ESPN2 "First Take" commentator Skip Bayless is the "most polarizing figure in sports journalism ... lobbing grenades and hurling insults without a second thought," according to a profile by Thomas Golianopoulos of the N.Y. OBSERVER. SI's Richard Deitsch said of Bayless, "Do I think he intends to be polarizing? Of course I do." Deitsch added Bayless is a "self-proclaimed television truth-teller simply pushing his own brand of dime-store demagoguery. ... People tell me he’s a nice guy off the air. If so, that’s even more disappointing, because few in sports television come off more loathsome on the screen." ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "I'm one of his critics, and I'm one of his best friends. But even in the process of disagreeing with him, I will vouch for him as a man. His character is impeccable. He’s just crazy in terms of some of the things he thinks.” Bayless said of his image, "It's not an act. It’s not a character. It’s the real me. I’m not a shock jock. I never ambush anybody. I just speak my mind and my heart and my soul." ESPN VP/Original Programming & Production Jamie Horowitz in August "took the helm of 'First Take'" and changed the format to "two hours of live debate centered" around Bayless. Horowitz said, "I looked at research, and the brand that resonated most for our fans was debate." The program's numbers "are up 33 percent from last year and the show’s top 10-best-rated telecasts have all aired since August" (N.Y. OBSERVER, 3/21 issue).
NCAA.com and March Madness Live averaged two million combined daily online unique visitors during the week extending from the March 11 Selection Sunday through the March 18 completion of the third round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, down 2% from last year. Similarly, NCAA.com and MML generated 3.6 million online unique visitors and 6.9 million visits across all platforms on March 15, the start of the second round of the tournament and generally considered the full start of the event, down 12% and 9%, respectively, from the comparable day last year. The traffic decreases are a first for the digital deployment of the tournament, and mark the initial immediate results of Turner Sports' significant shift this year to a paid content and TV authentication business model for the event. But as expected, MML continues to see hefty jumps in mobile traffic as streaming consumption there grew 11% during the second and third rounds compared to last year, and total visits across mobile apps grew 19%, according to Turner data.
USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes whether QB Peyton Manning "thrives with the Denver Broncos or Tim Tebow proves himself with the N.Y. Jets, CBS has to be happy." Any potential Jets QB controversy "can only help TV ratings in the USA's top TV market," while Manning's early games in Denver "will likely be of national interest -- at least for a while." However, the "TV-savvy" NFL "often moves teams affected by big off-season buzz ... off CBS and Fox Sunday afternoon regionalized coverage and into primetime TV slots on NBC or ESPN." Hiestand adds, "Don't be surprised if the Broncos and Jets end up there early on" (USA TODAY, 3/21).
BOUNTYGATE MONITOR: Last night’s national news broadcasts all aired reports on the punishment meted out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the Saints for their bounty program. CBS’ “Evening News” led the broadcast with a three-minute, forty-six second (3:46) report on the Saints from Armen Keteyian, followed by live commentary from James Brown. ABC’s “World News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” also aired reports in the last 10 minutes of their broadcasts. NBC aired a 1:44 report, with taped commentary from SI’s Ben Reiter. ABC aired a short 0:32 report. Last night’s 6:00pm ET edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” led with the details of the Broncos-Jets trade that sent QB Tim Tebow to N.Y., followed by Saints coverage for about the first 15 minutes of the broadcast and then back to the Tebow trade. The first non-Tebow or Saints related coverage was an NCAA men’s basketball tournament report approximately 50 minutes into the broadcast. ESPN’s “Around The Horn” and “PTI” both led with the Saints, while “NFL Live” led with the possible Tebow trade followed by the Saints. This morning’s edition of ABC’s “GMA” first reported on the Saints at approximately 10 minutes into the broadcast with a 0:32 news brief. “CBS This Morning” aired a 9:24 report on the Saints approximately 30 minutes into the broadcast, with Keteyian and Brown live in-studio, along with CBS Sports’ Shannon Sharpe live via satellite. NBC’s “Today” first reported on the Saints approximately five minutes into the broadcast with a 0:21 news brief (THE DAILY).
HEARING CRICKETS: England & Wales Cricket Board Chair Giles Clarke said that the organization "could be boosted by a multi-million pound TV rights deal in Asia." A current TV rights deal with Sky "runs until 2017 -- with an option to extend beyond that -- and Clarke is hopeful a 'nine figure' deal of similar length can be struck on the subcontinent" (London DAILY MAIL, 3/21).