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Volume 24 No. 156


CBS earned an 8.5 overnight Nielsen rating for its two NCAA men’s basketball Regional Final games yesterday. Kentucky’s win over North Carolina, which gave the Wildcats their first trip to the Final Four since ’98, drew a 9.7 overnight from 5:00-7:15pm ET yesterday, down 2% from the comparative window in ’10 but up 26% from ’09. The day’s first game, which saw No. 11 seed VCU stun top-seeded Kansas, drew a 7.5 overnight from 2:15-4:45pm. That game was even with the comparative game last year and up 27% from ’09. Meanwhile, Butler’s upset of Florida on Saturday to earn the school’s second straight Final Four trip earned a 6.6 U.S. rating from 4:20-7:06pm, while UConn’s win over Arizona drew a 5.8 U.S rating from 7:06-9:27pm (THE DAILY).

USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes VCU and Butler "not surprisingly … got the early time slot" of 6:09pm ET for their Final Four game Saturday, "as brand names Kentucky and Connecticut get the marquee later slot." Hiestand asks, "Will the masses really flock to a VCU-Butler tango?" CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco said, "It's going to be fine. Butler is such a big story and was such a big story last year in getting to the championship game. And the teams have two young coaches, and nobody remembers two coaches this young doing anything like this" (USA TODAY, 3/28). ESPN's Mike Golic said of the VCU-Butler game, "Regular season, I wouldn't watch. But this is the Final Four. How do you not watch it?" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/28). In N.Y., Dick Weiss writes, "Well, America, you wanted mid-majors in the Final Four, and you got 'em. Now the question is, will anyone watch? … All we can do is hope the Final Four is a celebration of the greatness of college basketball and doesn't turn into a non-event, with two lesser-known programs heading to Houston" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).

THREE'S A CROWD: TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr will join Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg for CBS' coverage of the Final Four and the national championship game, and in N.Y., Bob Raissman wondered, "Why force a three-man booth?" Nantz and Kellogg "have been together for two seasons," and they "have developed chemistry and their own way of doing things." Kerr worked with Kellogg and Nantz "on a couple of Big Ten tournament games and two of the first round NCAA tourney tilts," but Kellogg and Kerr "bumped into each other." Raissman: "They tried bogarting the microphone. Nantz had trouble playing traffic cop." Raissman also noted CBS and Turner "merged mouths for the Sweet 16, adding TNT's Reggie Miller to the CBS team of Gus Johnson and Len Elmore," which "wasn't a disaster but was awkward." The announcers "forced things," and Miller and Elmore "seemed more concerned with staying out of the other guy's way." Johnson's presence "made their task harder," as he "likes to talk and didn't adjust his game to accommodate his partners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/27).

HOP OFF THE BUS, GUS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Johnson's performance during Butler-Florida Saturday was the "latest pity in an endless series." He "shouted nonsense for 2 ½ hours," and Elmore and Miller "were again forced to work around him, not with him." Mushnick: "Though he applied lots of hip basketball phrases, he again was clearly unsure of what he was hollering about. Yet he screamed his way right through and then past the game and its overtime" (N.Y. POST, 3/28). Mushnick yesterday reviewed Johnson's performance during Thursday's Florida-BYU Sweet 16 game. With the game tied and "15 seconds left in regulation," Johnson asked, "If you're BYU, do you foul?" Elmore responded, "No! Why would you foul? It's a tie game." Meanwhile, during Thursday's Butler-Wisconsin game, Butler G Chase Stigall "was called for a blocking foul" when Wisconsin F Mike Bruesewitz "nailed him in the chest." But Johnson "saw Stigall's involuntary landing as an acting job, impishly equating it with Miller's 'flopping' during his career." Mushnick: "Johnson so badly misread the moment as a 'flop' and so badly missed at making merry, that Miller at first seemed confused as to what Johnson was talking about" (N.Y. POST, 3/27).

SUCCESSFUL SWITCH TO COLLEGE: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes any concern that TNT's NBA announcers "would not be able to handle covering college basketball has been silenced." Miller and Kerr "have been especially good on game broadcasts," as both have "shown a sense of humor and have been particularly strong on strategy and breakdowns." Studio hosts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley "not only entertain, but educate." Jones: "Their perspectives, along with the consistently good Greg Anthony, have been fresh and sharp" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/28). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes Barkley has "cut down on his 'show biz' persona and has worked hard as a more serious analyst." Barkley picked Kentucky to beat Ohio State prior to their Sweet 16 matchup and "predicted Arizona, down six points at halftime, would come back and beat heavily favored Duke" in the Sweet 16 (DENVER POST, 3/28).

