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ESPN drew a 3.9 overnight rating for last night’s MLB Home Run Derby, which was delayed by an hour due to rain and ended up airing from 9:00pm-12:00am ET, marking the net’s latest start on record for the event. That figure is down sharply from the 5.0 overnight last year. A’s LF Yoenis Cespedes won the contest both years. The event earned a 4.7 overnight in ’12 and a 4.8 in ’11. Despite the drop from recent years, the Derby was the top-rated program on call of cable TV last night. ESPN also saw an increase for its Derby digital audience (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Last night's event was completed in just under three hours after a rain delay pushed back the start of things for about an hour (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). However, the length of the event drew the ire of plenty of sportswriters on Twitter. Deadspin's Timothy Burke wrote, "Home Run Derby broadcast (not counting rain delay) has now lasted longer than the Netherlands-Argentina match which went to penalties." The San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami: "The great thing about this Home Run Derby is that by the time it's over the next World Cup will be just about to start." SI's Richard Deitsch: "This Home Run Derby has officially lasted longer than the Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries marriage." The Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont: "Home run derby is longer than the NHL season." The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Joe Souhan: "If the Home Run Derby had an icon, it would be a stopped-up hourglass." Writer Tommy Tomlinson: "One day we'll tell our grandchildren about the year they canceled the MLB season because the Home Run Derby never ended." Writer Joe Posnanski: "In a way, this Home Run Derby that will never end is a pretty good representation of the baseball season."
THROWING A CHANGE-UP: In Detroit, Jamie Samuelsen writes one of his "favorite annual hiccups in sports is how each year, ESPN allots 2 hours in their broadcast schedule for the Home Run Derby." The Derby "always goes well past 2 hours and normally past 3.” It is “too long with too many breaks” and “by the end, it’s a mere battle of attrition with the trophy usually going to the hitter who can stay standing the longest.” Samuelsen suggests eliminating the “various rounds.” All the participants “get a round” and the top two scores would "advance to the finals.” The finals are “conducted over nine ‘innings’ like they used to do in the old Home Run Derby TV show that were shown on ESPN and ESPN Classic for years” (FREEP.com, 7/15).
Fox Sports tonight will provide a live stream of the MLB All-Star Game, the first time this event has been available digitally. The authenticated broadcast will be available through Fox Sports Go, the network’s live streaming application. Fox Sports Go currently reaches 30 million TV subscribers, with a bump to 50 million expected later this year. The TV Everywhere rights were a fundamental component of Fox Sports’ new, eight-year media rights deal with MLB that went into effect this year. Fox Sports execs declined to identify any audience projections, but said the ability to stream an MLB jewel event will be beneficial to the overall concept of TV Everywhere, similar to its live stream earlier this year of the Daytona 500. Fox Sports Senior VP/Mobile & Advanced Platforms Clark Pierce said, “Our expectation is to continue the momentum of TV Everywhere. Every time we do one of these, we continue to learn a lot and advance the concept." Pierce added that the live stream also will be accessible through MLB.TV, but with the same Fox Sports Go authentication provisions (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
AGE OLD QUESTIONS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes viewership for the ASG "is hemorrhaging and in more unpleasant news for Fox Sports, the All-Star Game viewers are also getting older." Last year’s viewership increase "stopped a three-year decline in viewership but the game concluded as the third-least watched MLB All-Star Game in history." Deitsch speculated viewership will "keep dropping unless baseball fundamentally shifts its marketing to individual players rather than teams." However, that is a "hard sell regionally because baseball at its core is a regional game." One suggestion for Fox is "to add tonnage to its auxiliary programming around the game." The net needs to approach the MLB ASG "the way ESPN does with its mega-events" (SI.com, 7/13). However, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig disputes the perception MLB is becoming more regional. He said, "Sometimes when they look at national ratings, people will say, 'Well, it's more of a regional sport than others.' I haven't come to that conclusion yet. ... I know there are a lot of people on the television who seem to feel the same way. I think the overwhelming popularity of the sport is still so good that I don't describe it as a regional sport. However, having said that, the interest in each particular franchise in that region are at all-time highs. How that translates nationally is something I think we're trying to understand" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 7/14).
MLB ALL-STAR GAME AUDIENCE TREND ON FOXYEARLOCATIONRATINGVIEWERS (000)'13N.Y.6.910,956'12K.C.6.810,897'11Phoenix6.910,973'10Anaheim7.512,118'09St. Louis8.914,593'08N.Y. (15 innings)8.613,374'07S.F.8.412,530'06Pittsburgh9.314,424'05Detroit8.112,330'04Houston8.813,995
HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes the Gillette Home Run Derby may "soon overtake" the ASG as a TV event. The Derby is "guaranteed to have home runs," while the actual All-Star Game has not had any in three of the last five contests. The primary reason that made MLB's ASG "resonate so much over the decades was its credibility." However, the evolution of the game has left MLB "with a not-very-special July exhibition in which, it seems, managers try to please fans of every team by inserting every player into the game." Somehow, in the past four years, the NFL Pro Bowl has "had more viewers" than the MLB ASG. Between '95-'13, viewership for the Derby "has risen, not fallen, with peaks and valleys in between." In '95, 4.6 million viewers watched; the show "hit its peak" in '98, the "celebrated year of drug-inflated home run production," with 9.17 million viewers. In the past few years it has attracted 6.4 million viewers to 6.8 million viewers (N.Y. TIMES, 7/15).
