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ESPN earned a 15.3 overnight rating for Florida State’s 34-31 win over Auburn in last night's Vizio BCS National Championship game, down 2.5% from the network’s 15.7 overnight for Alabama's blowout of Notre Dame last year. However, FSU-Auburn is up 11% from a 13.8 overnight for Alabama-LSU in ’12. Last night's game was down 5% from the '11 title game, which saw Auburn beat Oregon on a last-play game-winning field goal. Birmingham led all markets with a 55.8 local rating for FSU-Auburn, followed Jacksonville (31.1), Knoxville (26.6), Atlanta (25.8) and Orlando-Daytona Beach (24.9). When the game’s “Megacast” coverage on ESPN2 and ESPNews is included, the game drew a 15.7 overnight (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes ESPN did a "splendid job of letting pictures and the Seminoles' emotions tell the story" following FSU's win. The net during the postgame celebration "captured a poignant moment" as FSU QB Jameis Winston hugged Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig, who was FSU's QB coach from '10-12 (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/7). However, In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the "televised hype and pregame buildup on multiple sports networks was so long, so extensive, so over-the-top spectacular that it was almost enough to make the Super Bowl blush" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/7).
I'M BRENT MUSBURGER? In N.Y. John Healy notes ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger "mixed himself up" with color analyst Kirk Herbstreit during his opening for the game. Musburger opened the broadcast by saying, "Good evening and welcome, everybody, I'm Kirk Herbstreit alongside Brent Musburger." Healy notes Herbstreit "quickly turned his head and smiled at Musburger as if something was off, but let him continue anyway" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/7). The Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski wrote on his Twitter feed, "Don't care if Musburger is nearing the end, or if he identified himself as Kirk Herbstreit. Game feels bigger with him."
MUSBURGER EARNS KUDOS: Prior to Winston throwing the game-winning touchdown to WR Kelvin Benjamin, Musburger and Herbstreit mentioned how Benjamin is a popular target close to the goal line. Musburger described the play by saying, "Throws it. End zone, jump ball ... touchdown! You know who he went for, No. 1 Kelvin Benjamin. … On that drive, folks, the Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was 6-7 for 77 yards and the touchdown. So the BCS era is coming to an end with one of its best championship games ever. What is it about the Rose Bowl?" ("Florida State-Auburn," ESPN, 1/7). FoxSports.com's Jimmy Traina wrote on Twitter account, "That call by Brent was as good as it gets. No one -- NO ONE -- could've done it better." The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre: "Let's put that Brent Musburger TD call in the vault. Classic Brent. The guy is an announcing legend, no doubt on the announcing Mr. Rushmore." Spiracle Media co-Founder Bill Voth: "Honestly, that was a perfect call by Brent for that moment." Author James Andrew Miller: "Next commercial rewind to kickoff and try to call the play; see if you can come anywhere close to Brent's call." The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler: "Musburger has really been good these last few minutes." Meanwhile, reports have surfaced in recent weeks that ESPN's contract with the 74-year-old Musburger expires this summer. SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Musburger "should call one of the CFB playoff games next year." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter: "Really hope there's a place for Musburger in next year's playoff coverage. He does his homework, doesn't get in the way of the game." Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky: "If this is Brent Musburger's last prime time call I hope sports fans appreciate the greatness of what Brent has done for 40plus years." NFL Network's Scott Hanson: "If this was Brent Musberger's last game - here's a salute from a fan who respects his career & knows how difficult his job is."
3 FEET HIGH AND RISING: After Auburn took the lead with 1:19 left in the game following a Tre Mason touchdown run, Musburger mentioned that Mason's father was a member of influential hip-hop band De La Soul. NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote on Twitter, "Brent Musburger just quoted De La Soul. I'm about to have a stroke." From SB Nation's official feed: "Last two minutes of the National Championship game De La Soul reference from Brent Musburger, the world is an amazing place." ESPN's Kevin Negandhi: "Brent talkin De La and Me, Myself and I. The crowning moment of the 16 years of the BCS is complete." Fox' Kevin Burkhardt: "Brent, you are a gem. Old school hip hop reference!" Writer Tommy Tomlinson: "Glad they called a timeout so Brent could rank the Tribe Called Quest catalog."
MAKING A SOLID DEBUT: USA TODAY's Chris Chase noted Tim Tebow made his debut yesterday as an ESPN analyst and he "delivered his first response with clarity, poise and few signs of nerves." It was generally a "fine debut," as he began by answering a "softball question about how he prepared for his two national championship game appearances with the Gators." Though Tebow’s first answer "was fine, predicting his television future based on that one response is like slotting a quarterback for the Hall of Fame because he completes his first pass." The "real Tebow will begin to show himself in the future" (USATODAY.com, 1/6). NFL.com's Chase Goodbread writes under the header, "Tim Tebow Has Strong Debut As College Football Analyst." Tebow predicted a 35-31 win by FSU and with the end result 34-31, Goodbread writes, "Are you kidding? Stick to TV, Tim" (NFL.com, 1/7).
MACK ATTACK? In Austin, Kirk Bohls notes an ESPN source "wouldn't be surprised" if former Texas coach Mack Brown finds a job as a college football analyst at the net. Bohls: "Neither would I. He's a natural fit, although GameDay expert Lee Corso is still under contract and isn't eager to retire." Brown "has to act quickly if he truly does want to coach again." He turns 63 next August and "would be 64 before he coaches another game if he sat out next season" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/7). Meanwhile, ESPN's Sage Steele wrote Alabama coach Nick Saban, who appeared on ESPN's set during the game, "is money as an analyst." Steele: "Excellent on pregame coverage & as good - if not better at 1/2time when concise is key" (TWITTER.com, 1/6).
FRUIT OF THE VINE: ESPN earned a 6.7 final rating and 11.4 million viewers for the Clemson-Ohio State Discover Orange Bowl on Friday night, marking the best audience for the BCS bowl since Kansas-Virginia Tech in '08. That comes despite competition on the same night from Fox' broadcast of the Missouri-Oklahoma State AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Orange Bowl audience in '14 is up 10% and 8%, respectively, from the Florida State-Northern Illinois matchup last year, which aired on New Year's Day. Columbus led all markets with a 41.1 local rating, marking the best rating in the Ohio capital for a bowl game on ESPN since '00. Through four BCS games (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar ,Orange), ESPN averaged an 8.2 final rating and 14.3 million viewers, up 12% and 15%, respectively, compared to '13 (ESPN).
ESPN's "Megacast" for last night's Florida State-Auburn Vizio BCS National Championship game attempted to "give a little something (or a lot, depending how often you clicked the remote) to every fan," according to Reid Cherner of USA TODAY. Viewers who wanted a "wonkier breakdown" of the action than offered by game announcers Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN "could move to ESPNews and get coaches," such as Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst and Boston College's Steve Addazio, breaking down the game along with ESPN's Matt Millen and Chris Spielman. The group, which "seemed to relish coaching two other teams, not only gave the why of the past play but ventured into making the next call." None of the participants "held back on criticism of how Florida State struggled early with Auburn's speed." They also called an FSU "fake punt seconds before it happened in the second quarter." Meanwhile, the "party was on ESPN2, where things were looser with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith hosting," and guests such as actors Cheryl Hines and Columbus Short appearing (USA TODAY, 1/7). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes the concept of ESPN Classic's "Sounds of the Game" was "excellent -- no play-by-play, just natural audio, perfect for the bedroom acoustics -- but the channel isn’t in HD." Meanwhile, the coaches featured on ESPNews' "Film Room" were "definitely in their element -- respectful, insightful and manageable in the ways they could foresee plays and formations." This approach "really worked well as an entertaining and informative dynamic." However, ESPN2’s "Title Talk" concept "became the place to go if watching the game was secondary to hearing yourself yack incessantly" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/7). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes "Film Room" was an "ideal option for viewers that are football junkies, providing you were willing to put up with seeing the game on a much smaller screen" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 1/7).
FINDING GOLD IN THEM HILLS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote on his Twitter feed the "Film Room" is a "great reminder that when ESPN dials back on the self-promo & embrace debate BS, they can be revolutionary and great." Golf Channel's Gary Williams wrote, "ESPNews crushing it with film room format in real time of BCS title game. Very clever." The South Bend Tribune's Tyler James: "Like the Megacast on ESPNews. They could show less of the back of their heads, but cool to see coaches dissecting the game live." ESPN Radio 950 Richmond's Greg Burton: "Enjoying the megacast on ESPNNews. Very cool idea. Commentary exposes alot of armchair QB's seem." CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco: “I just loved watching the Coaches Room for the title game. Spielman is really, really good. Sumlin too.” Houston-based KILT-AM's Sean Pendergast: "I love the honesty of the Film room Megacast. Guy drops ball they all groan openly at how bad it is. Like watching on couch w buddies. Great." The San Antonio Express-News' Tim Griffin: "This megacast stuff is kind of cool. How 'bout doing the Super Bowl this way, too." SI's Stewart Mandel: "ESPN's experiment seems to be wildly successful, more people tweeting about the alt channels than the game itself."
