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TVWeek's Deputy Editor Chris Pursell is exploring the billion dollar business of sports media. Every week he will deliver the latest insights as well as a fresh perspective along with interviews with the biggest personalities in the business.

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February 2008 Archives

Powerhouse Matchup Revives NCAA Ratings

February 26, 2008 3:32 PM

Despite a wide-open race, college basketball ratings have stumbled slightly this season for most networks carrying the sport. However, ESPN’s coverage of the Feb. 23 matchup of No. 1 Tennessee at No. 2 Memphis bucked that trend, setting a record as the network’s most-viewed men’s college basketball game.

The contest between the country’s two best teams, according to polls, averaged a 3.8 rating for the cable channel, as well as 3.6 million households and 5.3 million viewers. The game, won by Tennessee 66-62, was ESPN’s highest rated men’s college basketball game since Dec. 22, 1998, when Kentucky and Duke pulled a 3.9.

The game also marks the most-viewed regular-season men’s college basketball on any television outlet—broadcast or cable—since March 6, 2005, according to ESPN, when CBS’ coverage of Duke at North Carolina averaged 3.977 million households.

ESPN said its men’s regular-season college basketball coverage is averaging 946,000 households and a 1.0 rating this season, marking 11% increases in households (vs. 850,000) and ratings (vs. 0.9) from last year through the same point.

Season-to-date ratings for broadcast outlets, however, show the sport is down year-to-year, as much as 13% in households and 11% in the men 18-34 demo.

Pre-Game Countdown

February 5, 2008 7:35 AM

Its pre-game time and that means one thing for media outlets, celebrities.

With most of the countries top entertainment news outlets in attendence, producers are scouring the city for the best of the afterparties and red carpet arrivals for the Super Bowl.

One outfit entrenched throughout the city is NBC's "Access Hollywood" which is at University of Phoenix stadium today for the game but had multiple crews in attendence for much of the week to handle the festivities.

Producers told me that the series took a selective look at what "Access" would cover but had already found the TV-worthy moments to showcase for thisd week's episodes.

On Saturday alone, the crew was slated to handle Jenny McCarthy being honored at "Gridiron Glamour" in the morning, as well as a Marquee Jet Party during the afternoon. And for the evening, they have a private Kate Hudson dinner, the Playboy Party at Rawhide Pavilion at Wild Horse Ranch, the Victoria's Secret party at Taste Ultra Lounge (which got busted by the fire marshall for overcapacity) as well as the late-night soiree at Hyde.

Enjoy the game.

Fox Puts It on the Line

February 3, 2008 10:10 AM

Fox Super Bowl PartyFollowing a carefully choreographed walkthrough of the red carpet dress rehearsals for their Super Bowl pre-show yesterday, Fox is putting it all on the line for todays broadcast.

"We are merging two powerful brands for this broadcast,sports and entertainment," said George Greenberg, exec VP of programming and production for Fox Sports when I caught up with him at Fox's pre-game party in Scottsdale last night. "We're no longer looking at a normal football audience, so we brought in our movie and TV divisions that will allow us to deliver both quality and quantity to the viewers."

Mr. Greenberg noted that the rehearsals went great yesterday. But the fluid nature of red carpet coverage will keep the production crew on its toes today. Ryan Seacrest will the stage as
entertainment host for the pre-game show, joining Fox's usual crew in Curt, Terry, Howie and Jimmy.

Fox has been crafting the show to blend the sports and entertainment elements for the past seven months.

Fox Super Bowl Party

The Super Bowl wasn't the only topic on people's minds at the Fox party, where industry execs' tongues wagged over the rumored end to the writer's strike, with an announcement expected to come on Monday.

They also were buzzing about the departure of key Fox exec Ed Wilson, who will be leaving the
company to oversee Tribune.

Hall of (Promotional) Fame

February 2, 2008 2:04 PM

Hall of Fame (Before)After a week of analyzing every conceivable angle for Sunday’s matchup, press and public alike have welcomed Saturday, aka Hall of Fame announcements day, as a breath of fresh air. But the debates in the ranks about the selections stir up a wind storm.

