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Volume 24 No. 159
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ESPN's "MNF" Overnight Down Despite Drama; "SportsCenter" Benefits From Finish

ESPN earned an 11.5 overnight Nielsen rating for the Packers-Seahawks “MNF” telecast, down 3% from an 11.9 overnight for Redskins-Cowboys in Week 3 last year, and down from an 11.6 for the comparable Packers-Bears in ’10. The dramatic finish helped “SportsCenter” earn a 5.0 overnight for the 12:00-1:30am ET episode. If that figure holds, it would be the highest-rated "SportsCenter" (airing 20 minutes or longer) since Dec. 10, 1995, which aired following the Packers-Buccaneers "SNF" game. In the Seattle-Tacoma market, last night’s game earned a 19.6 local rating on ESPN and a 15.7 rating on KONG-Ind. The game in Milwaukee earned a 15.1 local rating on ESPN and a 37.8 rating on WISN-ABC (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted in past telecasts, ESPN "MNF" analyst Jon Gruden "has been faulted for overpraising players and we heard some of that" in his call of Packers-Seahawks. But it is "not an exaggeration to say that Gruden didn't trade much in exaggeration on Monday night." Wolfley: "We did hear Gruden offer some blunt assessments." Both Gruden and play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico were "dismayed by the officiating in the game, including the controversial last touchdown." Gruden said of the game-winning play, "This is comical. Two of the worst calls at the end of a game I can remember. ... This is wrong. I don't feel good about this" (, 9/24).

SUNDAY NIGHT: NBC finished with a 12.9 rating and 21.3 million viewers for the Patriots-Ravens “SNF” telecast, up 5.7% and 4.5%, respectively, from the comparable Steelers-Colts game in Week 3 last year. The game also topped the 8.5 rating and 13.3 million viewers for the “Primetime Emmys” and marks the fifth straight time “SNF” has topped the award show when going head-to-head. Patriots-Ravens delivered NBC the No. 1 broadcast of the week among viewers and all key adult and male demos for the third straight week. Through four telecasts, NBC is averaging a 14.2 rating and 23.5 million viewers, down 1.4% and 3.0%, respectively, from the same period last year (Karp). In N.Y., David Hinckley noted the NFL “went into Sunday night’s matchup with the Emmy Awards as a heavy favorite, but even at that, it probably beat the spread.” ABC was “heartened by the fact that more people watched this year’s Emmys than last year’s.” However, “football beats awards” (, 9/24)

THE REDZONE EXPERIENCE: SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote of NFL Network arriving on Time Warner Cable over the weekend, "I had to see what the fuss was about ... and watched the RedZone Channel, all day." Leitch: "I can confirm, now that it's over, that it's definitely football how I've never watched it before. This is both good and bad." NFL Network's Scott Hanson "is going to be a superstar someday." He "somehow manages to hop around the country from game to game every six seconds ... yet he keeps his cool throughout, weaving in some fun, wry, understated commentary." On the RedZone Channel "every play is important, and none are." This is an "inherent issue in all highlight packages, let alone those that are happening live: When everything is exciting -- as every second of the RedZone Channel is, by design -- then nothing is." It is "just touchdown after touchdown after turnover after touchdown after turnover, all day." It "drains football of all context; it turns the sport into incessant, almost droning sensation." Leitch: "This is still sorta fun ... but I still couldn't help but think that this should be a supplement to your regular football watching rather than a replacement." The RedZone Channel is "best consumed in small doses." Leitch writes, "My compromise: three hours of short-attention-span football, three hours of the real thing. You can't have one without the other" (, 9/23).

POP CULTURE CROSSOVER: ROLLING STONE's David Amsden writes TV producers and directors are as "accountable for the NFL's pop-cultural dominance as any of the players they put on television." Games "have evolved into some of the most technically and dramatically sophisticated broadcasts currently being created: as rich in story as an acclaimed cable TV series, as gripping as a Hollywood blockbuster." Such breakthroughs are "bred by a culture of competition among the networks that mirrors NFL team rivalries." NBC "Sunday Night Football" Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli said, "We 100 percent want to beat the pants off of everyone every single week." Amsden notes these "battles are 'won' not simply through the ratings ... but through being the first to come up with subtle tweaks that elevate the viewers' experience." Just as the NFL is "often referred to as a 'copycat league,' in which coaches invariably adapt the innovations of one team into their own playbooks, the various networks will 'borrow' one another's ideas, giving them their own signature stamps" (ROLLING STONE, 9/27 issue).