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Second-round NCAA Tournament play on Thursday averaged a 6.0 overnight rating across CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, marking the best opening Thursday for the tournament in 23 years. The rating is up 3% from a 5.8 figure in ‘13. The early primetime window was the top of the day with a 7.7 overnight, up 4% from a 7.4 in ’13, thanks to three games that went to OT. Meanwhile, the second daytime telecast window, from 2:45-7:15pm ET scored a 5.4 overnight, the second-highest rating for that slot since ‘91. The first daytime telecast, which featured Dayton's last-second upset of Ohio State, garnered a 4.6 rating, up 12% from last year. The overall tournament rating of 5.6, which includes the First Four, is up 8% from a 5.2 figure last year (CBS/Turner).
MAKE ROOM FOR BABY, AND THE 1ST TEAM: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes CBS/Turner's No. 1 broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony will be "on center stage" Friday in St. Louis, calling the four games scheduled for Scottrade Center. Nantz and Anthony "have been paired just twice" during the season, and "not since December." However, Nantz made sure to fit the two games into his fall schedule, which includes weekly NFL work, "so they wouldn’t come in cold for the NCAA event." Nantz: "As hard as it is to do a college basketball game on a Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor and a football game in Miami on Sunday during the stretch drive toward the NFL playoffs ... I really wanted to get a couple of reps in with Greg. I committed to it early." Caesar notes Nantz' wife "had a healthy daughter last week," and Anthony's wife "is expecting to have a girl next Friday." Because of that, Anthony "might have to do some schedule juggling next weekend." He said, "I’ve been at the birth of all (three of) my children and that’s still the plan here. We’re hoping she decides to either come a little early or a little late in a perfect world" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/21).
CATALON CATCHING ON: CBS' Andrew Catalon is calling his first NCAA tourney this weekend, and CBS Sports President David Berson said, "He’s very well prepared, very likeable and calls a great game. He is certainly a rising star in our business." In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes Catalon last June left Albany-based WYNT-NBC and "signed full-time with CBS Sports Net to call Mountain West Conference football and basketball." He had by then "already impressed the bosses on some regional NFL games for CBS." The net "put him on regular trips West to do a handful of college basketball games with some national importance, including Oregon’s upset of Arizona in the final weekend of Pac-12 regular-season games" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/21). CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said of Catalon, "He has a good call, a good sense of humor, plays very well off of the analyst. Most of the play-by-play guys make their analysts better. He's unselfish in terms of not being afraid to let the analyst play a dominant role sometimes. He's quick, and he's got a pleasant but good play-by-play call. He's earnest. He wants to get better. He works hard. He's always prepared. He's got all of the qualifications that you want in an up-and-coming future star" (Albany TIMES-UNION, 3/21).
THE PERFECT PAIR: TIME.com's Sean Gregory profiled CBS’ Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, who are calling their 15th NCAA tournament as a pair this year, and asked, “What’s better than two older gentlemen … who have built a comfort level with each other that translates into the living room?” CBS’ Ian Eagle has studied the pair and said, “It’s about camaraderie, chemistry, they genuinely like each other. And that shows up on the air. Verne is fully engaged in the event that he’s covering. … Bill is the person, on the air, who he is off the air. He’s not playing a role.” Gregory wrote Raftery “breaks the game down like a surgeon, but in a layman’s language” and has been known for years as “one of the hardest working, most prepared broadcasters in the business.” But he is “also the nutty uncle you want to hang out with” (TIME.com, 3/20). The pair called the four games played in Buffalo Thursday, and Lundquist beforehand said that the start of the tourney represents his "longest broadcast day of the year, 'and nothing else even comes close." Lundquist: "But it’s such an exciting time of year.'" Raftery said of CBS and Turner, "Everybody’s been very happy with the synergy between the two networks. We’ve really become friendly with a lot of their people. I’m not just talking on air, but the production people, it’s really like hand and glove right now. We feel part of a nice team" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/19).
DREADED GLITCH AWARD: AD AGE's Tim Peterson noted the Yahoo Sports website "went down" Thursday, one of the "year's biggest sports days." Yahoo "acknowledged the problem on Twitter a half hour before March Madness tipped off." Since most people are "stuck following the opening day's games from their office computers," the day is "typically a traffic win for sites like Yahoo Sports." While Yahoo was "sidelined, those people may have turned elsewhere, meaning Yahoo may not reap as much ad revenue as expected" (ADAGE.com, 3/20).
FS1 averaged 3.2 million viewers for its coverage of last Sunday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the second-most watched event in the net’s short history. Those figures trail only this year’s NASCAR Sprint Unlimited, which averaged 3.5 million viewers. The Food City 500 ran on Fox from 3:00-3:45pm ET, but was moved to FS1 from 7:05-9:30pm following the delay. Fox averaged a 4.5 rating and 7.3 million viewers for its coverage of the race from 3:00-3:45, making it the highest-rated and most-watched sports event of the weekend. Fox also averaged a 3.7 rating and 6.1 million viewers for its rain-delay coverage from 3:51-6:00pm (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer).
LOSING SPEED: In Jacksonville, Don Coble reports NASCAR is trying to figure out why television ratings for the first four Sprint Cup races this year "have fallen at a record pace." Ratings are down in "all four races this year compared to numbers of a year ago," and it comes "without any competition from football, new rules that make winning important at all costs and the best start" in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s career. Both the Food City 500 and the season-opening Daytona 500 have had "long delays for rain," but that "doesn't explain why ratings dropped" by 5% at Phoenix and 11% at Las Vegas. Earnhardt won the Daytona 500, but that "didn’t create any headway for the next two races at Phoenix and Las Vegas." Rain delayed last Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, but when drivers were on the track, the competition "was incredible with three- and four-wide racing on the half-mile track." The "problem with that is it came several hours too late -- and after Fox network moved the finish" to FS1. Much like Tiger Woods in golf, Earnhardt "understands he helps drive interest in his sport." While he "sometimes struggles with that pressure, he accepts the additional challenges." Earnhardt said, "I’m comfortable with the popularity and things like that because I feel like that we do a lot and we have a great fan base and we do a lot to engage with them. But carrying the sport is a whole other conversation or being the face of the sport is a whole other conversation. It’s a very uncomfortable position to be put in" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 3/21).
The Dodgers officially start the '14 MLB season on Saturday with a two-game series against the D-Backs in Sydney, but "no other dish, cable or telecom system has picked up" Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. That leaves "only TWC subscribers -- making up about one-third of all the homes in Southern California that use a monthly service -- as the ones who still get the channel since it launched Feb. 25." There is "no run-around with the MLB Network coverage of the two games either," as they are "blacked out in this market" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/21). In California, Jim Carlisle wrote if the past is any indication, it “figures cable, satellite and telephone companies will wait as long as they can before they pick up" the channel. Even though the regular season “technically starts this weekend, the Dodgers don’t play another game that counts until March 30” against the Padres. ESPN is televising that game nationally, and the Dodgers and Padres “are off the next day, so the first stateside regular-season game for SportsNet LA isn’t until April 1.” Since providers “don’t want to start paying until they have to, it’s likely to be around that date that deals start getting worked out to carry the network” (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 3/19).
CONTROLLING THE MESSAGE: In L.A., Michael Hiltzik reported Dodgers PR Dir Joe Jareck on Wednesday "may have gotten a little bit too candid about the team's news-managing techniques." Speaking in Sydney, Jareck "said this about how the team prefers to get its news out: best to publish on its own website, Dodgers.com, because then 'we can spin it any way we want.'" Jareck: "You can tell the (in-house) writer, 'Here do this' and they’ll do it.'" Jareck also "took what sounded to be a couple of swipes at outside media." Jareck: "I’m of the belief we should give everything to Dodgers.com -- there are more eyeballs there. Gone are the days when The Los Angeles Times ruled the city." He added, "Very few (media) have that kind of influence anymore. So I’m of the view of giving it to our own website which is double or triple what the readership of the Los Angeles Times is in print and online" (LATIMES.com, 3/20).
