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Volume 24 No. 158


YES Network saw a 31.2% drop  in viewership for Yankees games this season, as the loss of a "staggering 111,000 viewers" left an "average of 244,000 devoted souls to watch" each broadcast, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Even the season-long farewell to P Mariano Rivera "could not stanch the viewer disaffection." Rivera's final game last Thursday "attracted 258,000 viewers, a little above the season’s average." However, from 9:45-10:15pm ET following Rivera's entry, viewership "soared to a peak for the game of 585,000." This is "unhappy, unknown territory" for the net, which began in '02. Yankees viewership since '07 "shows a troubling trend that did not start with this year’s disappointing finish." There were 454,000 viewers six years ago, "but 210,000 -- nearly half -- have since departed." Part of that drop "might be attributable to fans being bored with winning and the empire slowly fraying." Some fans "might have switched to watching on laptops and mobile devices; that use is not measured by Nielsen," and there also could be a "quirk in the way Nielsen measures television viewing." However, it simply could be that fans "might be watching less of each game, which reduces viewership." Meanwhile, Mets’ viewership on SportsNet N.Y. also "took a big dip" this season. But there was "good reason: they finished with their fifth consecutive losing record." Viewership "fell 29 percent from last season, to 139,000." Since '07, a winning season for the Mets that "finished in a collapse, viewership has fallen" by 55.7% (N.Y. TIMES, 10/2).

BRAVURA PERFORMANCE: Braves ratings on FS South and SportSouth were up 20% and 24% respectively in '13. FS South for the year finished with a 4.08 local rating in the Atlanta market while SportSouth finished with a 4.09 local rating, marking both nets' best ratings since '10. The Braves had their highest-rated game on an RSN since '00 with an 8.9 on Opening Day on FS South. Braves games on both nets throughout '13 earned at least a 5.0 local rating 31 times, compared to twice in '12 and four times in '11 (Fox Sports).

MLB Network averaged 239,000 viewers for its regular-season game telecasts in ’13, marking a new record for the cable channel. The audience figure is also up 9% from last season. Topping the list of MLB Net's most-viewed games this season was the Sept. 13 Yankees-Red Sox game, with 450,000 viewers. Meanwhile, MLB Net had its best quarterly audience ever in Q3. The net averaged 205,000 viewers in primetime in Q3, up 26% from the same period last year. Total-day viewership during that period was 92,000 viewers, up 30% from 71,000 viewers in Q3 last year. For the year to date, MLB Net has seen a 34% jump in total-day viewership, tops among all cable networks in that time frame.

Yankees-Red Sox
Red Sox-Phillies
Red Sox-Yankees

An examination of Monday night's two major sports highlight programs shows both ESPN's "SportsCenter" and FS1's "Fox Sports Live" devoted a majority of time to the Dolphins-Saints "MNF" game and the Rays-Rangers tiebreaker, but they varied greatly in their presentation. "SportsCenter" came on air around 11:50pm ET following the Saints' 38-17 win, and the first 15 minutes of the 70-minute show was devoted to the "MNF" game, including highlights and analysis from several of the net's NFL personalities. Highlights of Rays-Rangers followed. The 11:00pm edition of "Fox Sports Live" was pushed back 25 minutes due to a live boxing event, and the show took the opposite approach as ESPN, leading with almost 35 minutes of coverage of the MLB tiebreaker before airing a report on Dolphins-Saints. That comes despite the fact Charissa Thompson opened the broadcast by saying, "Two huge games on one night." Another glaring difference between the shows was their preview of the NHL season. FS1 devoted more than five minutes to the subject, including a discussion with NHL analyst Chris Chelios. ESPN's preview came in the last minute of the broadcast, with anchor Steve Levy saying, "Here's our extensive NHL preview segment." FS1 had a small amount of coverage from the Heat's media day and had more overall MLB coverage than ESPN, which was more NFL-centric.

Dolphins-Saints on "MNF" highlights   Rays-Rangers
Report from "MNF" broadcasters Mike
Tirico and Jon Gruden
  Rays-Rangers analysis from FS1's Gabe Kapler and Ken Rosenthal
Report from "Monday Night Countdown" analysts in New Orleans   Postgame press conference from Rays-Rangers
Rays-Rangers   Live footage from Rays locker room
"Gillette Precise Moment" from Dolphins-Saints   NFL news and notes
Report from "Monday Night Countdown" analysts in New Orleans   Live footage from Rays locker room
"GMC Never Say Never Moment of the
Week" nominees
  Interview with Rays manager Joe Maddon
ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting on NFL news and notes   Interview with Rays DH Delmon Young
ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" analysts
recapping Rays-Rangers
Postgame press conference from Dolphins-Saints   Dolphins-Saints analysis from FS1's Donovan McNabb and Tony Siragusa
Jon Gruden naming Saints RB Darren Sproles his "Gruden Grinder" award winner   Postgame press conference from Dolphins-Saints
Status of Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman being in the NFL's drug program   Live footage from Rays locker room
"Sunday Soundtracks" from week four of the NFL   Rays-Rangers highlights
"Top Ten" plays   Interview with Rays manager Joe Maddon
Preview of NHL season   More MLB analysis from FS1's Gabe Kapler
Status of Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman being in the NFL's drug program   Dolphins-Saints highlights
    NHL analysis from FS1's Chris Chelios
    Postgame press conference from Dolphins-Saints
    Live footage from Rays locker room
    Interview with Rays manager Joe Maddon
    Status of Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman being in the NFL's drug program
    Show's co-hosts commenting on headlines from New York and Philadelphia papers
    "Case of the Mondays" segment of excerpts from NFL coaches' press conference
    "Players Only" segment with McNabb, Siragusa, Chelios, Kapler and Andy Roddick
    Heat media day
    "The 1" segment of best MLB plays this season
    "Best Person In Sports" segment

