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Volume 24 No. 214

Media

The NFL’s conference championship games averaged 43.2 million viewers on Sunday, down 8% from 47.1 million viewers for last year’s games, which featured blowouts in both windows. Sunday’s viewership total is also down from 49.7 million viewers in ’16. CBS led the way on Sunday afternoon with 44.1 million viewers for the Patriots’ come-from-behind win over the Jaguars. While down from around 48 million viewers for last year’s Patriots-Steelers game in primetime, it still marked the most-watched program since Super Bowl LI. Two years ago, CBS drew 53.3 million viewers for Broncos-Patriots in the early window. Sunday’s Pats-Jaguars game peaked with 53.1 million viewers between 5:30-6:00pm ET. Meanwhile, Fox on Sunday night drew 42.3 million viewers for the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC Championship. That number is down from 46.3 million viewers for Falcons-Packers on Sunday afternoon last year on Fox, when the Falcons led 24-0 at halftime en route to a 44-21 victory. Sunday’s viewership figure is also down from two years ago, when Panthers-Cardinals drew 45.7 million viewers in the primetime window. Eagles-Vikings did mark Fox’ most-watched telecast since Super Bowl LI last February (Josh Carpenter, Assistant Editor).

FEELING PATRIOTIC? YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote for "all the talk about ratings, the NFL business is still doing better than anything else in its realm." Patriots-Jaguars was "bigger than" that for comparable sporting events like the NBA Finals, World Series and CFP title game, as well as scripted shows like "Game of Thrones" and "The Big Bang Theory." Schwab: "Remember, as always, the stories about NFL ratings being down are quite overblown" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/22). In N.Y., Alexandra Steigrad writes NFL ratings "continue to erode" from their previous highs, but the league "still outdraws, by far," events like the Academy Awards. That makes for a "puzzling quandary" for the NFL (N.Y. POST, 1/23).

GETTING OLDER
: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi noted the median age of NFL viewers in '16 was 50, which marked a 14% "increase compared with 44" in '06. The NBA's median fan age is 42 and has been the "model of stability, aging just" 5% in the past decade. If media buyers "aren't too concerned about Gen Z's ambivalence for televised sports, they also note that ratings for NFL and other top-tier leagues continue to all but make a mockery of the general-entertainment shows in prime time." For all that, the NFL is "demonstrably losing younger viewers at a faster clip than the rest of the populace." This season, the average delivery of adults 18-34 "across all nationally broadcast NFL games was 2.7 million," down 14% versus 3.1 million in '16 and off 25% compared with 3.5 million in '15 (AD AGE, 1/22 issue).

One name conspicuously absent from NBC's planned Super Bowl coverage is legendary broadcaster Bob Costas. When Costas announced that he was stepping down as NBC’s primetime Olympic host, the network said it would use him on bigger NFL events, like the Super Bowl. But when NBC published its release yesterday highlighting its coverage of Super Bowl LII, it said Dan Patrick and Liam McHugh would host the Super Bowl LII pregame show. What happened to Costas? NBC emailed two statements, the first from an NBC Sports spokesperson that read, “Dan and Liam have served as hosts for our NFL pregame/studio shows on Sunday nights and Thursday nights, respectively, throughout the season and will continue on Super Bowl Sunday.” A statement attributed to Costas read, “Dan and Liam have done the job hosting NBC’s NFL coverage all season. It wouldn’t be right for me to parachute in and do the Super Bowl.” It could have been Costas’ comments from a November panel session at the Univ. of Maryland that led NBC to make a change. During the panel, Costas offered a bleak assessment of the football’s future, according to a report to USA Today’s Tom Schad. “The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains," Costas said, according to the report. “The cracks in the foundation are there. The day-to-day issues, as serious as they may be, they may come and go. But you cannot change the nature of the game. I certainly would not let, if I had an athletically gifted 12- or 13-year-old son, I would not let him play football.”

ESPN is "expected to announce a deal" for Fox MLB analyst Alex Rodriguez to join the cast of "Sunday Night Baseball," according to sources cited by Michael McCarthy of SPORTING NEWS. Rodriguez would "work 'Sunday Night Baseball' with Jessica Mendoza, Buster Olney and incoming hire Matt Vasgersian, who will take over as play-by-play announcer" for Dan Shulman. During the postseason, Rodriguez would "continue to serve as a Fox Sports baseball analyst with Kevin Burkhardt, Frank Thomas and guests such as David Ortiz and Keith Hernandez." Sources said that the "talent-sharing relationship became possible" after Disney agreed to pay $60B to "acquire most of 21st Century Fox's assets" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/23). NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra notes while some broadcasters "work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that." Apparently they believe keeping Rodriguez -- who "five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball -- is worth it." Calcaterra: "What a difference a few years makes" (NBCSPORTS.com, 1/23).

BNP Paribas Open Media & Marketing Dir Philippe Dore (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) is approaching his first year in his role with the event after spending 1 1/2 years as a consultant. He helped launch a new campaign called “Full Bloom” to promote this year’s tournament, which is just under six weeks away, as well as the flowers and palm trees that line the grounds at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Dore said of what fans can expect on social and digital media, “We try to bring a unique perspective, from our point of view. We know that people know they will get their scores and their results, their schedules and some stories on other platforms. That’s great. The more people that are talking about us the better. What I challenge my team is to come up with content other people cannot do. We have access to the players, we have access to the site, let’s bring it to the fans.” He added, “This is our time and we have all the access.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follow: We like to follow our athletes. Roger Federer and Serena Williams are active in this space.
Favorite app: USA Today for my news.
Average time per day on social media: Thirty minutes.

New app:
The app should launch in mid-February. It is a companion to the event. We partnered with YinzCam. They have a lot of out-of-the-box features such as integration with Waze, Uber and Lyft. We are going to be adding that. We will have scoring alerts, so you can follow your favorite players. All the key information about the restaurants and dining at the venue and ticketing integration.

Getting ready for the tournament socially and digitally:
They are key channels for us, we will be capitalizing on the campaign there as well. We will be creating some graphics that will have the “Full Bloom” theme, will have a content plan and we are working with the Tour for player access, coordinating with the whole industry, really. We work with the players, their agents, their (equipment) manufacturers, our sponsors. We are having those decisions now. We’ll be ready to tell the stories, whether it is the old guard like Federer and Nadal to the new ones coming up.

Capitalizing on the event’s different feel:
We are different, and we like it that way. We have our own personality. What we would like to do is to continue to demonstrate that to the fans, whether it’s highlighting our stadium plaza where we have an 80-foot-wide screen where people like to sit in Adirondack chairs; whether it’s promoting our restaurants -- we have a lot of award-winning chefs. Social is key for us to take people behind the scenes and let them see what we have.

Platform for success:
They all serve a different purpose and we like it that way. Our Instagram will highlight the venue and photos, the flowers and palm trees. So, we try to zero in on that. Twitter is more up to the minute and we use it for more frequent posts and match action. It’s a little bit more vibrant. Facebook is always a key driver at this time of year when we need to promote tickets and venue and travel packages. During the event it turns more into the stories that are happening. We did some fun stuff with Snapchat last year and experiments with Periscope, so we continue to make sure we are where the fans are and give them a glimpse of what we are about.



If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.