Hundreds of members of the press waited for the announcement today in the media center, where the NFL Network was taping (and will cover the announcements live on the league’s channel.)

Downstairs I ran into more than a few network publicists who had been busy the past few days trucking in TV series stars, who quickly landed a bevy of interviews (sometimes up to 40, depending on the show) within hours.

Hall of Fame (After)

“I honestly don’t know any better venue out there where we can get this kind of promotion,” said one sly exec.

ESPN's Pre-Game Party

February 2, 2008 10:27 AM

ESPN's Super Bowl PartyOne obvious upside of media week at the Super Bowl for years has been the parties thrown around town. There's something for everyone, whether it's legends of the game or a feast for the eyes.

Last night, ESPN held their own party and brought their A-game to the table at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. The company tapped Ludacris to perform and saw an influx for the television, movie, music and sports industries all make their way in to the outdoor party despite the cold.

From the athletic world, attendees got to spot everyone from Chad Johnson to Raja Bell to Doug Williams.

Meanwhile, TV executives from the company took the opportunity to mix some business with pleasure.

"We just want to make sure everyone is having a good time," said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN. "For the media industry, there's been a lot of talk about this game and I look forward to seeing it played out."

ESPN's Super Bowl Party

ESPN executives noted that they are already looking forward to next year's Super Bowl. That's when the company will again assume broad international carriage with NBC slated to carry the game. (Fox, this year's broadcaster, has a deeper international penetration, which limits ESPN's ability to carry the game overseas).

Russell Wolff, executive vice president and managing director of ESPN International, noted that he was hopeful that the next Super Bowl would break last year's all-time mark for the company, reaching 180 million people in 140 countries.

NFL Pushing Hard Online

February 1, 2008 6:09 PM

Online, the NFL has refocused its presence in the last 12 months. It's all culminating with the Super Bowl media week. The league is broadening its video presence to include more than 40 exclusive videos so far as well as live streaming of the big press announcements that bubble throughout the show.

"Right now anything we do is going to be more than what we had last year," said Tom Brady, senior programmer at NFL.com. "So far traffic is already up over last year and we expect that to continue as we head toward the big game."

Mariucci Welcome at NFL Network

February 1, 2008 4:48 PM

If NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci doesn't take the Washington Redskins head coaching position, he will be welcomed back to the NFL-backed channel with open arms, according to executives at the outlet.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is expected to meet with Mr. Mariucci, whose contract is set to expire with the cable channel (not that one would really influence the other),about the opening for the team this weekend.

However, Eric Weinberger, executive producer of the NFL Network, was quick to say that after two years with the outlet, Mariucci's personality and ability to break down game plans had made the ex-coach a vital part of the network family.

"We'd love to have him back and we know he loves it here to," said Mr. Weinberger.

Planted in the midst of "Radio Row" in at the Phoenix Convention Center, the NFL Network has set up facilities where Mr. Mariucci and his NFL Network co-horts have been a factory of interviews, breaking news and analysis on everything to do with Super Bowl Sunday.

Mr. Weinberger noted that with the channel carrying 213 hours of Super Bowl-themed programming this week, as well as running 11 hours of live television on both Wednesday and Thursday, his goal of bringing the flavor of the festivities in Phoenix to the viewers at home was so far successful.

"If it moves, we're showing it," he said. "And for the viewer who can't come down here, we are showing them all the buzz and action and energy of this event. It's truly amazing how after all these years, the atmosphere surrounding the game has only gotten bigger."

The channel has planted locations in five areas around Phoenix to cover the festivities with 350 people flowing through the "Radio Row" hub alone.

Sportscasters/Soothsayers: Game Predictions

February 1, 2008 4:33 PM

Sportscasters/ Soothsayers? Game Predictions

ESPN and NFL Network on-air personalities offer their predictions for Super Bowl XLII. Of the 30 ESPN picks, 25 chose the New England Patriots, while just five selected the New York Giants as the anticipated winner of this year’s Super Bowl game in Arizona. At NFL Network Rod Woodson goes with Giants, while Steve Mariucci chooses New England.

NFL Network Set

PICKING NEW ENGLAND
Raul Allegre, ESPN Deportes NFL analyst and former New York Giants kicker
Patriots 31-21. I just don't see the Giants defense being able to stop the Patriots’ offense. Nobody is better at controlling time of possession than the Patriots and their arsenal is just too tough.

Russell Baxter, ESPN NFL research coordinator
Patriots 38-19. Thirty eight has been the Patriots’ magic number all year and 19 would be fitting since this would give them an undefeated 19-0 record.

Skip Bayless, ESPN First Take and 1st and 10 commentator
Patriots 38-17. Plaxico Burress lost this game for the Giants before it was played by saying the Giants receivers may be better than New England’s and by predicting the Giants would win by scoring 23 points and holding Tom Brady’s offense to a mere 17. Big mistake.

Ray Buchanan, ESPN 1st and 10 analyst
Patriots 28-24. Eli being hot will keep this game close and I don’t think the Patriots defense will be able to slow down the Giants offense.

Colin Cowherd, host of ESPN Radio’s The Herd
Patriots 31-17. It'll be close early but then the Patriots will do something in the 3rd quarter to pull away -- whether it's creating a turnover or converting on a big third down play. Tom Brady will be named the game MVP.

Jay Crawford, ESPN First Take and 1st and 10 co-host
Patriots 38-21. Not going to stop the Patriots offense. The difference in the game is that New England has been there, done that, while the Giants are taking video of everything like it’s a trip to Disney.

Hank Goldberg, ESPN Correspondent
Patriots 30-27. They always win by three points. Just look at their last three Super Bowls.

Mike Golic, NFL Live analyst and co-host of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning
Patriots 31-24. Their versatility will be the key. They always find a way to get it done and they will again this time.

Jemele Hill, ESPN.com Page 2 writer and 1st and 10 commentator
Patriots 38-31. Tom Brady goes to quarterback immortal.

Gary Horton, ESPN Scouts Inc. Insider
Patriots 31-20. With two weeks to prepare for Bill Belichick - and with field conditions being perfect - as much as I respect the Giants, they can't keep up with the Patriots. Tom Brady will find 4-5 match-ups that he will exploit.

Tom Jackson, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst
Patriots 31-21. Hard to imagine the most prolific offense in NFL history coming all this way and not winning. There is also something to be said for the Patriots’ experience, being in this position before and winning three times.

Ron Jaworski, ESPN Monday Night Football and NFL Matchup analyst
Patriots 41-21. The key will be the Patriots three down linemen -- Seymour, Wilfork and Warren -- who will be able to collapse on Eli, forcing him backward which is not his strength.

Keyshawn Johnson, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst
Patriots 35-17. New England has had two weeks to prepare for this game, and the lights might be too bright for Eli.

Erik Kuselias, ESPN Radio host
Patriots 34-20. This game was over when Brady took off the boot and squeezed into a cleat…too much offense.

Steve Levy, ESPN SportsCenter anchor
Patriots 34-21. The Giants won their Super Bowl in Green Bay.

Steve Mariucci, NFL Network
I think the Patriots have the best chance to win. If I predict the Giants to win, it’s because I’m saying there is a possibility for an upset. So all that being said, I think the Patriots are going to win, but I also think the Giants can pull off an upset.

Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Insider
Patriots 41-31. Perfect climate, perfect game, perfect season for Tom Brady.

Sal Paolantonio, ESPN Correspondent
Patriots 31-24. Giants defense still won't have an answer for Tom Brady.

Sean Salisbury, ESPN NFL Live analyst
Patriots 34-17. The weather is not a factor and on a fast track and with all those weapons, I don’t think the Patriots can be beat.

Mark Schlereth, ESPN NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion
Patriots 31-27. The Patriots do the best job in the NFL adjusting. They are chameleon-like in who they are and what they do. They can totally reinvent themselves during the course of a ballgame on the offense and defensive sides of the ball.

