ABC's Nuggets-Lakers Western Conference First Round Game One earned a 3.9 overnight rating to lead all telecasts during the opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs. That figure is down 15% from a 4.6 overnight for the comparable Lakers-Hornets opener last year. On Saturday, the Heat's blowout of the Knicks earned a 3.8 overnight, down slightly from a 3.9 for the Heat-76ers opener last year. ESPN saw gains for two of its three windows over the weekend. Mavericks-Thunder Game One in the late window Saturday night had the top overnight with a 3.1 rating, up 15% from the comparable Mavericks-Trail Blazers game last year. The net earned a 2.4 overnight for Jazz-Spurs in the early afternoon window yesterday, up slightly from a 2.3 rating for the comparable Grizzlies-Spurs game on TNT last year. Magic-Pacers on Saturday afternoon earned a 2.1 overnight, down 16% from a 2.5 for Hawks-Magic last year. Figures for TNT's three games over the weekend were unavailable at presstime (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
ON-AIR REVIEWS: In Denver, Dusty Saunders gives ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy his “early vote” as the NBA’s “best analyst.” Van Gundy “surveys what happens on the floor with an expertise based on his coaching experience.” His background stories, dealing “with players and coaches, nearly always have relevance to the game he's covering” (DENVER POST, 4/30). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes he initially “didn't care for ABC's NBA studio setup this season with a roundtable of analysts, including Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard.” There was “no real host, and the conversation seemed to ramble and meander with no point guard.” But the show “has found its stride.” Wilbon seems to have “taken over as the host, although he isn't a traditional host.” He gives “more opinions than most hosts, but that's fine because his opinions are interesting.” Now the show has “a steady rhythm and each segment appears to have a purpose, and that has turned the show into solid TV” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/30).
TNT and NBA TV join ABC in drawing record audiences for NBA regular-season games during the condensed '11-12 campaign. TNT saw its best NBA audience in its 28 years of televising games. It is the second-straight season the net has set an all-time high, and fifth consecutive season of viewership growth. TNT aired the six most-watched NBA games on cable this season, including two of the five most-viewed NBA games in cable TV history. The season-opening Celtics-Knicks game on Christmas led the way with 5.9 million viewers. The net also saw double-digit percentage growth among males and adults 18-34. In its second season as a Nielsen-rated network, the record 337,000 viewers NBA TV drew on average was up 31% compared to the post-Christmas period last year. There was double-digit growth among all key adult and male demos. The net also saw viewership jump for its “Fan Night” games. This comes on the heels of ABC last week announcing its 3.3 rating and 5.4 million viewers marked its best figures since it acquired TV rights prior to the ’02-03 season. It also is the best for any broadcast net since NBC during the ’98-99 season, which was also shortened due to a labor stoppage. ESPN saw a mixed bag for its NBA audience. Following the net’s record-setting numbers last year, ESPN saw its rating jump slightly to a 1.3 final number, but viewership was relatively flat at 1.9 million viewers.
NBA REGULAR-SEASON TV AUDIENCE*
CHART NOTE: * = All figures for '10-11 season are for the post-Christmas period.
SPURS OF THE MOMENT: The Spurs once again led all teams with an 8.0 local rating on FS Southwest, which marked the second-best local number in the 25 years that the net has aired Spurs games. That number is down from a 10.2 local rating last year. The Nets ranked last during the club’s final season in New Jersey with a 0.4 local rating on YES Network. The Bulls ranked fourth overall among NBA teams with a 5.9 local rating on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, marking the highest average rating for Bulls’ games in the market since ’97-98, the last year of Michael Jordan's run with the team. The T’Wolves, Thunder and Knicks led all teams in percentage ratings gain this season, with each net seeing an increase of over 100%. The Suns, Rockets and Celtics saw the sharpest drops.
ESPN finished with a 2.0 fast-national U.S. rating (2.9 million viewers) for its three days of NFL Draft coverage this year, up slightly from a 1.9 rating (2.9 million viewers) for last year’s three days. The net was led by a 4.4 rating and 6.7 million viewers for the first round last Thursday night, marking the net’s second-best audience figure for the first round ever, behind only ’10, which was the first year the first round aired in primetime. The first round this year on ESPN was also up 16% and 11%, respectively, from a 3.8 U.S. rating and 6.0 million viewers last year. ESPN’s coverage of the second and third rounds on Friday night from 7:00-11:04pm ET averaged a 1.9 rating (2.7 million viewers), up from a 1.6 rating (2.4 million viewers last year). Rounds two and three were split between ESPN and ESPN2 last year, while airing completely on ESPN in ’12. Saturday’s coverage from 12:00-7:25pm averaged a 1.1 rating (1.4 million viewers). A majority aired on ESPN before switching to ESPN2 from 6:58-7:25pm due to the NBA Playoffs. Cleveland-Akron led all markets for ESPN’s three days of coverage with a 5.0 local rating, followed by Dayton with a 4.3 rating. Meanwhile, NFL Network averaged a 0.5 U.S. rating and 757,000 viewers for its three days of draft coverage, marking a new record for the net. The net’s first-round coverage also averaged a record-setting 0.9 rating and 1.4 million viewers, up from a 0.7 rating and 1.0 million viewers last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Tampa, Tom Jones asks, “How can you watch the NFL draft and not appreciate simply how much work the network puts into such an event?” ESPN’s coverage “is seamless and complete” and “astonishingly so” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/30).
TWITTER HAS IT FIRST: In Buffalo, Greg Connors wrote under the header, “Twitter Scoops NFL During Draft.” Throughout Thursday's opening round and the next two rounds on Friday it "was not unusual” for ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Chris Mortenson and “other NFL reporters to reveal the picks on Twitter before the names passed [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell’s lips.” By the time Goodell announced Stephon Gilmore as the Bills’ first-round pick “at about 9 p.m. Thursday, that news seemed so five minutes ago as the pick had been rocketing around the Twitterverse” (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/29).
Tiger Woods will participate in this week's Wells Fargo Championship, his first tournament since The Masters, and he is “expected to post a video on his website on Monday in which he will answer selected fan questions submitted through Facebook and Twitter,” according to Bob Harig of ESPN.com. Excel Sports Management's Mark Steinberg, who reps Woods, said that his client “will not do a pre-tournament interview session with media members.” Steinberg: "We've been thinking about this for a couple of months now. We wanted to have a little bit more direct interaction with fans, and they've been very good to him over the years. We're probably a little bit behind with social media and this is a way to do that." Steinberg added that post-round access "would not change, and he stressed that this pre-tournament arrangement would only occur ‘a handful of times’ during the year.” Harig noted Woods likely "would continue to do interviews before major championships, events where he is the defending champion and selected tournaments, possibly including the Players Championship in two weeks.” Steinberg: "It's just a chance to have him interact more with fans." Steinberg also said that “this was not in response to any negative media reaction stemming from the Masters.” Steinberg: "Absolutely not. This will just be a few tournaments a year" (ESPN.com, 4/28). More Steinberg: "The media will continue to have access to him. This isn't anything more than a couple of times a year to interact with the fans. They deserve that. This isn't intended to make a statement. This is intended to be more inclusive. This isn't a statement whatsoever. Some in the media might interpret it that way but that's not the intent" (CHARLOTTE.com, 4/27). However, GOLF WORLD's Geoff Shackelford notes what is being "left unsaid is the current view in the Woods camp ... that the media has recently been less than good." Shackelford: "The clear implication is that Woods will try to further control his message by avoiding the interview process, which involves follow-up questions and produces more material for journalists to interpret" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 4/30).
THE WRONG MOVE: Woods' online Q&A was a topic during GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussion, and SI Senior Editor Mark Godich said, “If he thinks this is a way to connect with the fans, he's badly mistaken. Take those questions in a live setting. That would show me something.” SI’s Alan Shipnuck said, “It's cool he's doing a Q&A with fans. But that doesn't mean he can't also do a pre-tournament thing with reporters. It's silly to think it has to be one or the other.” SI’s Rick Lipsey: “Amazing, years into the rehabilitation of his image, that TW keeps finding new ways to alienate others and do the wrong thing. How will the tournament sponsors feel when Woods doesn't do the pre-event media interview? Like their millions in sponsorship have been wasted. Gosh TW, wake up! ... I'm shocked that Wells Fargo hasn't demanded Woods's presence and that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem hasn't intervened at Wells Fargo's request.” SI Group Managing Editor Jim Herre: “As usual, Woods is only thinking of himself.” SI's Gary Van Sickle: “Tiger has figured out a way, he thinks, to circumvent the press. Plus, he gets to control which questions he answers” (GOLF.com, 4/29). GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Rex Hoggard wrote while the move “will allow Woods to avoid uncomfortable questions,” it also will “vastly limit the scope of his media exposure.” GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Randall Mell wrote, “It is about time Tiger Woods takes control of the message. ... Tiger knows the final word is good when you control the final word. Well, it’s good for the player, if not the sport” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/28). Golf Channel's Erik Kuselias said, “If you're going to do this in addition to your obligation of your duties to the media, I think that's great. If you do it instead of taking questions from professionals and people whose job is it to write about this sport and follow this circus every week, then it seems to me more like you're trying to control information." Kuselias: "He's only going to put the questions up he's going to take and those are the only ones he’s going to want to answer. It seems a little weak to me" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 4/30). DIFFERENT GAME NOWADAYS: Golf journalist Dan Jenkins, who will be inducted into the World Golf HOF on May 7, said that a big difference in covering the game now is the “access to players.” Jenkins: “They don’t need us lowly golf writers any more. They’ve got TV, and agents and gurus and all. But back then they liked us. They actually wanted us in the locker rooms. We made friends, we were convivial, we went out to eat and drink together. That’s all been lost” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/29).
The possibility of the television experience becoming more like a tablet featuring apps was examined by Chozick & Wingfield of the N.Y. TIMES, who noted the technology industry is “trying to address” the question of why TVs cannot be more like tablets for the millions of customers “ready to embrace the next generation of viewing options.” In the process, the industry “could transform the clunky cable interface, with its thousands of channels and a bricklike remote control, into a series of apps that pop up” on the TV screen. A model built around TV apps “could let viewers use favorite apps on the screen on an a la carte basis, thus bypassing cable subscriptions and all the extraneous channels they don’t watch.” The television industry is “delicately assessing how to balance the current system with an Internet-based future that some feel is inevitable.” A la carte apps would “upend the entrenched and lucrative economics of television, which have long relied on a system in which cable customers pay for channels even if they don’t watch them.” Sanford C. Bernstein & Company analyst Craig Moffett said that it is “unlikely consumers would pay $20 a month for individual channels when the traditional cable bundle provides a bargain price.” Moffett: “The model we have is the model we have, and while it’s tempting to imagine an app for TNT and an app for ESPN, that’s not the likely outcome.” Chozick & Wingfield added most apps are "intended as complements to traditional TV viewing” and are only available on tablets and mobile devices. One such app is NBC Sports’ soon-to-be-introduced NBC Olympics Live Extra, which will “allow subscribers to stream every Olympic event” from the London Games. The app will be “available only on iPads, tablets and other mobile devices,” and cannot be seen on TVs through Xbox or Roku. NBC Sports Digital VP & GM Rick Cordella: “No one on the digital side wants to take away audience from the TV.” Chozick & Wingfield added that the ability of any channel to “strike out on its own,” even those like HBO and ESPN, “remains problematic.” ESPN "makes about $5 a month" from each of the country’s cable subscribers, and should it ever sell its programming directly to the consumer, “it would need to charge several times that rate.” ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches said, “We have no plans to bisect our partnership with distributors” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28).
NBC averaged a 1.7 overnight Nielsen rating for its two NHL Stanley Cup conference semifinal telecasts this past weekend, marking its best figure for the first weekend of the second round in eight years. The net averaged a 1.9 overnight for Devils-Flyers Game One yesterday from 3:00-6:00pm ET, up 13% from the comparable Red Wings-Sharks Game Two last year. The net also averaged a 1.5 overnight for the first game of the Capitals-Rangers series, flat compared to the Bruins-Flyers opener last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
VOICES CARRY: In N.Y., Bob Raissman reported Yankees radio announcers John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman “will be back in the booth for the 2013 season no matter who owns the Yankees’ radio rights.” Sources said that “despite all the criticism" of the pair, people within the organization “consider Sterling and Waldman part of the Yankee family.” A source indicated that as part of "any radio rights deal they sign, the Yankees will make sure they have control of who the broadcasters are.” CBS is paying $13M per year under the current contract. Sources said the team has "a very good relationship" with current rights holder WCBS-AM, and "a sense of loyalty." Sources said the Yankees “will more than likely exercise the option to stay with the station through 2013” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/29).
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Dodgers Manager of Spanish Radio Broadcast Sales Jorge Jarrin has joined the team's Fox Deportes TV broadcast team. Jarrin, the son of Dodgers HOF announcer Jamie Jarrin, will join analyst Manny Mota as the play-by-play announcer for 50 Dodger games this season (THE DAILY).
GRID LOCK: In N.Y., Brian Stelter profiles Dan Abrams’ Abrams Media Network of websites that includes Mediate and SportsGrid and writes it has been "slow going for one of his seven sites,” SportsGrid. Abrams said that the “others had attracted brand advertisers, like Ralph Lauren on Styleite and Intel on Geekosystem, his technology site.” Web measurement firm Quantcast shows that Abrams’s network receives “about eight million monthly visitors,” and at least a third of “those visitors are actually located on other Web sites where Mediaite and SportsGrid’s video players are posted with advertisements attached -- demonstrating how valuable aggregation can be to the business models of Web networks” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30).