The best way to "launch a new channel or a new stadium is to sign a marquee player,” and G Jeremy Lin’s signing with the Rockets coincides with the team's "efforts to sign sponsors and radio affiliates to join their new flagship, KBME (790 AM), and as CSN Houston lobbies cable systems for carriage,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Bevilacqua Media Founder Chris Bevilacqua said, “It will definitely have a positive impact, especially since this is the rollout of a new regional sports network, so the timing is very good. Lin will bring real excitement and visibility to CSN’s distribution and advertising sales efforts.” Barron noted Lin’s presence “will almost certainly boost Nielsen ratings, which will boost ad revenue, which in turn will boost the Rockets and Astros, who together own 77.3 percent of CSN Houston.” The signing could also “help bring reluctant cable systems into line in the Rockets’ core telecast area.” Another key question is “whether even in areas where Rockets games cannot be seen live, Linsanity will be sufficient to convince cable operators in, say, Austin or Corpus Christi to pick CSN Houston so fans can follow the network’s Rockets news and feature shows.” If an outlying system “signs on in October rather than waiting for Astros season in March, it could mean several hundred thousand dollars, and maybe more, in added income for the networks and the teams.” However Lin’s signing “will have its tradeoffs.” Rockets Owner Les Alexander said, “I think (the Rockets) are going to be on national television a whole lot more this year.” That means “fewer games, and less ad revenue, on CSN Houston” (CHRON.com, 7/19).
HEIGHTENED INTEREST: In Houston, Jonathan Feigen noted media members “filled 70 news conference seats with at least as many lining the court” during Lin's formal introduction with the team Thursday. Lin during his time with the Knicks was in demand by major media networks, but in the days since his departure from N.Y. became possible, Lin’s reps “have received requests” from outlets including ESPN, CNN, “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “HBO Real Sports," “The Jim Rome Show” and “PTI.” Meredith Geisler, a publicist for Lin, said, “I thought his leaving New York might mean there’s not going to be interest. It’s heightened interest. ... Cal Ripken and the streak, that was the closest to this, but there are more media outlets now. This is bigger. This is far greater than any of that. If he agreed to everything, he would be doing this for the next two years” (CHRON.com, 7/20).
Patriots radio color analyst Gino Cappelletti "has decided to retire" after 32 years, according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Former NFLer Scott Zolak, who last season served as a Patriots sideline analyst, "is expected to succeed Cappelletti." Cappelletti and play-by-play announcer Gil Santos were paired from '72-78 and beginning again from '91 through last season. With Santos’ "classic baritone and Cappelletti’s genial manner, they were the unofficial voices of fall in New England." But in recent years, "the game seemed to speed up on Cappelletti, and gaffes became more prevalent during the broadcast." Adding Zolak to the team last year was "a graceful way of providing support while letting Cappelletti go out on his own terms." Finn: "For generations of Patriots fans, it won’t be quite the same without him." Santos "will return for his 36th year in the booth" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/20). Cappelletti said, “When the leaves do change their color, I might get a little pang, but I’m pretty comfortable with my decision and happy to say it’s been a wonderful experience for me.” Cappelletti said it was a “very strong possibility” he would still have a presence at Patriots games, calling the Patriots “one of the elite teams and I’m not going to walk away from that.” Cappelletti: “You really have to enjoy what this franchise has accomplished and achieved, especially with the new stadium and everything. They way they do it is on timely basis and it’s a wonderful thing to have witnessed” (“Toucher & Rich,” WBZ-FM, 7/20).
ONE MORE YEAR FOR SANTOS: Santos yesterday said that this will be his "final season" in the booth. In Worcester, Bill Doyle reports Santos admitted that a month ago he "wasn't sure he'd return this season because he was still recovering from double pneumonia in one lung, single pneumonia in the other, blood poisoning and a pulmonary obstruction that made breathing difficult." However, Santos' "stamina is returning and he expects to be ready to go by the time the Pats open their preseason schedule" on Aug. 9 at Gillette Stadium against the Saints (Worcester TELEGRAM, 7/20).
ESPN's "SportsCenter" provided “thorough and substantial coverage” of the Freeh Report findings concerning the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, compared to its "slow, scattershot and tone deaf" coverage when the scandal broke last November, according to Fry & McBride in the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project. Jeremy Schaap “parsed the lengthy report quickly and ably, and he was similarly sharp whether he was discussing what would come next or interviewing legal experts and lawyers.” Don Van Natta Jr. “also did superb work” on ESPN.com. In the net's November coverage of the topic, Sandusky’s victims "too often were shoved aside by lesser concerns,” but ESPN “rarely forgot them in its reporting last week.” However, analyst Matt Millen, who played football at Penn State, “was miscast,” and his “difficulty coming to grips with the implications of the Freeh report for [Joe] Paterno’s legacy and Penn State’s culture was painful to watch.” Media critics and viewers have “pilloried Millen, but we think ESPN’s producers should bear a substantial part of the blame for what went wrong.” Millen is “too close to the subject to offer clear-eyed analysis.” Given “how close Millen is to Penn State, for him to be useful, someone at ESPN needed to do more to help him prepare -- he needed time to read the report and needed help assessing what he knows about the good and bad of building a culture around a successful college football program.” In a statement last Saturday, ESPN said, “Matt played at Penn State and was also interviewed for the Freeh Report and as a result we thought he had a unique perspective. … In hindsight, having Matt in a featured role put him in a tough spot.” Fry & McBride hope to see “more such unflinching takes on the culture of college athletics,” but also hope ESPN will “continue to talk about and speak for the children who are at the heartbreaking center of this story” (ESPN.com, 7/18).
ESPN “wisely” used Tiger Woods “liberally in their British Open coverage Thursday,” according to Reid Cherner of the USA TODAY. From the time the tourney went on air at 4:30am ET “until Woods’ final interview 5 ½ hours later, the network gave even the biggest Tigerophile his money’s worth.” Woods shot a 67 Thursday, and ESPN’s crew did “a good job foreshadowing the type of round Woods would have” (USA TODAY, 7/20). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jonathan Wall wrote whoever decided to send ESPN the Magazine's Wright Thompson “across the pond to write a couple essays for the British Open deserves a serious raise.” ESPN has aired similar video essays in the past, “but this was their best work yet.” The “brilliant essays had nothing to do with the outcome of the tournament, but they were a perfect complement to the coverage” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/19). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Curtis Strange Thursday "repeatedly heard Tiger Woods curse, yet ignored them as if they were the only ones who heard." Mushnick: "Made us wonder if they’d ignore such behavior from others playing in the British Open, except no one else is known to be such an audible cusser. Then again, no one’s covered as closely as Woods." The only person on ESPN "to note that Woods played 'unsmiling' and 'agitated' golf was Peter Alliss, an Englishman-on-one-event-loan, thus not compelled to ignore from Woods what U.S. viewers can’t miss" (N.Y. POST, 7/20).
PETER PIPER: YAHOO SPORTS' Wall wrote one of the "great things about ESPN covering the British Open is the addition of world-class BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss to [the] booth." Wall: "There isn't a better voice or storyteller in the game than Alliss, and he once again reinforced that claim with a story about some rabbits on the course” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/19). Golfweek's Beth Ann Baldry wrote on Twitter, "Wish I could listen to Peter Alliss on every golf broadcast. He makes it a totally different viewing experience." USA Today's Gary Mihoces wrote, "Enjoying #ESPN coverage of (British) Open. Just wish Peter Alliss was still on the air. Re bunkers: I couldn't get out of them in an ATV." Golf World's Bill Fields wrote, "Peter Alliss is to the BBC Open broadcast what Johnny Carson was to half past 11. BRINGING IN THE BIG GUNS: In London, Brian Barwick reported the BBC "has responded" to criticism of its golf coverage earlier this year from R&A CEO Peter Dawson by adding Golf HOFer Nick Faldo to its Open Championship coverage. Alliss remains "the signature voice of the sport" and listening to him last weekend at the Scottish Open, it was evident he is still "the man to beat" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/19).
