBCSN (Atlantic 10).