Which 8-8 team delivered highest NFL rating for CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN?

I overdosed on the Dallas Cowboys this year. It seemed like Jerry Jones’ mediocre bunch were featured more in Chicago than the Bears.

Yet there is no denying Cowboys can generate the ratings. Even after all these years, they still are America’s Team.

Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News reports a game involving the Cowboys pulled the highest rating of the year for CBS, NBC, ESPN and Fox Sports.

Last Sunday’s Cowboys-Washington game on NBC had 30.3 million viewers, the most for a prime-time game since 1996.

Here’s the rundown of the top-ranked games for the network:

CBS -Steelers-Cowboys (Dec. 16): 26.9 million

Fox – Redskins-Cowboys (Nov. 22): 28.7 million

ESPN – Bears-Cowboys (Oct. 1): 16.6 million

NBC – Cowboys-Redskins (Dec. 30): 30.3 million

The Cowboys did not appear on NFL Network this year. Surely if they did, they would have had the top rating there too.

Imagine if Dallas actually was good and made the playoffs.



Top sports media stories in 2012: Spiraling rights fees, ratings; ESPN cleans up; Mixed opening for NBC Sports Net

From my perspective, the biggest sports media story in 2012 occurred on April 16. That’s when ShermanReport.com went live. Then again, I’m biased.

There has been plenty of other sports media news in 2012. Here’s a look:

Infinity: While talking about the outrageous rights fees for sports the other day, Ed Goren, the former top production man at Fox Sports, noted that Fox paid $400 million for its first four-year deal with the NFL in 1994.

“Remember when everyone thought that was out of sight?” Goren said. “Now it’s nothing.”

Indeed, $400 million barely would get you the NFL preseason in today’s market.

The lavish spending continued in 2012. Baseball was the biggest winner, with ESPN, Turner, Fox all re-upping with a new megadeal. As a result, Bud Selig and friends will more than double their annual haul from $750 million to $1.55 billion when the new contract kicks in.

Other sports also enjoyed the money grab with new expensive contracts. There seems to be no end how much the networks, especially ESPN, will pay in rights fees. Even the European Premier League went to NBC for $250 million over three years. Keep in mind, this is for a league not based in the United States and for a sport most Americans don’t care about.

Why the sports lust by the networks? See the next installment.

Soaring ratings: In a continuing splintered TV marketplace, ratings continue to rise for sports (with the exception of baseball: more on that below). Sunday Night Football on NBC is shooting for its second straight season as the top-ranked show in primetime. The Summer Olympics were the most-viewed event of all time and the NFL’s overall numbers are ridiculous. Elsewhere, there were ratings increases for the NCAA basketball tournament, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup playoffs, and more down the line.

Sports remains the last bastion of true reality television. And you have to watch it live. It’s not the same on DVR.

If sports fans keep watching, the networks will keep paying. It’s that simple.

ESPN: President John Skipper spent like crazy with deals for baseball, the new college football playoff, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, etc. Guess you can do that when your network is valued at $40 billion. Skipper secured crucial programming for the long haul, and even better, shut out his upstart competitors.

NBC Sports Network, Year 1: Some things worked; others not so much. The Stanley Cup playoffs did solid numbers, as fans loved the multi-platform approach, and the Summer Olympics had viewers seeking out the network.

However, any momentum has been dulled considerably with the NHL lockout. Speaking of games, NBC Sports Network couldn’t get in the game for baseball or make deals with the major college conference for much needed live sports programming. The Big East still is out there. What’s left of it.

NBC Sports Network remains a work in progress, but it is difficult to see how far it can go without significant games.

Gold medal: NBC did record ratings, exceeding expectations for the Olympics in London. However, the complaints about the tape delay approach reached new heights. It all is so antiquated in today’s modern media age.

It seems NBC is listening.

“We evaluate our business models all the time, and seek the best ways to satisfy the majority of viewers, as well as advertisers, and our affiliate stations,” said NBC Sports president Mark Lazarus. “We have to wait for the data from these Games to come in, and then we’ll make our plans accordingly.”

Prediction: Everything will be available live on your TV for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Next train out of Bristol: ESPN saw some big name personalities walk out the door: Michelle Beadle, Erin Andrews, Jim Rome. So much was made of their departures that the ESPN PR crew started to issue press releases for routine contract renewals, as if to say, “Hey, somebody likes it here.”

