Fox and NFL Network combined to draw a 10.8 overnight rating for the Eagles' 34-13 win over the Giants on "Thursday Night Football," up 2% from Eagles-Panthers in Week 6 last year on CBS/NFL Net. Eagles-Giants marks the best "TNF" yet this season. The 10.8 is also up 13% from the "TNF" average for CBS and NBC last season. Several markets were not reporting on Thursday night due to the effects from Hurricane Michael, including Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond and Greensboro-Winston-Salem (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
STAR POWER: NBCNEWS.com's Shannon Ho wrote the "storylines were stacked against the NFL" coming into this season, but after the first five weeks, the league and its broadcast partners can "breathe a sigh of relief." Evidence of President Trump's impact on ratings is "scant" so far this season (NBCNEWS.com, 10/10). In DC, Ben Strauss noted that the top 15 TV shows in September were "all NFL games." Meanwhile, cable entertainment programming -- "not including news and sports -- is down" 11% this fall. Sources said that the "leading reason for the good news" is a "shockingly simple explanation: better football." Injuries are also down, after "crossover stars" like Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers all "missed significant time last year." More "compelling football has resulted in viewers watching games for an average of three more minutes this season (83 versus 80)." Former NFL PR exec Joe Lockhart: "If you think of the NFL as a movie studio, this year they've got a blockbuster." Lockhart also said that the "threat to the league" was not Trump, "it was Netflix" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/11).
GOING GRAY: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith noted ratings "seem to be getting stronger" as the season goes on. In each of the last two weeks, "four of the six broadcast windows were up" compared to last season. Even programming that is "doing well still isn't doing as well as the NFL." However, "not all the news is great" for the league. The NFL's audience "appears to be getting older, which isn't a good sign for the long-term health of the league" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/11). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Flint & Beaton note a "growing number of viewers over 50 years old are watching the NFL this season." An NFL spokesperson said that through four weeks of the season, "digital consumption is up" 65% over last year, with an "average audience of 326,000 per game" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/12).
CANADA ALSO TUNING IN: In Toronto, John Kryk reports total viewership for NFL games on CTV, TSN and French-language RDS "increased 35% in Week 3, and 22% in Week 4." The "sharp increases" could be due to CTV2 now carrying "early-afternoon games on Sundays this year, whereas only the main CTV network and TSN carried games in that time slot in previous years." The only sports program that "regularly outdraws the NFL late Sunday afternoon game in Canada" between October and December is the early "HNIC" broadcast on Saturday nights (TORONTO SUN, 10/12).
The creation of FC Dallas' FCDTV Network has been "one of the best off the field developments" this year for the club, according to Buzz Carrick of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The net currently consists of "seven over-the-air TV stations" that carry FC Dallas games in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Amarillo, Bryan-College Station, Lubbock, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls. The new net gives the team "access to 1 million additional households" beyond broadcasts on KTXA-Ind., meaning it "increases the FC Dallas broadcast reach by 40%." That allows the team a "significant opportunity to expand their presence, build their brand, and, hopefully, audience & fanbase." FC Dallas said that the team is "syndicating their broadcast themselves, working to be partners with the stations in areas like promos, audience building and advertising support." FC Dallas is "looking to expand their TV network all over Texas." Some markets have inquired about a Spanish-language option, and FC Dallas VP/Media & Communications Gina Miller said that the team is "looking into various methods to make that work" (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/11).
Meghan McPeak on Wednesday worked Wizards-Pistons for Monumental Sports Network, joining a "very short list of women to provide play-by-play for an NBA game," according to Candace Buckner of the WASHINGTON POST. The fact that women have "made strides in NBA broadcasting" is "only a recent development." ESPN's Doris Burke last year "became the first full-time female color analyst for national NBA games." Stephanie Ready and Ann Meyers Drysdale in '16 "made history when they provided analysis" for a Hornets broadcast. Also last season, Sarah Kustok (Nets) and Kara Lawson (Wizards) were "hired as game analysts" on their respective RSNs. Still, women "have not been seen in the play-by-play seat." But for this upcoming NBA G League season, McPeak will be a mainstay on the "broadcast team for the Capital City Go-Go." Monumental Sports & Entertainment Dir of Content & Programming Caitlin Mangum "fell for McPeak’s purposeful speech and insight." MS&E GM Zach Leonsis "felt that, out of almost 40 announcers who applied for the position, McPeak stood out." Leonsis: "She was the most dynamic and knowledgeable candidate. It’s as simple as that" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/12).
