White Sox lead Cubs in TV ratings in Chicago; Cubs’ rating was 163 % higher in 2008

Interestings news in Chicago.

Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times notes the White Sox, still struggling to draw at home, have topped the Cubs in one key category: Local TV ratings.

Telander writes:

And there has been this thought, floated about among reasonable people, that Sox fans don’t go to the ballpark  because they’re economically strapped and prefer to watch the games on TV.

And you know what? That could be true.

‘‘The Sox have had a 2.0 rating recently on CSN,’’ said Jeff Nuich, senior director of communications for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

‘‘That’s up over 10 percent from last year.’’

That 2.0 equals about 70,000 households, with, obviously, more than one viewer per household.  Unless every household is like the one from ‘‘Psycho.’’ Two-point-oh is a decent, if not great, number.  But here’s the kicker — it’s higher than the Cubs.

‘‘The Cubs are at a 1.9 rating,’’ Nuich said. ‘‘That’s down about 11 percent from last year.’’

WGN, which also broadcasts Cubs and Sox games, has similar stats. Its recent Sox ratings were 3.6, up 33 percent from earlier August ratings. Cubs broadcast ratings also have been up from earlier this summer (Who knows why? Sadism?), but they are no better than Comcast’s. They are an identical 1.9.

That’s a huge development in Chicago, where the Cubs always have ruled on the TV side too. But then again, who can watch the Cubs these days? It got me to wondering how far have their ratings fell since 2008?

The Cubs were at their peak, winning 97 games en route to a second straight NL Central title. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was on the bandwagon.

The local TV ratings show how many people have dropped off. Back in 2008, the Cubs pulled a 5.0 rating on Comcast Sports Net. For those keeping score at home, the 2012 rating of 1.9 represents a mammoth 62 % decline.

I don’t have the WGN overall numbers, but it has to be similar. In 2008 and 2009, the Cubs were pulling double-digit ratings for some of their games on WGN. 10s, 11s, 12s. Now they can’t average a 2.

Ah yes, Cubs fans had such high hopes as they entered the opening of the 2008 playoffs against the Dodgers. Then they got swept, and it’s all been downhill from there at Wrigley Field.



Fox Sports crashes college football party with Erin Andrews, Gus Johnson

Did you expect Fox Sports to quietly enter the room with its first full-blown season of college football? Hardly.

The network has two highly creative ads touting the “Gus Effect” of watching the high-voltage Gus Johnson call its games.

And here’s a second promo featuring Erin Andrews.

Fox Sports knows how to get everyone’s attention. But maintaining it at this crowded college football party is another story.

Fox will have a full season of Saturday night games, debuting tomorrow night with USC-Hawaii. The schedule includes the Pac 12 and Big Ten title games.

Fox hopes Johnson, who will be paired with Charles Davis, becomes the life of the party. Working on the big stage, I would expect Johnson’s over-the-top calls could elevate him to cult status on campuses throughout the country.

The telecasts will be preceded by Fox College Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Fox’s new studio show will be hosted by Andrews with Eddie George and Joey Harrington working as analysts.

Andrews already has a big following, which is why Fox paid big money to bring her over from ESPN. She gives the new show a presence it needed.

Here’s Andrews from a teleconference this week:

Andrews on her transition from sidelines to studio: “I’ll miss being on campus. I did it for 10 years. I’m a sports fan and who doesn’t love having the best seats in the house right down there on the sidelines? This is another way to become more versatile and I’ll have my opportunities to get out on the field for NFL.”

Andrews on working with Eddie George and Joey Harrington: “The No.1 thing that sold me on this college football show was Eddie and Joey. The second I sat down with those two and started talking college football I was so excited. They live and breathe it. They don’t agree on a lot of things and that will separate our show from a lot of other shows. You don’t want guys that think the same way about teams, players and coaching styles.”

The focus, though, will be on Andrews to see if she is worthy of being in primetime. It’s a big jump from hosting the early GameDay show on ESPNU.

Fox College Saturday also won’t be your typical Saturday morning pregame fest. It will be airing at a time when there are more live games going on than you can count. Fox will have to make its program compelling enough to make viewers switch to a studio show.

One thing is for sure: You know Fox will try to make it interesting. Let the party begin.




Update: Official statement on Pinkett being sent home from Ireland; Is he done at Notre Dame?

He barely stayed long enough to taste the Guinness.

The Chicago Tribune has the official statement from IMG Notre Dame Radio Network

“Allen Pinkett, a commentator on the IMG Notre Dame Radio Network who made unacceptable comments this week about student athletes, will not be part of this weekend’s broadcast in Dublin. Don Criqui and Jeff Jeffers will handle the broadcast duties. Notre Dame taking on Navy at the Emerald Isle Classic in Dublin is an historic game showcasing the very best of American college sports. The event deserves to be free of distraction. Further decisions on this matter will be made in the coming days.”