Skipper didn’t seem upset about the defections: “Getting excited about people leaving is very overrated — whether it be executives or on-air. Mostly it gives somebody else a chance to shine. I can’t think of a single instance where losing a talent has been significantly debilitating to a specific program. I don’t think we’ve ever canceled a program because we couldn’t find somebody to do it.”

One big name who stayed: Scott Van Pelt.

World Series blues: While other sports showcases continue to go up, the World Series declined again. Sure, another four-game sweep didn’t help. But there’s also another element in play. For whatever reason, the World Series doesn’t seem to matter as much as it used to. Baseball, unlike the other sports, has gotten extremely provincial. If your team isn’t playing, you’re not interested, or as interested.

Penn State: The biggest sports story of the year saw premature reports of Joe Paterno’s death and the Big Ten Network taking hits for not covering the NCAA press conference that announced the unprecedented sanctions. On the plus side, Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim won the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the scandal.

Musical chairs: Yet another wave of conference realignment. Maryland and Rutgers in the Big Ten? Louisville in the ACC? All in the name of maximizing TV revenue.

Poor UConn. The Huskies look like the little kid standing while the others have their chairs.

Gruden: ESPN went to a two-man booth for Monday Night Football, elevating the status of Jon Gruden. It resulted in much fascination for the former coach, who could keep that post for the next 10-15 years if he wants. A big if considering he could be on the sidelines in 2013.

Finally tuned in: After oh so many years, Time Warner cable finally agreed to a deal to carry the NFL Network. As a result, New Yorkers finally were introduced to a wonderful man named Scott Hanson and NFL RedZone.

Tebow mania: Yeah, ESPN went a bit overboard. The network took more hits for its coverage than Tebow did playing quarterback for the Jets.














Lipsyte weighs in on Costas: ‘Shill becomes a journalist’

I was set to let the furor over Bob Costas’ anti-gun commentary runs it course. However, I have to make note of a Robert Lipsyte column on the subject.

Writing for Slate, the former New York Times columnist discusses their relationship and the impact of Costas’ actions on Sunday night.

First about the part of labeling Costas “a shill”:

Since 1993, Costas and I have been in an uneasy relationship of mutual regard and disagreement, each waiting for the other to fulfill unreasonable expectations. He wants me to be more open to the joy of sports. I want him to take advantage of his pulpit and be more of a journalist.

And to the point:

In our almost 20 years of dialogue, Costas has been most bothered by my use of the word shill to describe how he promotes sporting events. As I’ve written before, be believes that he drops in “enough commentary and insights in games” to be thought of as a journalist, and that he does it “not to throw fire bombs but to help hold the mainstream to account,” separating him from commentators on the Internet.

Calling Costas a shill is a bit extreme. Yes, there is a promotional element for the sports he covers. It comes with the territory. However, Costas has used to platform for frank critiques on many important issues. If only there were more like him.

Which brings us to Sunday’s commentary. Lipsyte writes:

Yet as more evidence piles up that repeated head traumas, however slight, can lead to disorientation and aggressive behavior, not to mention dementia and early death, the possible connection to Belcher becomes one worth exploring. I hope Costas will follow up his quick, bold stroke with such explorations. He has the intelligence and the platform.

Costas is gingerly stretching his reach. Last July, on the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, as the Israeli team marched into the Olympic Stadium, he pointed out that the International Olympic Committee had refused requests for a moment of silence during the parade. He then fell quiet for 12 seconds, a rebuke to an NBC financial partner.

And he concludes:

While by the standards of contemporary journalism, it was distanced and measured, by the ground-floor bar of sports broadcasting, it was Murrow during the blitz.

Q/A with Alex Flanagan: On Notre Dame’s big season and Brian Kelly; toughest NFL coaches for halftime interview

Alex Flanagan has been NBC’s sideline reporter for Notre Dame games since 2007. It hasn’t exactly been a joy ride. The Irish went 3-9 during her first year, and the following seasons, which saw Charlie Weis lose his job in 2009, haven’t come close to meeting the absurdly high expectations in South Bend.

So with Notre Dame 8-0 going into Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, Flanagan is experiencing her first real dose of Irish fever.

“It’s great,” Flanagan said. “In other years, it could be tough doing that seventh or eighth home game in November. There’s a whole new feel and energy now. There’s definitely a different vibe in the building.”

