Fox’ Seahawks-Redskins game yesterday led all NFL Wild card telecasts over the weekend with a 23.7 overnight Nielsen rating. That figure is up from the net’s Falcons-Giants game in the early window last year (+25%), but down from the Broncos' OT win over the Steelers in the late window on CBS last year. Seahawks-Redskins earned a 50.2 local rating in DC, marking the net’s best playoff rating in the market on record. CBS’ Ravens-Colts game in the early window yesterday earned a 19.7 overnight, up from Fox’ early window last year, but down compared to Broncos-Steelers. On Saturday, NBC earned a 17.2 overnight for its Wild Card doubleheader. The early window featuring Texans-Bengals earned a 16.2 overnight, up 6% from the same matchup last year. In the primetime window, Packers-Vikings earned an 18.3 overnight, down 5% from Saints-Lions (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND OVERNIGHT NIELSEN RATINGS
QUOTH THE RAVENS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote the "big story was the 'last ride' in Baltimore" for Ravens LB Ray Lewis, and the "performance of CBS Sports Sunday should first and last be judged by how it covered that story." CBS was "absolutely on it coming into the game." But CBS "missed way too much of another huge storyline: The fans of Baltimore bidding an emotional farewell to a beloved and honored athlete." The net "truly fell down on covering this story during the last four minutes of the game." Zurawik: "And I will be honest about it, that failure left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the entire telecast. A really bad taste." Yesterday was "as much about us as it was Lewis -- and CBS never got that right." CBS did play some "decent catch-up getting a post-game interview with Lewis and tailing him around the field for his final lap of love at M&T Bank Stadium, but for my money, it was too little and too late." Zurawik wrote of CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, "I have generally said nice things over the years about both of them. But I truly lost some respect Sunday" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/6).
MIKE CHECK: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes NBC analyst Mike Mayock "would not, could not clam up for even a second throughout Saturday’s Bengals-Texans game." Mushnick: "Two dropped passes in the first few minutes led to three Mayock lectures on the easy and self-evident." Meanwhile, Mushnick writes Simms "remains the only NFL analyst who regularly uses replays to correct himself rather than to affirm his original, wrong call" (N.Y. POST, 1/7).
The seven Catholic schools that plan to leave the Big East to form their own basketball conference "expect to double their money off a television deal," according to sources cited by Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Sources said that Fox, whose Fox Sports 1 channel is set to launch in August, "has an initial high offer on the table of more than $500 million for a 12-year deal." Sources said that officials with Fox on Wednesday are "scheduled to meet with those representing the interest" of the Catholic 7 in N.Y. A "high-ranking source at NBC Sports Network, which has so far engaged in preliminary discussions with the 'Catholic 7,' declined comment." ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz also "declined comment on the network's interest." The presidents of the schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova -- met in N.Y. on Friday to "discuss the intricacies of the new conference and announced that they retained the legal services of Proskauer Rose and Pilson Communications for television negotiations." The TV deal "is said to be far along." The Legacy Agency Partner Jordan Bazant has "helped bring Fox to the table." Reps from St. John's and Georgetown "took the lead in those early discussions" (ESPN.com, 1/5).
ESTABLISHING PARAMETERS: In Chicago, Toni Ginnetti writes the parameters of Catholic 7 TV negotiations "will involve more than dollars." In addition to the substantial revenue any TV deal would generate, the schools also are "interested in establishing coast-to-coast exposure that can advertise ‘the brand' of the new league." DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto said, "We’ve hired a very capable television consultant in Neal Pilson, and I know everyone wants our product. But I don’t think you can negotiate a television deal until you know when you will leave." The seven schools currently "receive about $2 million each from the Big East television deal that expires after this season." The proposed packages would "offer at least twice the current payout" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/7).
When ESPN commentators Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit call tonight's Alabama-Notre Dame BCS National Championship Game, they will "become the longest-serving television broadcast team for the national championship game," according to Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. This is the pair's "fourth straight BCS Championship Game on TV and sixth in a row when counting two years on the radio." ESPN will have "a lot of its normal features" for the telecast, but one notable difference will be "the sound." ESPN for the first time will "use 5.1 surround-sound microphones for a college football game so the audio sounds more like the network's 'Monday Night Football' production." ESPN BCS Championship Coordinating Producer Bill Bonnell said, "One thing our executive producer really challenged us [on] this year is sometimes audio gets lost in the discussion." Bonnell is "prepared to show viewers fewer replays to keep up with a possible hurry-up offense by Notre Dame" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 1/7).
