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Volume 24 No. 156


ESPN earned a 15.7 overnight Nielsen rating for Alabama’s 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship last night, up 14% from last year’s 13.8 overnight for the Alabama-LSU matchup. The 15.7 overnight marks the highest for any program on cable TV in two years, dating back to the '11 Auburn-Oregon BCS National Championship, which earned a 16.1 overnight. The Alabama-Notre Dame game also delivered ESPN a win among all networks in primetime last night. Birmingham led all markets with a 55.1 local rating, marking the third-best ESPN bowl rating ever in the market. Overall, 17 markets set local ratings records. The game peaked at a 19.0 rating during the 9:00-9:15pm ET quarter hour (game aired from 8:30-11:30pm). ESPN averaged a 9.0 overnight for its five BCS game telecasts, up 6% from an 8.5 rating last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).'s Richard Deitsch writes, "Any hopes ESPN harbored of recording record viewership numbers were squashed before the clock struck 10 p.m. on the East Coast" (, 1/8).

Alabama-Notre Dame
LSU-Ohio State
Florida-Ohio State
Texas-USC (Rose Bowl)
USC-Oklahoma (Orange Bowl)
LSU-Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl)
Ohio State-Miami (Fiesta Bowl)
Miami-Nebraska (Rose Bowl)
Oklahoma-Florida State (Orange Bowl)
Florida State-Virginia Tech (Sugar Bowl)
Tennessee-Florida State (Fiesta Bowl)

REVIEWS ARE IN:'s Deitsch writes ESPN's Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit "grinded out a solid performance," and the broadcast "was in sync early." ESPN added "extra cameras for the game -- the network had 39 in total -- and it paid off for viewers." Musburger was "forceful" when discussing a first quarter play in which Notre Dame S Matthias Farley was flagged for fair catch interference on Alabama WR Christion Jones, causing Jones to fumble. Musburger yelled, "Horrendous call. It should be Fighting Irish football. What is going on here?" Deitsch notes ESPN after the play "quickly brought in NCAA national officiating coordinator Rogers Redding, who contradicted the broadcast team and said that it was the correct call." That was a "good moment for viewers" (, 1/8). In Birmingham, Jon Solomon writes it was a "solid but sometimes uneven ESPN broadcast." The net "as usual ... offered terrific visuals and crisp replays." Technically speaking, "there's not a better college football broadcast in the business." College football fans are "better off that ESPN won the rights to the future playoff beginning in the 2014 season." Herbstreit continued to show "why he's one of college football's best analysts," but ESPN "most likely experienced a ratings loser given its high expectations" (BIRGMINGHAM NEWS, 1/8). 

MEDIA BLITZ: USA TODAY reported about 875 media credentials "were issued for the game, and that didn't include ESPN's requests for its television purposes." The Orange Bowl Committee said that in all, about 1,225 applications "were received." Both numbers were "slightly ahead of the pace for last season's Alabama-LSU game in New Orleans" (USA TODAY, 1/7).

ESPN's telecast of last night's Alabama-Notre Dame BCS Championship Game "will be remembered" for Brent Musburger's comments about Alabama QB A.J. McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, according to Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. ESPN's cameras in the first quarter of the game panned to Webb, who in '12 won the Miss Alabama USA pageant, and Musburger said, "You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman." ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit responded, "Wow!" Musburger then added, "Whoa!" Herbstreit replied with, "AJ's doing some things right down in Tuscaloosa." The conversation about Webb wrapped up when Musburger then "offered tips to Alabama youth on how to date attractive women." He said, "If you're a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with Pop." Solomon notes ESPN showed Webb "several more times in the first half, but none in the second half." Solomon: "Perhaps someone at Disney realized that a 73-year-old man's comments were being viewed by some people on Twitter as creepy" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 1/8).'s Richard Deitsch writes the exchange between Herbsreit and Musburger about Webb "straddled the line between amusing and unsettling" (, 1/8). USA TODAY's Rachel George notes Webb, who has been dating McCarron for about a month, "started trending on Twitter early" in the game. Plenty of air time during the broadcast and "an awkward exchange between the ESPN announcers served as a Twitter boost" for Webb. Her twitter followers increased "from around 2,300 to more than 109,000 by early Tuesday morning" (, 1/8).