STILL A WAYS TO GO: THE RINGER's Britni de la Cretaz wrote while women "have broken into the industry through sideline reporting and analyst positions," the play-by-play role has "thus far been most elusive." Pac-12 Networks announcer Kate Scott: "I didn’t even consider it until college, because that’s the first time I heard a woman [Beth Mowins] calling a game. ... That didn't seem like an option." De la Cretaz also noted "many of the people in charge are men, who may be more likely to hire other men." Women "need to have champions in order to succeed in these roles," or as Scott put it, "people willing to take the risk." Hiring a woman to "call a sports broadcast still goes against the industry norms and often requires taking a chance on an unknown." But recently, "albeit slowly, that’s starting to change." Many in the field are "terrified of making a mistake and giving ammunition to critics who say women can’t do the role well; they feel they need to be 10 times better to be considered one-tenth as good." When a man makes a mistake on a broadcast, "it’s just something that happens, he misspoke." When a woman makes a mistake, "it’s often used as proof that she’s in over her head or not good enough for the job" (THERINGER.com, 10/11).
The radio broadcast for the 49ers-Packers "MNF" game will feature the "first father-daughter broadcasting team in league history," according to Tom Schad of USA TODAY. Longtime Westwood One play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan will call the game alongside analyst Kurt Warner, but he also will be "paired with his daughter," sideline reporter Olivia Harlan Dekker. Harlan is in his "ninth season as the play-by-play voice" of "MNF" for Westwood One, while Dekker has worked on ESPN's college football coverage since '15. Harlan and Dekker will "not be the first parent-child pair" to broadcast an NFL game, as announcers Marv and Kenny Albert "shared multiple broadcasts" during the '04 and '05 seasons (USATODAY.com, 10/11).
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports Tim McCarver "isn't sure if he'd return" to FS Midwest's Cardinals booth in '19 if he is so asked. McCarver's contract expired after this season, which saw him call 30 games. He will turn 77 on Tuesday and lives in Florida, meaning "every Cards game he broadcasts is a road contest." He said that if he is "invited back, his health will be a factor in determining if he will do it again." The '18 season was McCarver's fifth with the Cardinals after a "record-shattering 34-year run as an analyst at the network level" (STLTODAY.com, 10/12).
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: SI.com's Jacob Feldman noted CBS' Bruce Arians is the "only former coach regularly calling" NFL games this season, and what makes Arians "valuable to CBS is his wealth of experience." This is Arians' first season in the booth, and he needs to "work on projecting his voice and his enthusiasm, feedback he has also received in CBS' internal weekly progress reports." Arians works alongside Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, making them the "only three-man booth on air each Sunday." Based on "how they've done so far, that shouldn't be the case" (SI.com, 10/11).
THE LIFE OF BRIAN: In Boston, James Sullivan notes former NBAer Brian Scalabrine has "developed a post-career cult following as a rising TV star" on NBC Sports Boston, and he is being "groomed" as the successor to longtime Celtics analyst Tommy Heinsohn. Celtics play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman said Scalabrine is a "rare combination of being a natural and also a student." Heinsohn noted that a commentator should "make the game fun for casual fans as well as diehards," and "shouldn't try to be the 'Albert Einstein of basketball.'" He added that Scalabrine is "learning that lesson" (GLOBE MAGAZINE, 10/14 issue).
NOTES: In N.Y., Andrew Marchand cited sources as saying ESPN is hiring Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan with the "plan for him to be its top breaking-news insider" on MLB. Passan is "not expected to be on game broadcasts" initially, and will begin "after the new year" (NYPOST.com, 10/11). FS Sun Rays reporter Michelle Margaux is leaving after one season and "heading to Houston" to become the in-game Rockets reporter for AT&T SportsNet Southwest. Margaux will "also have some hosting duties and work some Astros games as well." Her replacement at FS Sun will be the "fifth reporter on Rays broadcasts over the last six seasons" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/10).