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Volume 24 No. 116

Media

Cowboys-Broncos was the bellweather NFL game in Week 2, as Fox drew a 15.9 overnight for the matchup featured in the late national window yesterday. The game stretched into primetime due to an hour-long lightning delay. CBS carried the national window in Week 2 last year, drawing a 13.6 for a telecast featuring Colts-Broncos. Two years ago, Fox had Cowboys-Eagles in the national window and drew a 17.8 overnight. Last night, NBC drew a 12.6 overnight for Packers-Falcons, marking the lowest Week 2 “SNF” overnight since Steelers-Browns drew an 11.9 in ’08. Packers-Falcons, which featured the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was down 8% from Packers-Vikings in Week 2 last year, which featured the first game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Both years had competition from the Primetime Emmys, which last night drew only an 8.2 overnight (likely on pace for record low). NBC with “SNF” got a primetime win. Milwaukee led all “SNF” markets with a 41.6 overnight, followed by Atlanta with a 25.0. Meanwhile, CBS had the singleheader yesterday, drawing a 9.2 overnight for a window that featured several lopsided scores, including Patriots-Saints and Jets-Raiders. For all weekend broadcasts, all Florida metered markets are not included due to lingering effects from Hurricane Irma (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

NFL WEEK 2 SUNDAY OVERNIGHT RATINGS
NET
'17 GAME
RAT.
'16 NET
'16 GAME
RAT.
CBS
(single)
9.2
Fox
(single)
12.3
Fox
(regional)
8.5
CBS
(regional)
10.9
Fox
Cowboys-Broncos (81%)
15.9
CBS
Colts-Broncos (74%)
13.6
NBC
Packers-Falcons
12.6
NBC
Packers-Vikings
13.7

ONCE A STAR, ALWAYS A STAR: In DC, Cindy Boren writes two games into Tony Romo's career as a CBS analyst, it is clear "he is really, really good at it." Romo is seeing the field "so clearly and plugging into the mind-set of the players he’s covering so well that he brings a new dimension to the game." With the Saints at the Patriots' 5-yard-line yesterday, Romo warned, "Watch out for the fade to 16." On the ensuing play, Saints QB Drew Brees hit WR Brandon Coleman "for the touchdown" on the fade (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18). THE RINGER's Rodger Sherman writes Romo "has proved to be exceptional, often using his experience to call upcoming plays with startling accuracy." He also quickly explains "why he expected a play to happen after the fact, giving priceless insight into how an NFL quarterback reads defenses" (THERINGER.com, 9/18). In Dallas, Barry Horn writes Romo "may not have enjoyed the same success" as Brees and Patriots QB Tom Brady have on the field, but they would be "hard-pressed to be as smooth as Romo has been in his first two games as a broadcaster" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/18). NEWSWEEK's Teddy Cutler writes Romo brings a "sense of freshness and fun" to the booth. He and broadcast partner Jim Nantz yesterday "were discussing the longevity" of Brady and Brees and how their "diets have allowed them to play toward the age of 40 and beyond it." The broadcast then "cut away to a picture of Romo with a big pile of dessert" (NEWSWEEK.com, 9/18). UFC fighter Daniel Cormier tweeted Romo "may just be the best color guy in the NFL. This dude knows every play that's about to be ran." Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel: "Not sure I've ever heard a better NFL analyst than Tony Romo. Completely dialed in." NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "I no longer follow an NFL team. I just watch Tony Romo’s game each week."

NICE CATCH: In Baltimore, David Zurawik writes CBS analyst James Lofton in calling Browns-Ravens was "sharp all day." Zurawik: "He made me appreciate an aspect of [Ravens QB Joe] Flacco’s performance that I never would have otherwise thought about." That is how you "enrich the game for the average fan, which is what being an analyst should be all about." Lofton was "stellar from the opening kickoff." Zurawik: "I charted only one mistake by him all day" (Baltimore SUN, 9/18).

PREGAME OBSERVATIONS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes Michael Vick on "Fox NFL Sunday" in analyzing Eagles-Chiefs gave viewers "one small item of note: Alex Smith helping Patrick Mahomes during training camp." That is "not really news," but Vick is still "very new at this." If he is "serious about staying in this long-term, he needs producers to put him in spots to succeed, and he needs to tell us as viewers things we do not already know." Meanwhile, CBS' "The NFL Today" producer Drew Kaliski did an "excellent job" yesterday "putting new analyst Phil Simms in positions to succeed, specifically an end of the show segment when host James Brown asked Simms to answer questions in short form followed by the rest of the group commenting and mocking Simms’ take." Over the last couple of years, Simms was "far better" on Showtime's "Inside The NFL" than he "was as an analyst, and this format seems to fit his personality well" (SI.com, 9/18).

