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The new NFL-themed movie "Draft Day" hits theaters on Friday, and while the film "doesn't have the nuance" of "Moneyball," its "reverence for the gridiron, its heroes and the cities that worship them (particularly Cleveland) will make the movie a first-round pick of diehards," according to Scott Bowles of USA TODAY. Bowles gives the film a two-and-a-half-star rating and writes director Ivan Reitman "does a deft job of capturing the national frenzy" that is the NFL Draft. Not since '04's "Friday Night Lights" has a feaure film "captured football frenzy so authentically." But the film "stumbles at the goal line." Bowles: "Credit it with an unorthodox approach to the genre. But it doesn't have enough depth to its characters to overcome the lack of action" (USA TODAY, 4/11). In N.Y., A.O. Scott writes Reitman for his part "does an efficient job disguising this marshmallowy melodrama of masculinity in crisis as a tough sports movie." But "Draft Day" is "less a football movie than a promotional film" for the NFL. Scott: "It's a shallow and evasive movie, built more around corporate wish fulfillment than around reality -- but I have to say that it sells itself beautifully" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/11). At presstime, the film had a 56% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (THE DAILY).
GOING FOR REAL FEEL: "Draft Day" co-writer Scott Rothman said that he was "amazed at the scale of the film, complete with the NFL’s blessing and access to archival footage." He added, "We never really expected the film to get made; when we started working, we thought this was going to be very small without the NFL getting involved." Reitman said that he "made the film for those who know little about football" (VARIETY.com, 4/8). ESPN's Darren Rovell tweeted, "Told NFL not only got rights fee for 'Draft Day,' but also gets a piece of the movie's revenue" (TWITTER.com, 4/11). Reitman said of the NFL's involvement, "To be at the NFL Draft with my own crew on my own audio channel and move them around and getting to work with all the team reps who show up wearing the same clothes the night before ... was great." Asked if there was any particular player he wanted to involve, Reitman said, "Jim Brown; he was in it at the end and that was something I wanted" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/8). SI's Jim Gorant notes former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and the N.Y. Post's Steve Serby "consulted on the script" (SI, 4/14 issue). In Dallas, Chris Vognar noted the film "has a number of soaring overhead shots featuring NFL stadiums in Houston, Cleveland, Seattle, Kansas City, Jacksonville and Buffalo." Vognar: "Sadly, no Jerry World" (DALLASNEWS.com, 4/9).
TOUCHDOWN: VARIETY's Scott Foundas wrote the role of fictional Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr. fits Kevin Costner "to a tee in what’s easily the savviest sports movie since 'Moneyball.'" "Draft Day" is "refreshingly smart about the complex decisions that go into making the hires and trades that often send fans into a tizzy, but which may be in the long-term best interests of the team." The "climactic draft proves more than worth the wait, and Costner is a particular pleasure to watch in it" (VARIETY.com, 4/10). The DALLAS MORNING NEWS' Vognar gives the film a B+ rating and writes it "strikes a balance with the potential to please both casual moviegoers and Sunday couch potatoes" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/11). In Newark, Stephen Whitty writes the film is "both briskly up-to-date and refreshingly old-fashioned" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/11). In Pittsburgh, Barbara Vancheri writes the movie is "pretty entertaining, thanks to the solid cast" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/11). In Seattle, John Hartl writes under the header, "'Draft Day': A Good Pick For Sports-Movie Fans" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/10).
FIELD GOAL: In San Jose, Tony Hicks wrote the movie "isn't exactly well-grounded in reality, but it offers enough breathless fun to make viewers not care." The film "comes off like the world's biggest ESPN/NFL commercial," and Reitman "injects just enough humor to keep 'Draft Day' from going overboard with the machismo" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/10). In Cleveland, Clint O'Connor gave the movie a B+ rating and wrote the studio is "promoting 'Draft Day' as a descendant of Costner’s other beloved sports-related films." It is "not on the same level as those movies, but it is a fun, entertaining ride" (CLEVELAND.com, 4/10). In Chicago, Michael Phillips wrote it is a "moderately engaging wish-fulfillment fantasy, a long way from the surprising ins and outs and stealthy dramatic impact of 'Moneyball' but not bad for what it is" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/10). In Akron, Rich Heldenfels wrote "Draft Day," as movies go, is "is the equivalent of an 8-8 NFL team" or "maybe even a 7-9." It is "sporadically interesting" (OHIO.com, 4/10). In Boston, James Verniere writes drama "is not this film's strong suit," but "'Draft Day' tells an interesting enough story" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/11). In Detroit, Tom Long writes it is "not a terrible film, just predictable." Mostly there is "the NFL in all its upbeat, rah-rah glory" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/11). MCCLATCHY's Roger Moore wrote "Draft Day" is a "reasonably interesting -- to NFL fans, anyway -- peek behind the curtains at the wheeling, dealing and overthinking that goes on as teams, managers and coaches try to avoid looking as if they don’t know what they’re doing." But "Draft Day" can "be a bit of a melodramatic bore" for casual football and movie fans (MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE, 4/10). In Baton Rouge, Ted Lewis wrote under the header, "'Draft Day' Is Watchable, But Flawed" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 4/7).
