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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dramatic World Series doesn't translate to ratings

Despite the Game 6 theatrics, the recently completed Series was the third-lowest rated ever, according to TV Sports Ratings. Men 65 and up dominated the ratings. There are a few reasons Fox's coverage earned low marks with the younger male demographic.
  • Late start times — Each first pitch was scheduled for 8 p.m., meaning many viewers likely didn't bother to watch because they had to get up for work. 
  • Unsexy matchup — The series was devoid of a major market, although Dallas-Fort Worth is No. 5 in the nation, according to Neilsen, St. Louis is 21st. Last season saw a 5-6 matchup when the Rangers lost to the Giants. Having already seen their team lose the Series just 12 months ago, were fans disinterested this season?
  • Baseball is for old people — The numbers seem quite evident of the game's waning popularity among younger Americans. TV Sports Rating said via Twitter the median age of viewers was 53, tying for the oldest audience ever.
  • More options — Americans have a bevy of television options at their immediate disposal, not to mention movies and video games.
  • Shameless cross promotion — It's prevalent in sports broadcasts these days, but Fox was especially tacky, choosing stars of its programs to sing the national anthem, while Dallas hero Dirk Nowitzki was denied a chance at the mic. 
  • Joe Buck — Some people claim to hate the man's voice (not me). His showing up to work could have turned off viewers. 
Why do you think people failed to watch what people are calling the most exciting World Series of all time?

DirecTV-Fox do si do ends in agreement

Just as it appeared talks between Fox and DirecTV had broken down, word comes late Monday a deal has been reached, avoiding a coverage lapse for customers of the satellite provider.
"We both know the past ten days have been challenging, but we’re pleased that both sides could eventually come together to ensure our viewers continue to enjoy Fox programming," Fox said in a statement. 
An interruption would have begun Tuesday, affecting all Fox networks, including its regional sports networks and local affiliates. 
DirecTV, according to the LA Times, was asking for a 40-percent increase in carriage fees, a figure Fox called "ridiculous." 
If you tuned into World Series on Fox, you couldn't escape the network's advertisements alerting customers of the impending stalemate with the provider
Dish Network customers suffered through a month-long blackout of Fox networks last year before an agreement was reached.

Newspapers go 'Tebowing,' create desktop Suhvenirs

The touted matchup between Denver quarterback Tim Tebow and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh finally came to a head Sunday, with Suh and the Lions the clear-cut winner. Keep those scissors out, because the Detroit Free Press is offering readers a chance to keep a little bit of the national sensation deskside with a Suh cutout available in the Sunday edition. If you didn't pick up a copy, they have made it available online and it's available for download below.

The Denver Post last week created a similar Tim Tebow cutout.
Having now completed a trial run, I would advice printing on 11x17 paper rather than 8.5x11 like I did. Use extreme patience and a modest amount of tape. Good luck!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ESPN might rethink 'Plan B' issue the morning after

This week's issue was supposed to be the NBA preview for ESPN the Magazine. With that premise made obsolete by millionaire greed, ESPN scrambled, like a quarterback even, and picked Tim Tebow as the coverboy for its "Plan B" issue. The latest installment hits newsstands Friday and is already in subscribers' homes.
The issue is said to feature "a sermon on back-up-turned-savior Tim Tebow in 'Tebow 10:23.' "
We all know Tebow to be a God-fearing man, so much so he appeared in an anti-abortion Super Bowl commercial in 2010 with his mother, touted as her "miracle baby."

"Plan B" is typically referred to as a backup plan. Hence it is the nickname given to the so-called "morning after" abortion pill, a fact ESPN obviously overlooked in its effort to further canonize Tebow, who has played in 12 games and was recently declared Broncos starter.
So, given his history and past endorsements, is Tim Tebow the right guy for the cover? Think they're going to need a backup plan for the backup plan.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lunch with Caputo

Each Monday at 12:30 p.m., we hold a live chat with columnist Pat Caputo at where readers can ask questions and watch them being answered via live video. Here is an excerpt from Monday's show with clips from press conferences from Brady Hoke and Mark Dantonio.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Millen era Lions satirized

Matt Millen left the Detroit Lions nearly three years ago, but his presence is still felt every time anyone mentions "0-16" or "Preseason Champs." The rare time he's mentioned in a positive light is when it's mentioned he drafted wide receiver Calvin Johnson, one of numerous high draft picks used on the position.
Funny or Die, a site known for spoofing videos, released "MillenBall," their take on the Brad Pitt film "MoneyBall," based around Millen's tenure with the Lions.
You'll hear dialogue similar to that of the Billy Beane inspired flick, with the inept concepts heard during the Millen regime.
Subjects revisited: Failing to interview a minority candidate for the head coaching position seemingly instantly given Steve Mariucci; later hiring a defensive coordinator as head coach (Rod Marinelli) and his poor drafting decisions. And there's the infamous 0-16, which occurred mostly after Millen's firing in 2008.

