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ESPN drew a 1.9 overnight rating for coverage featuring Novak Djokovic’s five-set win over Roger Federer yesterday, down slightly from a 2.0 rating for Andy Murray’s straight sets win over Djokovic last year. The 1.9 is down sharply from Federer’s four-set win over Murray in ’12 (3.1 overnight), which was ESPN’s first year broadcasting the finals from Wimbledon. NBC earned a 2.1 overnight during its final year broadcasting the event in ’11, when Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in four sets. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 0.7 overnight for coverage featuring Petra Kvitova’s straight sets win in the ladies’ final against Eugenie Bouchard on Saturday morning, down 36% from a 1.1 overnight last year for Marion Bartoli’s straight-sets win over Sabine Lisicki. ESPN drew a 1.4 overnight in ’12 for Serena Williams’ three-set win over Agnieszka Radwanska (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
FAULT! SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote amid "strong work for most of the fortnight, ESPN’s tennis coverage had some very bad moments last week involving the withdrawal of Serena Williams from her second-round doubles match." The nadir was "borderline reckless statements" from Chris Evert "bringing up the specter of drugs." Pam Shriver followed up by saying, "They have drug testing at all the majors." Deitsch wrote those statements "came with zero reporting and were, to be mild, overreaching significantly." Also "unfair to Williams, ESPN convened a staff panel the following day without mentioning ESPN’s major role in pushing out Williams speculation." Deitsch wrote Shriver and Evert "were well within reason (and I’d argue quite thoughtful) in saying Williams should not have been on the court that day." However, as a news subject, Williams "deserved better than what she received from ESPN." Meanwhile, ESPN's programming decisions "are usually on-point for tennis but they missed badly on Saturday by not airing the Wimbledon doubles final live on ESPN, a match that featured three American players (Bob and Mike Bryan and Jack Sock)." The issue "wasn’t starting with the doubles match," but continuing to replay the Djokovic-Grigor Dimitrov semifinal "after the men’s doubles match started" (SI.com, 7/6). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes during the Djokovic-Federer final, there was a three-way discussion between Chris Fowler and Patrick McEnroe and John McEnroe "after every $%?@&*! point, and occasionally during them!" (N.Y. POST, 7/7).
IS SILENCE REALLY GOLDEN? SI.com's Jon Wertheim watched several Wimbledon matches on the BBC in addition to watching matches on Tennis Channel, and called the difference between the coverage "striking." Wertheim wrote he knows many people "think that less is more," but he "was often put off by the BBC's silence." Wertheim: "Rule of thumb: When you’re being paid to commentate, the chair umpire should not be speaking more than you are. During a match, there are so many back stories and subtleties and technical maneuvers and developments. As a viewer, I want to hear about them" (SI.com, 7/6).
EUGENIE IN A BOTTLE: TSN on Thursday averaged 791,000 viewers for the Bouchard-Simona Halep semifnal, while the Canada-born Bouchard's quarterfinal win on Wednesday over Angelique Kerber attracted 304,000 viewers to TSN/RDS. Meanwhile, Canadian Milos Raonic's quarterfinal win on Wednesday over Nick Kyrgios attracted 545,000 viewers to TSN/RDS, making it one of the networks' top three most-watched, non-finals telecasts from Wimbledon on record. This year's tournament is the most-watched iteration of Wimbledon in TSN history (TSN).
LEAVING THE LADIES: The GLOBE & MAIL's Elizabeth Renzetti writes when high-profile events like Wimbledon are over, there are "no more women athletes on TV." Outside of the Olympics and a "couple of other premium events, you’d have more luck finding a chocolate bar in Gwyneth Paltrow’s purse than a women’s sports match on prime-time TV in North America." During the rest of the year, you "cannot turn the channel without fear of being hit by an NHL puck or a college basketball rebound." But just "try to find a women’s soccer game or a Canadian Women’s Hockey League match." Sometimes you can find a WNBA game if you "reach into the back of the cupboard with a very long broom." Right now, if you "go searching for women’s sports on the website of the broadcaster Sportsnet you’ll have difficulty finding any -- but you will see a photo shoot called The Beauty Of Sport, featuring various female athletes in strenuous positions by swimming pools" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/7).
ESPN over the weekend drew its two best audiences on record for FIFA World Cup quarterfinal matches on either ESPN or ABC. Brazil-Colombia on Friday is now the most-viewed quarterfinal on record with a 3.6 final rating and 6.35 million viewers. ESPN drew its second-best quarterfinal audience with Netherlands-Costa Rica on Saturday drawing a 3.4 final rating and 5.79 million viewers. The previous quarterfinal record coming into the ’14 tournament was Germany-Argentina on ABC in ’10 with 5.71 million viewers. Univision also had its best day of World Cup quarterfinal matches ever on Friday, averaging 5.1 million viewers for the Germany-France and Brazil-Colombia matches. Through the quarterfinal stage, ESPN/ABC/ESPN2 is averaging 4.19 million viewers for 60 matches (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
IT'S BRILLIANT! SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote ESPN's World Cup coverage "has been sensational, a viewer-first production featuring smart hosts and analysts, brilliant game-callers and studio programming geared toward soccer savants that novices can also appreciate." The network "has used its cross-platform gigantism for good, and world soccer has grown because of it" (SI.com, 7/6). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote for the World Cup, ESPN has seen audience figures "that add up to a success of Olympic-esque proportions." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Scott Guglielmino: "One of the things about the World Cup and the trajectory of the tournament is that there’s a huge level of interest regardless of how the U.S. does." Guglielmino said that those who are "trying to connect dots from World Cup karma" to MLS success "aren’t being fair to the process." He added, "The World Cup is really an intense short story played out over a month, a much different animal than what league play becomes. ... League play is a much longer sustained commitment for an audience, but there is a halo effect for people who want to follow players back on their club or MLS teams, so we have plenty of games teed up once the World Cup ends to hopefully lead people back and then we can follow that growth path" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/4).