I had a chance to talk with Flanagan about Notre Dame and Brian Kelly; her duties as a sideline reporter for NBC and NFL Network; her crazy schedule; and the most challenging coaches for a halftime interview.

What has been your experience dealing with Brian Kelly?

He’s been consistent. He’s been the same person from Day 1. He understands the job of being a head coach at Notre Dame, and the politics that come with it. I wonder if (his staff) is surprised in their third year that they are having the kind of success they’re having.

I’ve worked with him long enough where we have a joking relationship. Over the past few weeks, with the quarterback changes, I’m interested to know who’s starting. I was hanging around him before a game, and he looked over at me. I said, ‘I’m waiting to talk to you.’ He said, ‘I know you are.’

How different is it doing the games for one school such as Notre Dame compared to doing a different game each week for NFL Network?

You get to know everybody at Notre Dame. I’m old enough to where I get to know the parents (of the Notre Dame players). I feel like a mother to the kids on the team. A couple of weeks ago I caught up with (Jimmy Clausen’s mother) in North Carolina. I remember her as a mother sitting up in the stands when Jimmy was a freshman, worrying every time he got sacked.

It’s a different experience. Having said that, there are a lot of players in the NFL I knew from when they played in college. You end up pulling for them because you know their stories and background.

You know what the critics say about the value of sideline reporters. CBS doesn’t even use them. What’s your response?

I’m often asked to defend the job of the sideline reporter. I think of myself as an accessory. I don’t know if you can appreciate this, but I tell my female friends, ‘When you get dressed up in that great outfit, the one thing that can top it off is a great accessory. Like a necklace or ear rings.’

Are we a necessity for a telecast? No. But I can see a lot of things that happen on the field that (the announcers) can’t see from up high.

Such as?

The injury stuff is the big thing. Last year, Ben Roethlisberger looked like he broke an ankle in one of our games. I was able to talk to Mike Tomlin at halftime, and he said it wasn’t as severe as it looked. He wound up playing in the second half.

If a coach is mad, I can hear what he’s mad about. I can say he said this or that. A sideline reporter can help avoid a lot of the speculation.

What about the value of halftime interview with the coach?

It provides a view of what the tone and mood is of the coach. It doesn’t matter what he says as much as you can see how he reacts to a question. You can see his demeanor. I try to provide an insight and view for the person watching at home.

In the NFL, who are the toughest coaches for the halftime interview? The best?

You probably could guess the toughest. The coaches who run a tight ship. Jim Harbaugh can be intimidating. His brother, John, gets intense too. Bill Belichick.

You have to be in the moment with the coaches. At the top of their list at halftime isn’t talking to me about what went wrong in the first half.

With a certain coach, you have to carefully construct what you’re going to ask. Somebody like Jim Harbaugh listens to every word you say. You have to be specific.

Coaches like Jeff Fisher, Norv Turner are great to deal with. Mike Tomlin and Mike Smith. To be honest, every coach in the NFL understands it is part of the job and they are very professional about it.

You have a crazy schedule. You work the Thursday night game for NFL Network; Saturday for Notre Dame home games; and Sunday you cover an NFL game for NBC’s Football Night in America. You live in San Diego and have three kids under the age of 10. How do you manage it?

Yes, it is a challenge. Usually, I leave on Tuesday for the NFL Network game on Thursday. Then we get to South Bend on Friday. On Sunday, I usually fly out of Chicago in the morning to get to my NFL game.

But there are working women who work year around who leave the house every day at 7 and don’t get home until 6-7. I work every day for four months, starting in September. The rest of the year, I try to stay at home.

I like to say that I get the best of both worlds. I get to be a stay-at-home Mom for part of the year and a working Mom for other parts of the year.








NBC Sports Network will feel pain of NHL lockout starting tonight; forced to air old DeNiro flick instead of hockey

If you’re a fan of old classic sports movies, you’re going to love the NHL lockout.

Tonight, instead of airing the scheduled hockey doubleheader that would have kicked off the season, NBC Sports Network will show The Fan, starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes. Not once, but twice.

Hey, wouldn’t Slap Shot have been more appropriate for what was supposed to be the NHL’s opening night?

In upcoming weeks, expect to see The Natural, Rocky, Rudy, and whatever else NBCSN can dig up in its vault.

