Not many college football fans liked the idea of having the championship semi-finals before the traditional New Year's Day (or Jan. 2 as the case may be) bowl games, but it seems that the viewers responded better than expected.
The meaningless but high scoring Rose Bowl game (all four plus hours) drew an audience big enough to make it the largest audience to view a "non semifinal" New Year's bowl game. Viewership was roughly 17% higher than last year's game (played on Jan. 1, 2016), including setting an audience record in the Philadelphia market, and being the second highest rated bowl game ever shown on ESPN in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
The Sugar Bowl telecast which followed (and started on ESPN2 due to the incredible length of the Rose Bowl) drew roughly 7% more viewers than last year's game. The six weekend major bowl telecasts on ESPN combined to be up roughly 16% over last year's games.
For NBC, showing outdoor NHL games on both Jan. 1 and 2 did not go as well as the network had hoped. This is easier to understand for the Sunday telecast of Detroit vs. Toronto, since it was up against Week 17 NFL early regional games on both Fox and CBS (in almost every market), and with only one U.S. market having its team featured.
The Monday Jan. 2 telecast between Chicago and St. Louis was slightly better than last year's New Year's Day telecast, but again below the viewer levels from the Winter Classic game in 2015 and 2014. That is even with strong local team market ratings, as the St. Louis market rating is its highest rating ever for an NBC regular season telecast.
NBC plans to air the NHL All-Star Game next month instead of NBCSN, the first time it will do so since acquiring the NHL package in 2005. It will be interesting to see if the senseless format of choosing up sides to form teams unfamiliar to all concerned will keep the viewers' attention.
Like him or not these days, you have to admit that Chris Berman reducing his role at ESPN is the end of an era in sports media. Starting in the days of Jimmy Myers and two minute SportsCenter updates during Austrailian Rules Football and nick names for many MLB players, he has been a part of every major event.
Most notable is his 31 seasons of hosting NFL related studio programming, especially NFL Primetime. With his new contract (signing announced on Jan. 5th), he will still be involved in NFL studio programming (including Monday Night Football moving forward), and call a MLB Division Series on radio. Even though it won't seem like an NFL Draft without him, Berman will no longer host that coverage, or the MLB Home Run Derby.
The network has just announced a one-hour tribute to Berman for Feb. 2nd at 10:30 PM ET.
Those that enjoy the (seemingly) constant yelling of Stephen A. Smith will be happy to know that he returns to ESPN Radio starting on Jan. 17th with a daily two hour show. Among the major stations airing it will be (owned and operated) WEPN ESPN 98.7 New York and KSPN 710 Los Angeles.
The 1:00 to 3:00 PM ET show will move WEPN New York's Hahn & Humpty Show to 10 AM to 1 PM and bumps the Dan LeBatard Show. Late word is that LeBatard will move to WEPN-AM from Noon to 2 PM, even though the AM station is otherwise ESPN Deportes. Nothing like a "We'll be back in this language in just two hours" break in the midday to hold an audience.
On the year-end trends, sports fans will enjoy knowing that Nielsen research data shows that the top ten most watched TV shows nationally for 2016, with the exception of the Academy Awards, were all sports events. As you would expect, the Super Bowl led the way, followed by Game 7 of the World Series.
BOSTON: WBZ-FM Sports Hub is adding host Nick Cattles to its lineup, although no time slot has been announced as of press time. Cattles joins the Hub from WVSP 94.1 in Newport - Virginia Beach, for which he is scheduled to do his final show on January 9th.
CHICAGO: With Todd Hollandsworth leaving Comcast SportsNet Chicago's as Cubs pre and post-game analyst, no replacement has been named as of press time. Hollandsworth, who held the Cubs analyst position since 2008, will join the Miami Marlins TV booth starting with the upcoming season.
Look for just retired catcher David Ross and former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, now with MLB Network, as strong possibilities to replace Hollandsworth on CSN Chicago.
HOUSTON: Like father, like son, as Todd Kalas gets the job as the Astros' new TV play-by-play voice starting immediately. For all that his Hall of Fame broadcaster father, Harry, did during his many years calling the Phillies games, many forget that Harry called Astros games from 1965 through 1970. That's back in the days when Gene Elston and Loel Passe were in the booth after Al Helfer stepped aside.
Kalas replaces long time play-by-play voice Bill Brown. He comes over after 19 seasons on the Tampa Bay Rays broadcast team in a variety of capacities. And after years of a crowd of analysts, Todd will work with Geoff Blum as the full-time analyst. Blum had done many of the road games over the past four seasons.
Speaking of Philadelphia tie-ins, the decision of KBME 790 to dismiss Charlie Pallido in October, when his ratings were the highest he had in months, is not looming large as of now. Josh Innes, the former controversial Philadelphia sports host, now has an audience which is less than 40% of what Pallido had, according to the most recent monthly ratings through November.
DENVER: KDSP Denver Sports 760 has bounced "Logan & Wargin" from middays, replacing them with (former Bronco) Ed McCaffrey and Andy Lindahl from 10 AM to 1 PM. Mike Rice will now air from 1 to 3 PM. However, the station will now air (syndicated) Colin Cowherd on delay from 3 to 6 PM. Yes, it's delayed syndicated programming during afternoon drive.
During that time period, Dave Logan, also the Broncos play-by-play voice, will co-host afternoons on market powerhouse KOA 850.