Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ESPN Plan Well Drafted

Let's give ESPN credit once again for its handling of the NBA Draft last week. ESPN finished with its highest ever ratings, with the previous best being back in 2003 when LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were among the top picks. The reason to give ESPN the credit is because of its role in generating fan interest.

The other sports networks and sources see and hear how much ESPN hypes the events it covers, with the NBA Draft being no exception. For the weeks leading in to it, the network brings on its NBA experts and analysts to discuss and predict the draft. Fans watching everything ESPN has to offer see the "Bottom Line" including analyst "mock draft" picks on the scroll in between scores, headlines, and actual sports happenings. This is really a subliminal way to make the Draft seem as important as the actual games and headlines of the days before.

Because of this, the likes of Fox Sports, CBS Sports, etc., which are desparately seeking the ESPN audience, go into copycat mode and bring out their own analysis and mock drafts to serve their audiences. What this extra hype really does is raise fan interest in the Draft, which is only televised on ESPN.

This is even more the case for the NFL Draft, even though it is also shown live on NFL Network. ESPN gets the higher audience, but the hype from all of the other networks contributes to that draft night audience as well.

Last Thursday (6/26), ESPN's ratings for the draft coverage were also about 19% above last year.

The rating was 19 percent higher that last year (2.6). If you don't believe this theory yet, consider that three of the top six local markets for NBA Draft coverage ratings are NOT in NBA markets, but are major college basketball markets. The highest rated local market was Louisville, while Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro were also in the top six. That Louisville and Raleigh-Durham both had bigger audiences than Cleveland, which had the number one pick in the Draft, tells us a lot. After all, ESPN is the network that televises the most college basketball, having shown a ton of games involving each of those markets where interest is high.

Yet, Fox and the rest bring out their experts and show mock drafts, only to have their viewers tune in on Draft night to have to head over to rival ESPN to watch it happen live.

We don't have this kind of attention for the MLB or NHL draft telecasts. But ESPN doesn't show either of them. Thus, there is a lot less hype and mock drafts leading in, and the rival networks cool their jets as well.

Elsewhere, more delays in determining the fate of Comcast Sports Houston and its court battles regarding the future telecast rights to the Astros and Rockets. The Houston Chronicle reports that EnTouch Systems, a suburban (Houston) cable company, has withdrawn its complaint about getting out of its deal to carry CSN Houston and its cost to subscribers. However, the speculation is that this is only due to the high legal costs of fighting this battle.

TBS returns to Sunday MLB games this week with the New Yankees vs. Minnesota game on July 6th. Terms of the new contract allow for these TBS telecasts to be shown non-exclusively in at least the home team market, which had not been the case in the past. Ernie Johnson will handle play-by-play this week.

Sports fans everywhere wish a speedy recovery to Buffalo Sabres voice Rick Jeanneret, who has called the team's games for the past 43 years and (hopefully) counting. Jeanneret, 71, has been diagnosed with a form of throat cancer, and doctors have told him he has an 85% chance of recovery. In a tremendous gesture, the Sabres have set up a special e-mail address,, so that fans can wish him well during this challenging time.

CBS Sports Network, the TV version, has decided to go with live content from 3 to 6 PM on weekdays when not showing a live event. What did they choose? A simulcast of the Doug Gottlieb Show as it airs on CBS Sports Radio. Enough said.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM 94.1 has extended the contract of Ray Didinger, who will continue his weekend co-hosting duties with Glen Macnow, and add him to football coverage on WPHT 1210 for the coming season. He may also appear on KYW 1060 on occasion. The contract news was not good for Tony Bruno, who has, according to the company "chosen to resign" after not being given a new contract and is gone from the 10 AM to Noon co-hosting gig while Harry Mayes remains. This means that Bruno is now without a local gig, after years of having been a national figure on ESPN Radio, and later on Fox Sports Radio.

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