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Kentucky’s dramatic win over Michigan yesterday earned a 9.0 overnight rating to lead all Elite 8 games from the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Louisville-Duke in the same late Sunday afternoon window last year drew a 9.4 overnight for a game that saw a gruesome injury to the leg of Louisville G Kevin Ware. CBS did see a gain compared to the ’12 late window regional final featuring Kansas-North Carolina (7.8 overnight). Meanwhile, CBS drew a 6.5 overnight for UConn’s upset of Michigan State in the early window yesterday, up from a 6.2 overnight for Michigan-Florida last year and up from a 5.3 overnight for Kentucky-Baylor in ’12.
ELITE STATUS: TBS on Saturday drew the two best audiences ever for college basketball on cable TV. The net, in its first season airing NCAA men’s tournament regional final telecasts, drew a 5.8 fast-national rating and 9.9 million viewers for the Wisconsin-Arizona game in the early window, marking the best audience ever for a college basketball game on cable TV. In the late window, TBS got the second-best audience on record with a 4.3 rating and 7.2 million viewers for Florida-Dayton. For all tourney telecasts through Saturday, CBS and Turner Sports are averaging 9.6 million viewers, marking the best figure through the first day of Elite 8 telecasts since ’93. The audience also is up 2% compared to the same period last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
HE'S GRRRREAT: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote there is "no question" that CBS' Clark Kellogg has "been terrific in the studio over the first couple of weeks in the tournament." Kellogg offers a "college basketball-heavy voice who plays well off Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, a pair of Turner analysts who are best at analyzing the game in front of them as opposed to scouting upcoming games." Kellogg said that he "has enjoyed his time with Ernie Johnson, Barkley and Smith, three people he had never worked with prior to this assignment." He added that his CBS contract "concludes at the end of this year's tournament and he hopes to continue with the network with a mix of games and studio work" (SI.com, 3/30).
DYNAMIC DUO: GRANTLAND's Brian Phillips wrote CBS' Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are "great" and "the best." They are "two old men with great seats at a show, talking nonstop and laughing at each other’s jokes," but instead of being there to "score points off the performers, they’re there to enjoy a night out -- more or less like everyone in the audience." Phillips: "Has anyone ever been better at conveying the mood of a scene like this than Lundquist and Raftery?" Lundquist "brings his merry, slightly stiff grandfatherliness, not always the most nimble with players’ names but quick to appreciate anything good they do, and quick to make left-field jokes about how much he likes" rock band The Killers. Raftery "brings his twinkly baroque assortment of catchphrases and deep basketball knowledge and a sort of happy slyness that’s totally unique in sports" (GRANTLAND.com, 3/28). However, SPORTS ON EARTH's Aaron Gordon writes, "I don't really understand the Bill Raftery love." Raftery seems "like a 70-year-old Jon Gruden: Both alternate between jargon-heavy analysis and self-evident observations." A Lundquist-Raftery broadcast "is like being at a bar with two overly enthusiastic fans." Meanwhile, CBS' Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony "excel mostly at silence, something I personally value over Raftery's grandpa slang" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/29).
SELECTION SCRUTINY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote Turner's Marv Albert "should be calling the Final Four," which TBS has "the right to air." The "real mystery" is why Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy "did not just call the shot" by telling CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus that Albert would work the semifinal games. Considering Nantz is calling the April 7 national championship game, "both marquee voices, and their networks, would be accommodated." Raissman: "If Turner dumped Nantz for the semis there would have been a lot of whining at CBS." Turner's Steve Kerr and Anthony, "whom Turner suits consider a 'Turner guy' because he works for NBA TV, will occupy two-thirds of the broadcast table for the Final Four and title game" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/30).
LOYAL LOCALS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reported Turner and CBS execs , when looking at possible broadcasters who could call Turner's Final Four teamcasts, "started the tournament with a list of about 100 prospective announcers ... culled from the ranks of local radio and television stations as well as regional and conference networks." The preference is that "radio announcers for the Final Four teams call the TNT and TruTV games." UConn radio play-by-play announcer Joe D'Ambrosio said of calling a Final Four game on TV, "It’s a great idea, and I understand what they’re trying to do. But I’d be hard pressed to think that other guys who’ve spent all year on their radio broadcasts would be willing to jump ship." Wisconsin radio play-by-play announcer Matt Lepay "will not budge from his radio perch," as Learfield Sports, the marketing company that owns the over-the-air radio rights to UW games, "said no." Kentucky radio play-by-play announcer Tom Leach said, "I don’t want to leave our friends and family for a one-time TV gig. Our radio audience is like family." Sandormir writes as "powerful as announcers’ loyalty is the control of the radio broadcasts by Learfield and IMG College." Turner and CBS "will probably have to give up on radio announcers and shift their sights to the local, regional and conference television announcers who would probably be free of similar encumbrances" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29).
ABC's "GMA" co-host Josh Elliott is "joining NBC Sports," and is expected to "cover the most high-profile sports properties the network carries, including the NFL, the Olympics and the Triple Crown," according to Don Kaplan of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Elliott "had been asking to be paid" $10M a year to stay at "GMA." A source said that ABC counter-offered with $5M annually, "adding that ABC News brass had believed their offer was a 'generous increase' over his current" $1M salary. ABC News President Ben Sherwood told the "GMA" staff in "a rare Sunday night memo" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/31). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi reported a "standard non-compete clause" in Elliott's contract "could keep him off the air until early October" (ADWEEK.com, 3/30). In N.Y., Bill Carter notes while Elliott "may work for NBC Sports much sooner," his contract "forbids him from appearing on 'Today' for six months." How much the move to hire Elliott "was intended to bolster the sports division and how much to unsettle the cast lineup at 'GMA' is a question NBC is unlikely to answer." But there is "little doubt that NBC had a dual purpose in going after" Elliott (N.Y. TIMES, 3/31).