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Volume 24 No. 158


ESPN earned a 9.7 overnight rating for the Ravens' 18-16 win over the Lions on "MNF" last night, up 23% from a 7.9 overnight for Jets-Titans in Week 15 last year. However, the 9.7 rating is down 10% from a 10.8 overnight for Steelers-49ers in Week 15 in '11. Last night's game earned a 40.2 local rating in the Baltimore market (12.1 on ESPN, 28.1 on WBAL-NBC). The telecast also earned a 35.0 local rating in Detroit (10.6 on ESPN, 24.4 on WXYZ-ABC). Rounding out the top five markets were San Diego (15.0), Las Vegas (14.6) and Sacramento (14.5) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote after watching ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" last night, he "wondered why they even bothered to play" the Ravens-Lions game. Zurawik: "At first, it was just annoying. But then, it became embarrassing when Steve Young and Trent Dilfer started talking about the 'moral authority'" that fellow analyst Ray Lewis provided for the Ravens. Zurawik: "I understand that ESPN has a huge investment in Lewis as its new marquee analyst, but don’t demean the Ravens players to promote him." Zurawik wrote color analyst Jon Gruden deserves credit, as he was "generally honest and accurate in reporting and critiquing what happened on the field once the game started." Overall, ESPN’s game coverage was "crisp, clean, informed and illuminating." The chemistry between the producer, director, Gruden and play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico is "in a league" with NBC's "SNF" (, 12/16).

RANK AND FILE: SPORTS ON EARTH's Aaron Gordon lists the "best and worst NFL announcers." Gordon: "I listened to 32 NFL games -- two per crew -- charting every foolish, false, annoying, ridiculous and downright dumb thing each of them said" to determine "which NFL crew is the worst of the lot." Gordon divided announcers' "verbal infractions into six categories," including clichés, factual errors, nonsense, self-references, plays off and off topic discussion. Gordon notes the CBS crew of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf committed 70 infractions, which were "largely Dierdorf's fault." Gumbel is "actually quite respectable, with a mere nine infractions over two games." However, Dierdorf "has a whopping 61 infractions, giving him the honor of the statistically worst commentator in the NFL." Meanwhile, Fox' Chris Myers and Tim Ryan committed 87 infractions. The crew "holds the honor of worst tandem." Ryan "loves him some clichés, as 20 of his 55 infractions came in that category." NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth had just 20 infractions. Gordon: "They're generally regarded as one of the best in the business, and I agree." When this crew "screws up, it's because they're bending over backwards to compliment a superstar or head coach" (, 12/17).

FUNDAMENTAL FOCUS: In Jacksonville, Brian Hodges noted he listened to a portion of the Bills-Jaguars radio broadcast Sunday on WOKV-AM. Play-by-play announcer Brian Sexton and analyst Jeff Lageman were "doing the postgame show, expounding on the success" of Jaguars RB Jordan Todman. Sexton and Lageman then "focused on the fact that there were only two games left in the season and they were meaningless games." Hodges: "I arrived at work and jumped out of the car -- without knowing the final score. Fundamentals are important. Even in broadcasting" (, 12/16). 

WFAN-AM's Mike Francesa yesterday on his show confirmed that he was "parting ways" with the YES Network, saying that there "was not one thing that had led to the divorce," according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Francesa said that two factors were "economics and editorial control" and that YES execs were "not thrilled with recent appearances by Alex Rodriguez on his show." However, Francesa added that "long before those A-Rod interviews ... he had already decided to split" and that he knew during the summer his simulcast alliance with the net "would not continue." Francesa said, "It’s not one thing. It never is. Is economics an issue? It’s always an issue. This is not a cheap show, it’s an expensive issue." Yet Francesa, "contradicting himself, said there were 'no economic talks' with YES, at least on his part." Francesa explained that he, "not CBS, WFAN’s parent company, handles his own simulcast negotiations." He "gushed over his relationship with YES." But he said, "Editorial control has always been an issue." Francesa added that he "hopes to play out his contract, which ends Jan. 31." Francesa: "We will make a decision at the end of January. I don’t know where we are going from here ... If we want to be on TV we will be" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/17).

GOOD WHILE IT LASTED: On Long Island, Neil Best notes while Francesa's tone was "appreciative and he praised YES for being 'great partners in every way'" since the simulcast's inception in '02, he "suggested YES and/or the Yankees eventually grew tired of their inability to control his content." Best: "The original 'Mike and the Mad Dog' simulcast, which Francesa said was the late George Steinbrenner's idea, was a pioneering show in what has become a common practice" (NEWSDAY, 12/17).

ESPN will carry Arena Football League games for the first time since '08, having signed a non-exclusive, multiyear rights deal with the league. The deal sets ESPN up as the league's third TV partner in the past three years. CBS Sports Network carried 19 regular-season games last season. NFL Network carried games in the AFL's previous season, having signed a series of one-year deals since '10. CBSSN also will continue to air games in '14 with the AFL's primary regular-season package. ESPN has committed to show more than 10 regular-season and postseason games on one of its TV networks annually, including a conference championship and ArenaBowl. It will carry another 75 games per year for its ESPN3 broadband service. These games also will be available on the AFL's website via ESPN's video player. ESPN carried the first ArenaBowl live in '87. ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski owns the AFL Philadelphia Soul franchise.

Disney is "developing a biopic about American track and field hero Jesse Owens, setting up the project with BermanBraun and Netter Films and attaching Antoine Fuqua to direct," according to Dave McNary of VARIETY. Producers are BermanBraun’s Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun and Netter Films’ Gil Netter. Exec producers are BermanBraun’s Andrew Mittman and Netter Films’ Arthur Spector. The untitled film is "based on the book 'Triumph,' written [by] ESPN host Jeremy Schaap." David Seidler, who won a screenwriting Oscar for "The King’s Speech," is "on board to write the screenplay." Set against the "backdrop of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, 'Triumph' tells the story of how the son of an Alabama sharecropper shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy by winning a record four gold medals" (, 12/16). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Borys Kit noted part of Owens' "myth is that Hitler snubbed him at the Games after his wins, but 'Triumph' claims that while it is true Hitler didn’t shake hands with Owens, that was because of other factors." The book "depicts Owens complaining more about being snubbed by Franklin D. Roosevelt than by the Nazi leader" (, 12/16).

As mobile consumption of sports news and information surged in '13, the official mobile applications of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB went under the microscope. These reviews highlighted standout features, basic offerings and areas for improvement. Based on the findings, winners for this year's Best of the League Apps were selected in six categories: social media integration, live video features, video-on-demand offering, second-screen experience, engagement tactics and subscription model.  

NBA Game Time offers an easy link to Twitter, as
well as a pre-populated hashtag
BEST SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION: NBA Game Time's Pulse section, which features an interactive Twitter feed. Within all game screens, a prominent Twitter icon presents a quick opportunity for fans to post to their feeds using the pre-populated hashtag #nbagametime. A Facebook share function also is available within all live and on-demand video.

BEST LIVE VIDEO FEATURES: NBA Game Time's in-stream stats. The Game Time live video player features live stats by team and concurrent game listings, making this the only app to offer more than just a live video feed. A ticker with team logos, scores, time and time-outs remaining also is offered within the player during games.

BEST VOD OFFERING: NFL Mobile, because of its timeliness and depth of highlights. Game highlights are made available almost instantaneously within NFL Mobile. Also, the number of clips was unmatched by other league apps, with more than 20 highlight videos available per game on average. Honorable mentions include MLB At Bat's condensed game recaps with raw audio, and NBA Game Time's daily highlights set to music.

MLB At Bats's second-screen experience brings
deep statistical data click-throughs
BEST SECOND-SCREEN EXPERIENCE: MLB At Bat's Live Pitch Tracker. While a game is being played, At Bat 13 opens a flashy pitch-by-pitch simulation showing pitcher and batter statistics. Individual plays can be expanded to show the speed and type of each pitch, the count and the result. A graphical depiction of the field offers clickable player names for even more statistical data. Note: MLB At Bat was reviewed during the World Series. A full review of the app's regular-season feature set will be conducted in '14.

BEST SUBSCRIPTION MODEL: NHL GameCenter's Premium Upgrade. For $9.99, NHL GameCenter Premium offers live radio broadcasts, in-game video highlights and condensed game replays. Verizon customers get live broadcasts of NBC national games, NBC's Inside the Glass and NHL On The Fly (4G LTE only). If only for the condensed games, this upgrade is worth the added expense.

BEST USER ENGAGEMENT TACTICS: NBA Game Time's Excitement Alerts. NBA Game Time sends push notifications for close games and other must-watch action. In addition to a range of basic game alerts, individual player alerts can be set for double doubles and triple doubles, among other things. Alert notifications include a View Now button that makes toggling between live streams simple and exciting.

NBA Game Time offers customizable alerts for
scores or certain player acheivements 
OVERALL BEST OF LEAGUE APPS: Of the four league apps, NBA Game Time proved the most well rounded, fan-centric experience. Not only does the freemium offering entice fans to convert to paid, the app also includes a solid social media presence, standout in-stream video features and a lengthy list of interactive game alerts. Editing highlight clips to music makes this app's user experience fresh and relevant. For these reasons, NBA Game Time is the top league app for '13.

Amie Sheridan ( is a writer in Philadelphia.

See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY: