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Volume 25 No. 177

Media

New Orleans drew a 58.5 local rating for "TNF," the best for any NFL market this season
Photo: getty images

The combination of the NFL’s hottest team and the league’s most popular franchise led to ratings gold on Thursday night, as the Cowboys’ 13-10 win over the Saints drew a 14.6 overnight on Fox. It marks the highest-rated “TNF” game ever on any network and is up 36% from the comparable Thursday night game on NBC last year (Redskins-Cowboys). It also is good enough to claim the highest overnight rating for Fox’ broadcast season and is on pace to be the net’s highest rating since the Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship game in January. Last night’s game drew massive numbers locally as well. New Orleans drew a 58.5 local rating, the highest in any market for any NFL game this season, while Dallas drew a strong 36.7 overnight. Season to date, Fox’ “TNF” package is up 4% over last year (Ourand & Carpenter, THE DAILY).

COWBOY UP: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Josh Alper writes having the Cowboys "in a prime time game against a Saints team riding a 10-game winning streak is the sort of thing that you'd expect to spur a good number." However, good TV ratings "aren't anything new this season" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 11/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Cassandra Negley writes the Cowboys are "apt to draw big numbers in primetime slots no matter their record." Fox Sports VP/Research, League Operations & Strategy Michael Mulvihill reported last night's 58.5 rating in New Orleans is the "highest in any market for any NFL game this year." Negley notes the viewership "eclipsed Fox’s season-high set two weeks ago" when the Seahawks beat the Packers. That game "drew a 11.9 overnight rating, the highest-rated Thursday night game in two years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/30). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. notes last night was "mostly a so-called boring defensive battle that included nine sacks, three turnovers and a season-low in points for the Saints." The rating "spoke to the drawing power of the Cowboys," who "took control early and held on to win the game, with most expecting the Saints to launch a comeback at some point, likely keep eyes glued to the television." This was also the "final scheduled prime-time game of the season" for the Cowboys. But "look for them possibly to get flexed to Sunday night again, most likely" the season finale against the Giants (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 11/30).

CALIFORNIA LOVE: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes teams from the second-largest market in the U.S. will "be center stage the next three weeks," as the "SNF" schedule is Chargers-Steelers (Week 13), Rams-Bears (Week 14) and Eagles-Rams (Week 15). NBC's Al Michaels said this is "absolutely good" for the two L.A. teams. Michaels: "For the Chargers, they get national attention, a prime-time, stand-alone game that has a lot of buzz." Farmer notes it is "exceedingly rare for a team or teams from one market to seize the NBC spotlight in three consecutive weeks, but it's not unprecedented." NBC already has "hopped on the Southern California story line, promoting the three upcoming games" during last week's Packers-Vikings "SNF" matchup by "showing highlights of the Rams and Chargers as 'I Love L.A.' played in the background." NBC Sports Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli said NBC is going to "play up the Los Angeles part of it." He said, "We're going to do some vignettes on the new stadium, and we actually shot in there all day Tuesday. We got our cameras into the construction" (L.A. TIMES, 11/30).

LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Texans play-by-play announcer Marc Vandermeer said that he "got caught up in the moment" Monday when he culminated his call of RB Lamar Miller's 97-yard touchdown run with a "salute to the team's late owner, Bob McNair." Vandermeer during the broadcast said, "That one's for you, Bob." He explained the call by saying, "I thought maybe I might say something after the game if they won, but as the play was unfolding, I was thinking this is going to be one of the greatest plays in the history of the franchise. The whole magic of the night just got to me. It was special" (HOUSTONCHRONICLE.com, 11/29).

WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes some football fans were mad Sunday afternoon when local KMOV-CBS "cut into CBS' telecast of the Steelers-Broncos NFL game to cover a tornado warning that had been issued for some northern and eastern portions of the St. Louis region." KMOV broke in at roughly 4:45pm CT and "stayed away from football for about half an hour." Steelers-Broncos was "going to halftime when the interruption occurred," so fans only missed about 15 minutes of the game, though some still "were angry." The weather report "not only drew a better rating than the football game, it produced the two highest rated 30-minute blocks of the week (Monday-Sunday) on St. Louis television" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/30).

Buck and Aikman this season have added Thursday night duties to their schedule
Photo: getty images

Fox' Joe Buck and Troy Aikman top the list of SI.com's Jimmy Traina's second annual power rankings for "each regular NFL broadcast crew." Traina wrote Buck is the "best play-by-play guy in the business right now." He knows when to "give you the game," then he knows when to "drop in some levity." Aikman is "excellent at breaking down plays and explaining things in simple terms." Ranking No. 2 is NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who has "regressed over the years and says some weird stuff during games, but so good at analyzing line play and doesn't over speak like many analysts." Michaels "makes this team No. 2, because he's superb on play-by-play and is the only announcer to reference gambling." CBS' Jim Nantz and Tony Romo rank fourth after topping the list last year. Traina wrote, "I was driving the Romo bandwagon, but clearly CBS higher ups told Tony to stop predicting plays and tone down his act." It is a "damn shame, too, because he was the best listen in the NFL; a fan favorite and unique." Coming in at No. 11 is ESPN's "MNF" crew of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland. With Witten "learning on the job since this is his first broadcasting gig and McFarland in a crane, the telecast always seems off." Every broadcaster "makes mistakes, but when you get a national game, your mistakes are going to be highlighted." That is what has happened with Witten and it "hasn't been good" (SI.com, 11/29).

CHANGE UP: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal thanks Fox for assigning Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis with Pam Oliver "to the Bears-Giants game this weekend." There is a "collective sigh of relief" that the team of Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston has been assigned Cardinals-Packers after they have "worked Fox’s last two Bears telecasts." Burkhardt and Davis do an "excellent job," though it "doesn't get much better" than the Michaels-Collinsworth team (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/30).

Washington and Utah will play for the Pac-12 Championship on Friday, but the 5:00pm PT kickoff on Fox from Levi's Stadium is "clearly a poor combination of time and place for fans," according to Jon Wilner of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. However, putting the Pac-12 game on Friday night "makes loads of sense for the network partners because it’s a competition-free window and alleviates the glut of games on Saturday." The viewership evidence "favors Friday over Saturday ... and Fox over ESPN." The Pac-12 long ago "handed full control of its premium football programming to Fox and ESPN in a pure-and-simple, campus-directed cash grab." Playing the championship game on Friday just "makes more sense for the networks doling out that cash." One drawback is that playing on Friday makes the conference "look second-rate because the other Power Five championships are on Saturday" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 11/28).

PAC 12 TITLE GAME VIEWERSHIP TREND
YEAR
GAME
NETWORK
DATE
VIEWERSHIP
2017
USC-Stanford
ESPN
Friday
3.7 million
2016
Washington-Colorado
Fox
Friday
5.7 million
2015
Stanford-USC
ESPN
Saturday
2.6 million
2014
Oregon-Arizona
Fox
Friday
6.0 million
2013
Stanford-Arizona State
ESPN
Saturday
1.45 million
2012
Stanford-UCLA
Fox
Friday
4.9 million
Download the
Pac 12 Title Viewership

THE LONG BATTLE: In Portland, John Canzano as part of his week-long look at the Pac-12 writes the single "most frustrating element" of conference Commissioner Larry Scott's tenure for some fans is his "failure to get the Pac-12 Networks on DirecTV." Scott said, "I wish we had DirecTV. I don't know what we could have done differently. We went to them first, before Dish, before anybody else, and they weren't interested." Canzano cites sources as saying that Scott "could have, and should have, got a distribution deal done with DirecTV." Scott "locked up cable companies early." He then engaged DirecTV in a standoff that a source called "a staring contest." DirecTV "needed rates that wouldn't be costly to subscribers who were not interested in the Pac-12 Network" Trouble is, discount provisions in the contracts Scott "negotiated with the cable companies and Dish Network would kick in if he discounted the rates for DirecTV." That would have meant trying to "unwind the contracts and give money back." A source said, "The thinking was that Pac-12 fans would raise so much noise that DirecTV would eventually have to agree to a deal. I think Larry overestimated how rabid the Pac-12 fan would be about calling DirecTV to raise hell." Meanwhile, AT&T announced this week that its U-Verse service would "no longer carry the Pac-12 Networks." It drops the total number of "estimated households the network can reach to 17.5 million." Big Ten Network and SEC Network both are in approximately 60 million homes (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/30).

The battle for the N.Y. afternoon radio ratings between ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y.'s Michael Kay and WFAN's Mike Francesa show the two tied "with the exact same 6.26 share in their coveted 25-54 male demographic for the latest month," according to Andrew Marchand of the N.Y. POST. Kay's show has "beaten Francesa for a month only once in the history of the two programs" -- June '17, when Francesa was "in the midst of his 'retirement tour.'" This is the first time Kay's show has "ever finished first in a month" for all stations. The two programs combined for more than 12% of the "listening audience, which is an astounding number." For this fall book, Francesa is still the "favorite as the two shows enter what is the equivalent to the final three innings." In the first month, Francesa (6.3) "finished second overall to Kay's fourth (5.5)." Francesa has the "numbers edge to squeak out the neck-and-neck battle" (N.Y. POST, 11/29).

NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal notes WSCR-AM "took a hit in the most recent ratings period" due to the Cubs' early postseason exit, though WMVP-AM has "taken a year-to-year punch in the gut." A year ago, in the stations' "targeted audience of men age 25 to 54 in the period from Oct. 11 to Nov. 7" from 6:00am CT to midnight, WSCR was No. 2 in the Chicago radio market at 5.4 and WMVP "tied for fourth at 4.9." This year, WSCR was "tied for sixth with a 4.3," while WMVP was 16th with a 2.7. One factor in the stations' drop "might have been WSCR's partnership with the resurgent Bears connected to the team's deal with parent Entercom for sister stations" WBBM-AM and WCFS-FM to carry games (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/30).

Botterill (l) and Mleczko represent a serious investment by MSG Networks to get women on air
Photo: harvard univ.

MSG Network having three females working on its Islanders broadcasts this season -- studio host Shannon Hogan and reporters AJ Mleczko and Jennifer Botterill -- "feels like a crucial step forward" for women in the industry, as it "quashes any perception that any are simply token hires," according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN.com. Mleczko, who won a Gold Medal in '98 as part of the U.S. women's hockey team, was "hired this season to do about 20 Islanders broadcasts." She "provides analysis pregame and during intermissions, reports from the bench and speaks postgame as well." When Mleczko is "not there, she's replaced" by Botterill, who herself won three Olympic Golds as part of Team Canada. Mleczko said it is "so great" MSG Net created a "two-woman intermission team." Mleczko: "I have to imagine it was deliberate to find two women that we could take on this role." Kaplan noted Botterill "flies in for the games from Toronto," Mleczko "comes in from Boston." That shows a "serious investment and proof that there's room for more than one female voice, especially if the voices are strong." MSG Networks Senior VP/Production & Programming and Exec Producer Jeff Filippi: "They were both good, they add diversity to our air, which is something that we look for, and they really know their stuff. So far, we couldn't be happier." Kaplan noted while Mleczko and Botterill "shoulder most of the spotlight because of their status as high-profile former players," Hogan's role "should not be minimized. Mleczko said, "She's been on the scene a couple years. She doesn't have the background playing we do, but she certainly knows her stuff" (ESPN.com, 11/28).

Former MLBer Jeff Francoeur will replace Joe Simpson as the lead analyst on Braves games broadcast on FS South and FS Southeast in '19, and THE ATHLETIC's David O'Brien wrote after "years of status quo in the Braves' broadcast booths, the changes ... were significant." Francoeur said of Simpson, "The first time we talked it was a little bittersweet because I knew he was frustrated and wanted to do more. But after talking to him for a while (it was OK). For him it works great with the radio, you know? And he's excited about that" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/29). NBCSPORTS.com's Craig Calcaterra wrote Francoeur seems to be a "pleasant enough second voice who can handle the job." However, the move "should be seen as a rebuke of Joe Simpson, who has been in the Braves TV booth for over 25 years and who was recently inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame" (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/29).

NO EXTENDED ABSENCE: Celtics TV play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman said that he "doesn't expect to miss more than four or five games per year" as part of his new contract that allows him more time off during the season. In Boston, Chad Finn notes Gorman's "slight alteration in schedule shouldn't be taken as a sign of weariness with the gig." Gorman, who has called Celtics games since '81, said that NBC Sports Boston management "approached him recently, even with a year left on his contract, about an extension." Gorman: "In the process, they asked me if I would entertain the idea of taking off some of the harder road trips, which has appealed to me for years" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/30).

UP FOR DEBATE: In Chicago, Jeff Agrest writes with the Big Ten under Fox' purview since last season, the net's Gus Johnson has "become more a part of our lives," but it is "debatable whether that's for the better." There was a time when viewers "couldn't get enough of Johnson." Agrest: "Now you're wondering why he's yelling at you." Johnson has "become a caricature of himself." His voice will "crescendo, then drop off a cliff, only to rise again, sometimes with a shrill for effect, intentional or not" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/30).

POWERFUL ADVOCATE: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes FS Midwest Cardinals play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin this week "made an impassioned nearly 10-minute speech before a committee of St. Louis alderman considering a tax incentive plan that would benefit" a proposed MLS stadium near Union Station. McLaughlin said that the invitation to speak was "extended by key figures in the effort to bring a team to town." He added that FS Midwest and the Cardinals "approved his appearance at the meeting" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/30).

In Toronto, Damien Cox notes last Sunday's Stampeders-RedBlacks Grey Cup broadcast on TSN took an "unprecedented hammering from the Canadian sports public, losing about one million viewers compared with last year’s game," a 23% fall-off. Three million viewers or so is still a "big number for any Canadian sports broadcast." But the ratings for the Grey Cup nine years ago were "essentially double that figure," which brings the "surprising decline this year into sharper focus" (TORONTO STAR, 11/30).

HOT DEALS: The AAF Arizona Hotshots have "signed TV and radio broadcasting deals" with KTVK-Ind and KDUS-AM, respectively. Hotshots President Scott Brubaker said that right now it is "undetermined how many games the local station will broadcast because the league is still working out how many games will be broadcast nationally on CBS or CBS Sports." All Hotshots games "will be broadcast" on KDUS. The "play-by-play will be done" by former Suns announcer Jeff Munn (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/29).

TAP TAKEOVER: The Brewers "released the first installments of a new free digital series Wednesday called 'Brewers on Tap,' hosted by Sophia Minnaert, designed to go behind the scenes with the club." Episodes will be "available at Brewers.com and on the club's YouTube channel, and the first two have already been released." One follows P Josh Hader at a "clay-shooting range," and the other recaps the memorable '18 season with GM David Stearns (JSONLINE.com, 11/30).