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Volume 24 No. 132


NFL TV partners continued strong viewership for their respective game telecasts during the ’12 season, particularly against other TV competition. NFL games accounted for 31 of the 32 most-viewed TV shows during the fall. For the first time ever, an NFL game was the week’s most-watched TV show in all 17 weeks of the regular season. Locally, an NFL game was the highest-rated show in NFL markets a record 93% of the time. Fox finished the ’12 regular season with an 11.8 rating and 19.7 million viewers for all of its game telecasts, marking the net’s third-best NFL audience since it began airing the NFL in ‘94. The net's audience was off 2% from last season. During the last four years, Fox has seen its four most-viewed NFL seasons on record. For nine Sunday national windows, Fox averaged a 14.8 rating and 24.8 million viewers, making it the most-viewed program on TV and No. 1 among all key adult and male demos. Meanwhile, CBS averaged 17.7 million viewers for its package of regular-season games this season. The net's average was down 4% from 18.4 million viewers last season, which was its second-best audience for the AFC package in 24 years.

ALL NIGHT LONG: NBC’s “SNF” finished the fall as the No. 1 show in primetime, and remains on pace to be the No. 1 primetime show for the entire season for the second straight year. “SNF” averaged a 12.8 rating and 21.4 million viewers for its 19 games, down slightly from a 12.9 rating and 21.5 million viewers last season. This season’s figures remain good enough for the third best “SNF” audience since NBC acquired the package prior to the ’06 season. “SNF” was the No. 1 primetime program in the fall among all key adult and male demos, while also ranking as the No. 2 show for women 18-34 and No. 3 among women 18-49. Milwaukee was the top market for “SNF” telecasts with a 22.1 local rating (Packers appeared three times). New Orleans ranked second (20.9) and Las Vegas (18.9) ranked third. On cable, ESPN’s “MNF” was the most-viewed cable series for the seventh straight year, while NFL Network had another record-setting year as its package grew to 13 games.

'12 (000)
'11 (000)
'10 (000)
'09 (000)
'08 (000)
NFL Network

TOP GAMES: Despite finishing with an 8-8 record, the Cowboys remained a top draw for the NFL, with the team playing in four of the 10 most-viewed games this season. The arrival of QB Robert Griffin III added some fuel to the Redskins-Cowboys NFC East rivalry, with the teams' two matchups taking the top spots among the season's most-watched games. For the second straight year, NBC finished the season with the NFC East finale, and the Dec. 30 Cowboys-Redskins game marked the net’s most-viewed NFL regular-season primetime game ever. Additionally, the game’s 17.0 rating and 30.3 million viewers marked the most-watched NFL regular-season primetime game on any net in 16 years and the most-watched NFL game in any window this season. The Dec. 30 telecast also marked the best Cowboys-Redskins audience in 19 years. Meanwhile, Fox' Week 17 national window, which featured Packers-Vikings, posted a 15.3 rating and 26.4 million viewers, marking the net’s best Week 17 audience in 17 years.

"SNF": Cowboys-Redskins
Thanksgiving: Redskins-Cowboys
"SNF": Steelers-Broncos
Thanksgiving: Texans-Lions
Giants-Cowboys (98%)
Steelers-Cowboys (90%)
Packers-Vikings (82%)
49ers-Packers (87%)
49ers-Saints (93%)
Broncos-Patriots (81%)

MLB yesterday announced that the '13 season will open with a March 31 Rangers-Astros game at Minute Maid Park. The contest, which will air on ESPN, is the Astros' first game in the AL. ESPN the following day will have coverage of four Opening Day matchups featuring winners of the past seven World Series (MLB). In Houston, David Barron noted this marks the "first time the Astros have been selected for the Sunday night ESPN opener, which is the only game on the opening-night schedule." Astros President George Postolos said that the club's ticket sales group "broached the idea of asking for the March 31 date, and MLB officials agreed." Postolos: "Our staff thought it was something our season-ticket holders would appreciate and a way to celebrate changing leagues" (, 1/3). In Boston, Michael Silverman notes the Astros finished last season with an MLB-worst 55-107 record, but the team's AL debut "is the hook ESPN is counting on as a draw" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/4). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck sarcastically noted ESPN picked Rangers-Astros "over their beloved Red Sox-Yankees affair." Dilbeck: "Coming next: ESPN doesn't take credit for every single breaking sports story on the planet! Or maybe the Mayans were right and we're all actually dead" (, 1/3).

FS Midwest and the Pacers have struck a deal to "televise 38 of Indiana’s 50 remaining games" in the St. Louis market starting with Friday night's game against the Celtics, according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. FS Midwest GM Jack Donovan said that "live sports telecasts are a priority." He added that the "absence of Blues games because of the NHL lockout had no impact on adding the Pacers." Caesar reports the Pacers' games Friday and Saturday will "appear on Fox Sports Plus, the outlet to which spillover programming is sent when another event airs on the 'main' channel." Only eight of the 38 games on the schedule "are set for the primary FSM channel." The St. Louis market is in a "bit of no-man's land for pro basketball," with the Pacers, Bulls and Grizzlies "all being within about 250-300 miles" of the city. FS Midwest had been "considering airing a mix of Pacers, Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder telecasts ... but it will show only the Pacers for now" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/4).

NASCAR Thursday unveiled a new website, revealing a homepage with large, bold images and informational graphics. The site was developed over the last year and came after NASCAR reacquired its digital rights from Turner. Fans on Twitter largely praised the site for being a major improvement over its predecessor. NASCAR also got some constructive criticism from fans who did not like the amount of vertical scrolling on the site or the cutout images of drivers' heads, which looked disembodied. NASCAR VP/Digital Media Marc Jenkins discussed the launch.

Q: What was your work schedule like leading up to the launch?
Jenkins: We've pretty much been going around the clock. Everyone is excited about it. Most (staff) didn't leave (Wednesday) night until 1 or 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. They didn't have to be here. They just wanted to see it. It's like launching a ship. You don't hit the bow with a bottle of champagne but you want to.

Q: What issues did you run into the first day?
Jenkins: We had minor glitches here and there, most of which weren't seen by the fan. There were formatting issues in deeper pages. They were easy to solve.

Q: What feedback have you gotten so far and what changes will it lead to?
Jenkins: We've been very aggressive in surveying off the site. We want feedback. We study traffic and of course monitor social media. Overall, there's been an overwhelming positive reaction and there's been constructive criticism. It being a new site, it's different. We were successful with the tour video. We're thinking of other guides to help people and enhance the user experience.

Q: There were comments about drivers' disembodied heads and the amount of scrolling. Will that be something you change?
Jenkins: Scrolling we feel is a factor people will get used to. There are also other ways to navigate the site. You can choose whether you scroll or navigate (using a navigation bar). The (disembodied) head is part of getting ready for the season and knowing there will be firesuit changes. It's a compromise. All the sponsors aren't set now and a lot of firesuits haven't been set up.

Q: How does traffic compare to the previous site?
Jenkins: It's too early to tell. It's not a significant enough sample size now. But we feel good with what we've seen so far and the level of engagement.

Q: What is next?
Jenkins: We're pleased with the reaction so far. Now we're just focused on continuing to improve. You'll see us continuing to listen to what fans have to say.

Golf Channel had its most-viewed year in ’12, marking the second straight year the net has set a new audience record. It averaged 95,000 total-day viewers, up 6% from ’11 and up 36% from ’10. Three quarters this past year were the most-watched quarters for Golf Channel, as well as seven months being the most-watched months. Shoulder coverage at several major events also saw record viewership, including Masters week, U.S. Open week, Ryder Cup week, Players Championship week and coverage around the PGA Tour FedExCup Playoffs. In its second season, the net’s “Morning Drive” show also saw a 12% jump in audience (Golf Channel).

