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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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June 2008 Archives

Strahan’s Choice: Fox, NFL Network or East Coast Money?

June 13, 2008 9:05 AM

Michael Strahan, the future Hall of Fame New York Giant football great who retired this week, already has his work cut out for him.

Sources say the charismatic athlete is already meeting with multiple networks seeking to land the star to a talent deal for their outlets. Among the leading contenders are said to be Fox Sports as well as the NFL Network. Sources close to Mr. Strahan note that his new digs on the Southern California beach make the West Coast-based companies more attractive to the athlete. Among East Coast suitors, CBS is reportedly the most likely match, although NBC is in the mix.

Executives at both Fox Sports and the NFL Network have confirmed that they are extremely interested in Mr. Strahan and he will be approached for a position on their networks.

Relationships and money will play a bigger part than locality in his decision, which could give Fox the edge in the end.

Mr. Strahan already has a strong background with both Fox and the NFL Network. On Fox, he is a regular guest on “Best Damned Sports Show Period” as well as Fox’s NFL crew. If he was hired by the company, he would likely have large roles in both of those broadcasts and possibly others.

The NFL Network has also tapped Mr. Strahan’s services, pitting him in segments with Warren Sapp and other personalities on the channel.

“We’ve worked with Michael in so many different ways since we launched in 2003,” said Eric Weinberger, executive producer of NFL Network. “Michael contributed weekly to the NFL Network at the start and we’d love to continue our working relationship and friendship with him for years to come. We congratulate him on a great football career.”

Mr. Weinberger went on to note that “Michael’s outgoing personality, humor, honesty and insightful comments made him one of the most entertaining personalities in the league. He has the on-screen presence that keeps people watching to see what he will say next.”

Of course, money talks in the end, and a fat East Coast paycheck from NBC, ESPN or CBS would also butter the proverbial bread.

Studio sources said they hope to have a decision within the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, here’s a rundown on national sports ratings for the week.
The first three games of the 2008 NBA Finals have averaged an 8.8 rating and 16 share on ABC, marking a strong 44% spike over last year's Spurs-Cavaliers Finals (6.1/11). Demographic jumps have been even stronger including a giant 63% gain among men 25-54.

Big Brown’s failure to win the Triple Crown still placed ABC’s coverage of the Belmont Stakes far higher in the ratings than in 2007, earning a 7.2/17 on Saturday. That was a 148% rise from last year’s 2.9/8. The actual running of the race earned ABC a 12.0/28 during the quarter hour. Of course, that’s still lower than what NBC pulled the last time a horse made a play for the Triple Crown, when NBC delivered a 16.1/35 in 2004.

Finally, TNT’s launch of its season of NASCAR did well for the network, earning a 3.9/9 for the Pocono 500, 30% better than last year’s 3.0/7.

MMA, NHL and NASCAR—The Week That Was

June 5, 2008 2:13 PM

After a trip Down Under to visit the in-laws in Australia and overdosing on Australian Football (great sport), we’re back with a rundown on the goings-on in sports ratings.

First up—and I’ve covered this throughout the season—the NHL continued its ratings rush leading up to Wednesday’s Stanley Cup finale, as Game 6 between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins earned a series-high 4.5/8 metered market average.

“Two great teams, at the top of their game, generated significant interest,” said NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer. “Hopefully this provides a launching point for future growth. We can't wait for our season to begin, somewhere outdoors, next season.”

Through Game 5, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals have averaged a 3.0/6 (5.0 million viewers) nationally, up 88% over last year's abysmal 1.6/3. The enormous home-market audiences for both Detroit and Pittsburgh have been key elements to the ratings gain for the NHL Finals. Pittsburgh led all markets with a 37.4/51, followed by Detroit with a 30.6/45.

Meanwhile, Fox’s NASCAR season wrapped up last weekend in Dover, Del., with a 4.5/11 and 7.1 million viewers. Fox ended the season up in the sport, which critics had pronounced to be spiraling downward, averaging a 5.7/12 (9.5 million viewers) for all races, up 2% from last year’s 5.6/13 (9.3 million) despite sliding slightly in key male demos.

Finally this week, CBS debuted mixed martial arts on Saturday night, averaging a 3.0/6 (4.9 million viewers) for the “Elite X Saturday Night Fights.” The series improved the network’s time period greatly among younger demos (up 300% among men 18-34 and up 150% among men 18-49), even beating the Stanley Cup Finals’ Game 4 on NBC. That said, the sport did little to help the channel in households and total viewers, as CBS scored a 2.8/5, down 22% from the May average of a 3.6/7 and was also off 26% from the same night in 2007, an airing of “Ocean’s Twelve.”

We’ll dissect NBA Finals ratings as the week goes on.