Millenball - watch more funny videos

If that's not enough, Millen's name was the subject of a an Onion Sports story: "Sight Of Matt Millen On TV Simply Too Much For Nation’s Unemployed To Handle."
"When approached for details, ESPN initially refused to comment on its hiring practices or reasons for employing Millen, who was a catastrophic failure at every level of football that did not involve tackling and is perhaps the man most synonymous with football-related ignorance in living memory. Sources at the network also refused to comment on the wisdom of showing the flagrantly employed Millen during broadcasts watched by many of the nation's jobless," The Onion says.
It's safe to say that even though he's being spoofed, Matt Millen is still unwelcome in Michigan. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Postseason Tigers, undefeated Lions mean good ratings for networks

Monday's Lions-Bears game was pretty popular, as it should have been, becoming ESPN's top-rated MNF game of the season and the network's best-rated game of the season, according to the Detroit News.
ESPN reported MNF's return to Detroit reached 16.4 million viewers per minute, the fifth-largest cable TV audience in 2011 behind 4 other ESPN telecasts.
The Detroit News also said the game drew a 36.4 rating in the Detroit market with ESPN's coverage figures were added to those of local ABC affiliate WXYZ-7, which simulcast the game.
Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel, who canonized the Lions after the game, hypothesized NBC might attempt to get the Lions (5-0) on Sunday Night Football Dec. 4, when they visit New Orleans.
The Lions Wednesday announced their eighth consecutive sellout for Sunday's game against the 49ers (4-1). TipIQ says the second-hand ticket market has seen a 46-percent increase in price for Lions tickets this season.
Earlier in the day Monday, the Tigers' Game 2 loss in the ALCS was the best in its time slot (the game aired on Fox from 4-9 p.m. roughly).
Tuesday Game 3 numbers, however, marked postseason highs in Detroit (29.3 rating) and Dallas (23.9), with Detroit leading all markets in watching the Fox broadcast.
It's a good time to be a Detroit sports fan, even if you can't make it to the games.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Despite coverage shift, FSD keeps Tigers fans connected with game tracker

If you're not able to leave work early to get home before the first pitch of a 4 p.m. playoff game or if you have to work all the way through the evening's festivities, Fox Sports Detroit has you covered. Game Connect, launched this summer, is a modern twist on a common game tracker. Its biggest improvement is the addition of social media streams near the bottom of the console.
The "Game Talk" feature harnesses relevant hashtags, i.e. "#Tigers," and allows you to tweet from the Game Connect console.
A mobile version of Game Connect is available for iPhone and iPad users and also available for Red Wings coverage. A demo video is available below.

<a href='' target='_new' title='Game Connect'>Video: Game Connect</a>

How long can ESPN continue to produce top-notch MNF intros

ESPN wasted not time making Hank Williams Jr. look outdated with their Barry Sanders intro Monday night. I wasn't home in time to see it, but it has finally surfaced:

The intro was well thought out and much more appropriate than the antiquated Williams song given the Lions' absence from Monday Night Football and the city's struggles. The high quality of the initial short leaves me to wonder if other cities' will get similar treatment and how long ESPN can keep up the production value.

If there's one thing TV people know, however, is story lines.

Track my journey through the Monday doubleheader

Monday, October 10, 2011

Too much attention too soon?

We all remember the Tigers' infamous 2009 second-half swoon. It reached a crescendo as the Tigers hit the cover of Sports Illustrated. As you may have heard, the Lions graced the cover of last week's SI after a second straight come-from-behind win on the road. They became 4-0 for the first time in more than 30 years with the victory and tonight's Monday Night Football game took on much different aura.
Time will only tell if the Lions are getting more love than they can handle, but everyone will readily admit they've earned it.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Monday Night Football game exciting for Lions fans; nation may continue to yawn

Ever since NBC began its Sunday Night Football coverage some five years ago, the Olympic Network has been getting noticeably better matchups than its Monday night counterpart, ESPN. So, while it's great for Detroit fans to see their team on the national stage, the rest of the country might beg to differ.
The Lions haven't played in prime time since a Sunday Night game in 2005 vs. the Packers, which they lost, 16-13 in OT.
The Lions haven't played a Monday night contest since the program was still on ABC. They were shut out by the Rams in 2001, 35-0, at the Silverdome.
The point I make is this: Monday Night Football is still a big deal, but it doesn't get the ratings NBC gets for its sexier matchups.
The Lions' accomplishments in the grand scheme of things notwithstanding, the upstart Jim Schwartz gang is actually drawing buzz around this game with their 4-0 start.
Think people aren't making this into a bigger deal than it is? Fans were clamoring for attention.
Monday Night Football tickets sold out in less than an hour in August.
Look at the shirt I saw on the rack at Gameday Detroit, a retailer at Great Lakes Crossing. "Historic Rivalry" it says. Don't these teams play twice every season? (It is designed well, I admit.) Haven't they both been in disarray, minus a Super Bowl appearance for the Bears in 2007, for a long time?
The Bears are actually on MNF twice this season.
And speaking of Super Bowl, Lions president Tom Lewand estimates a larger crowd could fill Ford Field than did Super Bowl XL (68,206) in 2006.
ESPN did end up saddled with a Tampa Bay-Indianapolis game last week, but it was still better than the MLB playoffs on TBS, proving yet again football is king.
"So the Colts-Bucs game, which was notable mostly for a star player who wasn’t on the field (Peyton Manning), drew far more fan interest than Yankees-Tigers. This represents just one more datapoint demonstrating the NFL’s dominance over the American television landscape," wrote Pro Football Talk.
Sunday Night Football is the No. 1 program in prime time. And its ratings grow every season.
If football is king and NBC's Sunday night program earns the best ratings, does that make Monday Night Football the prince?
Wow your friends with this stat: The Lions are 11-13-1 all-time on Monday Night Football and owners of one of just three ties in the program's history.
It's cool the Lions are on Monday Night Football for the first time in eons. And Barry Sanders will be introducing them in Hank Williams' Jr.'s absence. But the game just isn't the same marquee it used to be, but their invitation is yet another sign the Lions are on the right track.
(FYI: Monday's game will be simulcast on WXYZ-7 for fans who don't have cable or satellite, or those who just prefer local commercials.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Michigan Brand for a Michigan stadium

There is some uncertainty to whether naming rights for The Palace of Auburn Hills are indeed up for sale, as reported by Sports Business Journal and Crain's Detroit. Pistons personnel are now saying the proposal is off the table.
Crain's points out The Palace is one of only five NBA arenas without a corporate sponsorships.
Naming rights are something nearly as old as sports itself, so it stands to reason the residence at Six championship Drive (why is it still called that BTW?) would get into the game with new ownership.
What should it be called? Rock Financial and PNC are the Pistons' most recent presenting sponsors, so there's that link.
Comerica Bank already has a 30-year deal in place to the tune of $66 million to name the Tigers' home stadium, so, as a banking rival, it would make sense for PNC. However, PNC already pays for the rights to the Pittsburgh Pirates' home stadium.
Ford paid $40 million over 40 years for naming rights of the neighboring dome. Perhaps General Motors, on its way out of a bankruptcy funk, takes a stab.
Crain's suggested a sponsorship could land as much $3 million per year in the coffers of Tom Gores and Platinum Equity.
Joe Louis Arena, which is owned by the city of Detroit, would become the only Detroit area arena without a corporate sponsorship if The Palace got a new name.
So what other companies could take the plunge?
  • Little Caesar's — Former Pistons owner Bill Davidson once spurned an offer for a combined downtown arena to share with the Red Wings in favor of The Palace. Sour grapes then? Maybe. Hard feelings now? Not likely. But it would gain the pizza chain more national attention and give them another venue to sell $5 Hot and Ready pizzas.
  • Belle Tire — Who doesn't love the dancing tire? (Me for one). Like Little Caesar's, Belle Tire is a Michigan company that gets its hands in sponsoring youth sports and many other things, so why not put that big Michelin Man impostor on the sign?
  • Vernors, Faygo, Better Made, Sanders, Stroh's, Kars, Made in Michigan Consortium — All Michigan companies but unlikely to be able to sustain a long-term agreement for naming rights. Solution: Pool their funds together in some combined naming rights venture called ... "Made in Michigan."
  • Rock Financial or FatHead — One of Dan Gilbert's companies should get in on this. Rock Financial used to sponsor a convention center in Novi, previously presented the Pistons, and could get back in on the naming rights action here. Gilbert, a Michigan State grad, owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit-based Quicken Loans, which sponsors the Cavs' home arena. The exposure would be great for Livonia-based FatHead, which produces stickers of sports and entertainment's finest in all shapes and sizes. After all, their slogan is "Go Big. Go Real Big."
  • "Pure Michigan" — Nothing would be more Pure Michigan than hearing Tim Allen's voice on everything throughout the arena. He could soothe concertgoers in the bathroom line. Ease your troubles as you wait for an overpriced concession.
  • Koegel's Meats, Kowalski Sausage, Dearborn Brand — Another possible consortium, this sponsorship deal would likely add to the variety for the carnivorous fans packing The Palace.
Those are just some of the ideas being kicked around the newsroom and through my head. What are some of yours?