The NHL stoppage (Note: Illustraton by Nate Beeler of Columbus Dispatch) couldn’t come at a worse time for NBCSN. After enjoying a terrific run during the Olympics, the network has had a dearth of live programming from Monday through Friday.

That would have changed with hockey starting. NBCSN is supposed to air games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with Wednesday being exclusive. A Sunday night package returns after Jan. 1.

All told, NBC and NBCSN were scheduled to air more than 100 regular-season games. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case with the current labor situation.

How is NBCSN going to fill the void? Here’s the official comment:

“It’s unfortunate that the lockout is causing the cancellation of games from our schedule. In the interim, we have a large amount of quality live-event programming, including soccer, boxing, college hockey and college basketball, that will air in place of NHL games. We look forward to presenting the NHL to its fans as soon as the labor situation is resolved.”

Indeed, you can get your Pierre McGuire fix on Friday night. He and Dave Strader will be on call for the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City Friday and Saturday. It features Notre Dame, Maine, Army and Nebraska-Omaha.

Technically, it’s hockey, but it’s not the same as what was on tap for Friday night: New York Rangers at Los Angeles, with the Stanley Cup banner being raised in the Staples Center.

The post-Olympics period hasn’t been kind to the NBCSN. John Ourand of Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal reports ratings have hit “historic lows.” An August airing of Costas Live attracted only 40,000 viewers. Hard to believe.

NBCSN also failed to land a portion of the new Major League Baseball TV deal. Regardless of the costs, I thought the network needed baseball to boost its profile.

Usually, NBCSN could count on its old pal hockey, beginning in October. But thanks to Gary Bettman, owners and players, that window is closed for now.

While it has some replacement programming in place, it hardly has enough to fill the huge void.

For instance, instead of hockey on Monday, NBCSN will show highlights from the women’s gymastics team competition at the Olympics. On tape, naturally.








5-0 Notre Dame has NBC smiling; Herbstreit says Irish will be in BCS conversation

Is it time to starting sipping that Irish Kool-Aid? You bet if you’re a TV executive at NBC and ESPN.

A 5-0 start has ratings soaring for Notre Dame’s games on NBC. And with the Irish suddenly relevant, ESPN isn’t wasting any time.The network is hustling Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and the rest of the GameDay crew to South Bend Saturday.

Herbstreit can’t believe it has been seven years since GameDay did a show from Notre Dame.

“It’s been way, way too long since we’ve been there,” Herbstreit said.

NBC also is bulking up. For the first time, NBC Sports’ college football studio show featuring Liam McHugh, Doug Flutie and Hines Ward will go on the road and broadcast on-site from Notre Dame Stadium. Prior to the game, a special NFL Films- produced behind-the-scenes look at Notre Dame Football, Onward Notre Dame: South Bend to Soldier Field, will air at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

With all the pregame build-up, NBC should generate another strong rating for the Irish’s game against Stanford.

Through three games, NBC’s rating is up 45% vs. last year (4.2 million vs. 2.9 million). Primetime coverage of the Miami-Notre Dame from Soldier Field last Saturday night was watched by 3.7 million viewers, up 131% vs. last year’s third game on NBC (Air Force, 1.6 million) and up 76% vs. last year’s second Notre Dame primetime game on NBC (Maryland at FedExField, 2.1 million).

All in all, it’s a huge jump from what NBC faced last fall. Home games against Air Force and Navy only generated a 1.1 rating, a record low for Irish games on the network.

How long has Notre Dame been a relative non-factor? Saturday’s trip will mark GameDay’s first to the Domers since Charlie Weis’ first year in 2005. That’s incredible considering the Irish’s stature in college football.

Naturally, Herbstreit is excited about returning to South Bend.

“It’s awesome,” Herbstreit said. “Any time, Notre Dame is up there in the rankings, it’s good for the sport. They are a polarizing team. You either love them or hate them. For us, for people who love the sport, when you have teams like Notre Dame and USC, Texas, the high profile schools out there that have great years, it makes it a lot of fun.

“Selfishly, to have GameDay back in South Bend, it’s great. It’s nice to see that they have a high-profile game at home. It’ll add to the atmosphere on Saturday. They are very deserving.”

I know it’s early, but I asked Herbstreit if Irish fans can start dreaming about a BCS bowl?

“They took the nation by storm (with the win over Michigan State),” Herbstreit said. “A lot of people walked away from that game saying, ‘Notre Dame is one of the top defenses in the country.’ To follow it up with the way they corraled Denard Robinson, and the way they played against Miami…Their front seven might be playing as well as anyone in the country.