HOOP IT UP: In DC, Des Bieler notes Falcons RB Devonta Freeman last night took advantage of the NFL's relaxed rules on celebrations and "took a jump shot with the football, and swished it through the ersatz hoop formed" by G Andy Levitre’s arms. However, the "real hero in the sequence" came from the "SNF" production crew. As the game went to a commercial break and the celebration was replayed, viewers were "treated to the perfect soundtrack: 'Roundball Rock,' John Tesh’s iconic theme music for 'The NBA on NBC'" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).

BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING
: In N.Y., Julie DiCaro notes women in sports broadcasting are "used to men criticizing their voices." ESPN's Beth Mowins became the first female to call a "MNF" game last week, and the moment the broadcast began, Twitter "lit up with complaints about her voice." NFL reporter Andrea Kremer said, "I have no doubt that ‘hating the sound of her voice’ is code for 'I hate that there was a woman announcing football'" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/18). In San Jose, Carl Steward wrote Mowins was "pretty stellar in her regular-season NFL lead broadcaster breakthrough." It was "too bad she got saddled with Rex Ryan as her sidekick" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/16).

LOCAL BROADCASTS
: In S.F., Scott Ostler notes Raiders radio color analyst Tom Flores was "back on the job" yesterday for Jets-Raiders after "missing the season opener with injuries." Flores "took a tumble Aug. 26 in Dallas, suffering a fractured vertebra, broken [nose] and a cut over one eye requiring six stitches" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/18)....The Chiefs yesterday announced that they will "name their television broadcast booth" after Pro Football HOFer Len Dawson. Dawson is in his "34th and final season as the Chiefs’ radio color commentator" (K.C. STAR, 9/18).

ESPN President John Skipper "issued a memo Friday telling employees to avoid 'inflammatory' comments on social media following the firestorm over 'SportsCenter' host Jemele Hill’s Monday tweet calling President Trump a white supremacist," according to Stephen Battaglio of the L.A. TIMES. Skipper: "ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express. At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed. We consider this human, not political. Consequently, we insist that no one be denigrated for who they are including their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual identity. We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time. Our employees are citizens and appropriately want to participate in the public discussion. ... At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal" (L.A. TIMES, 9/16). The statement came after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed President Trump’s tweet about ESPN, saying the net is being “hypocritical” in how it handled the situation. Hill was not suspended after tweeting Trump is a “white supremacist,” and Sanders said ESPN “should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard.” Sanders said of Hill’s tweet, “This is clearly a political statement. They should be consistent in whatever guidelines they have set themselves in that front" (MSNBC, 9/15).

MAKING THE CALL: In N.Y., Kevin Draper reported any disciplining of Hill "might be out of legal bounds for ESPN." The network is based in Bristol, Conn., and labor lawyers said that a Connecticut statute "provides free-speech protections beyond the First Amendment, making it illegal for ESPN to punish Hill." Meanwhile, Draper noted former ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling was fired last year after "sharing a Facebook post responding to the so-called bathroom bill in North Carolina." Many found the post to be "hostile to transgender people." ESPN VP/Communications Josh Krulewitz said, "Schilling was fired for his repeated instances of insubordination, some public and some not. He was not fired for his politics" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/16). ESPN Public Editor Jim Brady noted with the "salary and prominence ESPN provides Hill comes some responsibility to play by the network’s rules, and, in this case, she crossed the line set by management just five months ago, when ESPN released revised guidelines about political discussions." Brady: "If you consume as much of ESPN’s content as I have for the past 22 months, it seems clear the company leans left. I don’t think anyone ever made an executive decision to go that route as much as the personalities the network has promoted into high-profile positions tend to be more liberal, and as their voices are amplified, the overall voice has shifted with it. But I still think it’s a problem that needs to be addressed if ESPN plans to better navigate the intersection of sports, politics and culture" (ESPN.com, 9/16).

A WEEK TO FORGET
: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports the mood in Bristol last week was a "strange mixture of embarrassment and frustration following a series of public missteps." From the Robert Lee-Charlottesville decisions to the Sergio Dipp-“MNF” situation, to Hill’s anti-Trump tweets, several current and former ESPNers said that the crises have kept the network "on the defensive and detracted from noteworthy stories that would have painted ESPN in a brighter light." Outside of "recognizing that these situations could have been avoided, there is also a growing belief among ESPN stalwarts that some of the problems are not all self-inflicted." Some believe that 21st Century Fox is "orchestrating attacks against ESPN to bolster the fortunes of rival sports channel FS1" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/18 issue). Author James Andrew Miller wrote apart from the deaths of ESPN's Stuart Scott in '15 and John Saunders in '16, and layoffs in '15 and '17, last week was perhaps the "most difficult week" for ESPN employees in the past five years (TWITTER.com, 9/15).

BIGGER PICTURE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Austen Hufford wrote the "latest storm hits" ESPN at a "particularly difficult time as the sports network struggles with years of declining subscribers and viewers" (WSJ.com, 9/15). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay: "I don’t doubt there are people who are watching less ESPN because of commentary or personalities they don’t like." But to "pin the subscriber drop trend on bias willfully ignores a much broader revolution in viewing habits currently underway." ESPN’s declines have been "mirrored by similar declines by other sports outlets and cable channels" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/18).

It was thought when ACC Commissioner John Swofford last year announced plans to launch an ACC Network by ’19 that the ESPN-owned channel would operate out of Charlotte and share its headquarters with SEC Network, which has been based in Charlotte since its launch in '14. ESPN has invested significantly into its studios and office space for ESPN Events in the city, about 100 miles south of the ACC's Greensboro HQ. However, ESPN told network staff today that ACC Network’s primary studio home will be on its Bristol, Conn., campus, where it built a 194,000-square foot studio three years ago for more than $100M for shows like “SportsCenter” and ESPN’s NFL studio programming. “Some had the sense that Charlotte was a natural, but, really, both locations are within our footprint,” Swofford said, referring to the conference’s northeastern schools of Boston College, Pitt and Syracuse. “ESPN has been looking at different scenarios since before we announced that we are moving forward with the ACC Network. We ended up in a really good place.” ESPN will keep its presence in Charlotte -- in fact, some ACC Network senior leadership, like Senior VP/College Networks Programming Rosalyn Durant, will remain there. Charlotte staff will continue to produce studio programming for SEC Network, which is not moving. In certain cases, ESPN’s Charlotte studio will conduct some coach and player interviews for ACC Network, but its studio production and operations will be housed in Bristol. Similar to the SEC Network, each ACC school will have its own studio space on campus.

IMPORTANCE OF LOCATION DECREASING: ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said, “In today’s world of video communication and technology, physical location is becoming less important every day. This was a circumstance born out of having the most resources at our disposal in Bristol to deliver on our plan for the ACC Network.” The ACC’s new network is expected to launch in ’19 and already has carriage deals in place with some digital video providers. Swofford said his optimism about the channel grows every day. “We’re where we thought we’d be, if not ahead of schedule,” he said. “The production facilities on campuses are going well, and we continue to be very excited about it.”

Ron Jaworski was laid off by ESPN in April, but as football season approached, ESPN "sought to bring back Jaws for the film-study-heavy 'NFL Matchup' show, but was told by their parent company Disney that they could not undo his layoff," according to a source cited by Ryan Glasspiegel of THE BIG LEAD. In June, Jaworski "described himself as being 'in limbo,' saying that he 'still may continue to work at ESPN,' and that his contract goes until May 31, 2022." This circumstance "should not be interpreted as a case of Disney making a decision that they don’t want Jaws on television, but rather one where ESPN had to cut X amount of costs, there was a subsequent tax accounting decision, and Disney enforced austerity to sticking to it" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 9/17). THE MMQB's Peter King writes he misses Jaworski and Merril Hoge on “NFL Matchup.” King: "I do like their heirs, Greg Cosell and Louis Riddick, with Sal Paolantonio. It’s the most underrated football show on TV" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/18).

In N.Y., Brian Lewis reported YES Network is "shuffling its Nets broadcast team, sliding former sideline reporter Sarah Kustok over to the broadcast table and making her an analyst." They are hiring Pacers PA announcer Michael Grady to "fill the sideline spot."  Mike Fratello, the lead TV analyst last season, "will be moving to the studio" (N.Y. POST, 9/16).

MAKE FOOTBALL FUN AGAIN: In Chicago, Mike McGraw wrote "Good Morning Football" host Kyle Brandt is "well-suited for his role" on NFL Network. Brandt has football and academic credentials, having been a "three-year letter winner at Princeton." He has the "acting background, and he seems to relate well to the show's target audience, the obsessive fantasy football player." Brandt said that his goal every day is to "have fun, and to make football fun." Brandt: "There's way too much screaming, way too much debating, way too much animosity right now on sports shows. We have none of that. It is always a good time" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 9/17).

OUT OF THE PARK: On Long Island, Neil Best noted Baseball HOFers Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz are "in their element" at MLB Network -- and are "aware they are speaking not only to fans." Smoltz and Martinez were both "engaging interview subjects as players and figured to make good analysts." Martinez, who joined MLB Network in '15, has "been a revelation" (NEWSDAY, 9/17).

NOTES: The Blazers announced that longtime radio play-by-play announcer Brian Wheeler "signed a multi-year contract extension to remain the voice of the team's radio broadcast." Wheeler has been part of the Blazers radio broadcast for "over two decades" (Portland OREGONIAN, 9/17)....Former LSU basketball coach John Brady will join the LSU Sports Radio Network this season, "working as an analyst alongside second-year play-by-play man Chris Blair" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 9/16).