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Each of the four NFL Wild Card windows saw increases in overnight ratings over the weekend. Fox led the way with a 27.7 overnight for the 49ers’ last-second 23-20 win over the Packers in the late window yesterday, marking a record Wild Card overnight rating for the net. The 27.7 rating is up 17% from Seahawks-Redskins in the same window last year. CBS earned a 20.3 overnight for the Chargers’ 27-10 win over the Bengals in the early window yesterday, up 3% from Ravens-Colts in the same window in ’13. Chargers-Bengals also marks the best figure for an AFC Wild Card in the early Sunday window since NBC earned a 21.9 overnight for Patriots-Browns in ’95. Meanwhile, NBC saw the second-best Wild Card Saturday since the current TV format was implemented for the '02 playoffs, behind only ’10. The Colts' 45-44 come-from-behind victory over the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon earned a 17.2 overnight in the 4:30pm ET window, marking the best Saturday afternoon AFC Wild Card since ‘99. The Saints' last-second, 26-24 win over the Eagles earned a 20.5 overnight, marking the second-best overnight ever for a Wild Card game in primetime (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND OVERNIGHT RATINGSNETTIME (ET)'14 GAMERAT.'13 GAMERAT.% +/-NBC4:00pmColts-Chiefs17.2Bengals-Texans16.26.2%NBC8:30pmSaints-Eagles20.5Packers-Vikings18.312.0%CBS1:00pmChargers-Bengals20.3Ravens-Colts19.73.0%Fox4:30pm49ers-Packers27.7Seahawks-Redskins23.716.9%
STRAIGHT DOWN THE LINE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes NBC's Al Michaels had the "best call of the weekend" during Saints-Eagles. When Saints K Shayne Graham hit a 32-yard field goal with no time left to win the game, Michaels said, "Right down Broad Street." Michaels is "the best football play-by-play announcer there is and just might be the best who has ever lived." Meanwhile, Fox did a "good job" covering 49ers-Packers. The weather was "a factor with extremely cold temperatures, but Fox didn't overdo it with the constant shots of thermometers and such." It gave "the most attention to what it was calling: a football game" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/6). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes after CBS' Phil Simms "put his faith" in Bengals QB Andy Dalton and "came up empty," he "admitted it" on air. Simms from his "earliest days on TV, has always admitted" when he has been wrong about something, differing from most "NFL analysts who are never wrong" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/6).
HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes CBS' Tracy Wolfson has "risen from the pack to become a top sideline reporter." Wolfson offers "no self-serving 'he told me' intrusions, just concisely spoken, interesting and often applicable info." She is "a pro" (N.Y. POST, 1/6). In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote CBS in assigning Wolfson as a sideline reporter to the game gave viewers "exactly what I have been lobbying for all year." Wolfson "provided viewers with some of the things I wanted in a Ravens telecast: injury reports, condition of the field, a sense of what was happening on the benches." Zurawik: "What I'm wondering is what happened to the explanation CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus offered that sideline reporters weren't necessary and, worse, they cut into the airtime of all that excellent analysis we would otherwise get from Simms?" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/5).
FOX ON FIRE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes there were a "ton of complaints yesterday from customers regarding Fox's streaming" of the 49ers-Packers game on Fox Sports Go. Fox Sports PR issued a statement during the second quarter of the game that read, "Our understanding is that the technical issues we were experiencing have been resolved, and we apologize for any inconvenience" (SI.com, 1/6). Meanwhile, on Long Island, Neil Best reported "Fox NFL Sunday" "again won the increasingly crowded race" among NFL pregame shows during the regular season, "averaging 3.2 percent of homes and 4.8 million viewers." That is "more than the last season of NBC's critically acclaimed '30 Rock' -- and 86 other prime time television shows -- averaged during the 2012-13 television season" (NEWSDAY.com, 1/3).
BEST IN THE BUSINESS: In Denver, Dusty Saunders names NBC's Michaels and Cris Collinsworth his "best game team" for NFL coverage. Saunders also gives "a nod to the underrated Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's seasoned analyst who worked efficiently throughout the season with play-by-play man Brad Nessler." Saunders names NBC's Michele Tafoya "best sideline reporter." Saunders awards CBS the "best screen graphics," and votes for CBS' "The NFL Today" as best pregame show (DENVER POST, 1/6). But the N.Y. POST's Mushnick writes Mayock "remains the heavyweight champion of modern football blowhards." Mayock is a "steady speaker of genuine gridiron gibberish." Mushnick: "Is there no one at NBC or NFLN to save him from himself, them from him, us from him? Do his bosses like what they hear? Do they think we like what we hear?" (N.Y. POST, 1/6).