Twitter on Wednesday night "began rolling out a new platform for hosting video that gives iPhone and Android phone users previews of video clips in their feeds and allows them to play a clip with a single click," according to Vindu Goel of the N.Y. TIMES. The NBA was the "first to use the tool widely, posting highlights from Wednesday’s Pacers-Knicks game while it was still going on." Early testers, including the NBA, have "approached the technology with interest and some caution." NBA Senior VP/Marketing Melissa Rosenthal Brenner: "We are simply looking for the best fan experience. This is a test and we’ll watch it very carefully and see how it does." Brenner added that the "idea of easier playback of clips was very appealing, especially during games, when the league is posting highlights to get more viewers to tune into the broadcast." Goel noted the NBA also wants to "drive fans to its own website, NBA.com, rather than keep them on Twitter, so it can show them other video content, sell merchandise and promote NBA TV" (NYTIMES.com, 3/20).
The AP's Ronald Blum reported announcer Jon Champion "has been hired by ESPN for its World Cup coverage," making him the "fifth British play-by-play commentator among the six for its telecasts from Brazil." Champion broadcast the EPL’s Saturday afternoon matches for ESPN UK from '09-13 and "is heard regularly on world feed coverage used by NBC’s networks this season." Ian Darke, Adrian Healy and Derek Rae "return from ESPN’s coverage four years ago, when four broadcast crews were used in South Africa." They "will be joined by Daniel Mann, who called ESPN’s 3-D World Cup broadcasts" in '10. The non-British play-by-play man is Fernando Palomo, who "was born in El Salvador and is ESPN’s lead announcer for Mexican national team matches" (AP, 3/19).
WE'RE ALL DAY TO DAY: Keith Olbermann on Thursday night took a moment during his nightly ESPN2 talk show to thank the various network personalities who have filled in for him as he has been battling a case of shingles in recent weeks. Olbermann said, "I imagine this is getting confusing to you. I'm here, I'm not here, you hear I'm sick then you tune in and I am here, then the next night I'm not here. So let me tell you about shingles. Not the gross part, after the gross part where it feels like you fell out of an airplane onto pointy poison ivy that then catches fire." He said to medicate the pain, "they start you off on Vicadin and then they work you up to the heavy stuff." Olbermann: "So my appearances here are about pain management. I can play through the pain, I can play through the drugs, I can play through the limp ... but mix in one thing like the drugs messing with sleep and on TV I become a danger to humanity. So I'll do this when I can" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 3/20).
ROSE BUDS: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Debbie Emery noted ESPN's Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons on Wednesday "took to the broadcasting booth at the Staples Center" to announce Spurs-Lakers. Rose prior to the game said, "Our fan base is underground and those people appreciate us, but this is going to capture a whole different audience." He said of collaborating with Simmons, "What makes our relationship work is that we come from different backgrounds. We don't agree on everything, we have strong opinions and we are knowledgeable about what we see. But most importantly, we open up doors to a different audience for each other, whether it is through race or gender" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/19).
SO FAR, SO GOOD: In Illinois, Mike Imrem wrote Cubs analyst Ron Coomer has "passed the first ear test as ... Pat Hughes' new radio partner" for Cubs games on WGN-AM. Imrem noted this opinion is "based on only one sampling of a Cubs game last weekend." However, first impressions of Coomer "were that the Cubs and WGN-AM just might have gotten this one right after Keith Moreland’s drab tenure in the booth." One "positive was that Coomer always seemed a word away from a chuckle" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 3/20).
NOTES: Former NFL Network reporter Kara Henderson Snead "will join" St-Louis-based KTRS-AM "next month to be a co-host on 'The John Carney Show.'" Snead is the wife of Rams GM Les Snead (STLTODAY.com, 3/18)....MASN on Wednesday announced that MASNSports.com Nationals beat reporter Dan Kolko "will serve as the network's sideline reporter" for the team's games this season. He becomes "the fourth Nationals sideline reporter in four years" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/19).
FS1 averaged 702,000 viewers for last Saturday's Providence-Creighton Big East Championship game, the net’s most-watched college basketball game. Prior to the Big East’s restructuring this season, ESPN averaged 3.4 million viewers for last year’s Louisville-Syracuse championship game. Meanwhile, FS1 drew 680,000 viewers for Sunday’s UCLA-Arizona Pac-12 Championship. Meanwhile, ESPN averaged 1.46 million viewers for the premiere of “Requiem for the Big East” on Sunday night. That is down from1.6 million viewers for the comparable “Survive and Advance” premiere last year, which focused on late N.C. State coach Jim Valvano and team's run to the '83 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
The charts below lists final ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RATINGVIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup: Food City 500 (Bristol)*3/16Fox3:00-3:45pm4.57,300 "NCAA Men's Tournament Selection Show"3/16CBS6:00-7:00pm4.16,763 Big Ten Tournament Championship: Michigan State-Michigan3/16CBS3:30-5:40pm2.74,525 NBA: Rockets-Heat3/16ABC3:26-6:11pm2.13,269 Big Ten Tournament Semifinal: Michigan State-Wisconsin3/15CBS4:17-6:32pm1.93,161 Big Ten Tournament Semifinal: Michigan-Ohio State3/15CBS1:54-3:46pm1.62,471 PGA Tour: Valspar Championship: Final Round3/16NBC3:00-6:00pm1.52,298 MWC Tournament Championship:
New Mexico-San Diego State3/15CBS6:32-8:27pm1.21,909
SEC Tournament Semifinal: Kentucky-Georgia3/15ABC3:35-5:50pm1.31,889 SEC Tournament Semifinal: Florida-Tennessee3/15ABC1:00-3:17pm1.21,714 PGA Tour: Valspar Championship: Third Round3/15NBC3:00-6:00pm1.11,579 A-10 Tournament Championship: St. Joseph's-VCU3/16CBS1:00-3:15pm1.11,537 "Road to the Final Four"3/16CBS12:00-1:00pm0.81,236 "Summer Dreams" (NBA Summer League special)3/15CBS8:27-10:27pm0.81,222 "NBA Countdown"3/16ABC3:00-3:26pm0.81,169 Liga MX: Chivas de Guadalajara-Leon3/16UniMas6:48-9:00pm0.61,105 NHL: Flyers-Penguins3/16NBC12:00-3:00pm0.71,069 Liga MX: Cruz Azul-Tijuana3/15Univision6:55-9:00pm0.6995 PGA Tour: Valspar Championship: Third Round (early)3/15NBC2:15-3:00pm0.7891 C-USA Tournament Championship: Tulsa-Louisiana Tech3/15CBS11:30am-1:54pm0.7886 Paralympic Sled Hockey Final: U.S.-Russia3/15NBC12:00-2:15pm0.6869
NOTE: * = Race had significant weather delays. Race ran from 3:00-3:45pm on Fox. Weather delay was then from 3:45-6:00pm on Fox. FS1 picked up when coverage began again from 7:05-9:30pm.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500* (Bristol)3/16FS17:05-9:30pm2.03,227 ACC Tournament Championship: Virginia-Duke3/16ESPN1:01-3:16pm2.23,168 SEC Tournament Championship: Florida-Kentucky3/16ESPN3:16-5:36pm2.02,990 "Bracketology"3/16ESPN7:00-9:00pm1.42,096 NBA: Trail Blazers-Spurs3/12ESPN9:35pm-12:05am1.11,751 Big 12 Tournament Championship: Iowa State-Baylor3/15ESPN8:59-11:08pm1.11,747 AAC Tournament Championship: Louisville-UConn3/15ESPN6:00-8:16pm1.11,688 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 (Bristol)
NBA: Nets-Heat3/12ESPN7:00-9:35pm1.11,626 NBA: Lakers-Thunder3/13TNT9:43pm-12:19am1.11,581 "Requiem for the Big East"3/16ESPN9:00-11:00pm1.01,142