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: While the "Film Room" feed on ESPNews played to rave reviews, words were not as kind for ESPN2's "Title Talk." Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote on Twitter, "Is anyone watching ESPN2 over Brent/Herbie? If so, tell me the exact moment Jesse Palmer freaks out and yells 'I put on a tie for this!?!?'" From Awful Announcing's feed: "By the 4th Quarter, this ESPN2 feed may devolve into some of the best trainwreck television that’s ever been produced."
The four NFL Wild Card games this past weekend averaged 34.7 million viewers, marking the league's most-viewed Wild Card weekend on record. Fox' 49ers-Packers game on Sunday finished with a 25.8 rating and 47.1 million viewers, marking the highest-rated Wild Card game on any net since at least '88. The game was up 20% and 24%, respectively, from a 21.5 rating and 38.1 million viewers for Seahawks-Redskins in the late Sunday window last season. 49ers-Packers also marks the most-viewed TV program of any kind since last year's Super Bowl. CBS finished with an 18.9 rating and 30.9 million viewers for the Chargers-Bengals Wild Card in the early window on Sunday, up 4% in both metrics compared to Ravens-Colts in '13. The audience marked the best viewership for an early Sunday AFC Wild Card matchup in 19 years. NBC's doubleheader marked the most-viewed Wild Card Saturday ever, with an average of 30.8 million viewers (THE DAILY).
FIT FOR A QUEEN CITY: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg noted WJZY-Fox drew 639,950 local viewers for 49ers-Packers, "an audience that trails only" the 656,320 viewers for the Nov. 18 Patriots-Panthers "MNF" telecast. Meanwhile, Saints-Eagles drew 473,540 viewers on WCNC-NBC in Charlotte, with the local affiliate drawing 350,230 viewers for Colts-Chiefs. Charlotte-based WBTV-CBS drew 407,370 for Chargers-Bengals (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/6).
EXPORT ASSISTANCE: CTV averaged 1.6 million Canadian viewers for 49ers-Packers, marking the fourth-largest Wild Card audience since CTV began airing NFL games in '07. The net averaged 1.1 million viewers for Saints-Eagles, 997,000 viewers for Colts-Chiefs, and 869,000 viewers for Chargers-Bengals (CTV).
The Rockets last night asked a federal bankruptcy judge to "extend their role as lead negotiator for Comcast SportsNet Houston through Jan. 31, allowing more time to pursue what they describe as 'significant progress' with potential partners that could help revive the financially troubled regional sports network," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Rockets have been "acting as lead negotiator since Dec. 12, when they inherited that role from the Astros." Judge Marvin Isgur has "allowed each team leeway to seek new business alliances." The Rockets said they received an offer yesterday from an unnamed party, and are "in the midst of significant negotiations with at least one other party" (CHRON.com, 1/6).
PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM: In Philadelphia, Matt Gelb noted the Phillies as part of their 25-year deal with CSN Philadelphia "must send" 34% of the rights fee to MLB's revenue-sharing pool, but the rights fee is the "only part of these TV deals subject" to MLB's revenue sharing. Thus, teams "find profit in other areas, like an equity stake in the network and a share of advertising revenue." MLB agent Scott Boras said that the Phillies and other teams are "taking advantage of a loophole" in the CBA. Boras: "Having a percent ownership in the entity prevents them from exposure to revenue-sharing rules, which hurts other teams in the league from receiving the true payment" (PHILLY.com, 1/6).
Kicking off '14 is a look at Golf Channel's news-based mobile application, developed Vertigo Software. It is one of four apps offered by the Golf Channel. Golf Live Extra, an extension of NBC Sports' live video product; Golf Channel Academy, a freemium instruction-based offering; and GolfNow, a tee-time booking tool, were not reviewed for purposes of this article. Golf Channel for iPhone is a free, ad-supported app offering news, scores and live audio of Golf Channel programming. Content is divided into 10 basic categories: GolfTalkCentral, Opinion & Analysis, News & Original Video, Instruction Video, Photo Galleries, TV Blogs, Fantasy Central, Equipment Insider, Nike Athletes, and Nike Golf R&D. The bulk of these sections offer recent news articles, writer commentary and VOD. Live audio is accessed by tapping a camera icon in the upper navigation. A scores section provides up-to-date coverage of PGA Tour play with a full leaderboard and player-specific statistics. I conducted this week's review with an iPhone 5 version 7.0.4, with AT&T service.
