An average of 37,000 people "have watched the Dodgers this week" on Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA, and that "pales in comparison to the first two games last season on Fox-owned Prime Ticket, both of which averaged around 300,000 viewers," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Prime Ticket "is available everywhere while SportsNet LA is currently only" on TWC. In contrast, Angels ratings "are off to a strong start," as games Monday and Tuesday versus the Mariners each "had well over 100,000 viewers" (L.A. TIMES, 4/4). Meanwhile, TWC said that DirecTV "has ended serious negotiations" over carriage of the RSN. TWC Exec VP and Chief Video & Content Officer Melinda Witmer in a statement said, "DirecTV has advised us that they will not carry the Dodgers this year, and they have walked away from the negotiating table." However, a DirecTV spokesperson said "nothing could be further from the truth." The L.A. TIMES' Flint writes not having DirecTV "is a big blow to the Dodgers" and TWC. No other major area distributors have been signed by TWC, but Witmer said that negotiations with them "are ongoing." About 70% of the market is currently "without access to Dodgers games." Sources said that TWC for the first year of its contract with the Dodgers is seeking "north of $4 per subscriber, per month with increases throughout the deal." Witmer said that the terms "are fair and fall behind" what TWC pays for YES Network, among other RSNs. Witmer said that among the demands DirecTV made "was one that would allow the satellite broadcaster to stop carrying the channel if the Dodgers went into a prolonged slump." Witmer: "I refer to this as the 'fair weather fan plan'" (L.A. TIMES, 4/4).
CARRIAGE CONUNDRUM: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes when it comes to the lack of carriage for the Dodgers' new RSN, the "real heart of the heartache begins when 19 of the next 20 telecasts taking us to the end of the month are exclusive to SportsNet L.A., with only FS1 coming to the rescue for the home contest" against the D-Backs on Saturday, April 19. Dodgers Ps Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson "have a better chance of coming off the DL quicker than another Dodgers game going to a national audience" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/4).
For the first time in 18 years, Fox will unveil a new MLB broadcast booth Saturday when Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci call the Giants-Dodgers game on FS1. This marks the first time since Fox acquired MLB rights in '96 that longtime analyst Tim McCarver will not be in the booth. THE DAILY caught up with McCarver's longtime partner, Buck, to find out what to expect from the new booth.
Q: How is the booth going to be different this season? Buck: You're going to hear analysis from different angles. Harold comes at it as the ex-player, but he's not an ex-catcher like Tim. He's an ex-middle infielder, and he's somebody that was looking at pitching from behind the pitcher as opposed to in front of the pitcher. He can talk about middle infield defense and defensive positioning. Even the way he was as a player and the style of hitter he was gives him a little bit different angle coming into this. Tom is kind of the wild card here. He's really known for his writing. I was blown away when we sat down and launched into the mock telecast. The way he was going through pitching sequences, what he was noticing from batters, how he was ahead of the curve with how a pitcher was trying to get a hitter out. They're different guys. Three men in a booth doesn't work with two analysts if they're the same person wearing a different suit and have the same opinion. These guys come at it differently. One's analytical and one's more with his gut. I like that. That's what gets me the most excited.
Q: Reynolds has only been in the studio before. How will he adapt to calling live games? Buck: What I love about Harold is that I've got a guy now sitting next to me that these players really know. He can talk to players. He's got their respect. They know that he played. They know he played with [Ken Griffey Jr.]. He's got a relationship with these players that we can take advantage of. He's texting them before games, he's texting them after. He can go down on the field and get nuggets of information that we didn't have before. Guys have a different type of relationship with Harold than they would with me or did with Tim.
Q: How would you define Verducci's role? Buck: With Tom, we've got baseball's business side taken care of. You've got somebody that MLB Network goes to as the end-all voice as to what's going on business wise in the game. I like the combination of those two guys. They're just so different that I think it can work. We'll talk the Moneyball stuff. We'll talk about what's going on in front offices or who's on the trading block or what Verducci's hearing from his sources inside the league. We'll listen to Harold from at-bat to at-bat or where defensive players are playing.
Q: How strange will it feel for you to be in a baseball booth without McCarver at your side? Buck: We were together for 18 years. It got to the point where I knew when he was ready to say something and jump in just by a subtle thing I could catch out of the corner of my eye -- a lean forward or a raising of a finger. We sat so close that I could feel where to take the broadcast and where not to. That made it very easy. He's a guy who's done it a long, long time. Freshness and a new perspective is a good thing. Tim's voice is synonymous with big game baseball broadcasts. Soon these two new guys will fit in with me and we'll have a unique approach.
Turner Sports is rolling out its Teamcast for its first-ever Final Four, a format which may be "the next phase in sports TV," according to Ed Sherman in a special to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Turner Sports on Saturday is Teamcast will offer "special team-oriented calls for all four schools on TNT and truTV." The "conventional national telecast" of the semifinal games, featuring Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr, will be on TBS simultaneously. Teamcast coverage "will have a distinctive local feel geared to the particular team with features and other elements." When asked if formats like Teamcast and ESPN's BCS title game Megacast will be the prototype for network coverage of the Super Bowl and World Series, CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said, "Anything is possible. We'll learn more from this experience." Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy said, "Not every sport lends itself to this, but I do think the Final Four gives us an opportunity to test out this theory." McManus "sees one potential pitfall" for the Final Four coverage: "What if a viewer is flipping around with the remote and doesn't realize he/she is watching a home-team call on either TNT or truTV?" McManus said, "We have to figure out a way to remind people that these are separate telecasts. I can see Twitter lighting up. 'Why are they rooting for (that team)? For years, all those people who wrote that (the announcers) are rooting for a specific team, well, now they can say that legitimately" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/4).
KEEP ON TRUCKIN': In California, Michael Lev notes it "took about half a year" for Turner to "figure out" how to make the Teamcasts work. The Teamcasts will "share most of the game cameras with the national telecast, but each teamcast will have its own production truck and, most important, its own slant on the game." Turner Sports Senior VP/Prduction & Exec Creative Dir Craig Barry said, "It’ll be a more energetic, more team-focused approach to the Final Four. Hopefully we’ll be able to create a really dynamic broadcast for people to watch." Lev: "No matter how it’s received, I applaud the effort. If you aren’t trying new things, you aren’t trying at all" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/4). In Boston, Chad Finn writes it will "be fascinating when the Nielsen numbers become available, if only to see whether or not this is something viewers want to make worth Turner’s while" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/4).
CHEMISTRY TEST: On Long Island, Neil Best notes Saturday's games -- the "first national semifinals ever to appear on a cable network -- will mark the first time" Nantz, Kerr and Anthony have worked as a team. Asked if he was concerned about putting together an announcing team for the first time for such big games, Kerr said, "Not the slightest bit. (Anthony and I) did three games together in Indianapolis. I honestly can say it was seamless" (NEWSDAY, 4/4).
Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky and fiancée of golfer Dustin Johnson, appears on the cover of Golf Digest's May issue "in white yoga pants and a matching sports bra," according to Karen Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES, who writes under the header, "Golf Digest's Cover Spurs Criticism From LPGA Pros." Eleven women since '69 have appeared "alone on the cover" of the magazine, but the last LPGA winner to "appear on the magazine's cover" was Lorena Ochoa in '08. Besides Gretzky, the "only woman to be given sole billing on the cover without having won a pro or major amateur event" is Golf Channel's Holly Sonders in May '13. SI model Kate Upton also "posed alongside Arnold Palmer in December's issue." No. 3-ranked female player Stacy Lewis said, "It’s frustrating for female golfers. It’s kind of the state of where we’ve always been. ... Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines. But at the same time you’d like to see a little respect for the women’s game.” Golfer Juli Inkster added, "It’s frustrating because it’s Golf Digest; it’s not Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue." But Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde, who approved the cover, said, "Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/4). Meanwhile, golfer Angela Stanford said that the cover "didn't surprise her." Stanford: "The question is who are they trying to sell to? If the answer is men 25 years old through 45 years old, then I guess that's what they have to do. You know the old saying, sex sells. And nobody can argue with that. It's just the way it is. But the LPGA has some attractive women and very fit women, so why not use them? I'm just baffled by it" (ESPN.com, 4/4).
Roughly 250 people, including several DC sports celebrities and veteran sports business execs, gathered in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday night to celebrate Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic's 30th anniversary. A panel of the RSN's original exec team spoke of some of the struggles they had in the channel's early days after its '84 launch as Home Team Sports. The group referenced a '84 Washington Post story that quoted an unnamed cable exec as saying, "I predict they will fail." "That was encouragement for us," said Bill Aber, the RSN's original GM. "[The source] ended up carrying the service -- and paying for it." The RSN launched with well-known on-air talent including Hockey HOFer Gordie Howe in the Capitals broadcast booth and former CNN talk show host Larry King as a studio host. "You could wind the guy up and he'd talk for 14 hours straight," the channel's original Exec Producer Jody Shapiro said of King. As for the on-air product in the early days, the net's longest-serving on-air talent Al Koken said, "We made that 'Boom Goes the Dynamite' guy look like Bob Costas." About a dozen of the channel's original employees attended the event at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, including Fox Sports exec Bill Brown, who was the original producer on Orioles and Capitals games; Comcast exec Mike Ortman, who was the original PR manager; and Jeff Wagner, who was the original marketing director. Sports business execs in attendance included the RSN's current GM Rebecca Schulte, Comcast Sports Group Senior VP & General Counsel Amy Cohen, CSN CFO John Ruth and Comcast Chief Revenue Officer Ray Warren. DC sports celebs that attended the event included John Riggins, Phil Chenier and Craig Laughlin.
ESPN averaged 2.28 million viewers for the “Sunday Night Baseball” opener featuring Dodgers-Padres, relatively flat compared to the 2.27 million viewers last year for Rangers-Astros. The “SNB” opener in ’12, which was actually on a Wednesday night, drew 2.42 million viewers as the opening of Marlins Park was featured. During ’09-11, the “SNB” opener aired on ESPN2.
"SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL" SEASON OPENER AUDIENCE TREND
CHART NOTE: * = Aired on a Wednesday to accommodate opening of Marlins Park.
START YOUR ENGINES: ABC averaged 866,000 viewers for the season-opening Verizon IndyCar Series race from St. Petersburg last Sunday. The race went head-to-head with both the NASCAR Sprint Cup race and NCAA Elite 8 telecasts. The audience is down from the last season opener on ABC in '12, which drew 1.28 million viewers.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: AUDIENCE TREND FOR SEASON-OPENING RACE
Streets of St. Petersburg
Streets of St. Petersburg
Streets of St. Petersburg
Streets of St. Petersburg
Streets of São Paulo
The charts below list final ratings and viewership from recent sports telecasts.
NCAA Tournament: Elite 8: Kentucky-Michigan
NCAA Tournament: Elite 8: UConn-Michigan State
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: STP 500 (Martinsville)
Liga MX: Chivas de Guadalajara-Club America
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open: Final Round
"Road to the Final Four"
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open: Third Round
NCAA D-II Men's Basketball Championship:
Central Missouri-West Liberty
"Best of College Basketball 2014"
"Supercross: Behind the Dream"
Verizon IndyCar Series: Firestone GP of St. Petersburg