ABOVE THE RIM: MSG Network drew a 5.32 local rating in N.Y. for Tuesday night’s Knicks-Trail Blazers game, which marked the return of Knicks F Amar’e Stoudemire. That figure marks the best MSG rating for a Knicks game this season. Through 24 telecasts, MSG is averaging a 3.52 rating for Knicks games, up 74% compared to the first 24 games last season (MSG)….YES Network averaged a 1.4 local rating in N.Y. for the Nets-Thunder game on Wednesday night, marking the 13th Nets game this season to top the 1.0 rating mark. Only one game topped that mark during all of last season, while no games reached that figure during ’10-11 (YES Network)….FS Oklahoma is averaging a 7.9 local rating in Oklahoma City through 26 games, making the Thunder the “top-rated NBA team on any regional sports network, well ahead” of the Heat’s 5.8 local rating on Sun Sports and the Spurs’ 5.7 rating on FS Southwest (, 1/3).

NOTES: The Patriots finished the ’12 regular season with a franchise-record 36.4 local rating in Boston. For the first time in club history, each game drew over a 30.0 local rating, including three games with a rating above 40.0. The team’s best local rating this season was a 43.1 for a game aginst the Colts in Week 11, which also marked the team’s third-best rating ever (Patriots)….NBC drew a 1.2 rating and 1.6 million viewers for its “Fight Night” boxing card on the afternoon of Dec. 22. The audience for the telecast from 4:00-6:00pm ET was an “impressive showing, considering its lead-in was snowboarding, which did a 0.5 rating.” The audience for the boxing telecast also “steadily grew throughout the show” (, 1/3)….TSN totaled 6.4 million viewers who watched some or part of the Dec. 31 Canada-Russia IIHF World Juniors game. That figure marks the most-viewed opening-round game for the tournament this year to date (TSN).

ESPN earned a 7.7 overnight Nielsen rating for Oregon’s win over Kansas State in last night’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, down from a 9.0 overnight for the Oklahoma State-Stanford matchup last year, which aired following the Rose Bowl. The game earned a 21.1 local rating in K.C., which is the market’s best bowl rating on ESPN on record (dating back to ’00). Through four BCS games, ESPN is averaging a 7.5 overnight rating, up slightly from a 7.4 through the same point last year (ESPN). Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote on his Twitter feed, “Good on @ESPN_ReceDavis for not asking Chip Kelly about NFL while on Fiesta Bowl trophy stage. NOT the venue, despite what some media think” (, 1/3).

NO SURPRISE HERE:'s Jamison Hensley wrote no one "should be shocked" that Ravens LB Ray Lewis is close to signing a deal to become an ESPN analyst, as observers would be "surprised if Lewis didn't go into television." He has been "preparing for life after football for years with his numerous commercials and has had stints as a television analyst in the offseason." Lewis will "bring insight," as with his "extensive film work, he has become the quarterback of the defense" for the Ravens (, 1/3). In DC, Cindy Boren wrote Lewis is "a charismatic, outspoken figure in the mold of ... Charles Barkley." But given Lewis’ "alleged involvement in a 2000 murder case, he’s not quite the quirky, amusing character that Barkley is" (, 1/3).

MAKING POSITIVE STRIDES: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee noted ESPN during the '12 PBA Chameleon Championship last Sunday showed "what may well be the first instance of a broadcast of an openly gay male pro athlete kissing his husband while celebrating." Tournament winner Scott Norton "embraced and kissed husband Craig Woodward." ESPN throughout the broadcast had "referred to Woodward as the 'husband' or 'spouse' of Norton." The fact that ESPN can "refer to and show a gay couple acting every bit as routine in their happiness as a straight one is, in some small way, progress" (, 1/2).

TOO MUCH? On Long Island, Neil Best writes under the header, "Too Many Sports TV And Radio Shows For The Average Fan." There now is "more than enough sports-related media content in America to keep every man, woman and child occupied for many hours more than the 24 each of us is allotted per day." Since the "turn of this millennium alone, the accumulation of sports stuff has taken a turn toward the absurd." It would be "harmless if not for the fact there is an associated cost" (NEWSDAY, 1/4).