McManus says that he misses not
being involved with CBS News
PRICE OF ADMISSION: CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that the "shared investment-shared reward scenario" of the net's joint contract with Turner to broadcast the tournament "beats the alternative of trying to go solo, getting outbid and coming away empty." McManus: "You've always got to be thinking one step ahead, and when a deal comes up -- and NCAA basketball is the best example -- you've got to be creative. It's even more challenging than it used to be." DAILY VARIETY's Jon Weisman noted "even in this new era, which puts March Madness games on the four networks in their entirety and doesn't require CBS to constantly switch between them," McManus "has been on the job in the studio all day and into night." McManus formerly served as both CBS News and CBS Sports President, but he "believes it's better for both divisions now that he can focus on sports." McManus: "I cherish the time at CBS News and (all) we accomplished, but it got to the point where it was so complicated that it was best (that a transition be made)." But he added, "I miss not being very involved in the news and knowing exactly what is happening. When something big happens in the world, my first reaction is to call the newsroom and get an update" (, 3/26).

MONITORING THE MADNESS: In Indianapolis, Dan McFeely reports Ball State Univ.'s Sports Link program is working "behind the scenes to keep social interaction flowing smoothly on the NCAA's official March Madness website." The students in the program, through an agreement with Turner Sports, "have taken the lead in monitoring what fans are saying -- using multiple methods of searching key words … and then feeding the best stuff" to the March Madness On Demand website. Each student "has been assigned a team to follow, so they work together monitoring a single game being shown on the TV sets, while keeping a close eye on their laptops" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/28).

FX will air sports programming “for the first time in five years” during the college football season, as it will air a package of 14 games primarily from FSN’s deals with the Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences, according to John Ourand in this week’s SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The channel will air games every Saturday from Sept. 3 through Dec. 3, though they “will not have a dedicated time slot.” The net "expects to make its first three selections by June." FX will pick its subsequent games "no more than 12 days out." FX also is a “likely destination for Conference USA’s championship game -- though that game could be moved to Fox.” Putting college games on FX is a sign that Fox “is serious about adding more sports to the cable channel.” The net “stripped sports from its schedule five years ago, after televising MLB games and NASCAR races.” However, Fox execs recently have been “trying to figure out how to get them back on.” Execs believe live sports “is a reason why TNT commands higher subscriber fees -- more than $1 per subscriber per month to FX’s rate in the mid-40 cents range -- as well as higher ratings.” FX “figures to be at the table as professional and college TV rights come up” in the coming years (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/28 issue).

MLB Opening Day is this week, but "there's uncertainty over whether" A's flagship radio station KTRB-AM will be broadcasting the team's games during the regular season, according to Joe Stiglich of the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. A source said that "negotiations for the A's to buy KTRB -- which is in receivership with Comerica Bank -- have hit a major snag." The source said that in the fallout, the "agreement between the A's and the receiver to broadcast games during the regular season also is in jeopardy." The A's in a statement Friday night said KTRB would not broadcast this past weekend's games against the Rockies as planned, "due to technical issues beyond their control." The games instead were slated to air on Stiglich noted KTRB "went into receivership in September," and the A's "have been negotiating to purchase the station ever since and are thought to be the primary bidder." The source indicated that the receiver is "looking for a higher bid than the A's are willing to offer, and might be threatening to pull games off the air as leverage." But it also is "very possible that one of the sides could budge and a compromise struck before Friday's opener to continue airing games" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/26). The A's said that today's Spring Training game against the Giants "will be on the radio," but it is not certain whether it will air on KTRB or another station. It is "possible the A's and KTRB strike a compromise to continue airing games while negotiations continue" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/28). A's Owner Lew Wolff in an e-mail said the team will be "ready to broadcast" all regular-season games in '11, though he did not specify if that meant on KTRB (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/27).