“Without a doubt they will be in discussion for the BCS. Brian Kelly, though, will be the first one to tell you there’s still a long way to go. When you look at who they still have to play, beginning with Stanford….They’re on the road against Oklahoma and USC. Their fans are pointing to those games as three of the most challenging. If they’re able to get able through Stanford, it’s time to start bracing yourself if you’re a Notre Dame fan. Then you’re just a couple games away.”

Of course, it all could slip away with a loss to Stanford Saturday. But who wants to ruin a good story on Wednesday?

Keep sipping that Kool-Aid.




My First Job: Roger Maltbie tells off producer during first Ryder Cup; Thought his NBC career was over

Roger Maltbie will be working his 11th Ryder Cup for NBC.

However, back in 1991, Maltbie feared his broadcast career was over after his first Ryder Cup.

In today’s My First Job, an on-going series on people’s first forays in the business, Maltbie discusses why he decided to leave the PGA Tour even though he still was exempt to play for several more years.

And Maltbie talks about how he told off the producer in the aftermath of Mark Calcavvechia’s meltdown at Kiawah in 1991. When the confrontation happened, he didn’t expect to be on hand for a second Ryder Cup.


Roger Maltbie: Announcing came out of the blue. In 1987, NBC tried out a bunch of us at Kapalua. Koch was there. Johnny Miller. Dick Stockton. Irwin. They offered me a job, but I said, ‘No thank you. For what you’re offering me, it doesn’t make sense.’

They asked me again in ’89. They had a big schedule of events. I wasn’t interested. I wanted to play more golf.

By 1991, I had two shoulder surgeries. I had won the World Series of Golf in 1985. That gave me a 10-year exemption through ’95. I could still play, but I wasn’t the same.

They asked if I wanted to do the Bob Hope. I said, ‘OK, but only if you give me the Ryder Cup (later that year in Kiawah).’ The Ryder Cup was getting big, and I wanted to be there.

I remember on the last day Mark Calcavecchia lost the last five holes of his match. (Producer Terry O’Neill) said, ‘Leave your match and go find Calc to get an interview.’ Calc was in a TV trailer. Peter Kostis was trying to console him.

Mark was in no condition to talk. He thought he just cost the U.S. the Ryder Cup. He was physically ill. His eyes were swollen shut from crying. I walked in, took one look. Peter shook his head. I said, ‘I get it.’

I walked back to the compound, and O’Neil was in the doorway. I said, ‘I found Calc, but he can’t speak.’

He said, ‘I told you to stay with him. Stay with him and he’ll talk.’

I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, pal. Why don’t you stay with him and maybe he’ll talk to you. I’m not doing it.’

I wasn’t going to be the reporter standing outside the house that’s burning down trying to interview the people who own it.

I figured, ‘Well, so much for the TV thing.’ I thought, there’s no way they’re going to hire me now.

Thankfully, they did.


How the Ryder Cup went from nothing to coveted TV property for NBC

It’s Ryder Cup week, one of the biggest weeks in golf. The event will get wall-to-wall coverage on NBC and the Golf Channel.

It wasn’t always that way. During the 1980s, the Ryder Cup barely registered with the networks.

It might have stayed that way if NBC hadn’t lost its Saturday afternoon baseball package. But it did, and the network found itself looking for sports programming in September.

NBC took a flier on the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah. However, it generated little interest from sponsors, and the network had low expectations.

Well, it turned out to be the greatest Ryder Cup ever, captivating the entire country. Suddenly, the event became a hot TV property.

NBC Sport Jon Miller, president of sports programming for the NBC Sports Group, tells how the Ryder Cup became the Ryder Cup.


Jon Miller: The Ryder Cup had been on USA Cable with a taped version on ABC. It never was a big event. It took place in the fall. ABC had college football. We had baseball. There was no home for it.

NBC baseball made a decision not to extend baseball deal in 1989. We needed to fill 26 weeks of programming.

Since we were out of baseball, we made a deal with Joe Steranka (of the PGA of America) for the Ryder Cup. We had two sponsors: Cadillac and IBM. We wanted to create a Masters feel.

The plan was to show three hours a day on Saturday and Sunday, and three hours on USA Network on Friday. It was big deal at the time.

In Jan., 1991, Operation Desert Storm happened. The economy suffered greatly. There were management changes at IBM and GM, and both companies walked away from the deal. In the spring of ’91, we had no advertisers and were facing big production costs.

Suburu was exclusive car advertiser for $500,000. We went to Wally Uihlein (the president of Titleist). He said nobody is going to watch a golf tournament in September. He offered us 25 cents on the dollar.

We ended up with major, major leakage. There was no way we came close to breaking even on it.

We get to Kiawah. The first day’s matches were exciting. Seve and Azinger get into it.

Then there was fog on Saturday morning. Nobody could play until 9:30. When we come on the air at 3, the afternoon matches just started. By the time we got to 6, all four matches are on the course. Great matches.

We ran all of our commercials. We knew we had an hour to 90 minutes left. I called (NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol), and we decided we’d stay on the air. Since we ran all of our commercials, we ran last 90 minutes commercial-free. The matches were terrific. It was amazing television.

On Sunday, it came down to the last putt (Bernhard Langer missed to give the U.S. the victory). The next thing you know, Kiawah became “The War by the Shore.” The overnight numbers were OK, but it didn’t come anywhere close to showing the kind of passion and heat that the event generated (among viewers who watched). People talked about it, and the Ryder Cup went to another level.

I don’t think American TV viewers had seen golfers get this nervous under this kind of pressure. It was so compelling.

For the 1993 Ryder Cup in England, we changed our strategy. We increase the number of hours. We sold five advertisers and we’re were off and running.

It’s been a great marriage ever since.


For more, Classic Sports Network has a complete breakdown of TV and the Ryder Cup.


Is it possible to get too much of this NFL? Are you kidding? Finally, real games

Remember that scene in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the people of Whoville stand around the tree and sing that song that I now can’t get out of my head?

That’s how I feel about the start of the NFL season.

Fah who for-aze! Fah who for-aze!

Welcome NFL, Welcome football,

Come this way! Come this way!

Ah yes, our fest begins tonight and doesn’t end until Super Sunday in February. Dallas at New York Giants on NBC and away we go.

Now more than ever before, we can’t get enough of this NFL. The networks keep feeding us more and more, as if that 48-ounce steak they once served now is a mere appetitzer.

Endless pregame shows, endless during-the-week shows on various networks, and a new slate of Thursday night games. Picture Homer Simpson sucking up a dump truck worth of doughnuts. That’s us.

“If the Cowboys play the Giants in a parking lot in March, it’s still going to be tremendous,” said NBC’s Al Michaels. “Football is king right now. The NFL is hotter than any sport than any time in the history of this country. I can’t wait to get started.”

Michaels’ partner, Cris Collinsworth, agreed.

“You can’t give people too much of it,” Collinsworth said. “Look at all the shows, look at all the websites. Look at all the radio shows. How much more people can take? As much as we want to give them they want more and more and more. I just think the interest is not waning at all no matter what happens.”

The NFL felt bullish enough to expand the Thursday night schedule on NFL Network from 8 to 13 games this year, beginning next week with Bears-Green Bay on Sept. 13.

Obviously, an extra primetime game means one less game for CBS and Fox Sports on Sunday afternoon. When you factor in bye weeks, I asked Fox Sports president Eric Shanks if he had any concerns about the inventory of good games being diminished.

Publically, the answer is no, although I’m sure Fox would have liked that Bears-Packers game.

“You can sit around and poke holes at what (NFL scheduling guru) Howard Katz and his guys do,” Shanks said. “But every year they put together a schedule that blows everyone away. It’s magic what they do. They’ve got it down to a science. It’s really hard to throw stones at the NFL right now.”

Nope, all you can do is sing its praises and ask the NFL to keep on feeding us more. And you know they will.

Fah who for-aze! Fah who for-aze!…


Q/A with Darren Rovell: On leaving CNBC for ESPN; ‘It felt bigger’

As any good business reporter knows, the element of risk is a theme in many stories.

So now the tables turn on Darren Rovell. Risk now is a part of his story in his recent jump from CNBC to ESPN.

Rovell had the sports business gig all to himself at CNBC. He also had his own sports business show on the NBC Sports Network.

Rovell, 34, landed many high-profile interviews and developed a huge following on Twitter (now in the 240,000 range). He carved out a nice niche at CNBC.