DOUBLE EAGLES: During the PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, there was no shortage of relevant news and scoring information. The app offers a full leaderboard with player names, positions, scores and tee times. Users can select their favorite players to customize the experience. Tapping on the star icon next to a player's name brings his score information to the top of the leaderboard for quicker viewing. Player-specific pages offer even more information including a photo, country of origin and overall score. A hole-by-hole scoring summary is broken into rounds. Tournament air times are also listed within the app.
ON PAR: The order of home screen news feeds is customizable from within the preferences section, and breaking news notifications can also be set here. A fantasy content section is offered along with an equipment insider feed. This is great content, but all in article form. Live audio works well with "Morning Drive." However I was surprised that this was the only Golf Channel show for which live audio was offered. Perhaps they could include "Golf Central" or "Feherty" here as well. For live video, users must download Golf Live Extra, a separate app.
BOGEYS: There is no course information within the app. It would be nice to see a map along with stats and information about tour locations and other famous courses. In addition, there are no social media touch points or interactive features of any kind. VOD content lives within articles and feels very desktop-like in presentation. In my viewing experience, display ads do run below content. However, the app appears to be serving blank ads, as a small "x" can be seen where the ad would appear. Meanwhile, there are no transactional revenue integrations within the app. I feel a PGA Tour ticketing option or an equipment storefront would be natural additions.
BOTTOM LINE: Basic, basic, basic. While the app does offer a great deal of quality information, there is room to expand the offerings with features such as course maps or social media touch points. I believe this news-focused, text-heavy app could easily be combined with other Golf Channel mobile products for a one-stop golf content consumption experience. Either way, Golf Channel can beef up this product with deeper engagement opportunities, better video features and more tournament-specific information.
Amie Sheridan (email@example.com) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia. She was previously employed by NBC Sports Group, which owns and operates Golf Channel.
See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
- The Year's Best From The Four Major Pro Leagues
- Yahoo Sports For iPhone Goes All-In On Scores And Stats, With No Video
- Big Ten Network's BTN2Go Brings Lots Of Video, But Also Lots Of Ads
- ESPN SportsCenter For iPhone Offers Deep Content, Needs Fine Tuning
- UFC.TV Offers Up-Close Experience, But Some Empty Features
BROADCASTING & CABLE's Tim Baysinger noted the NBA's media rights deals are up following the '15-16 season, and with "three media companies -- ESPN/ABC, Fox and Turner -- possibly bidding for only two packages, the NBA could be looking at a lofty payout." Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said, "The NBA is the last major piece of sports content that ESPN has to acquire for the long-term future. There has been some talk of splitting (those rights) up." Baysinger notes some of that talk is "due to Fox's very open desire to acquire NBA games" for FS1. If Fox does not outbid ESPN or Turner, "there is some thought the league could create a third national rights package" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 1/6 issue).
UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS? In L.A., Joe Flint noted the Esquire Network's new show "Friday Night Tykes" is a "documentary about the Texas Youth Football Assn., whose players are under the age of 10." The preview clip shows "screaming coaches" and "several helmet-to-helmet collisions." This has the NFL "concerned." A league spokesperson said, "The trailer is definitely troubling to watch." But an Esquire Network spokesperson said the show provides an "authentic and provocative glimpse into an independent youth football league in Texas" (LATIMES.com, 1/6).
LICENSE TO DRIVE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote of ABC retaining racing play-by-play announcer Allen Bestwick for its IndyCar coverage, "Vince Welch seemed like the natural choice to me, but I think Allen is a terrific choice." Bestwick is someone who "will lead the broadcast the way it needs to be led." He is someone "people will recognize when they land on the channel, and there's a chance casual viewers will stay longer for that reason" (INDYSTAR.com, 1/6).
DETROIT ROCK CITY: In Detroit, George Sipple noted WXYT-FM yesterday aired "the first of seven one-hour weekly hot stove radio shows" called "Tigertalk" with Tigers radio announcer Dan Dickerson and WXYT's Pat Caputo. The shows will air at 7:00pm ET on "either Mondays or Tuesdays, depending on other programming." Meanwhile, a total of 22 Tigers Spring Training games "will be broadcast on radio and four games on TV" (FREEP.com, 1/6).