ESPN drew a 7.2 overnight rating for Clemson's 40-35 win over Ohio State on Friday night, up 11% from the game's Florida State-Northern Illinois matchup last year, which aired on New Year's Day. This year's game, which was the last BCS bowl prior to the National Championship, had competition from Fox' Missouri-Oklahoma State AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday night, which drew a 4.3 overnight. The last BCS game before last year's National Championship was the Oregon-Kansas State Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which drew a 7.7 overnight on a Thursday night. Fox' 4.3 overnight for the Cotton Bowl was down from a 7.6 overnight for the Oklahoma-Texas A&M matchup last year. Meanwhile, ESPN drew a 1.1 overnight for the GoDaddy Bowl last night, which saw Arkansas State win over Ball State. That figure is down from a 1.2 overnight for the Arkansas State-Kent State game last year. ESPN also earned a 1.9 overnight for the Vanderbilt-Houston BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday from 1:00-4:45pm ET, down from a 2.0 overnight for Pitt-Ole Miss last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
SUGAR SUGAR: ESPN drew a 9.3 final rating and 16.3 million viewers for Thursday night's Allstate Sugar Bowl that saw Oklahoma beat Alabama 45-31, making it the most-viewed Sugar Bowl since the LSU-Oklahoma matchup in '04 that crowned the BCS National Champion and most-viewed Sugar Bowl that was not a BCS title game since Miami-Florida in '01. The rating and viewership for the Oklahoma-Alabama telecast were up 50% and 61%, respectively, from the Louisville-Florida matchup last year, which aired on a Wednesday night (ESPN).
GO BIG OR GO HOME: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote ESPN's "mega-coverage" of tonight's FSU-Auburn BCS National Championship game "has huge potential to usher viewers into a new era for college football's biggest game." ESPN as part of a "BCS Megacast" will offer "different viewing options ... across six of its television platforms and audio and digital outlets." Network execs said that they have "contemplated such a concept for years and the programming department ... particularly expressed the desire to do something big for this year's BCS title game." The new elements "are interesting and give viewers an amplified viewing experience." Deitsch asked, "How much of a blueprint will Monday night be for how future college football playoff games are broadcast on the network?" ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for College Football Ed Placey: "I'm hoping what this results in is an excitement level for it and also for us to take what we did well, what we learned from it, and that it turns into what we do on an annual basis for the national championship game. But that's still to be determined" (SI.com, 1/5). USA TODAY's Paul Myerberg noted ESPN's "BCS Megacast" will use 63 cameras, four of which will "be devoted to 'Title Talk.'" Two will be "aimed at the head coaches," and another two will be "set on each team's premier player," like FSU QB Jameis Winston and Auburn RB Tre Mason. A "similar visual approach will be taken on ESPN3," which will "use the home radio calls" from both schools along with two different camera angles (USATODAY.com, 1/4).
CHANGE IS A GOOD THING: ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said he thinks the first year of the College Football Playoff will be "markedly different than year 2 and 3 since the Rose and Sugar are anchored on Jan. 1." In Birmingham, Jon Solomon noted the Rose and Sugar Bowls host the CFP semifinals next year, but those games will be on Dec. 31 "in two out of every three years." Magnus said, "To have six games stacked over days and reaching back into New Year's Eve has a chance to redefine the country's perspective of what the New Year's holiday means to people and how people plan out their own personal lives over those two days. Our hope is the audience for two semifinal games approaches viewership levels we see now for the championship game, and the championship game we would hope would be substantially above that level." He added of the differences and similarities between selling the BCS to advertisers and sponsors compared to selling the CFP, "Our guys have been out for a while actively talking to the incumbent BCS sponsors. Personally, I think there won't be a ton of attrition there. I think the guys involved in it now like being involved in it. Seven games total as opposed to five allows for more sponsors to get involved. I think you'll see new players, but I think you'll see the core guys who support college football, not just in the BCS but in the regular season" (AL.com, 1/3).
