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Volume 24 No. 179

Media

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appears opposed to the idea of broadcasting the NBA All-Star Game team selection. Silver said having captains pick the teams is a “big step” toward improving the game itself and admitted having a public draft “would be more fun.” But he added, “I recognize picking a team to perform in the here and now is a little different than drafting.” Silver said, “There was a sense from the players that it put them in an impossible situation where they’re picking one player over another, in part not because that player is better than another player but maybe because they have a personal relationship with the player or they think that player will be a better complement to the players.” He said if they “did it as just a pure draft, guys would say, ‘I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player’” (NBA TV, 1/11). Silver "reiterated his comments" prior to Thursday's Celtics-76ers game in London, saying that he was "simply pleased about the new format." He "didn't rule out the possibility of making it public in the future" (USATODAY.com, 1/11). 

SKIPPING THE DRAMA: ESPN's Rachel Nichols said a "huge part of the NBA’s popularity is all the personal dynamics we’ve got going on in this league, and the idea of getting to see those actually play out in real time between the league’s biggest stars is incredibly juicy.” However, the selections will be made in secret because there are “some concerns some players will their feelings hurt.” Nichols: “If you didn’t want to lean into that, then you shouldn’t have picked this as the method of spicing up the All-Star Game.” ESPN's Tracy McGrady said, "Why are you guys so sensitive with it? Have fun with the format." ESPN's Paul Pierce commended Silver for "being innovative and changing the format" of how the teams are comprised, but he said televising the draft "would be good for marketing for the NBA." Pierce: "Put some sponsors behind it" ("The Jump," ESPN, 1/11). ESPN's LZ Granderson noted the NBA is “missing an opportunity” by not televising the draft. Pierce added, “You’re depriving the fans of what they want” (“SportsNation,” ESPN, 1/11). The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw: "The only thing interesting when you come to this decision to divide teams this way is to see how they drafted.” The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan: “Memo to the commissioner: if you’re going to have this kind of format, you must go all the way” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 1/11).

USA TODAY's A.J. Perez reports ESPN's Steve Young has been "mentioned among the potential replacements" for Jon Gruden in the "MNF" booth, but Young "apparently has little interest in the gig." Young said that he "could not manage the heavy travel and time commitment." Young: "If they cut it down to a Monday afternoon arrival and a Tuesday morning departure, I could do it." Perez notes Young currently has a "less time-demanding role" with the net's "Monday Night Countdown" (USA TODAY, 1/12). Meanwhile, ESPN on Friday announced Matt Hasselbeck will be the analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough for the Pro Bowl on Jan. 28 (ESPN). SI.com's Richard Deitsch tweeted this is "absolutely" a "tryout for Monday Night Football for Hasselbeck" (TWITTER.com, 1/12).

CALLED IT: CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said of his decision to hire Tony Romo as an NFL analyst, "I knew Tony was going to be good, I didn't know he was going to develop quite as fast as he has. ... I didn't think the chemistry with Jim [Nantz] would be quite as instantaneous as it's been. ... It's an easy listen and they are not trying to one-up each other. ... I hope this is a generational move for CBS Sports" (N.Y. POST, 1/12).

MAKING THE TRANSITION: THE ATHLETIC's Thomas Lawrence writes Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira's "career evolution from official to member of the media to voice of the fans has not always been smooth or organic." Pereira "believes he's becoming the educated sounding board of fans as much as anything." Pereira said of his social media presence, "It does make me uncomfortable. On the other hand, I feel like I'm transitioning to some degree away from being an official or in charge of officiating" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/11).

DOUBLE TAKE: In Orlando, Hal Boedeker wrote NBC will use Super Bowl LII to "bolster 'This Is Us' in several ways." An "original episode" of the drama will air right after the game. Then the show's cast will "appear on a special 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'" from the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/10).

NFL Wild Card weekend had its lowest average viewership since '08. The four games last weekend across ABC/ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox averaged 25.3 million viewers, compared to 24.6 million '08. Last year's four games averaged 30.3 million viewers with many more big-name teams playing. 

NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND AUDIENCE (FOUR GAMES)
YEAR
NETWORKS
AVERAGE VIEWERS (000)
'18
ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox
25,293
17
ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox
30,274
16
ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox
32,600
'15
ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox
29,900
'14
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
34,700
'13
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
30,300
'12
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
31,000
'11
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
32,300
'10
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
29,900
'09
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
25,800
'08
NBC (x2), CBS, Fox
24,600


FRIDAY NIGHT SKATING: In an effort to avoid the NFL Playoffs, the major primetime telecast for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships was moved off of its normal Saturday night slot this year. NBC ended up averaging 4.5 million viewers last Friday night for the women's free skate, which is up from '14 before the Sochi Games, when a Saturday night telecast averaged 4.2 million viewers. That telecast in '14 had competition from an NFL Divisional playoff game. Back in '10, prior to the Vancouver Games, the Saturday primetime skating telecast aired without NFL head-to-head competition, and averaged 5.4 million viewers.

The chart below lists final audience figures from select recent sports telecasts.

TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RAT.
VIEWERS
(000)
NFC Wild Card: Saints-Panthers
1/7
Fox
4:41-8:00pm
17.5
31,115
Rose Bowl: Georgia-Oklahoma
(CFP semifinal)
1/1
ESPN/
ESPN2
5:12-9:22pm
n/a
26,826
AFC Wild Card: Jaguars-Bills
1/7
CBS
1:06-4:40pm
15.2
25,295
NFC Wild Card: Falcons-Rams
1/6
NBC
8:15-11:26pm
12.8
22,815
AFC Wild Card: Titans-Chiefs
1/6
ESPN/ABC
4:20-8:00pm
13.0
22,153
Allstate Sugar Bowl:
Alabama-Clemson (CFP semifinal)
1/1
ESPN/
ESPN2
9:22pm-12:03am
n/a
21,117
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:
UCF-Auburn
1/1
ESPN
12:40-4:40pm
4.6
8,449
Outback Bowl:
South Carolina-Michigan
1/1
ESPN2
12:01-3:46pm
2.8
5,095
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
(Women's Free Skate)
1/5
NBC
8:00-11:01pm
2.7
4,484
"Postseason NFL Countdown"
1/6
ABC
3:00-4:20pm
2.5
3,768
College basketball:
Michigan State-Ohio State
1/7
CBS
4:40-6:30pm
2.1
3,302
NBA: Cavaliers-Celtics
1/3
ESPN
8:01-10:16pm
2.0
3,231
NBA: Warriors-Rockets
1/4
TNT
8:14-10:35pm
1.8
2,878
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
1/7
NBC
3:00-6:00pm
1.5
2,278
NBA: Thunder-Lakers
1/3
ESPN
10:35am-12:48pm
n/a
1,955
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
1/6
NBC
4:00-6:00pm
1.3
1,932
"Postseason NFL Countdown"
1/6
ESPN
2:51-4:20pm
n/a
1,704
NBA: T'Wolves-Celtics
1/5
ESPN
6:59-9:37pm
n/a
1,595
NBA: Thunder-Clippers
1/4
TNT
10:35-1:12am
n/a
1,543
"NFL Championship Chase"
1/6
ABC
2:00-3:00pm
1.0
1,407
High school football: U.S. Army
All-American Game
1/6
NBC
1:00-4:00pm
0.9
1,298
Liga MX: Queretaro-Club America
1/7
Univision
6:50-9:00pm
0.6
1,176
PBR: Buck Off at the Garden
1/6
CBS
12:00-1:00pm
0.8
1,167
College basketball: Florida-Missouri
1/6
CBS
1:00-3:30pm
0.7
1,013
Liga MX: Monterrey-Monarcas
1/6
Univision
7:55-10:01pm
0.4
777
College basketball:
Xavier-Providence
1/6
Fox
12:03-2:15pm
0.5
713
Lia MX: Necaxa-Veracruz
1/6
Univision
10:01pm-12:00am
0.3
507
"Road to the CFP National
Championship: Georgia"
1/7
ABC
4:30-5:00pm
0.3
449
"Road to the CFP National
Championship: Alabama"
1/7
ABC
4:00-4:30pm
0.3
404
"World of X Games: WSL Surfing"
1/7
ABC
3:00-4:00pm
0.3
378

The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Paul Bond noted Fox may soon agree to "purchase up to 10 local TV stations from Sinclair," a deal that hints at where the Murdoch family is "taking their conglomerate after most of it is sold to Disney." Sources said that the move is "more about sports, primarily the NFL." Fox already has 28 local channels and could "better monetize" its sports assets with more stations, "especially in markets such as Seattle and Denver," where the Seahawks and Broncos get strong local ratings (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/11).

CUT THE CORD? The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's George Szalai noted Discovery CEO David Zaslav on Wednesday "took a shot against expensive sports rights." Zaslav said, "We’re fighting against sports. And you see it in the U.S. Sports has just become the big bully here in the U.S. And the people that are really losing are the consumers, and it’s going to be the industry." Zaslav noted that "younger people don’t want to want to get pay TV and pay $100 a month to take every sports channel and regional sports network" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/10).

DIGITAL AGE: In N.Y., Justin Terranova notes ESPN’s Katie Nolan recently "launched her podcast and works on the network’s Snapchat 'SportsCenter.'" Nolan said of what her role at ESPN will be going forward, "We are sort of playing it as we go. The goal is to make interesting digital content, things that can live and originate online, as opposed to taking television content and repurposing for people on the internet." Nolan added ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell and other execs are "interested in making content that starts on the internet, lives on the internet and can survive across an entire ecosphere" (N.Y. POST, 1/12).

EXPANDING COVERAGE
: The Orlando Sentinel is launching ProSoccerUSA.com, a new national site devoted to MLS news and analysis. Plans call for hiring writers in MLS cities, as well as eventually adding coverage of the NWSL, USL and other North American leagues (Orlando Sentinel). Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Chris Carr notes the Minneapolis Star Tribune is launching a new beat, The North Shore, that will "feature analytics-based stories about the players and teams" the paper covers. Chris Hine, who will lead the beat, comes to the Star Tribune from the Chicago Tribune, where he had been the Blackhawks beat writer (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/12).