NBC's Bob Costas is profiled by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie, who notes Costas "for more than three decades, has been the conscience of NBC Sports," and for two decades, he "has been the face of the Olympics for U.S. viewers." Costas will again anchor the net's primetime Olympic coverage during the London Games, and at a time when "so much sports journalism toes the line, when LeBron James' 2010 free-agent ESPN infomercial hit a nadir in pandering and a 'don't shit where you eat' attitude colors the beat, Costas, 60, is almost singular in his approach." Former NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol said, "Bob was able to have his opinions and to ask the very people that we had billion-dollar contracts with very difficult questions." Guthrie reports during the Opening Ceremony next Friday, Costas "plans to call out the IOC for denying Israel's request for a moment of silence acknowledging the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Games." Costas: "I intend to note that the IOC denied the request." Ebersol said, "There's a reality in business; there were times when I thought he got too forceful. But I'm very proud of the fact that Bob was able to be Bob." Guthrie notes by all accounts, current NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus "is also letting Bob be Bob." Lazarus: "He does not compromise his question-asking. But he does not lead the witness down any path other than the truth." Guthrie writes, "Nowhere was that more obvious than in his interview in the fall with Jerry Sandusky." The segment "ran for eight minutes, but Costas pushed for more." He said, "I felt like they should have blown out whatever segment was after it. They did make more time for it than they had originally formatted. Let's put it this way: They had a big inning but left a few men on base" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/27 issue).
MLS telecasts are averaging 345,000 viewers to date on ESPN/ESPN2, putting the league’s telecasts on the cable nets on pace for the best average since MLS was formed in ’96. The audience is up 12% from the same period last year and up 18% from ’10. The Timbers-Sounders match on June 24 on ESPN marked the league’s third-best regular-season cable audience ever, behind only the inaugural MLS match in ’96 (DC United-Clash) and a Revolution-DC United match from ’98. Meanwhile, NBC Sports Net is averaging 121,000 viewers to date for its first season of MLS telecasts (17 games), up 78% compared to same period last year, when the same package was on Fox Soccer. NBCSN is currently in 78.1 million homes compared to 41.4 million for Fox Soccer. NBCSN averaged 259,000 viewers for the Galaxy-Timbers match last Saturday, marking the net’s best MLS audience to date.
RIGGLE ME THIS: ESPN averaged a 1.5 U.S. rating and 2.4 million viewers for the ESPYs last week, up 15% and 22%, respectively, from a record-low 1.3 rating and 2.0 million viewers last year. The '12 figures, however, are still down from a 1.7 rating and 2.6 million viewers two years ago. Comedian Rob Riggle hosted the show for the first time in ’12 after “SNL” comedian Seth Meyers hosted in ’11 and ’10.
ESPYs AUDIENCE TREND ON ESPN
NOTES: CBS finished with a 2.2 rating for the final round of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic last Sunday, which saw Zach Johnson win in a playoff. That figure marked the best rating for the event's final round since J.L. Lewis' win in '99....The U.S. men’s national basketball team’s first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic on July 12 averaged a 1.7 U.S. rating and 2.7 million viewers. The team’s second game against Brazil on ESPN2 on July 16 averaged a 1.4 rating and 2.1 million viewers. The Brazil game marked ESPN2’s second-best telecast this year to date among males 18-34, and also ranked as the net’s sixth-best rating of ’12….Tour de France telecasts are averaging 409,000 viewers across NBC/NBCSN through July 15. This year’s race marks the first time live telecasts have been shown on NBC, with the two windows thus far averaging over 1 million viewers each. Through the same period last year, NBCSN alone was averaging 317,000 viewers….Fuel TV averaged 211,000 viewers for the net’s fourth UFC fight card last Saturday, which featured Chris Weidman’s defeat of Mark Munoz. The telecast delivered Fuel TV its third-best total-day audience ever and second-best night of primetime.
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings.