The Indianapolis 500 this Sunday on ABC will have "no shortage of compelling story lines," leaving TV execs "feeling confident about another bump in viewership this year," according to Dave Skretta of the AP. Ratings for the race "dropped precipitously throughout the 1990s," and while there have "been a few spikes along the way, the trend continued until ratings bottomed out in 2008." The past few years have "witnessed a modest resurgence," and last year's race won by Dario Franchitti "resulted in a four-year high." ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg said, "I know the IndyCar ratings have been challenged in certain areas, but as a production team, the best thing we can do is tell these stories." Skretta reported TV execs also "hope that those stories turn enough casual viewers into regulars for the rest of ABC-ESPN's package of races this season." The net is "making a few tweaks to this year's telecast," the biggest being ESPN's Lindsay Czarniak "taking over from Brent Musburger as the host." Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever are "back to handle analyst work" with Marty Reid again calling the race. The net will "use 84 cameras, including several dozen onboard cameras and an improved camera running over a cable above pit road that moves faster than ever." Ultra-high-speed cameras that were "introduced last year also are back with a new location added entering Turn 1" (AP, 5/21).
ELITE GROUP: In California, Michael Lev writes it is a "significant milestone" for Czarniak to be the first woman to host the Indy 500, especially considering "the men who preceded" her. If "sports broadcasting had a Mount Rushmore," previous Indy 500 hosts Musburger, Al Michaels, Keith Jackson and Jim McKay "probably would be on it." Czarniak: "Of course I'm proud and honored to be the first woman to do it. I more so look at the talent of the men who've done it before me. That's the biggest form of flattery." Feinberg considers Czarniak a "rising star" for the net (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/24).
TRIPLE PLAY: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes this weekend will see NBC air the F1 Monaco Grand Prix live Sunday at 7:30am ET, followed by the Indy 500 on ABC at 11:00am, then Fox "caps the pre-Memorial Day trifecta" with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at 5:30pm. Feinberg admitted that Indy 500 ratings have "been 'challenged in certain areas' when up against a glamorous NASCAR event, but it doesn't mean the network is pulling back on expenses linked to coverage" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/24).
FS Midwest for this year has "killed the idea" of adding some elements to MLB Cardinals games that would "bring viewers closer to the game, such as chatting with players not in the immediate line of fire while play is in progress," according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Concepts discussed involved "maybe a guy who just homered and was sitting on the bench, a player who had made a big defensive play the previous half inning or a reliever who wouldn’t be used until much later." The idea was to "try to experiment with the innovations" on a couple of Cardinals telecasts this season. If "at least part of the test run worked, perhaps the successful elements could become commonplace in television coverage" of MLB. But other than for the All-Star Game, MLB has "little more than taped in-game interviews with managers during national network telecasts or a chat with a starting pitcher who isn’t playing that day." Fox' Joe Buck said, “When you start asking for things outside the box, it becomes multi-layered trying to get stuff approved. ... It’s something I think could benefit all parties involved, and we’ll see if maybe we can attack ... it in the offseason this next year and maybe gear up for a couple dates next year." He added that talk of "implementing the idea didn’t begin until shortly before spring training began." Buck: "I think we waited too long, that’s probably on me. When I was finally into it, it was something that probably should have been handled in the offseason" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/24).
YES Network is averaging a 2.52 local rating in N.Y. for Yankees games to date, down 38.7% from the average "after the same number of games last spring," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. Yankees games on the RSN finished last season with a 3.9 local rating, which was their "lowest in a decade." The fact that "four local hockey and basketball teams reached the playoffs hurt; of the 39 games on YES to date, 10 were against Knicks playoff games." Meanwhile, SportsNet N.Y. is averaging a 1.84 local rating for Mets games, "on pace for the lowest such figure in the network's eight-year history and down 21.7 percent from this point last year." SNY averaged a 2.25 rating in N.Y. for Mets games last season, "the network's second-lowest ever" (NEWSDAY.com, 5/23). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Bob Raissman reported despite the drop in TV ratings for Yankees games, radio listener figures on WCBS-AM, “at least in April, are fairly steady.” Among men 25-54, “there is no percentage change from 2012” and among all adults 25-54, the audience was “up slightly.” Figures among males 35+ “are up, but the weekend ratings were slightly down” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).
The 49ers on Thursday announced that radio play-by-play announcer Ted Robinson has received a five-year extension and will remain with the club through at least the '18 season. In San Jose, Cam Inman noted Robinson has "handled play-by-play duties" since '09. Beside radio calls, Robinson will "contribute to the 49ers’ Website and television productions" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 5/23).
