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Mo'Ne Davis' team might not have won last night's LLWS game, but her presence on the mound led to ESPN's highest-rated game ever from Williamsport. The net earned a 3.4 overnight rating for Nevada’s 8-1 win over Pennsylvania, up 143% over the 1.4 figure ESPN received for the comparable California-Connecticut game in ’13. Las Vegas led all markets with a 16.3 overnight, followed by Philadelphia with a 14.9 (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer). THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre notes the Angels-Red Sox game that aired on ESPN2 opposite the LLWS earned just a 0.3 rating. McIntyre: "Everything lined up for a big rating, and ESPN got one. But 17x what the Red Sox and Angels did on ESPN2 at the same time? That’s surprising" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 8/21). In Chicago, Philip Hersh writes ESPN and its various platforms "set the agenda for the nation's sports discussions," and the net "relentlessly promoted" Davis' start last night (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/21). Meanwhile, the HOUSTON CHRONICLE wrote what turned out to be the Texas team's final game in the LLWS for "drew bigger television ratings than the Astros’ dramatic win over the Yankees on Tuesday. Final score: Pearland 3.7, Astros 0.3" (CHRON.com, 8/20).
DAVIS CHANGING OPINIONS: In Atlanta, Steve Hummer wrote he had always "held the Little League World Series at arm’s length, refusing to watch just as I would any other form of televised child abuse." But he planned to watch Davis pitch last night because the ease with which she "has handled all this, the natural joy which shines through all the clutter that adults have constructed around her, has made me put a good number of my reservations about this event in escrow." Hummer: "This LLWS has been a mind-changer. At least temporarily" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 8/21). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said he has long had "trouble" with the LLWS being televised, whether it is "telling these 12-year-old winners how great you are on a national level or focusing on the kids crying after a loss." But Cowlishaw said he was "excited" for Davis because "she is a great story." L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said the LLWS "should not be on TV," but acknowledged he planned to tune in last night. Plaschke: "There's a message here that's bigger than all that. It's a message about gender equity and female empowerment and it's … too big to ignore" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/20).
MAKING AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT: In N.Y., Jere Longman writes Davis' ascendance "has been reminiscent" of the '99 FIFA Women's World Cup. But in today’s "hyper news-media landscape, Davis’ impact has been more immediate, her story perhaps even more broadly resonant." She is a "girl starring in a sport dominated by boys that has a wider overall appeal than soccer" in the U.S. Davis has "helped disarm stereotypes, thriving in an elite private school and hinting that opportunity, not interest, might be the biggest cause of declining urban participation in baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/21). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said, "Baseball has a problem trying to grow the game in the inner city. ... This is a great advertisement for baseball" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/20).
SHOW ME THE MONEY ... ER, MO'NE: USA TODAY's Josh Peter reports a baseball reportedly autographed by Davis has "turned up for sale on eBay," and demand had "driven the price up to $500 on Wednesday." About 40 other items "featuring Mo'ne, many alleged to be autographed by her, also were for sale on the website." Little League Int'l President & CEO Steve Keener said, "It's ridiculous. That's absurd. (But) I don't know how you would ever control it." Steiner Sports Founder & CEO Brandon Steiner said that he "would pay Mo'ne at least $25,000 to autograph between 500 to 1,000 items and estimated she could make up to $100,000 on the deal." But Steiner added that he "wouldn't make the offer because it could jeopardize Mo'ne's eligibility to play college athletics" (USA TODAY, 8/21). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said it is "good to see all this Mo'Ne love," but he noted he is concerned that people are now "exposing younger and younger athletes to the professional world of sports." Blackistone: "We're also seeing the commercialization of sports getting ratcheted down and down and down and now capturing even younger kids from who you can make a profit" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/20).
An easing of blackout restrictions on MLB games online "could come as early as next season," according to Anick Jesdanun of the AP. MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman this week said that he is "optimistic that a deal could be reached soon with various cable operators, channels and ballclubs." Jesdanun noted "even with an MLB.TV subscription, which starts at $20 a month, fans will also need a cable or satellite TV subscription to view hometown teams at home." The blackouts have been "one of the most criticized aspects of MLB.TV, which streamed its first game live 12 years ago next Tuesday." MLB.TV this year "streamed the All-Star Game live for the first time." MLB has "similar plans for the playoffs and the World Series, which will be split on television between Fox, ESPN and Turner." To make it easier for viewers, the league "plans to come up with a way for users to sign in to all three at once." In the past, MLB.TV "had a post-season package that offered alternate camera angles but not the main coverage." Bowman said that MLB.TV will "likely offer that again this year for those who don't have the necessary television channels." Still, it is "likely that a pay-TV package will still be needed for games that you can pick up for free with a TV antenna in local markets." It is "not yet known whether streaming would be through MLB.TV or through the channel that has television rights" (AP, 8/20).
Verizon FiOS has completed a deal to carry SEC Network, sources said. The channel will be on an expanded basic tier within SEC territory and include access to WatchESPN. It is not clear where Verizon will carry it outside of SEC territory. A formal announcement could come as soon as this week. The deal pushes SEC Network's subscriber count up to the mid-60-million-home range. Verizon has around 5 million subscribers nationally; within SEC territory, it operates systems in Texas and Florida. The Verizon deal leaves Cablevision as the only top 10 distributor without an SEC Network deal. Cablevision does not operate systems in SEC markets (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
CHIZIK JOINS THE NET: USA TODAY's Dan Wolken reports former Auburn coach Gene Chizik is "joining the SEC Network as an analyst," and he will make his first studio appearance with the Utah State-Tennessee game on Aug. 31. His "primary role will be as a studio analyst on Mondays and Tuesdays but will contribute to other SEC Network programming." Chizik also co-hosts a college football-themed show on SiriusXM Radio, and he said, "I've really enjoyed the media side of it. It's fun when you can do what you love to do, which is analyze college football, watch games, break them down both before and after and it's just fun for me and it's really been great for me" (USATODAY.com, 8/21).
AD AGE's Michael Sebastian noted The Onion tomorrow is "rolling out the second season of its original web series 'Tough Season,' a mockumentary about one man's quest to become champion of his fantasy football league." The show is being produced by The Onion Labs, an "in-house creative and marketing agency, on behalf" of technology company Lenovo. Each of the 13 episodes, which run on TheOnion.com and a dedicated Lenovo site, is "roughly five minutes long and features NFL players," including Bears RB Matt Forte, Colts QB Andrew Luck and Broncos WR Wes Welker (ADAGE.com, 8/20).
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Paige Albiniak reported "Sports Jeopardy!" will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 24 on Sony-owned digital service Crackle and all Crackle platforms. New episodes of the sports quiz show, hosted by Dan Patrick, "will premiere every Wednesday on Crackle for a total of 52 episodes per year." More than "30,000 contestants registered online to audition for the show over the summer" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 8/21).
LOOKING FOR NEW FANS: In Texas, Jordan Overturf reports a new "Spanish-language Radio Network launched by the Texas A&M athletics department's multimedia rights holder will reach Hispanic and Latino fans." Games will be "broadcast on radio stations in four markets around the state -- Houston, San Antonio, El Paso and McAllen." The network joins "55 English-language affiliates managed by Learfield Sports' Texas A&M Sports Properties" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 8/21).