COVERAGE EVERYWHERE: The following programs, among others, this morning discussed and/or reported on Musburger's comments about Webb: ABC’s “GMA,” “CBS This Morning,” NBC’s “Today,” CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” “The Dan Patrick Show” and “Live with Kelly and Michael” (THE DAILY). NBC’s Matt Lauer said, “It was a little over the top, Brent.” Savannah Guthrie added, “I guess the game wasn’t exciting enough.” Willie Geist: “It’s funny. A team wins its third national championship in four years and it's overshadowed by the girlfriend of the quarterback” (“Today,” NBC, 1/8). Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said Musburger “looked at McCarron’s girlfriend and said just about everything except for, ‘Mmmmm.’” Patrick: “I did get a little creeped out. ... Give Brent credit though. He does call it like he sees it” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 1/8). CNBC’s Brian Shactman: “Take it easy, Brent, you’re on national television” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 1/8). CBS’ Gayle King said, “I think it’s so unbecoming when a grown man slobbers and drools. You wanted to say to Brent, ‘Down boy, down’” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 1/8). ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic said of Musburger, “Unfortunately, I’ve been in the booth at this point when you’re in your ‘fill material,’ and it was used on her” (“Mike and Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 1/8). McCarron this morning said Webb is “just kind of shocked” by all the attention she has received. McCarron: “She’s not the type of girl that really falls into the famous part of it. She likes staying low-key and keeping out of that … but she’s just kind of enjoying the moment right now and taking it in stride” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/8).

TWITTER ABUZZ: Musburger's comments drew plenty of reaction last night and today on Twitter. ESPN’s Darren Rovell wrote, “By the end of this game, there will be more modeling agents in the stands going after @_KatherineWebb than sports agents.” CSN New England’s Marc Bertrand tweeted, “From here on out, AJ McCarron's girlfriend Katherine Webb will be the best part of the game. Musburger's creepy comments will be a close 2nd.” The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham: “Katherine Webb (AJ McCarron's girlfriend) could be the new @jennifersterger. Brent kind of 'discovered' her too.” SI’s Deitsch wrote, “The age difference between Brent Musburger (ESPN announcer) and Katherine Webb (AJ McCarron's girlfreind) is 50. ... Really hoping Jesse Palmer doesn't have to apologize for Brent Musburger flirting with Katherine Webb." Newsday’s Neil Best: “Top two Google Trends Hot Searches this a.m.: 1. A.J. McCarron; 2. A.J. McCarron girlfriend."

INSTANT CELEBRITY: Webb after the game said, "My phone is dead. My followers went from 2,300 this morning to 96,000 by the end of the night. I don't know if I should even check now, I don't know what is going on. I guess (Musburger) said something but I don't know what it was because I haven't seen it." McCarron when told that Heat F LeBron James was now following Webb on Twitter said, "No way. ... I guess she's more famous than me" (, 1/8).

CBS Sports' digital stream coverage of Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, the second online airing of the game following NBC's initial efforts last year, will feature first-ever live coverage of the halftime show featuring Beyonce, near real-time presentation of the commercials from the TV broadcast and a live camera feed of the NFL's All-22 camera angle. The trio of enhancements for CBS front an overall digital presentation for the game that company execs are aiming to create as "the ultimate second-screen experience." NBC did not secure licensing last year to stream Madonna's halftime show, its online coverage included external links to the TV ads, and the league made the All-22 coaches' angle available to the public just this year, and only on a post-game basis in the U.S. "Everything we've done for this year is on the premise of creating the ultimate second-screen experience in sports," said Jason Kint, Senior VP & GM. "We think we have something that will go into some new places, and is easy as possible to access." The stream will be accessible at both and

SEE SPOT RUN: Like NBC last year, CBS will present a separate set of digital-only commercials for the Super Bowl stream, with the video player also including an "interactive gallery" of the TV broadcast commercials as they air. NBC last year had a quintet of advertisers for the digital stream; Kint said CBS' number of online buys is "nearing double digits" with a couple of ad packages still available. He declined to specify rates for inventory purchased thus far. The Super Bowl XLVII digital coverage will also feature three other alternate angles in addition to a repurposing of the TV broadcast, including a fan's choice angle that will change based on producer decisions and polls on Now-customary social media integration, DVR-type video controls and live-game statistics will be part of the production. Kint declined to predict an audience size of the live stream. NBC garnered 2.1 million unique digital users for Super Bowl XLVI, by far a U.S. record for a single-game sports event shown on the Internet. Like a year ago, the game will be available across nearly every digital device, including computers, tablets and smartphones.

Cable TV distributors have “talked for years” about dropping some channels, but “two things are different now: potential Web competitors are creeping up and programming costs are soaring, particularly for sports channels and broadcasters,” according to Brian Stelter of the N.Y. TIMES. Time Warner Cable Exec VP and Chief Video & Content Officer Melinda Witmer said, “We are having to take a very hard look at our lineup, not unlike a network that takes a hard look at its lineup when deciding what shows it will put on the air.” Witmer predicted "more changes in the future." She said the changes would "enable consumers to buy the stuff that we’ve really got to have, and let go of stuff that’s not really moving the dial.” Stelter noted TWC among major distributors is “taking the most aggressive public stance against low-rated channels.” When TWC “warned that it might drop Current last month, it also singled out low-rated channels like Hallmark, IFC, Lifetime, NHL Network, the Style Network and WE tv.” But channels with exclusive sports rights are “crucial, even though they may make profitable distributors feel impoverished.” Witmer: “Any given one may not have a huge amount of viewership relative to a national service, but if you lose that team, you’re losing subscribers.” Stelter noted programmers and distributors have “found it in their best interests” to keep the current system intact (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).

: REUTERS’ Ronald Grover cited sources as saying that Disney several weeks ago “started an internal cost cutting review ... that may include layoffs at its studio and other units.” Disney execs “warned in November that the rising cost of sports rights and moribund home video sales will dampen growth” (REUTERS, 1/7).

E! Network yesterday said that Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte will “get his own reality television series as he trains with one eye on the 2016 Summer Games and another looking for love.” The net's “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" will premiere in April and document Lochte's "late nights clubbing and early mornings training in the pool all while building a fashion line” (REUTERS, 1/7).

: TOM TAYLOR NOW wrote the NHL “certainly overexpanded and is stuck with franchises that lose money and just don’t make economic sense.” But hockey “still moves the needle" on radio stations in some local markets "like Detroit and Buffalo.” The “really important thing, short-term, is that there will be a post-season.” For many radio stations, “that’s the real money maker” (TOM TAYLOR NOW, 1/7 issue).

: USA TODAY’s David Leon Moore noted by Lakers G Kobe Bryant’s fourth day on Twitter, he “already had more than 588,000 followers,” which amounts to “almost 40,000 followers for each of Bryant’s tweets.” Lakers VP/PR John Black said that the team had “nothing to do with Bryant joining up." Bryant yesterday said that he "just felt it was time he got more social.” Bryant: “I think it's a fun platform to be a part of where you don't have any filter. You can respond to fans and communicate with them directly.” Bryant said that “it’s not an aide doing his tweeting” (, 1/7).

: In Boston, Shanahan & Goldstein note Texans RB Arian Foster “apparently didn’t like what Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote Sunday about the Patriots’ next opponent.” Shaughnessy wrote in part, “The planets are aligned and the tomato cans are in place. The fraudulent Houston Texans are the only team standing between the New England Patriots and a trip to the AFC Championship game. All the Patriots have to do is beat the terrible Texans.” Foster in response “made the column his Twitter profile photo.” Shaughnessy yesterday wrote on his Twitter feed, “hey @arianfoster -- Loving the avatar. Bring your A game to Foxboro on Sunday” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8).