Talk about bad timing. It’s not as if he got sent home from a Irish road against Purdue.

I imagine it was an extra long flight for Pinkett as he worried about his future with his old school. Pinkett’s comments were beyond embarrassing. Definitely worthy of being fired.

Just how forgiving will Notre Dame be? We’ll find out soon enough.

NBC Sports Network anxious about NHL labor situation; league releases national TV schedule

The NHL released its national TV schedule today. Unfortunately, several of the early games may never get played.

Needless to say the folks at the NBC Sports Network are concerned about the labor situation. At this point, the prospects look bleak for the season starting on time.

A prolonged dispute could leave the NBC Sports Network with some huge holes in the schedule beginning in October.

“I’m not a big Twitter follower, but I do follow the NHL on Twitter to find out as much as I can about the situation,” said NBC Sports Network President Jon Miller. “It’s very important for us for the two sides to come together and for the season to start on time. The NHL is our most important property. To not have a start of the season would be tough on us.

“It’s not for us to get in the middle here. These two sides have to work out their differences.”

Miller said the network is examining contingency programming.

“There are a lot of things we’re looking at,” Miller said. “We’re having conversations with groups. We’re looking in-house. You never know. It’s a hard position to be in.”



New show provides baseball presence for NBC Sports Network; not tied to possible MLB deal

When NBC Sports Network unveiled Caught Looking, a new behind-the-scenes show about baseball a few weeks ago, it prompted some speculation that this was a precursor to the network landing a TV deal with Major League Baseball.

Stop speculating, said Jon Miller, president of NBC Sports Network.

“One thing has nothing to do with the other,” Miller said. “We’ve been in conversations to do this show since last November once we saw the success of NFL Turning Point. I know people are going to jump to conclusions. No amount of protesting on my part is going to change those conclusions.

“The fact is, we’re dealing with MLB Productions for this show. They aren’t the same guys who do the broadcast rights.”

I asked Miller if Caught Looking gives NBC Sports Net at least a toe in the door?

“If you really want to look at the toe in the door, you look at our (Comcast Regional Sports Networks) relationships with local teams before you look at this,” Miller said.

Miller knows it is going to cost NBC big money to get a chunk of the MLB package, as evidenced by ESPN’s new deal (8 years, $5.6 billion). It’s no secret the network needs baseball games to upgrade its profile on the sports cable front. Airing NHL games won’t be enough.

For now, Miller continues to say what he has been saying for months.

“We’re always interested in adding new programming,” Miller said.


Miller is excited about the addition of Caught Looking. The show takes viewers inside a series featuring two teams in the pennant race. Thursday’s episode (9 p.m.) looks at last weekend’s St. Louis-Cincinnati series.

“Baseball is one of the last sports to lift the curtain and let people get inside,” Miller said. “Baseball players live in obscurity until they get to the Majors. A lot of these guys have great stories to tell. Much like (HBO’s Hard Knocks and 24/7), if you get to know these guys better, you tend to root for them more.”

The first two shows helped break the ice with the teams and players, Miller said.

“It’s been very positive,” Miller said. “The players recognize what we’re trying to do. Tampa Bay (featured on last week’s show) really embraced it. The teams have seen the storylines. We respect their confidentiality. It’s not going to be the kind of show where we’re revealing signs. It’s a show that takes you inside the game.”

While NBC Sports Network waits to see if it will get actual games, I asked Miller how important it is for the network to have a baseball presence in Caught Looking?

“Very important,” Miller said. “It gives baseball fans a reason to come over to our network to watch the show.”






Allen Pinkett apologizes for remarks; may face disciplinary action

Allen Pinkett says I’m sorry. Of course, he did.

I imagine it came after a conversation with his bosses that began with, “What the F– were you thinking?”

Pinkett suddenly realized perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to say in a radio interview with WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago that Notre Dame needs some criminals on its team.

His statement:

“In reviewing my remarks from a radio interview Wednesday, it’s clear  that I chose my words poorly and that an apology is in order for these  inappropriate comments.  My words do not reflect the strong pride and  passion I have for the Notre Dame football program.

“I am deeply sorry and did not intend to take away the focus from the  upcoming season opener. I especially would like to offer my sincere  apology to the current members of Notre Dame’s football team, including  Coach Kelly, the entire Notre Dame community, the IMG College Audio  Network and the Ohio State football program. As a proud Notre Dame  graduate, I wish nothing but the best for our football team and the  University.