The Phillies under their new deal with CSN Philadelphia doubled their annual average TV rights fee and picked up an ownership stake in the RSN, according to several sources. NBC Sports Group, which operates the RSN, has agreed to a 25-year deal that will see it pay an average of $100M per year for the rights, with the annual fee growing between 3-4% each year, sources said. That figure doubles the rights fee the team had received from CSN Philadelphia and its over-the-air partner, WCAU-NBC. The Phillies also increased their ownership stake in the RSN to 25%. It is unclear how much of CSN Philadelphia the Phillies had owned before. The Phillies' TV deal was set to expire after the '15 season. The more than $2.5B in aggregate rights fees places the Phillies in the upper echelon of MLB teams, and the initial annual figure of $100M currently trails only the Dodgers, Angels, Rangers and Mariners -- though it also will be eclipsed by the Yankees (Ourand & Fisher, Staff Writers).
LONG-TERM LARGESSE: In Philadelphia, Gelb & Fernandez cited sources as saying that the new deal, which will last through '41, "will provide the network with precious live summer programming" and the Phillies with "another substantial revenue source." Ad revenue from broadcasts "will still be split in some manner." The major financial provisions "will not go into effect" until '16. A source said that while the average annual rights fee for the duration of the contract is $100M, the figure "will begin smaller and grow each year." The Phillies are paid approximately $35M per season "in rights fees under the current contract." The new deal "combined with the ownership share and advertising revenue" is one of MLB's "most lucrative." The Phillies' deal "preserves Comcast SportsNet's market power in the Philadelphia area." The net also televises Flyers and 76ers games (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/4). FORBES.com's Maury Brown noted the value of the Phillies' TV deal "will jump a staggering" 186%, which alone "would make the broadcast deal align somewhat with others that have been met, namely the Rangers and Angels," who have signed 20-year, $3B agreements. But the Phillies also are "acquiring a 25 percent minority ownership stake in [the] venture, thus adding an equity component to the mix." The total value of deal including escalators "should come in at, or slightly above $3 billion in total value" (FORBES.com, 1/3).
HEY, BIG SPENDER: In Philadelphia, Ryan Lawrence wrote the Phillies with the new deal "should have no excuses in remaining among the game's most aggressive spenders." The Phillies "roughly have $65 million more to spend each year," and that "doesn't include the $24 million the team ... received this winter" as part of MLB's new national TV deal. Phillies President David Montgomery said of the effect the new CSN Philadelphia deal will have on spending, "It might not represent quite a significant change as what has occurred in other markets. But we continue to believe, thanks to the tremendous fan support, that we'll continue to be one of the top five clubs in payroll each year" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/5).
With the airing of the final episode of HBO's "24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic," the book is "officially closed on what was a terrific event for the NHL," according to Chris Peters of CBSSPORTS.com. However, this year's "24/7" series "didn't quite have those extremely memorable moments that came out in previous seasons." That said, it was "still an interesting look inside two teams and a nice break from the monotony of what we hear through the watered down commentary in post-game interviews and press conferences." The final episode had "a few memorable points, most of which included" Maple Leafs RW Phil Kessel, who "may have been the series' breakout star as he's often one of the most misunderstood players in the league." Generally, it was another episode "that wasn't terribly compelling compared to previous seasons, but again, it's still a great show" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/4). In Detroit, Steve Schrader wrote the finale was "a nice send-off, with some great snowy scenes from the frigid Big House." But there are "a few complaints about the series." Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk "remained a silent participant, and they did nothing with the Alumni Showdown" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/5).