CSN New England will have a "new look" this NBA season, as studio host Gary Tanguay, analyst Donny Marshall and sideline reporter Greg Dickerson "won't be part of the network's Celtics coverage," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Tanguay will be replaced by Kyle Draper "as the host of pre- and postgame studio coverage," though he will "remain as host of 'Sports Tonight.'" Marshall, who called select road games, at one point "seemed in line to succeed Tommy Heinsohn someday" as the Celtics' primary game analyst, but his contract "was not picked up" this summer. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and former Celtics Dave Cowens, Cedric Maxwell and Chris Herren "are slated to fill in as color analysts on a couple of occasions." Dickinson had been part of the broadcast team since '05, but he has dealt with epilepsy and Tourette's syndrome in recent years and missed "significant time two years ago." He will "continue to contribute to CSNNE and NECN programming." Abby Chin will replace Dickinson on the game telecasts. Meanwhile, Heinsohn, who will only call home games, will be in studio "when the Celtics are on the road" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1). In Massachusetts, Jay King wrote Herren is "charismatic and bright," but the "most intriguing news" is Ainge calling games. King: "An NBA GM serving as a color analyst for his own team sounds crazy. What's Ainge supposed to say when the team he put together is losing by 25 points on the road to the Sacramento Kings? ... He's seriously restricted in what he can say. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't see how that dynamic will work" (, 10/1).

NFL Senior VP/Media Strategy & Development Hans Schroeder said that the NFL and Twitter prior to their recent deal had an "ongoing relationship for years, but conversations about an advertising partnership got serious over the summer, and then moved swiftly," according to Jennifer Van Grove of Schroeder said, "Because of the nature of their platform, of being open publicly and real time ... and really seeing a synergist experience ... we thought this was a great way to start off with something deep with a social partner." Van Grove reported Verizon, the league's partner on NFL mobile and the exclusive distributor of live games to smartphones, was "game to extend its arrangement with the NFL to run Twitter-sized spots." Schroeder said of Twitter, "For us, one of the real attractive things about this partnership ... is the ability to take our content and use their ability to promote within their distribution network, and make sure a number much larger than 5 million people see this content and become more aware of the conversation around the NFL that happens today." The NFL has about 5 million followers on Twitter, but Schroeder said that the league "eyes the larger potential in the crossover between the 190 million NFL fans in the US and the 100 million people or so who use Twitter" in the U.S. He added that the NFL "really wants broad appeal ... and plans to expose its Twitter-specific content to casual and enthusiast sports fans alike." Schroeder: "When we tweet out a highlight as it happens and somebody sees that in that Twitter feed, we definitely think it will lead to incremental viewership." He also said that he "believes Twitter's real-time feed of tweets to be very complimentary to the football watching experience, which explains, in part, why the organization is investing so heavily in creating original content just for people on the network" (, 9/29).

ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte yesterday participated in a chat with readers, discussing the net's NHL coverage and the return of Keith Olbermann, among other issues. The following are excerpts from the chat:

Q: [Olbermann] seems to frequently attack other media. Is that fair reporting?
Lipsyte: Back in the day, when I actually wrote for ESPN, I often felt frustrated in not being allowed -- even obliquely -- to write about other sports media. I think how the media covers sports, whether live or investigative journalism, is part of how the rest of us consume and understand sports. I was absolutely delighted when Olbermann punched a hole in that wall. I hope he'll do more and I hope other writers and broadcasters on ESPN will follow suit.

Q: With the NHL starting up tonight, I would've thought the "worldwide leader" would have a home page blast on it; but given you have no NHL t.v. contract, not really surprise[d] that there wasn't.
Lipsyte: I don't know that I can fully answer that question without assuming that ESPN has figured out that there's more money to be made covering other sports -- especially in this amazingly critical time when major sports are beginning or ending their seasons. There is digital coverage of the NHL on the homepage and elsewhere, but you have to look for it. But I have to agree with you. There should be more NHL coverage across ESPN.

Q: Jon Gruden is a voice of the Monday Night games. ... But do I also have to see him on commercials for Hooters and beer during games? Why does ESPN allow that?
Lipsyte: It's going to be worth an ombudsman column down the line. I think that those things do feel like a conflict of interest if you think of Gruden as a journalist and not just an entertainer. ... This is a difficult and pervasive problem in the media.

Q: Is ESPN looking to get rid of OTL in the future based on its new airtime? It doesn't seem like they care about it anymore.
Lipsyte: I hope you're wrong. But I do worry about OTL. It doesn't make money, compared to other shows, which is a major priority. And it's a great source of embarrassment in terms of the leagues that ESPN partners with. That said, there is a real feeling within ESPN's news departments that OTL is an important part of what ESPN should stand for (, 10/1).