“I understand that there may be consequences to my actions and accept whatever discipline is imposed.”

Pinkett hopes the discipline doesn’t come in the form of a pink slip. From the Notre Dame IMG Network:

“The Notre Dame IMG Network is extremely disappointed in the comments  made by Allen Pinkett in his radio interview.  We completely disagree  with those comments.  As his employer, we will be determining  disciplinary action to be taken.”


Has Peter King lost his mind? Picks Denver and Peyton to go to Super Bowl

Wow, Peter King really is drinking the Peyton Manning Kool-Aid. In fact, I wonder if somebody slipped something in that Kool-Aid.

In the Sports Illustrated NFL preview edition featuring “Gronk” on the cover, King selects Denver to win the AFC and Manning to be name the NFL MVP.

However, he ruins the happy ending of this fairy tale by predicting Green Bay to win the Super Bowl.

From the SI release:

Can senior NFL writer Peter King(@SI_PeterKing) correctly predict who plays in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years? King was on the money two seasons ago when he said the Packers and the Steelers would reach football’s promised land.  His prediction last year didn’t pan out, but after a three-week road trip through more than 20 training camps, King predicts the Packers will take down the Broncos 33–30 in Super Bowl XLVI.

That’s a lot of faith in a 36-year old quarterback who sat out last year after undergoing four operations. And playing with a new team.

King is a big guy. Wonder if that limb he’s sitting on will support him?

By the way, King also has Manning winning Comeback Player of the Year. Duh.


Update: Notre Dame AD denounces radio analyst’s comments on Irish needing ‘couple criminals

Update: I really don’t like Allen Pinkett’s chances of remaining as Notre Dame’s radio analyst for football. Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick issued a swift rebuttal to Pinkett’s statement about the Irish needing “a couple criminals” on their team.

“Allen Pinkett’s suggestion that Notre Dame needs more ‘bad guys’ on its football team is nonsense,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “Of course, Allen does not speak for the University, but we could not disagree more with this observation.”


This goes beyond stupid.

Allen Pinkett, the former Notre Dame star, is the school’s current radio analyst. However, perhaps not for long after these comments.

Pinkett stepped in it big time this morning during an interview with Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel this morning on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago.

From the station’s site:

Notre Dame has had its fair share of off-the-field incidents over the past few seasons.

But for Fighting Irish radio analyst and former NFLer Allen Pinkett, he’s not concerned with off-the-field issues – as long as the person involved is a good enough football player.

“I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett told The McNeil and Spiegel Show. “I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choir boys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choir boys. You gotta have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler.”

McNeil and Spiegel actually gave Pinkett a chance to clarify his statement. Surely, he isn’t endorsing that Notre Dame recruit players of questionable character?

Pinkett only dug a deeper hole.

“I absolutely meant that,” he said. “Chemistry is so important on a football team. You have to have a couple of bad guys that sorta teeter on that edge to add to the flavor of the guys that are going to always do right. … You look at the teams that have one in the past. They always have a couple of criminals.”

Those comments aren’t going to go over very well at Notre Dame. At the very least, I’d expect Pinkett to issue some sort of apology. At the worst, he has called his last game for Notre Dame.

ESPN’s Skipper says network won’t ask for increased subscriber fees from new mega MLB deal; Do you believe him?

ESPN just went double-down on its new deal with Major League Baseball. The 8-year deal, which begins in 2014, will see the WWL shelling out $700 million per year, up from the current $350 million.

And just who is going to pay for that tidy bump in rights? Will it be you? What do you think?

ESPN president John Skipper pushed off that responsibility on the cable distributors during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

“We don’t determine what your cable bill will be,” Skipper said. “But I’ll tell you, this is a good day for distributor partners. We have just increased the quality and quantity of content we will provide our distributors.

“And no, we are not going to our distributors to ask for an increase for this content.”

OK, ESPN currently charges $5.06 per subscriber for the baseball content and more. It is by far the most of any cable network. That is the reason why CBS, Fox and NBC are enhancing their sports cable operations. They want their piece of the pie, even if it is only a sliver.

Technically, ESPN might not ask for an increase because of the MLB deal, as Skipper said. But make no mistake, the network will be asking for higher fees. Besides MLB, ESPN has to pay for other new mega deals with the NFL, ACC, SEC, the Rose Bowl, etc.

ESPN will seek increased rates because it can. The network has too much content, and it knows a cable operator would face a revolt if it said no to ESPN.

So whenever you hear the announcement of one of these big rights deals, just know that somebody is reaching in your pocket to pull out of a few more quarters. Of course, we’re paying. We always do.