Rovell, though, decided to return to ESPN (he worked there from 2000-06). Obviously, he won’t be the only sports person at the network. While he will have more platforms for his stories, he also will face exponentially more internal competition. It will be more difficult for him to stick out at ESPN.

Money definitely was a factor in Rovell’s decision (ESPN book author James Miller reports he doubled his salary). Interestingly, for someone who talks at length about the cash athletes earn, Rovell declined to go into detail about his financial decision. I guess it is more interesting to talk about other people’s money.

Rovell stressed this decision is about more than just money. A big part, he said, is the ABC component, in which he will do business stories for various shows (Good Morning America, Nightline, ABC Evening News) on the network.

Ultimately, Rovell said of the move, “I just felt this was bigger.”

Here’s my Q/A with Rovell.

Why make the move from CNBC to ESPN?

I was happy with my gig at CNBC. I loved doing my NBC Sports Network show. It was a dream come true. I love working with my team there.

At the end of the day, I felt like being at ESPN was the right move. The ABC part was the deal-sealer.

How much did money have to do with the move?

CNBC did want me back. I was hoping for more interest from NBC Sports to get paid like a host. It didn’t happen.

I won’t do something solely for money. I’m so passionate about my career. Money alone could never get me to go to a place that I didn’t think was the best for me.

I talked to CNN. I talked to other people. I asked, ‘Do I break out? Do I move away from this niche?’ I decided the answer is no. ESPN and ABC can give me the best of both worlds.

Talk about your niche. Why is sports business so interesting to the masses?

I think a flashpoint came when sports became more corporate. Business became more out there, and people wanted to talk about it. Sports fans want to be armed at the water cooler. When you drop a piece of information, it allows you to beat your friend.

There are so many fascinating things about sports business. It touches people more than most people think.

Your career took off when you left ESPN and started at CNBC in ’06. Why?

CNBC gave me a great TV platform, for sure. The difference for me at the time was CNBC was a smaller place to be, but I could be the bigger fish. At ESPN, I was the geek who covered sports business. At CNBC, I was the cool guy who covered sports business.

CNBC wanted me to help turn up the volume. Traders watch with the volume off. CNBC said, ‘Hey, let’s show sports, but you rationalize it as business because it really is business.’

At CNBC and NBC Sports Network, you got so many big interviews with athletes like Tiger Woods and sports executives. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem appeared so many times, he was practically your sidekick. Will you get that same kind of treatment/access at ESPN?

We didn’t have a hard time getting people to come on CNBC. Our pitch to athletes and agents was, ‘Come on CNBC if you want to reach the wealthiest people in the world.’

Now at ESPN, Tom Rinaldi will have that interview with Tiger. How do I get Tiger Woods for business purposes? Does (agent) Mark Steinberg say, ‘He already did Tom Rinaldi?’

Admittedly, it’s going to be a challenge to get the big stars. But that’s the challenge of working in a bigger system compared to being a one-man machine. It’s a challenge I’m willing to accept. I still think I can get the big interview.

You’ve become Mr. Twitter. What has that meant to your “brand”?

It’s become a tremendous distribution platform. If all I did was just about sports business, I’d have about 10,000 followers. People like to have something different in their feed. When something happens in sports or otherwise, I’m thinking, ‘How can I inject the business aspect into it?’

When I was at ESPN (the first time), they had so many writers, I used to think, ‘If I write a great story, will it get on the front page (of ESPN.com)?’ Now because of Twitter, placement is not as much of a concern. It’s harder for something to get lost. Going to the Web site isn’t the only place to find the story. If I write a good story, somebody will link to it again and again and again.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. You’ve gotten into some notorious feuds on Twitter. Other people also have taken shots at you as your profile has increased. How do you feel about that?

Twitter allows people to reach out to you. Negative stuff is going to happen. Anything is fine. Anyone who is in the public eye has to deal with some negativity. It comes with the territory.

So where will people see you at ESPN/ABC?

I’m going to be the sports business reporter covering the beat. I’ll be working out of the ABC office in New York, but I’ll be in Bristol quite frequently. ESPN is going to be my main responsibility. I’ll write for ESPN.com, be on radio, SportsCenter. I do intend to be on ABC quite often.

I love to put the pedal to the metal. I go 24 hours a day. The only way to not get burned out is to change things up. The ABC outlet allows me to stay fresh, to stay hungry.