NUMBERS GAME: In Miami, Barry Jackson writes Alabama-Notre Dame "has a good chance to top the 14.0 for last year’s Alabama-LSU title game, but it will be difficult for ESPN to surpass ABC’s record for the highest-rated BCS title game: a 21.7 for USC-Texas in 2005." Meanwhile, Musburger, when asked how long he wants to continue broadcasting, said, "As long as they'll have me. I don't do retirement very well." He added that he "still gets the same emotional charge working big events as he did earlier in his career." Musburger: "The best event that I am ever going to cover is the next one" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/7). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes when Alabama-Notre Dame kicks off, ESPN execs will "have numbers on their minds, but it won't be ones appearing on the scoreboard." The key number for "that suit-and-tie crowd is 35.6 million." It is "unlikely" Alabama-Notre Dame will top USC-Texas in viewership, but "a close game late will produce a mega-audience." Meanwhile, ESPN Remote Production Director Derek Mobley said, "The whole season you go to a college stadium where there is a big college atmosphere and a huge student section, and then you come to bowl games and the student sections are not defined. Students are scattered everywhere, and the stands have more corporate feel to it. So it's a challenge to draw out that college atmosphere. Plus, at Sun Life Stadium, the sideline is further away from the stands than the other bowl sites. The fans are much further away" (SI.com, 1/7).
DirecTV is doing away with its NASCAR Hot Pass programming this year. The decision brings an end to the five-year-old service that gave subscribers four channels of in-car-driver video and audio. The distributor opted to discontinue the service because of its cost. DirecTV also decided to end its sponsorship of NASCAR. It had been an official partner of the sport since '07. It is looking for other ways to stay involved in the sport and plans to set up displays at some racetracks this season. DirecTV Senior VP/PR Darris Gringeri said, “We tried to charge for the (Hot Pass) product a few years ago, but the demand for it was low. We decided to switch to a free service. It’s been great and we’ve been happy with it. It’s been a differentiator. But in the end, the production cost became too much to bear.” DirecTV made the decision to end its NASCAR sponsorship and discontinue Hot Pass last month. The offering was expensive because DirecTV had to sublicense the video rights to in-car-camera footage from NASCAR rightsholders Fox, Turner and ESPN. NASCAR plans to look for another sponsor in the official TV broadcasting services and equipment category, which DirecTV previously held.
Fox earned a 7.5 overnight Nielsen rating for Texas A&M’s rout of Oklahoma in Friday night’s AT&T Cotton Bowl, marking the net’s best rating for the game on record. The 7.5 overnight is up 60% from a 4.7 for Arkansas-Kansas State last year. The game led Fox to its best Friday primetime average since World Series Game 7 in ’11. The Cotton Bowl also scored a better overnight than ESPN’s Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl telecasts. Oklahoma City led all markets with a 35.0 local rating, followed by Tulsa (29.2) and Austin (27.9). The telecast peaked at an 8.2 rating in the 10:30pm ET window (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht wrote the second half of Fox' AT&T Cotton Bowl telecast between Texas A&M and Oklahoma on Friday “turned into a ‘Johnny Football’ lovefest” with Fox’ Gus Johnson and Charles Davis “nearly running out of adjectives to describe” Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel. Johnson “got carried away at times.” The only thing that Manziel “didn't succeed in” during the broadcast was “a fan poll on whether he would win another Heisman Trophy, losing out 66-34 percent.” Both announcers “marveled at Cowboys Stadium.” Johnson said, “You got to get to this stadium, one of the most incredible spectacles that you'll see.” Davis said, “It's awesome even when it's not filled” (OKLAHOMAN, 1/5).
MORE THE MERRIER: FORBES’ Alicia Jessop reported ESPN Regional Television is “leading the way of corporate ownership and operation of bowl games.” This year, seven of the 35 college football bowl games are “owned and operated” by the outlet. ERT Senior VP & GM Pete Derzis said the company was “there to satisfy the needs of a number of (their) partner conferences, many of whom were under-served at the time,” including Conference USA, the WAC and Mountain West. Derzis added, “These conferences didn’t have a lot of bowl opportunities ten years ago. They had teams that could have qualified for bowls by NCAA standards, but had nowhere to go.” The company “does not have to expense the operations and event planning for the bowls to an outside entity.” Derzis: “All of the revenues and expenses end up in a single profit and loss statement.” Jessop wrote ERT’s role in bowl games “may shift” with conference realignment and changes to the BCS system (FORBES.com, 1/5).
The Astros are expected to "bring in [Blue Jays radio analyst] Alan Ashby as early as Tuesday for a news conference regarding his return to Houston to call Astros games on Comcast SportsNet Houston," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. With confirmation that current Astros play-by-play voice Bill Brown is "cutting back his schedule to about a hundred games a year, it would not be a surprise this week to learn that [former MLBer] Geoff Blum is signing on to do games alongside Ashby in Brown’s absence and work as a CSN Houston studio analyst on game days when he isn’t in the booth." It is "more likely" that former Astros manager Larry Dierker and former MLBers Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell will "have studio duties rather than booth duties" (CHRON.com, 1/6). In Toronto, Bob Elliott reported Ashby "resigned from his position" at CJCL-AM last Monday. Ashby during his six years with the Blue Jays was "insightful, whether in his usual position to the left of Jerry Howarth in the radio booth or a floor above at Rogers Centre when filling in on Sportsnet TV" (TORONTOSUN.com, 1/4). Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote it will be "difficult to replace his honest voice." But "maybe this is the big opportunity" for Mike Wilner, who covers the Blue Jays for CJCL (TORONTO SUN, 1/6).