FOX TROT: In Detroit, Tony Paul notes recent Fox Sports 1 hire Ryan Field will join the net on July 1, "well before the launch" on Aug. 17. Viewers will get to see "what Detroit brass has seen for years: an absolute professional on camera ... who almost always is prepared and on point with questions and commentary." Field's last day at FS Detroit will be June 14 (DETROIT NEWS, 5/24). Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote FS1's hiring of Andy Roddick as an anchor for "Fox Sports Live" "felt like a gimmick," but it will be "viewed a gimmick only if he fails." If he is "any good, as Fox executives think he is, then they can take bows for seeing his potential for such a role." Wolfley: "If he tanks, so what? There is no devastating downside here." Former NFLer Tiki Barber was "going to be the next big thing for NBC’s 'Today' show until he wasn’t. Next up" (JSONLINE.com, 5/23).
NATIONAL APPEAL? SPORTS ON EARTH's Tommy Tomlinson wrote ESPN's hiring of radio host Paul Finebaum for the new SEC Network "makes perfect sense" for both parties. Finebaum gets a "wider audience and more money," while ESPN gets an "innings-eater to fill weekday afternoons on its new network." Tomlinson: "I'm just not sure that the specific genius of that show in Alabama can scale. ... I wonder if Paul Finebaum's sauce will taste as good to people all over the South" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 5/23). In Charlotte, Mark Washburn wrote Finebaum, whose five-year deal with ESPN includes "radio and 100 televised appearances annually," is "one of those love-him-or-hate-him voices familiar to SEC fans, particularly the opposing forces of Alabama and Auburn" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 5/23).
KNOW YOUR ROLE: ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said of possibly coaching again, "I enjoy what I do right now and trying to do it as well as I can. I was in San Antonio the other night and San Antonio fans were killing me saying I was pro-Memphis. And I’m sure when I get to Memphis, they’ll say I’m pro-San Antonio. That’s how I judge how I’m doing: If everyone hates me, then I’m doing fine" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 5/24).
ON THE INSIDE: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic announced former Sporting News columnist Clifton Brown will join the net as its Ravens insider. Brown will provide analysis and features for CSNBaltimore.com and the net's mobile and social media platforms. He also will make regular appearances on CSN Mid-Atlantic's "Geico SportsNet Central," and contribute to the Ravens' pre- and postgame shows (CSN Mid-Atlantic).
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: In Des Moines, Fuson & Logue report former Univ. of Iowa broadcaster Jim Zabel, who "entertained radio listeners for more than half a century, died Thursday at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home." He was 91. Zabel in the booth was "more Harry Caray than Vin Scully, more passionate fan than indifferent reporter." But those qualities "made him one of those most popular media personalities in the state" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 5/24).
Speed earned a 2.3 U.S. rating and 3.68 million viewers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race last Saturday night, which featured a few rain interruptions. While the rating is up slightly from a 2.2 last year, the viewership is down slightly from 3.75 million viewers. Since the race moved from FX to Speed in ’07, it has averaged a 2.3 and 3.94 million viewers. The most-watched All-Star Race over the last decade was FX’ telecast in ’05, which drew a 3.4 rating and 5.48 million viewers.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES ALL-STAR RACE ON SPEED AUDIENCE TREND
FIGHT NIGHT: “UFC on FX 8” averaged a 0.8 rating and 1.3 million viewers last Saturday night, down from a 1.1 rating and 1.9 million viewers for the previous iteration in January, which remains the most-viewed UFC telecast on FX. Both bouts aired from Brazil. The audience last Saturday is on par with the eight-telecast UFC average for FX (0.8 rating, 1.3 million viewers) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
"UFC ON FX" AUDIENCE TREND
NOTES: TNT finished with a 5.3 rating and 8.2 million viewers for Pacers-Heat NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on Wednesday night, giving TNT a primetime win among all nets (broadcast or cable) for the night. The game also is the most-viewed NBA Playoff game this year to date. Pacers-Heat Game 1 is up 10% and 6%, respectively, from the net’s comparable Thunder-Spurs Game 1 last year (TNT)....FS Southwest drew a 6.9 local rating in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market for Tuesday night’s A’s-Rangers game, marking the RSN’s best Rangers rating this season to date. The previous best was a 6.6 rating for Tigers-Rangers on May 18 (FS Southwest).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. Figures for ABC were unavailable at presstime.
Preakness Stakes (race segment)
Preakness Stakes (pre-race)
Preakness Stakes (pre-race)
PGA Tour: HP Byron Nelson Championship: Final Round
NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals: Rangers-Bruins: Game 2
Liga MX: Club America-Monterrey
PGA Tour: HP Byron Nelson Championship: Third Round
NHL Conference Semifinals: Red Wings-Blackhawks: Game 2
Preakness Stakes (pre-race)
Liga MX: Monterrey-Club America
Liga MX: Cruz Azul-Santos Laguna
Amgen Tour of California: Stage 8
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Heat-Bulls: Game 5
NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Warriors: Game 5
NBA Western Conference Finals: Grizzlies-Thunder: Game 5
NBA Western Conference Finals: Grizzlies-Thunder: Game 4
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Pacers-Knicks: Game 6
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Heat-Bulls: Game 4
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Pacers-Knicks: Game 5
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Pacers-Knicks: Game 4
NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Warriors: Game 6