ESPN and Univision delivered record FIFA World Cup audiences on U.S. TV in ’14, which was the last iteration for both networks before Fox Sports and Telemundo assume coverage for the ’18 and ’22 events. English-language coverage across ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 averaged a 2.8 final rating and 4.56 million viewers for 64 matches, up sharply from a 2.1 rating and 3.27 million viewers in ’10, when matches generally aired earlier in the morning from South Africa. DC led all markets with a 4.9 local rating for the 64 matches, followed by N.Y. (4.6) and S.F.-Oakland-San Jose (4.4). Meanwhile, Univision averaged 3.5 million viewers for its matches, outperforming ’10 coverage by 34%. Univision set new audience records during each round of the World Cup.AVERAGE VIEWERSHIP FOR COMPLETE FIFA WORLD CUP COVERAGEYEARLOCATIONESPN/ABC/ESPN2 (000)UNIVISION (000)'14Brazil4,5573,500'10South Africa3,2732,600'06Germany2,3212,100'02Japan/South Korea1,043987'98France1,2221,300'94U.S.2,8011,400
DEUTSCHE MARKS: ABC earned a 9.1 final rating and 17.324 million viewers for Germany’s fourth World Cup win on Sunday from 3:00-5:44pm ET, marking the most-viewed World Cup final ever on U.S. TV and the third-best soccer audience ever. The Germany-Argentina match ranks behind only ESPN’s U.S.-Portugal group stage match (18.22 million viewers) and ABC’s U.S.-China Women’s World Cup Final in ’99 (17.98 million viewers). ABC earned an 8.1 rating and 15.55 million viewers for the Spain-Netherlands final in ’10, which aired at a similar time. Univision delivered another 9.2 million viewers for the Germany-Argentina match, marking a record World Cup final audience for the net. Spain-Netherlands in ’10 drew 8.82 million viewers to Univision (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).VIEWERSHIP FOR SELECT RECENT SPORTING EVENTS ON U.S. TV
EVENTNETRAT.VIEWERS (000) '14 BCS Nat'l Championship: Florida State-AuburnESPN14.425,572 '14 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship: UConn-KentuckyCBS12.421,200 '14 Preakness Stakes (California Chrome Triple Crown attempt)NBC12.020,600 '14 Rose Bowl: Michigan State-StanfordESPN10.218,636 '14 FIFA World Cup Final: Germany-ArgentinaABC9.117,324 '14 NBA Finals: Spurs-Heat (5 games)ABC9.315,524 '14 Kentucky DerbyNBC9.415,300 '13 World Series: Red Sox-Cardinals (6 games)Fox8.914,900 '14 Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma-AlabamaESPN6.711,400 '14 NFL Pro BowlNBC6.611,378 '14 Fiesta Bowl: UCF-BaylorESPN6.611,304 '14 Masters: Final RoundCBS6.810,970 '14 NHL Final: Kings-Rangers (5 games)NBC/NBCSN3.05,001
PARTY IN THE U.S.A.: VARIETY's Rick Kissell wrote audience numbers reflect that Americans "remained interested" in the World Cup even after the U.S. team was eliminated in the Round of 16 (VARIETY.com, 7/14). In L.A., Meg James writes the Spanish-language audience "helped boost viewership" of the final "to record heights." However, among English-language viewers, the U.S.-Portugal group stage match "was slightly more popular." That contest "attracted 18.2 million viewers to ESPN; and another 6.5 million people watched on Univision" (L.A. TIMES, 7/15). The AP's David Bauder wrote the final capped a tournament that "exceeded expectations for interest on both ESPN and Univision." The tournament as a whole also "exceeded expectations for ESPN, and surprised" ESPN Senior VP/Programming Scott Guglielmino in the "way it permeated U.S. culture as no World Cup has before" (AP, 7/14).
GOING OUT ON TOP: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Tim Baysinger wrote as a "lame-duck broadcaster ... ESPN could have mailed in this year’s World Cup." Instead, the network "went out with a bang, receiving high marks for its coverage over the past month." ESPN "set a standard that Fox will be hard-pressed to match" when it takes over the rights. With the Copa America in '16 and the Confederations Cup in '17, the "next three years will give us a glimpse" into how Fox will handle the '18 World Cup in Russia (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/14).
WE THE NORTH: Approximately 30.7 million Canadians tuned in at some point during the World Cup, which represents 89% of the country's population. Of that total, 6.6 million watched at least part of a game online. An average of 4.93 million watched Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina on TV, making it the most-watched match of the tournament and the most-watched Word Cup final ever on the net, edging the '10 mark for Spain-Netherlands (CBC).
SOCIALLY SPEAKING: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Loretta Chao noted Brazil "placed fourth in the World Cup," but it was a "clear number one in terms of activity" on Facebook. Four of the top 10 "most talked about players were Brazilian," with F Neymar "in the lead." He was followed by Argentina F Lionel Messi, Portugal F Cristiano Ronaldo, Uruguay F Luis Suárez and Brazil D David Luiz. Neymar also "gained 14.9 million fans during the World Cup, the most of all the players." Messi, often "pitted against him as part of Brazil’s rivalry with Argentina, gained only 5.8 million fans" (WSJ.com, 7/14). In San Jose, Patrick May notes the final was the "most-discussed sports event of all time," and the "record-smashing numbers reflect a global population increasingly connected by social media." Social media consultant and socialmedia.biz Founder J.D. Lasica said, "This tells me that social media has become mainstream to the degree that we don't even think about doing it because it's now part of our day-to-day habit." He said with the World Cup, "everyone wants to be part of this story and participate on some level, and social media let you feel like you're part of something bigger" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/15).
SI generated 6.1 million unique visitors to SI.com on Friday, fueled by its LeBron James exclusive. That marks a new one-day traffic record for the site. The total beat its prior mark, set in January with an exclusive piece from Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, by 42%. The total, representing internal Omniture metrics, also is the third new SI.com one-day record in the last 15 months after its exclusive essay with Jason Collins in April '13. Half of the SI.com visitors last Friday came via mobile devices, and nearly a third through social referrals. Meanwhile, Bleacher Report said it generated 7.7 million unique visitors last Friday, fueled by the James news, the second-best traffic day in its history. The total trailed only the 7.9 million unique visitors it had on Feb. 3, the day after Super Bowl XLVIII.
Fox is moving NFL sideline reporter Pam Oliver "to the network’s No. 2 team" this fall, as Erin Andrews will join Joe Buck and Troy Aikman with the net's top broadcast team, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Following this season, Oliver will "no longer be a sideline reporter at all." Fox Sports execs in April traveled to Atlanta to tell Oliver "in person that she would no longer hold the job that has been her professional life for two decades." Oliver was "stunned when they initially informed her that not only was she being removed from Fox's No. 1 NFL team, but also that she was being taken off the NFL sidelines completely" in '14. She "ultimately worked things out with Fox," as Fox Sports President & COO Eric Shanks and Exec Producer John Entz "eventually agreed to give Oliver one final year on the NFL sidelines." Shanks said, "In the last five years we have made a lot of changes with the NFL crews. We have made changes to keep our coverage across the board fresh. ... This is kind of the next move in that evolution." But one veteran NFL reporter said of Oliver, "She’s not blonde, nor is she in the demographic." Deitsch noted Oliver last week signed a new multiyear contract with Fox and "will be doing long-form pieces, specials, major interviews and some producing as well." She will "continue her work on Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports." Oliver turned 53 in March, but she said that no one at Fox "has ever indicated that they have a problem with her age." However, she added, "I live in the real world and I know that television tends to get younger and where women are concerned" (SI.com, 7/14).
VARIOUS REACTIONS TO THE MOVE: Oliver's move off Fox' top NFL team created some waves on Twitter yesterday. CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish: "I realize it’s easy to beat up Fox for demoting Pam Oliver in favor of Erin Andrews, but I’d rather just congratulate Erin. … There are lots of pretty women who get into this business, and yet only one has managed to have the success Erin’s enjoyed. … In other words, if she weren’t also talented she would’ve disappeared a while ago. Seems insulting when folks refuse to acknowledge that." ESPN's Jemele Hill: "Pam Oliver is a legend, but Erin will be terrific. Let's not turn this into some sort of racial catfight." Sporting News' Jesse Spector: "Pam Oliver was a rare provider of substance in a tough job to be anything but a distraction. So of course Fox replaces her." The Washington Post's Cindy Boren: "I do not approve this switch, Fox Sports. ... I care about the quality of information I am getting and Oliver trumps Andrews." Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman: "All I'll say is Pam Oliver is one of the classiest people I've ever known in this business."
In Atlanta, Tim Tucker notes Matt Stinchcomb and Andre Ware have signed contracts to "join the new SEC Network" as game analysts. SEC Net also announced that former CBS Sports reporter Tony Barnhart and Longhorn Network reporter Kaylee Hartung "have joined the lineup." Barnhart will "contribute to the SEC Network's studio programming," while Hartung will be "part of SEC Nation, the network's traveling pregame show" (AJC.com, 7/14).
THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann cited sources as saying that Golf Channel "Morning Drive" host Holly Sonders "left the channel July 10 after turning down a new contract offer." Sources said that Sonders is "expected to take a job with Fox Sports covering golf and serving as a sideline reporter on NFL games." Kaufmann noted Fox is "building its golf production and talent team in anticipation of airing" USGA events beginning in '15. A Golf Channel spokesperson said that Sonders was "in the midst of contract discussions with Golf Channel and 'we didn't come to terms'" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/11).
WE'RE THE MILLERS: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Tim Baysinger profiles NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller, noting he has been "instrumental in the acquisition of numerous properties" for NBC Sports, from the EPL and F1 to "several others that make up the 9,500 yearly programming hours for NBC Sports and NBCSN." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus: "Jon’s experience and passion for developing properties, partnerships and events has made him an invaluable member of our team and one of the most respected executives in the industry." Baysinger notes most know Miller "as one of the architects of the NHL’s Winter Classic." He said that the idea "started when NBC lost the rights to college football’s Gator Bowl, which left a scheduling hole on New Year’s Day" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 7/14 issue).
NEWSPAPER TRANSACTIONS: Matt Pentz has been hired by the Seattle Times to cover the Sounders and the NWSL Reign. Pentz was a sports reporter at the Longview Daily News "the past 21 months covering high-school sports" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 7/14)....Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Richard Skinner will "join the Bengals beat along with Paul Dehner Jr." for the paper (CINCINNATI.com, 7/13)....The Detroit News' Tom Markowski is leaving the paper after 35 years "of covering primarily high school sports" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/14).
BREAKAWAYS: Live video goes off seamlessly, providing users with a rider's eye view. Notifications are sent out for stage starts and finishes, and recap information is quickly populated. Highlights include a full-length, commercial-free clip of each stage and an impressively quick delivery of results data. Course maps and profiles allow users to view course landmarks, locate the peloton, follow breakaway riders and see the results of their favorite riders. There is no shortage of race-related information here, and it is easy to get caught up in the content for hours.
DROPS: Full-length video replays are useful for fans looking to relive race footage, but with Stage 8 clocking in at more than four hours, a condensed clip would be a welcome addition. The live news and information feeds are static listings of race updates that refresh only when the app is opened. The lack of imagery is felt, particularly as it relates to news and video. There are no full text articles to read, nor any built-in distribution features connected to the content. A working Twitter feed does exist, but it is hidden in the More section. Finally, while there is a collection of cycling terms and definitions, specific rules and statistics are not readily available.
BOTTOM LINE: Tour de France for iPhone contains an amazing amount of quality race-related content. Watching the live stream is a win for mobile viewers, as are results-oriented alerts and course profiles. However, a lack of images and a disjointed navigation makes the app feel old. A layout reorganization and some aesthetic upgrades are on the wish list for next year.
Amie Sheridan (email@example.com) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.
See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
- Wimbledon For iPhone Serves Great Content, But Quirky Interface
- Ubersense Keeps It Simple For Athletes Looking To Improve Skills
- FIFA Scores But Lack Of Video Holding It Back During World Cup
- USA Today Sports Weekly Offers Digital Version Of Magazine, Not Much Else
- Tennis Channel Everywhere Excels During Matches, But Basics Are Missing
In Houston, David Barron cited a court filing yesterday as showing that the Astros and Rockets are "working with a prospective buyer or buyers for the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston and want more clearly defined confidentiality requirements in place, withholding details from the public and even from some Comcast/NBC Sports Group officials, as those talks continue." The teams said that as a condition of negotiations, the prospective purchaser for CSN Houston has "required that its identity and its terms not be disclosed" to the net’s BOD until the purchaser agrees "to do so or until July 31," which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur has set as the deadline for disclosure (CHRON.com, 7/14).
THE END IS NEAR: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes the second half of the Yankees' season is "all about" SS Derek Jeter. He is the "only marketable commodity" the Yankees and the YES network "may have left to sell." Jeter, who is retiring at the end of the year, is all the franchise has "left to sell tickets and lure eyeballs to YES telecasts." Raissman: "It's going to be a hard sell." His ability to "play out the season as the Yankees ticket and TV magnet cannot and should not be cavalierly dismissed" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/15).
FOX TROT: In L.A., Joe Flint notes the Fox Television Group will now report to Fox Networks Group Chair & CEO Peter Rice. He “already was over Fox Broadcasting’s and 21st Century Fox’s vast array of cable networks including FX and Fox Sports 1,” and now “has control of all the TV operations with the exception of the Fox News unit and the local TV stations” (L.A. TIMES, 7/15).