FUMBLE: In Chicago, Richard Roeper gives the film a three-star rating and writes "'Draft Day' is a cornball 'Moneyball.'" The "'war room' scenes are sometimes overplayed." The film "works for what it wants to be: a human drama sprinkled with a number of laughs" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/11). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote extensive access "does give the movie an authentic look no other football movie has ever achieved." But "Draft Day" is still "a corny version of Moneyball, without the smarts." The big-ticket cast members "are a bunch of pros who do their job well, but Draft Day is not going to be a smash" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/10). In St. Louis, Joe Williams wrote the film "is not in the same league as 'Moneyball.'" "Draft Day" is "the Sam Bradford of sports movies -- not an All Pro, but capable of a close, fourth-quarter win" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/10). In N.Y., Elizabeth Weitzman writes “Moneyball” had a “sharp script and a magnetic star,” but “Draft Day” boasts “neither of those assets.” Instead, it “tries to get by on manufactured energy” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/11).
THE STAR: In N.Y., Kyle Smith writes under the header, “Costner Fumbles In Predictable ‘Draft Day.’” The story “is as thin as a waterboy” (N.Y. POST, 4/11). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Todd McCarthy wrote the screenwriting team of Rajiv Joseph and Rothman makes it “easy even for the uninitiated to get with the program.” Although almost always “engaging and seemingly true to the world it depicts, Draft Day is never quite as funny as you somehow think it's going to be.” To a “great extent, this is likely due to the choice” of Costner (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/10). In Toronto, Peter Howell writes the film “is not destined for Costner’s personal hall of fame” (TORONTO STAR, 4/11).
The CBC on Thursday announced that it will "no longer compete with private broadcasters for rights to televise pro sports," and that amateur sports such as the Olympics will only be bid on if the net "can be assured it will break even," according to Curtis Rush of the TORONTO STAR. The news comes as the net, which already is a "bit player" in the pro sports world, plans to cut 657 positions to save C$130M "in order to balance the budget over the next two years." CBC Exec VP/English-Language Services Heather Conway said, "The future of sports is going to look like a much slimmed down version of what it was. We are going to do amateur sports on a case-by-case basis." CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix said the net will continue to bid on Olympic Games "because we think we're very good at it." Conway said of airing the Olympics, "You can collaborate with other broadcasters. You can partner with people. You can use flexible workforce arrangements to achieve those, and we demonstrated that pretty thoroughly with Sochi." CBC host Scott Russell said that the net needs to find "creative ways to get all amateur sports on the positive side" of breaking even. He added that various ideas include "moving more sports like figure skating to prime time where numbers are better than in the afternoon slots, getting sports federations to reduce broadcast rights fees to events and even share the production costs." Rush reports 42% of the CBC's sports department "will be laid off," cutting 38 sports jobs "from 90 current positions." Those cuts "are not related to hockey, but there will be some impact to hockey operations in the future" (TORONTO STAR, 4/11).
LOSS OF "HNIC" PARTIALLY TO BLAME? In Toronto, Joel Eastwood reports Lacroix blamed part of the CBC's "fiscal shortfall on the loss" of "HNIC," which will move to Rogers Sportsnet after the '13-14 NHL season. The net at the same time is "absorbing the full brunt" of a C$115M funding cut that was part of the '12 federal budget. The layoffs will "begin this summer" (TORONTO STAR, 4/11). The FINANCIAL POST's Christine Dobby notes the CBC sent "far fewer staff to Russia" for the Sochi Games than for previous Olympics. It did "much of its editing work from its studios in Toronto" (FINANCIAL POST, 4/11).
