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Volume 25 No. 134

Media

49ers-Packers peaked with a 10.4 overnight rating in the late stages of the contest
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ESPN saw its year-over-year "MNF" rating increase for the third straight week last night, as the Packers' last-second win over the 49ers last night drew an 8.4 overnight. That is up 38% from a 6.1 rating for the comparable Colts-Titans matchup in Week 6 last year. Last year's game marked the third-lowest "MNF" game since ESPN acquired rights in '06. Two years ago, ESPN drew a 6.3 overnight in Week 6 for Jets-Cardinals. 49ers-Packers peaked with a 10.4 rating in the late stages of the game, from 11:15-11:30pm ET. Milwaukee led all local markets with a combined 33.7 rating (6.9 on ESPN, 26.8 on WISN-ABC), followed by S.F.-San Jose-Oakland with a combined 16.9 rating (5.9 on ESPN, 11.0 on KGO-ABC). Sacramento (14.9), New Orleans (14.8) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (13.4) rounded out the top five markets. The finish to 49ers-Packers also helped the postgame edition of “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt to a 2.5 rating, up 39% from last year (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

KEEP IT LOCAL: In Boston, Chad Finn notes the Red Sox and Patriots games combined for a "staggering" TV number in Boston on Sunday night, as 81% of TVs in the market were tuned in to the Red Sox' defeat of the Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS on TBS or the Patriots’ "thrilling 43-40 victory" over the unbeaten Chiefs on NBC’s "SNF." These are "excellent ratings for both NBC and TBS in this market, and expectations were high going in." The NFL had "higher ratings than the MLB playoff game Sunday night." But both NBC and TBS should be "feeling good about their numbers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/16). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal notes local TV ratings for Bears games are up 42% from the "five-game mark a year ago." Sunday's OT loss to the Dolphins averaged a 27.17 rating, which is "impressive, but it’s the season-to-date stat that’s an eye-opener." The Bears are averaging a 28.1 rating locally, up from a 19.8 average "for the first five games" in '17 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/16). 

RETURN OF THE KING? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay asks, "Is football back?" It "wasn’t so long ago that the NFL was The Sport Everyone Loved to Beat Up On, even more so than baseball." Gay: "Wasn’t football doomed? It was violent, losing ratings and its pregame anthem ceremony was a lightning rod of national controversy." The NFL was "offending half of America before opening kickoff." Now it is "52 or so weeks later and the NFL can lay claim to at least a modest revival." Ratings through the NFL season’s first five weeks "were up 3% -- not a giant number, but a nifty uptick at a moment where the numbers are plunging for basically everything on television." Football remains a sport "facing gathering clouds, clouds that have nothing to do with the White House." But it is "nice to have a little bit of buzz back in the game Americans undeniably still like" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/16).

Miller claims it was his idea to make next year's Waste Management Open his final broadcast
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Johnny Miller is "walking away" as the lead golf announcer for NBC/Golf Channel after spending the last 29 years in the role, the last of which was a "one-year deal that took him" through '18, according to Alex Myers of GOLF DIGEST. Miller had been "toying with retirement for the past few years" and gave "serious thought to making his final event" the '17 Open Championship. Although Miller leaves "open the possibility that he 'might poke his head in' from time to time, he's decided his last official (and only remaining) event will be next year's Waste Management Phoenix Open, which will be broadcast on NBC with CBS having the rights to Super Bowl LIII." Miller said it was his idea to make the Phoenix stop his last, noting, "I was not going to announce this during the playoff events or the Ryder Cup, because it would have been selfish to do that and take away from those events. I was always known as the 'Desert Fox.' My best golf ... came in the desert" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 10/15).

SETTING THE BAR HIGH: The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote Miller figures to be a "tough act to follow, in part because of his longevity, mainly because no other golf announcer said what he saw without worrying what the players might think of him." Miller said, "People are starving for honesty and the real deal. I don’t do it on purpose. That’s the way I view golf" (AP, 10/15). SI.com's Daniel Rapaport noted Miller’s "shoot-from-the-hip style of commentary and willingness to harshly criticize players rubbed many the wrong way over the years." But his "unapologetic honesty and disregard for convention have been a breath of fresh air on golf broadcasts" (SI.com, 10/15). Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard called Miller the "voice of a generation." Hoggard: "Not only was his voice important to the public for those that watched the game through the TV, but it was important to the players themselves." Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz said Miller is the "greatest golf commentator ever." His gift was that he "really got to the heart of the matter better than any other commentator." Diaz: "The heart of the matter for him was how a player handles pressure. He thought that's what separates the best players from the other guys. ... He always wondered about himself, 'What didn't I have? What was the thing?'" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/16).

NEXT MAN UP: GOLFWEEK's Forecaddie reported Miller "will be replaced" by Fox Sports' Paul Azinger in the lead analyst chair. Azinger will "remain on Fox Sports broadcasts of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open while taking the NBC seat." It is a move that may have been "inspired by Alex Rodriguez’s split time on ESPN and Fox baseball coverage this year." In Azinger, NBC/Golf Channel is "getting the one voice in the game with comparable wisdom and ability to launch a hot-take in effortless fashion." Azinger "shares Miller’s knowledge of the swing, course setup and an innate ability to unleash criticism." Like Miller, Azinger is "never afraid to suggest a player may be feeling the pressure" (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/15). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes like Miller, Azinger is "bold and can be choppy in his delivery." That candor has "worked for both, in part because both shifted to the booth after accomplished, though flawed, playing careers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/16). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand cites sources as saying that Azinger "very likely will be NBC’s lead analyst, but David Duval, Justin Leonard and David Feherty have received consideration." Azinger would "reunite with NBC’s Mike Tirico on golf." The duo "worked together on the British Open when it was and they were at ABC/ESPN." Marchand notes Miller "leaves behind a legacy that Azinger or whomever replaces him will have to do with a level of fearlessness" (N.Y. POST, 10/16).

NBC Sports Regional Networks is relaunching its app after seeing a significant usage increase on its mobile platforms over the past several months. The new app, called MyTeams, launched today with a focus on individual teams, rather than regions. It is available on iOS and Android devices. “Overall TV viewership is down, and PC usage is down; but App usage is increasing at a rapid rate,” said NBC Sports Regional Networks President David Preschlack. “This launch provides us with the opportunity to better connect with fans and advertisers.” NBC’s new app will provide in-market streams of live MLB, NBA and NHL games to authenticated users. Users across the country will have access to pre- and postgame shows to 25 NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB teams covered by NBC RSNs. “This is where our fans are, and this where they’re going,” Preschlack said. “We feel it’s critically important to connect with the fans that we have with a best-in-class app.” The mobile arena also is where advertisers are headed, he added. “This shifts the conversations we’re having with our advertisers,” Preschlack said. “We’re seeing more advertisers shift their strategy. We deal with big companies that just want to advertise digitally.”

FOCUS ON TEAMS INSTEAD OF REGIONS: Users can pick their favorite teams, rather than regions, to follow -- an allowance, for instance, that some Wizards fans may not be fans of the Capitals. They will access content that includes live video, on-demand video, podcasts and written stories. “We provide personalization for the folks who want that,” said NBC Sports Regional Networks Senior VP/Platforms & Strategy Matt Murphy. “We take advantage of all the resources we have locally. A lot of companies do national really well by taking a national approach. Our strength is local, so we wanted to double down on local.” The focus on streaming to mobile video does not signal a strategy shift away from linear television, which still remains the dominant platform -- by far -- for NBC Sports’ RSNs. “We have not taken our eye off the television side of the business,” Preschlack said. “You can’t have all your eggs in the television basket. That’s not where all our fans are.” Coinciding with the launch of its app, NBC also is reducing its ad load and launching a redesign of its websites. “If you want to win in digital, you need to have compelling websites and compelling apps,” Preschlack said.

In a world where taking photos of food and posting them to social media has become the norm, teams and venues are putting a greater emphasis on their offerings. Levy Restaurants Communications Dir Matt Dicker (@LevyRestaurants) sees this in his effort to create must-visit venues for some who are looking for more than a good game. He said, “That’s part of the larger culture in the sports world right now. People are going to sporting events, always for what’s on the field or the court, but also for the entire experience.” He added, “We like to work with our partners to create a really memorable experience. Teams can’t always control what’s happening on the field and on the court but can control what’s happening with the rest of the experience. More and more we’ve seen food, beverage and the entire hospitality become a key part of a gameday. Fans come to the venue looking to experience that.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follows: Elias Sports Bureau. No one does a better job using statistics and analytics not just for analysis, but to tell a story.
Favorite apps: Slack because our communications team covers a lot of ground with all our locations. I can’t imagine we could stay in touch without Slack.
Average time per day on social media: If my data usage on my phone bill is any indication, too much.

Social media philosophy:
We want our guests to enjoy their experience at every one of our locations. It’s not just about what’s on their plate. At each of our locations we want to share the same sense of hospitality, personality and show who we really are on our channels. Whether they are at the game or visiting one of our feeds, we want it to be a memorable experience.

Target audience:
Fans of our partners don’t necessarily follow us on social media because they want to see what is being served at the game, they follow the teams for that. Knowing this, we strive for our social media accounts to be a showcase for the most innovative experiences we are creating at each of our venues. Whether the audience is team executives or fans at the game, we hope they’ll look to Levy to see the best of sports and entertainment dining.

More than a picture:
It’s important to make a great sandwich or a great dish, but it’s not just about that. It’s really about the story that goes into making that great sandwich or that great dish. We want to tell a great food story about our location. Showcasing the food is a window into that location. We want to incorporate the Levy culture with our tone and emphasize our values as a company, as well as the great dishes we are making.

Social media influencing what teams/venues offer:
Chefs and people in sports business are very competitive by nature. It’s a very healthy competition. When one chef is doing something really amazing, really unique, really memorable at one location, chefs and business executives can’t help but take notice. We hear all the time, people want us to take inspiration from our chefs at other locations. But it’s not about replicating that, it’s about using that same spirit of innovation that led to the first dish to really work with partners to find their own memorable dish.

Fanbase that consumes their content most:
We are constantly amazed by the dedication of soccer fans. Whether it’s the fact that a lot of those fans are younger and more active on social media, we are not exactly sure. But those are very passionate fans who have strong opinions about their teams and about the food that is being served. They love talking to us and are very engaged.

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

A's COO Chris Giles said that the team had held conversations with former radio affiliate KGMZ-FM during the season about "exploring a new deal if it was mutually beneficial for both parties, but the sides had decided well before the end of the season that there was no solution that worked for the team and the station." In S.F., Susan Slusser notes the A's were "frustrated throughout the season about what they felt was a lack of promotion or interest from the station beyond just the game broadcasts, and they were especially unhappy about being relegated to several different alternate channels during the Warriors’ playoff run" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/16).

CHOOSE WORDS CAREFULLY: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes when trying to find someone to "capitulate what's happened, or predict what's next" during a baseball broadcast, Fox' John Smoltz brings "smoke without mirrors." Social media backlash comes from a "daily log of Smoltz’s acidic questioning of today’s game." Baseball becomes an "October TV game show, a sugar-rush dessert cart as a reward for a long, diet-conscious grind." But no one asks for a "heap of hot sauce on their molten lava chocolate cake to keep it from erupting every other inning." Smoltz "jeopardizes the game’s appeal when the viewership is largest, and not all die-hards." Now is the "time to teach, not preach" (L.A. TIMES, 10/16).

JACK OF ALL TRADES: ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted Seahawks and Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen, who died yesterday at 65, "founded an innovative Seattle-based software and production company called Starwave, which played a big part in the mid-90s in getting ESPN onto the Internet." In '95, Allen's company did a "five-year deal with ESPN that allowed his company to license the ESPN name" in exchange for $2.5M a year and "revenue split on ads and merchandise" (ESPN.com, 10/15).