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Volume 25 No. 27

Media

FS Southeast has helped broaden the team’s TV distribution to nearly every area in N.C. and S.C.
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Hornets have "extended their local media deal" with FS Southeast, covering the team’s rights for the "bulk of a decade," according to Ourand & Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that Fox Sports starting next season "will pay the team an annual rights fee" in the low-to-high $20M range annually, up from about $14M this season. The contract is "just shy of 10 years and ends with a rights fee" in the high $20M range. Sources said that the deal’s financials are "in line with other NBA teams from similar-sized markets." FS Southeast has been the team’s TV partner since '08, helping "broaden the team’s TV distribution from about 750,000 homes to today where the games reach nearly every area in North Carolina and South Carolina." The new agreement for the first time "will include two preseason games, with the current 30-minute pregame and postgame shows to continue" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/12 issue).

North Carolina-Duke on March 3 was the most-watched game at 3.4 million viewers on ESPN
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The bluebloods in college basketball still ruled on TV during the regular season. Games involving Duke and Kentucky accounted for eight of the top 10 most-watched games for a season that saw mixed results for the national broadcasters. The second North Carolina-Duke matchup of the regular season on March 3 was the most-watched game at 3.4 million viewers on ESPN, marking the seventh straight season that the Tobacco Road matchup has led all of college hoops. The first matchup in this year’s Duke-UNC series drew 2.5 million viewers on ESPN, which was the seventh-best audience. Duke also had the No. 3 most-viewed game of the season against Virginia on Jan. 27, with CBS drawing 3.0 million viewers. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s top game was against Kansas back on Nov. 14, with ESPN drawing 2.7 million viewers for the early-season matchup. Kentucky also had the No. 8 game (Dec. 23 vs. UCLA), No. 9 game (Jan. 27 vs. West Virginia) and No. 10 game (Feb. 3 vs. Missouri).

NUTS & BOLTS: CBS again led all networks for college hoops’ regular season, averaging 1.7 million viewers for 37 games. That figure was flat compared to last season, but up from two seasons ago. Across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, viewership was down 6% this season. ESPN alone averaged 1.04 million viewers for its 127 games, down 13% from last season. ESPN2’s viewership also was down 9% to 328,000 viewers this past season, while ESPNU was flat at 104,000 viewers. Meanwhile, games across Fox and FS1 were up 29% as the networks got an expanded Big Ten slate of games (those games had previously been on ESPN networks). Fox averaged 867,000 viewers for its games, up 16%, while FS1 averaged 144,000 viewers, up 13%. All networks this season had some headwinds from the Pyeongchang Games. Looking at the cable landscape, ESPN networks had the top 156 most-watched games among all networks.

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL REGULAR-SEASON VIEWERSHIP
NET
'17-18 (000)
'16-17 (000)
'15-16 (000)
'14-15 (000)
'13-14 (000)
CBS
1,700
1,700
1,471
1,642
1,800
ESPN
1,041
1,200
1,232
1,376
1,454
Fox
867
750
639
685
n/a
ESPN2
328
360
362
426
414
FS1
144
128
109
100
94
ESPNU
104
104
118
125
140
MOST-WATCHED COLLEGE HOOPS GAMES FOR '17-18 REGULAR SEASON
RANK
DATE
NET
MATCHUP
VIEWERS (000)
1
3/3/18
ESPN
North Carolina-Duke
3,369
2
1/7/18
CBS
Michigan State-Ohio State
3,305
3
1/27/18
CBS
Virginia-Duke
3,042
4
11/14/17
ESPN
Duke-Michigan State
3,021
5
1/14/18
CBS
Northwestern-Indiana
2,886
6
11/14/17
ESPN
Kentucky-Kansas
2,701
7
2/8/18
ESPN
Duke-North Carolina
2,471
8
12/23/17
CBS
UCLA-Kentucky
2,335
9
1/27/18
ESPN
Kentucky-West Virginia
2,251
10
2/3/18
CBS
Kentucky-Missouri
2,174
Download the
College Hoops Viewership

The final episode of the "Tom vs. Time" docu-series was released yesterday on Facebook Watch, and it was an "introspective, raw, emotion-filled episode highlighted" by what Patriots QB Tom Brady describes as a "crash landing" after losing Super Bowl LII to the Eagles, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Brady during the episode said of filming the series, “I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s been a great experience for me to try something different" (ESPN.com, 3/12). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes viewers all "morphed into make-believe detectives" while watching the final episode, looking for the "various clues and hidden messages that were planted in the film during the editing process" about Brady's future. Buckley: "Our collective assignment was to find the clues, to listen for the hidden messages" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/13).

DIRECTOR'S CUT: "Tom vs. Time" director Gotham Chopra said of Brady and the Patriots losing the Super Bowl, “The loss in that way gave us this thing for him to reflect on. I think he’s really reflective on it. I think people will be surprised by the ending and some of his takeaways. I think I kind of know what Tom’s going to say and how he’ll wrap up the season and look toward next season. He came in with a surprise ending. It’s subtle, but it’s there. I think people who watch and listen closely will be surprised” (USA TODAY, 3/13). Boston-based WEEI.com's Ryan Hannable wrote the series finale "capped what was a tremendous production" by Brady and Chopra. It was "truly fascinating to get a peek behind the curtain of the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and see what goes into him performing the way he does, as well a look inside his personal life." Within that it "gave some clues as to how he feels about certain things and also some insight into what was going on inside the walls of Gillette Stadium this past season" (WEEI.com, 3/12).

ARE WE FORGETTING ANYTHING? In Boston, Tom Curran wrote the final two scenes of the finale "carried with it a heavy sense of foreboding." Given the editorial control Brady "had over the project, there’s no confusing the point." The "final words spoken by Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, allude to a sense of disenchantment for Brady with the atmosphere in Foxboro." After Bundchen speaks, the final scene "cuts to a philosophic Brady who is plainly asking if it’s all still worth it" (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 3/12). Meanwhile, Boston Sports Journal's Greg Bedard tweeted, "I might be mistaken -- and I'm sure Twitter will tell me if I am -- but now that Tom v Time has concluded ... I don't recall one mention or comment on @SethWickersham's piece or Bill Belichick" (TWITTER.com, 3/12).

THE LATE SHIFT: Brady appeared on CBS’ “The Late Show” last night, and host Stephen Colbert asked, “At a certain point do you say to yourself, ‘You know what, I've got the five rings, do I really need to work at a job where I stand on a field and 300-pound men attempt to murder me with their bodies?” Brady said at age 40, he tries to “avoid those 300-pound guys, but I'm always the slowest guy on the field, so I have to throw the ball as fast as I can.” Brady said of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, “It brought up a lot of healthy discussion in the locker room.” Brady also discussed the danger of playing pro football: “I was in a car crash and it wasn’t as bad as getting hit on the football field.” Brady: "I'm going to stop at some point, I don't know when" (“The Late Show,” CBS, 3/12).

Recent reports note Amazon and Facebook are prepared to spend billions on media rights, and one research analyst sees "much of this budget being directed towards sports, just as many sports rights deals come to an end, allowing tech companies the chance to get in on the action," according to Arjun Kharpal of CNBC.com. N.Y.-based research firm GBH Insights Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Technology Daniel Ives said that the "next 12 to 18 months is a 'pivotal window'" for both Amazon and Facebook to "secure rights to various professional sports programs." Ives: "In 2021, the year when the NFL, MLB and NHL media rights deals mostly end, will be the first major opportunity for Amazon, Facebook." According to a Wall Street Journal report, Facebook is "willing to spend" as much as $1B this year. Meanwhile, Ives estimated Amazon "could spend upward" of $5B on media rights. Ives sees "much of this budget being directed towards sports, just as many sports rights deals come to an end, allowing tech companies the chance to get in on the action." Ives: "We will be watching this sports content battle closely over the coming year, as well as the success/engagement from the Facebook MLB endeavor, as it could be a sign of things to come with streaming platforms playing a bigger role in global professional sports broadcasting rights in the years ahead and potentially shaking up this market, while adding a major notch on the content belts of Amazon, Facebook and other new tech entrants to this arena." Ives added that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in the "early strategic steps of building out a massive wave of sports content spending over the coming few years." Amazon streamed some NFL "TNF" games last season, and Ives said that the e-commerce giant could also bid for a smaller package of EPL rights, going up "against British incumbents Sky and BT" (CNBC.com, 3/13).

Golf Channel Exec Producer Molly Solomon joined the SBJ/SBD Media Podcast and talked to John Ourand about how Tiger Woods’ presence on the leaderboard affects coverage. In the podcast, Solomon discusses:

* How often NBC shows Woods -- “The numbers tell us what people want to see. If he had just made the cut, no, you’re not going to show every shot. But are you going to keep the audience apprised of how he stands? Yeah, because there is interest and the ratings tell us that. The decisions were really easy this weekend.”

* Whether golf needs Woods to be competitive -- “We still have Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and DJ (Dustin Johnson) contending. Throw a resurgent Phil Mickelson and Tiger into the mix, it feels like what could be a golden year.”

* If she misses producing other sports -- “The great part of moving to Golf Channel is that it was within the company. For example, Sam Flood asked me to come up and work on the pregame show for the Super Bowl this year because so many folks had gone to Pyeongchang early and he needed some help.”

STILL THE MAN EVERYBODY WATCHES: NBC earned a 5.1 overnight rating for Sunday's final round of the Valspar Championship, which saw Woods finish just one shot behind winner Paul Casey. It marked the highest rating for a regular-season PGA Tour round since the final day of the '13 Players Championship. ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser noted the high ratings reaffirm that Woods "moves the needle." ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "There’s only been three or four people like this in the history of television, which means modern sport” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/12). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard noted golf mattered on Sunday the “way it only can when Tiger Woods matters” ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 3/12). CNBC’s Michele Caruso-Cabrera noted Woods is "completely crucial" to increasing ratings for an event. Caruso-Cabrera: "Even if you’re another player who’s jealous of Tiger Woods, you want him in the game because more people watch him, more people see you” (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 3/12). FS1's Colin Cowherd noted Woods' initial run through the PGA Tour was the "greatest thing we've ever seen" and he wondered if Woods' comeback will "move the ratings more." Cowherd: "He's an underdog. His story now is Cinderella meets Goliath. When Jack Nicklaus got to be like 45, he won one event. I can remember it being the biggest thing in golf. Will this Tiger actually be more popular?” ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 3/12).

ALL EYES ON ME: ESPN.com's Darren Rovell cited Apex Marketing Group research in noting that Woods following the Valspar Championship "received 4 1/2 times the amount of media coverage from Thursday through Monday morning than any of the winners of the four previous" PGA Tour events. Woods got 12% more exposure "than the four previous winning golfers combined" -- Mickelson, Thomas, Bubba Watson and Ted Potter Jr. -- and "three times more exposure" than Casey (ESPN.com, 3/12).

CBS' Jim Nantz said that it will be "impossible to ignore the controversy" of the FBI investigation into college basketball during March Madness, "so he won't." Nantz: "It all depends on the game and who’s playing, but if I have an Arizona game, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention Sean Miller and the situation. But most broadcasters, and on the executive level, the game is not the place to address these things. ... But these are studio show issues and the game doesn’t allow you to do much with it" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/12). 

KNIGHT MOVES: NBC Sports Chicago "plans to supplement its schedule of major-league games with telecasts showcasing" the team's affiliate, the Int'l League Triple-A Charlotte Knights. The result is 17 Knights games "showcasing future White Sox players are scheduled for Chicago television this year." Six games "will be carried live and 10 will run on a same-day delayed basis" and will be "produced in high-definition" by the Knight's in-stadium production team. This "builds on 14 Knights games NBC Sports Chicago carried last season" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/13).

CAPTAIN KIRK: ESPN.com's Adam Schefter notes free agent QB Kirk Cousins has been "having a video crew follow him and his family for a few weeks," recording his free agent process with those close to him. It is a "free-agent version of 'Tom vs. Time.'" Eventually, Cousins "will air much of the footage somewhere, perhaps on social media" (ESPN.com, 3/13).

ATHLETIC PROWESS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch tweeted that starting next week, he will be "joining The Athletic" to cover "sports media & hopefully some women's hoops." He added his podcast "will continue as well" (TWITTER.com, 3/12).