SHAKING LIKE A LEAF ON A TREE: In Toronto, Rob Longley reports Thursday night's Maple Leafs-Panthers game was the final broadcast for Leafs TV this season, and with the "changing landscape of NHL broadcasting in Canada ... the future of the network is very much in doubt." Both on- and off-air staff "have not been advised whether the network will exist next season -- or if it does, in what form" (TORONTO SUN, 4/11).
The Pac-12 is "moving toward a reduction in night football games next season," but that could "come at a cost: More regional telecasts on the Pac-12 Networks, which potentially could limit availability to viewers throughout the league," according to Jon Wilner of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The conference and its schools "weren't happy with the number of night games last season," with 33 contests beginning at 7:00pm PT or later so they could air on ESPN, FS1 and Pac-12 Net. In a "show of good faith, ESPN and Fox agreed to eliminate the window of exclusivity" and cap the number of night games at a "slightly higher total than they showed in '13." However, the Pac-12 would have had to cut the "minimum number of national telecasts." The conference turned down that offer, with sources saying that removing the exclusive window "would not reduce the net total of night games." The sources added that Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott was under "significant pressure from Pac-12 presidents/chancellors to reduce the total." Wilner wrote walking away from the proposed deal created a situation for the conference "in which the number of night games could rise in coming years." But sources said that the Pac-12 is considering an alternative way to cut night games by moving an "undetermined number of games" that would have been on the Pac-12 Networks at 7:00pm or 7:30pm "to the early-afternoon windows." The "only way to make it work" without violating the exclusivity clause is to "create regional broadcasts" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/10).
ESPN finished with 4.27 million viewers for UConn’s blowout win over Notre Dame on Tuesday, marking the best viewership for the NCAA women’s basketball national championship game since UConn-Tennessee in ’04 (5.58 million). This year’s title game is up 33% from UConn’s win over Louisville last year and marks the sixth-best title game audience since ESPN began airing the event in ’96. The top audience remains the ’02 UConn-Oklahoma finale with 5.68 million viewers.NCAA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP VIEWERSHIP TRENDYEAR
MATCHUPVIEWERS (000)'14 UConn-Notre Dame4,270'13 UConn-Louisville3,206'12 Baylor-Notre Dame4,244'11 Texas A&M-Notre Dame3,831'10 UConn-Stanford3,531'09 UConn-Louisville2,668'08 Tennessee-Stanford3,858'07 Tennessee-Rutgers2,918'06 Maryland-Duke3,587'05 Baylor-Michigan State3,235'04 UConn-Tennessee5,583
BREAKFAST FROM BAHRAIN: NBCSN averaged 594,000 viewers for the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday, marking the net’s best F1 audience since it began airing races last year and also marking the best non-U.S. F1 race on cable TV in three years. The telecast from 10:30am-12:53pm ET was the most-viewed cable TV F1 race since Speed drew 627,000 viewers for the Monaco GP in ’11. NBCSN’s previous high for an F1 race was last year’s Abu Dhabi GP on Nov. 3 with 354,000 viewers. Through three races, NBCSN is averaging 364,000 viewers, marking the best average through this point in the season in a decade -- dating back to 382,000 viewers for Speed in ’04. NBCSN also is up 206% compared to the same point last season and up 46% compared to Speed in ’12. Both the ‘13 and ’12 seasons saw the first three races air live at either 1:30am, 2:30am or 3:30am (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
PLAY BALL! FS1 aired its first MLB regular-season games last Saturday, with Giants-Dodgers from 4:00-7:54pm ET leading the way with 421,000 viewers. That audience ranked fourth overall last week among FS1’s telecasts, behind three NASCAR-related programs. Twins-Indians on Saturday from 1:00-4:00pm averaged 380,000 viewers (Austin Karp Assistant Managing Editor)....FS Midwest drew a 12.7 local rating in St. Louis for Reds-Cardinals on Monday, marking the Cards’ best home opener since ’11. The rating also is up 8% from an 11.8 for the team’s home opener against the Reds last year (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/8)....SportsTime Ohio drew an 8.4 local rating in Cleveland-Akron for Twins-Indians last Sunday, marking the Indians' third-best April game audience on the RSN and fourth-best day game audience on record. The game also was the top-rated show in the market for the day (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 4/8)....CSN Houston earned a 0.0 local rating for the Angels-Astros game on Monday, marking the second time the RSN drew that rating for an Astros game. The first time came on September 22, 2013 for a day game opposite a Texans game (CHRON.com, 4/9).
NOTES: Golf Channel drew 670,000 viewers for the final round of the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship last Sunday, marking the best final round for the event since it moved from ESPN/CBS in ’11. The audience also marks the most-watched round of women’s golf since the final round of the Solheim Cup last year drew 780,000 viewers (Golf Channel)....Pro Bull Riding telecasts on CBS from January-March saw a 61% viewership increase compared to the same period last year. The net also saw a 71% gain among males 18-34 and 46% gain among males 35-54 (PBR)....ESPN drew 1.07 million viewers for the U.S.-Mexico men's soccer friendly on April 2, while Univision drew 3.9 million viewers for the same match (THE DAILY).
The charts below list final ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Lakers-Clippers4/6ABC3:41-6:15pm2.03,981 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Duck Commander 500 (Texas)*4/6Fox3:00-5:30pm2.43,800 NBA: Knicks-Heat4/6ABC12:56-3:41pm2.03,019 PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open: Final Round4/6NBC3:00-6:00pm1.92,745 PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open: Third Round4/5NBC3:00-6:00pm1.41,872 Liga MX: Club America-Cruz Azul4/5Univision6:55-9:00pm0.91,540 "NBA Countdown"4/6ABC12:30-12:56pm0.81,073 NHL: Blues-Blackhawks4/6NBC12:00-3:00pm0.71,030 "ESPN Sports Saturday"4/5ABC4:00-6:00pm0.71,008 PBR: Dewalt Guaranteed Tough Invitational4/5CBS3:00-5:00pm0.6897 College basketball coaching special: "Planning For Success"4/5CBS2:30-3:00pm0.6824 "The Real Fans of NCAA March Madness"4/5CBS2:00-2:30pm0.6819 College Basketball All-Star Game4/5CBS12:00-2:00pm0.6809 EPL: Chelsea-Stoke City4/5NBC12:30-2:30pm0.5694 "Moments of NCAA March Madness"4/6CBS5:00-6:00pm0.4692 "EPL Goal Zone"4/5NBC2:30-3:00pm0.3438 High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships4/6CBS4:00-5:00pm0.3428 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NCAA Tournament: Final Four: Kentucky-Wisconsin4/5TBS9:00-11:37pm5.710,386 NCAA Tournament: Final Four: UConn-Florida4/5TBS5:56-8:33pm4.17,099 NCAA Tournament: Final Four: Kentucky-Wisconsin (Kentucky teamcast)4/5TNT9:00-11:37pm2.54,300 NCAA Tournament: Final Four: UConn-Florida (Florida teamcast)4/5TNT6:00-8:33pm2.23,704 "Inside March Madness"4/5TBS11:37pm-12:32am1.93,196 NCAA Women's Tournament: Final Four: UConn-Stanford4/6ESPN8:57-10:56pm1.52,312 NBA: Spurs-Thunder4/3TNT8:15-10:48pm1.31,944 NCAA Women's Tournament: Final Four: Notre Dame-Maryland4/6ESPN6:30-8:32pm1.21,806 NBA: Thunder-Rockets4/4ESPN9:49pm-12:16am1.21,746 MLB: Giants-Dodgers4/6ESPN28:00-11:03pm1.01,574
NOTES: * = Race was rained out and run on Monday. Rating is for rainout coverage on the net.
The AFP reported Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "is continuing his push to build pro boxing's profile in China" with a weekly TV show that will "begin airing there in May." Top Rank Event Producer Brad Jacobs said that the show "would aim to educate as well as entertain." Jacobs: "We're doing huge numbers in terms of viewing audience compared to what you do in the U.S. It appears there's a really hungry fan base for it, so we're going to try to deliver entertainment and educate" (AFP, 4/10).
CABLE CRUNCH: In L.A., David Lazarus writes under the header, "Time Warner Cable's Dodgers Channel Shutout." After decades of "forcing consumers to pay for channels they don't want, the pay-TV industry is strongly resisting Time Warner Cable's efforts to make subscribers of all its rivals pony up $4 to $5 a month" for Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA. All eyes "are currently on satellite heavyweight DirecTV." Lazarus: "At stake, it could be argued, is the future of the pay-TV business." If the industry "draws a line over SportsNet LA, pay-TV subscribers would be justified in expecting the same stance for all other deals" (L.A. TIMES, 4/11).
SOCCER STREAMS: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers noted the NWSL on Tuesday announced that every regular-season game in '14 "will be streamed on YouTube." Many teams "made an effort to provide live video of games last year -- and some failed -- but the league claims to have improved production standards." All games will be streamed in HD, and "will be archived shortly after the final whistle and available for free" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/9).