The N.Y. TIMES' Mike Tanier reviewed California-based tech company Thuuz's new service, which "uses computer algorithms to analyze play-by-play statistics, rates the quality of games on a 100-point scale, then sends e-mail or text messages to users." Tanier, who signed up for the service just before the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, noted Thuuz's calculations "produce some strange results." For example, the Super Bowl earned an excitement score of 83, a point less than Kent State's 4-point NIT win over Fairfield. Tanier: "You would expect some default hierarchy to rank Super Bowls and Final Four games above regular-season NBA games and cricket matches." Thuuz's e-mail alerts "classify games as either good or great." The e-mail "header 'Good Game' damns with faint praise, promising the most meager of thrills." Thuuz designers are "still working on the predictive element of their programs." The "Great Game" alerts "arrive like belated invitations to a party." The alert "often arrives after 10 minutes of Twitter messages along the lines of 'Butler could upset Pitt!'" Tanier wrote Thuuz's "most fascinating feature is the color-coded timeline it uses to illustrate each game's excitement level." The graph "displays intense moments in fiery red; routine stretches in dull yellow; and so on" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/26). 

Startup secondary ticket outfit TiqIQ has struck deals with the N.Y. Post and Washington Post to embed ticket purchasing and ticket-related content within the newspapers' online sites. TiqIQ is seeking to blend traditional e-commerce with an editorial component in which blog postings are developed from TiqIQ's ticketing intelligence. The pacts represent a further advance for the company, which last year aligned with SB Nation and several individual blogs devoted to the Yankees, Phillies and other professional teams. "This is completely consistent with our mission to empower local publishers. It's a big step forward for us," said TiqIQ CEO Jesse Lawrence. The company, through various partnerships such as one with the SportsNet N.Y.-owned, is also expanding its platform to Facebook and Twitter.

Turner data through March 20 shows that cable and broadcast TV viewership "continued on their divergent paths in 1Q and during the '10-'11 season, with both periods marked by cable's 1st-time achievements of a 60% HH share and 50% share" in the adults 18-49 demo. The "top driver ... has been sports." ESPN's bowl coverage in its first year of rights to the BCS generated nine of Q1's "top 10 cable programs in total viewership," with the "other ESPN's MNF." Turner Sports' "coverage of March Madness hasn't hurt, either." By comparison, broadcast's numbers are "going lower and lower" in both HH share and share of adults 18-49 (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/28).

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont congratulated NBC's broadcast crew for coverage of the March 20 Rangers-Penguins game, "specifically rinkside reporter Pierre McGuire, for his poignant call-out" following Penguins LW Matt Cooke's elbow to Rangers D Ryan McDonagh's jaw that earned Cooke a lengthy suspension. NESN viewers are "deprived the same level of scrutiny during Bruins broadcasts," as it is "abundantly, even risibly clear that the order from NESN headquarters is never to utter a discouraging word." Dupont: "In a town where the viewing audience knows good, bad and charade, NESN's good-times-nothing-but-good-times parody is an insult to a paying, knowing audience." Still, NESN earned a 6.6 local rating for Thursday's Canadiens-Bruins game, its "best rating in 27 years of covering the club," which is "proof that Bruins viewers appreciate the it's-all-good spin" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/27).

HEARING FANS' CONCERNS: American Le Mans Series CEO Scott Atherton issued a statement in response to criticism of the series' new TV deal with ABC and ESPN. Atherton noted critiques of ABC and ESPN3's broadcast of this month's Twelve Hours of Sebring, the first broadcast under the new deal, included that there was "no ABC broadcast on the West Coast" and that ABC showing 90 minutes for a 12-hour race was "unacceptable." Also, some viewers complained that they "couldn't get", or that they got ESPN3 but it was of "poor quality." Atherton: "Our new ESPN television package has everyone talking. Some loved it and thought it was among the best telecasts we have ever done -- others, for a variety of reasons, did not. We want everyone to know that we are listening -- and responding" (, 3/24).

MOVING ACROSS THE DIAL: In Denver, Penny Parker reported ESPN Radio will switch from KKFN-FM and ESPN Radio 1600 Denver to "dial positions owned by the fledgling Front Range Sports Network, beginning Jan. 1." ESPN Radio programming "will air on Front Range Sports stations The Ticket, which moves from 87.7 FM to 102.3 FM March 31." Front Range Sports Network Manager Tom Manoogian said that "some of ESPN's programs could be slotted on" company -owned KJAC-FM, an "all-music station." Parker noted Lincoln Financial Media, owner of KKFN and ESPN Radio 1600, "opted not to renew its contract" with ESPN (DENVER POST, 3/27).