Stuart Scott, ESPN SportsCenter anchor
Patriots 34-20. The Giants will play them tough for a half, but the Patriots passing game is built for a dry, fast field.

Emmitt Smith, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion
Patriots 35-24. The bye week hurt the Giants by taking away their momentum. Belichick is a genius at breaking down tape and he had a second week to prepare.

Mike Tirico, ESPN Monday Night Football play by play commentator
Patriots 32-23. Too much offense, too much experience, too much to deny the perfect ending.

Marcellus Wiley, ESPN NFL Live analyst
Patriots 38-23. They have had a perfect season. Why bet against them now?

Trey Wingo, ESPN NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime host
Patriots 41-27. No weather problems, perfect fast track. They are going to unleash the full arsenal. I can’t see the Giants stopping the Patriots, If the Giants don’t score 30, they will get blown out.

Steve Young, ESPN Monday Night Countdown analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion
Patriots 42-10. Eli Manning is not a Hall of Fame quarterback yet. Brady will get the upper hand.

NFL Network Set

PICKING NEW YORK
Lomas Brown, ESPN 1st and 10 analyst
Giants 27-24. Giants win the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

Mike Ditka, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown analyst
Giants 31-28. I haven't picked the Patriots all year, so why should I start now?

Mike Greenberg, co-host of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning and SportsCenter anchor
Giants 24-23. Just a little magic the Giants have working now. Call it a funny feeling.

Merril Hoge, ESPN NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime analyst
Giants 31-30. The Giants’ defensive scheme matches well with Brady and the Patriots because they attack the quarterback and challenge the wide receivers.

Shaun King, ESPN NFL Live analyst
Giants 34-26. Confidence.

Rod Woodson, NFL Network
I think it’s going to be a close game. My head is telling me New England because their offense is so explosive, but my gut is telling me the Giants because of their running game, defense and special teams is solid. Eli is playing outstanding…I think it’s going to be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history – Giants.

Inside ESPN's Super Bowl Situation Room

February 1, 2008 2:40 PM

ESPN SetEntrenched in downtown Scottsdale, about 10 miles from the University of Phoenix stadium where the NFL will host the championship game, is the ESPN facility where the world's largest sports network is airing 90 hours of domestic Super bowl coverage. That’s the lead-in to the big game. They’re also preparing 65 hours of radio, with a home production facility tucked into several floors of a next-door building.

The ESPN moniker alone has drawn hundreds of fans outside for the outdoor live broadcast, from die-hards to hecklers.

The energy is the same for both fans, producers and talent alike.

"If it ever gets to the point where I don't care about the game, then its time for me to get out," said Chris Berman, host of "Monday Night Countdown." "The Super Bowl is a gathering point, a holiday that's truly American. This one in particular is going to be historical no matter who wins, wither it’s an undefeated season or one of the biggest upsets ever."

Raul Alegre, EPSN Deportes analyst, noted that the NFL frenzy has continued to pick up pace around the world. He says that in recent chats, he has been receiving questions from areas as far south as Peru.

"We follow the same template that domestic does but we have to try a little harder because we appeal to a broader audience," said Mr. Alegre, whose ESPN unit broadcasts in Spanish. "When you go outside the U.S. there are really two segments of audience: 1) knowledgeable abut the game, or 2) just learning the game. So it’s challenging for us to balance both sides of that and not alienate anyone."

On Sunday, during a three-hour "Sunday NFL Countdown," coordinating producer Mike Cambareri and feature producer Greg Jewell have lined up "Grizzly Adams" for a feature on the Patriots beard trend.

They also tracked down the six quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft before Patriots' playcaller Tom Brady to seek their thoughts on the All-Pro quarterback. ESPN lined up everyone from John Elway and Matt Leinart to Pamela Anderson and Stacy Keibler for Kenny Mayne's weekly segment.

“This has been a television person's dream season," said Mr. Cambareri. "I don't think you can ask for much more than an 18-0 team pursuing history."