BREVITY BRINGING BENEFITS? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes with its "constant action and lack of natural in-game stoppages, soccer avoids the bloated commercial breaks of other sports." Sandomir: "I wonder if ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC would have seen an average of 4.1 million viewers for the World Cup’s first 56 games -- a 44 percent leap from 2010 -- if there were timeouts and breaks that stretched the broadcasts by 30 or 45 minutes." Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill: "I haven’t seen anything to suggest that American sports are at a disadvantage because their duration is longer. But I do think the pace of soccer is an advantage; there are so many demands on people’s time, and it’s hard to get their attention for extended periods of time. To know a game will end in two hours respects their time." Sandomir writes how much soccer’s brevity "adds to the number of people watching is not known." Guglielmino: "If the format of soccer itself really had a major impact on viewing, we’d see a bump in ratings in league play" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7).
CAPITALIZING ON SOCCER: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the nation's capital continues to lead all U.S. TV markets for ESPN's World Cup coverage, and NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller, whose company has rights to the EPL, "is well aware of how Washington performed" during the '13-14 season. Miller: "Washington is at the top of our list every week, I think it’s a unique market, in that it’s a very upscale, highly educated, highly developed sports market. It’s also got so much of an international influx of people" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/3).
GRAND VISION: VARIETY's Anna Marie de la Fuente noted Univision's coverage has been "propelled by a production team of about 200 people on the ground in Brazil." The World Cup "is a prime chance for Univision to show off its growing sports and news operation." Getting from one game to another "across the vast expanse of Brazil has been the key challenge" (VARIETY.com, 7/5). Meanwhile, VARIETY's Todd Spangler noted for the final eight matches, Univision moved its streaming "behind a pay-TV wall, requiring users to subscribe to a provider that carries the Univision Deportes Network cable channel." However, Comcast "is not on board" with the move, as it "doesn’t have an agreement to carry Univision Deportes Network, so Comcast subs won’t be able to access the games on Univision Digital platforms" (VARIETY.com, 7/3).
TWITTER TOTTER: The GUARDIAN's David Hepworth writes under the header, "Twitter Gives World Cup 2014 Extra Bite." Subheader: "Social media have made fans worldwide feel more involved than ever before -- and have often left TV commentators stumbling." Social media "has increased the feeling of this being the World Cup that the fans at home wanted to see rather than the one that the custodians of the game thought was good for us" (GUARDIAN, 7/7). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Sam Borden in a front-page piece examines how players at this year's World Cup are offering "confessions, explanations, interpretations and amplifications using services like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7).
DirecTV will add a "Fantasy Zone" station to its lineup this fall as part of its NFL Sunday Ticket package, with the new channel "residing next to its popular 'Red Zone' channel," according to Chris Strauss of USA TODAY. The new channel will broadcast "while games are in progress, but will focus solely on how the live action is affecting the day's fantasy stats." There will be "up to the minute game-to-game analysis, stats and on-screen tickers that offer projections and key player updates." Former NFLer Dhani Jones and NBC Sports' Kay Adams will host the channel. "Fantasy Zone" will broadcast "from a loft" in N.Y., a setting "similar to MLB's 'Fan Cave' concept." There will be "celebrity guest hosts, a live studio audience and even an on-set kitchen where a full-time in-studio chef will whip up gameday recipes for viewers at home" (USATODAY.com, 7/7).
The AP noted "not everyone got the memo" that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 was postponed from Saturday night to yesterday morning. When TNT's race coverage began yesterday, most TV program guides still had a "Lord of the Rings" marathon listed. The Coke Zero 400 "preempted the third movie," and fans of the trilogy "were irate, taking to Twitter to complain about NASCAR and TNT" (AP, 7/6).
SOUTH RISING? Comcast Exec Dir of Corporate & Financial Communications John Demming said the cable provider continues "negotiating to carry" the SEC Network with just a month before ESPN launches the channel. Demming: "We hope to come to an agreement and are optimistic that we will do so." Suddenlink Senior Dir of Corporate Communications Gene Regan also said the cable carrier wants to make SEC Net "available to customers who are interested in it" (CHRON.com, 7/3).
HALL PASS: The AP noted Motor Racing Network lead NASCAR announcer Barney Hall called his "final event Sunday at Daytona International Speedway." Hall has been calling races for more than 50 years and will now "transition into a different role with MRN." Drivers and crew chiefs gave Hall a "standing ovation" after NASCAR President Mike Helton "noted his dedication to NASCAR" during Saturday night's pre-race driver meeting (AP, 7/5).
LATE SUBSTITUTION: In Seattle, Ashley Scoby writes, "I’ll temporarily be taking over the Sounders FC beat. I’m the summer sports intern here at The Seattle Times and will be covering the Sounders until The Times hires its next beat reporter to replace Joshua Mayers, who left the newspaper last week" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 7/3).