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted USA Hockey provided ESPN.com and USA Today with "unlimited access" to chronicle the Olympic team's assembly. But that decision "was regretful" after controversy arose over Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke's evaluation of Senators LW Bobby Ryan, who was omitted from the team. Burke according to the ESPN.com story said of Ryan, "He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary. It's never going to be in his vocabulary." Ryan "did not appreciate the comments." He said that Burke's "rip job was gutless." Team USA GM David Poile said that USA Hockey "had the right to review ESPN.com's and USA Today's material before publication." ESPN.com writer Scott Burnside "declined to comment on if he faced any restrictions or guidelines." Burnside in an e-mail wrote that he "did not record any conversations and was asked not to write about the process until the team was announced on Wednesday." Poile on Friday during a conference call "did not dispute that Burke made the critical comments." But Poile said that there was "just as much positive review on Ryan’s performance." Poile added that when the management team "made its final vote, Burke had Ryan on the team." Poile: "I’m trying to apologize to Bobby Ryan. ... I apologize as much as I can" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/5). The Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE noted Burnside was "embedded in the selection process from beginning to end, and his piece included some brutally honest inside looks into how the team was determined." But "like it or not, these are the real conversations that go on when you are on a committee tasked with trying to assemble the best combination of 25 players" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/5).
ESPN yesterday ran a five-minute feature on NFL analyst Trent Dilfer working with Tim Tebow in an attempt for Tebow "to become a viable quarterback," something a former ESPN employee called in an e-mail a "new low for ESPN 'cannibalism,'" according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. An "overwhelming majority of my Twitter followers had issues with ESPN running the feature," and the piece exemplifies "the editorial landscape ESPN must negotiate now that Tebow is an employee." The piece "played too much like an infomercial whether that was ESPN's objective or not." While Fox during its interview of suspended Dolphins G Richie Incognito "opened this door with Jay Glazer interviewing his own MMA clients," Deitsch expects "higher journalism standards from ESPN because they have shown they care about such standards." Deitsch: "If it were my call, this feature would have never run." ESPN "emphatically" said that the feature "was not part of any contractual quid pro quo with Tebow upon his being hired" for the SEC Network. An ESPN spokesperson said that Tebow "reached out to Dilfer several weeks ago because he valued Dilfer's opinion as an expert on quarterbacks," and when Dilfer said that "he wanted to do it for a story ... Tebow agreed" (SI.com, 1/5).
SHAMEFUL SELF-PROMOTION: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes there is "no way to sugarcoat what ESPN ... is doing." The story "was a shameful attempt at self-promotion," the same thing the net did in '12 when it "saturated viewers with Tebow stories despite him rarely seeing the field" with the Jets. The situation "smacks of an all-too-cozy story that violates the tenets of journalism." The blame "isn't on Tebow, who is simply trying to find NFL work," but rather "on ESPN and Dilfer for promoting one of their employees" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/6). DEADSPIN's Timothy Burke wrote the story is "an odd turn from the network, which had previously finally acknowledged that yeah, maybe they went a bit overboard with the Tebow stuff." Now that Tebow is "pulling checks from the Mouse, everybody's back onboard to throat the NFL flameout" (DEADSPIN.com, 1/5).Business Insider's Cork Gaines wrote on his Twitter feed, "I agree with @deadspin that it was a BS Tebow puff-piece. … Also, Dilfer and Tebow have similar religious beliefs/personalities. I hope that wasnt behind Dilfer's overtly pro-Tebow stance." S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion wrote, "Watching Trent Dilfer on ESPN. Cannot get creepy Tim Tebow segment out of my head. Ew." CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco: "So Dilfer worked with Tebow and fixed his motion. All well and good. But did he teach him how to read defenses? Not fixable" (TWITTER.com, 1/5).
WELCOME TO THE TEAM: Tebow made his on-air debut today as an analyst for ESPN, previewing tonight's Florida State-Auburn BCS National Championship game. USA Today's Nate Davis wrote, "Solid debut for Tebow. Maybe he's found a starting role after all." Columbus-based WBNS-CBS sports anchor David Wilkinson: "Say what you want about the guy, but I think Tim Tebow is going to be just fine as an analyst. Thought his insight was solid on title game." Fox Sports Wisconsin Digital Content Assistant James Carlton: "Tim Tebow is a phenomenal analyst on ESPN already. His knowledge and articulation are refreshing for a recent player-to-TV guy on ESPN." Bleacher Report's Chris Trapasso: "Tim Tebow's not doing a bad job analyzing the national title game right now. Good for him." Chargers Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships Chris Lee: "Tebow just said he sang kumbaya for 3 hrs before his BCS game, not sure if famous Jameis will. I already like Tebow better on ESPN already!" Boston-based WFXT-Fox' Michael Dyer: "Does Tebow ever say anything interesting? Great guy..but he's vanilla ice cream. Not the makings of a good analyst."