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CBS Going Big on Thursday Nights

Jason Barrett

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For a new show on the CBS schedule for the 2014-15 season, network executives are promising advertisers and viewers that it will be intensely dramatic, although it is not a drama series; offer compelling competitive matchups, although it is not a reality competition series; and feature famous faces, though its stars belong to no actors’ union.

The show is “Thursday Night Football,” which joins the CBS prime-time lineup on Sept. 11, the result of a deal CBS made with the National Football League for a package of games that would complement the network’s Sunday football programming. “Thursday Night Football,” presented in partnership with the league’s own NFL Network, is getting a huge promotional push from CBS.

“I don’t think the CBS Corporation has ever mounted a larger promotional campaign,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said on Monday at a “media day” event for reporters at the CBS Broadcast Center on the Manhattan’s West Side. “We’re determined to work with the N.F.L. to make sure this is a success.”

In a phone interview, George F. Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group, called the effort “the biggest promotional and marketing event we’ve had at the network.”

“No stone will be unturned, from radio, outdoor, cable, digital and interactive guides to good old TV commercials,” he said. “It’s literally around the clock,” he added, “a lot of firepower.”

On the air, CBS has, for the last two months, been running an energetic spot with the theme “Football starts here,” featuring stars of CBS entertainment series like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Elementary” and “Two and a Half Men.” Some wear eye black inscribed with the words “Thurs” and “Night” while others strip off outerwear to reveal they are wearing “Thursday Night Football” jerseys. There are also versions for local stations that are owned by CBS, among them KCBS in Los Angeles and WCBS in New York.

The network’s 200 affiliated local stations have received materials so they may produce their own versions, Mr. Schweitzer said, in which “they can cut to their weather guy taking off his shirt” to reveal the jersey.

Last week, episodes of “Big Brother,” the CBS summer reality competition series, featured a contest with a “Thursday Night Football” theme. The three winners got to leave the Big Brother house to meet members of the Dallas Cowboys and the team’s owner, Jerry Jones, at the Cowboys’ training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

Reminders about “Thursday Night Football” will also be woven into episodes of CBS’s scripted series, Mr. Schweitzer said. For instance, Boomer Esiason, an analyst on “NFL on CBS,” is to appear in an episode of “Blue Bloods,” he said, and another “NFL on CBS” analyst, Phil Simms, will get a guest spot on “Elementary.”

Viewers of CBS’s daytime lineup will find “Thursday Night Football” promoted during “The Talk” as well as during the game shows “Let’s Make a Deal” and “The Price Is Right.” And rather than tap an actor from a CBS entertainment program to host the 2014-15 edition of the network’s annual fall preview show, Mr. Schweitzer said, the host will be Jim Nantz, who will handle the play-by-play duties during “Thursday Night Football”; the preview show is to be broadcast at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern time) on Sept. 1.

The focus of the campaign is to marry “the world of sports and the world of entertainment,” Mr. Schweitzer said, to help signal that “Thursday Night Football” will be broadcast during prime-time hours normally devoted to entertainment programming rather than on Sunday afternoons.

In that regard, CBS follows in the footsteps of “Monday Night Football,” a ratings powerhouse for decades for ABC before being shifted to a sibling cable channel, ESPN, and “Sunday Night Football,” tremendously popular since it joined the NBC prime-time lineup in 2006. “Sunday Night Football” was the most-watched program for the 2013-14 season, topping all the scripted and unscripted entertainment offerings on broadcast television.

According to Nielsen data, “Sunday Night Football” drew a 12.8 rating for 2013-14, meaning that 12.8 percent of all television households watched the show. The runner-up, the CBS entertainment series “NCIS,” has a 12.5 rating, Nielsen reported, followed by “The Big Bang Theory,” also on CBS, at 12.0. An average of about 22 million viewers watched each Sunday-night game, according to Nielsen, followed by about 20 million for “NCIS” and 20 million for “The Big Bang Theory.”

The sales of commercial time during the eight games that will appear on CBS under the “Thursday Night Football” banner are being handled by CBS Sports, which has been promising potential advertisers a 12.0 rating.

“The response has been very, very positive,” John Bogusz, executive vice president for sales at CBS Sports, said in an interview after the media day presentation, partly because Thursday leads “into the all-important weekend” for marketers in categories like “automobiles, movies and fast food.”

Four major marketers have signed as sponsors of “Thursday Night Football” segments, Mr. Bogusz added: Lowe’s and Verizon, for the pregame show; Lexus, for halftime; and Mazda, for the postgame show. In total, “we’ve written a good amount” of business for Thursday, he said, and “still have availability.” (Operators are standing by. Just kidding. Sort of.)

At the NFL Network, said Brian Matthews, senior vice president for media sales at the N.F.L., Lexus will also be the halftime sponsor and Mazda the postgame sponsor, with the jewelry retailer Zales as the pregame sponsor. The NFL Network will simulcast the CBS games, he added, which run through Oct. 23; the NFL Network will carry eight subsequent games on its own starting Oct. 30.

Credit to the NY Times who originally published this article

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Mike Florio: Giving Teams Too Many Prime-Time Games ‘Compromises the Integrity of the Game’

“At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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Mike Florio
Courtesy: Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

Mike Florio spent time on his Pro Football Talk Live show talking about the NFL schedule which was released in full earlier this week. The focus of the discussion was on the New York Jets schedule, however the topic related to many of the top teams in football. With the league wanting to maximize revenue there are more stand-alone games, which Florio says have “an extra layer of stress and strain.”

The Jets will have six prime-time games over the team’s first 11 weeks of the season. This includes an opening week Monday Night Football road game on the other side of the country against the San Franciso 49ers, two Sunday Night Football games, a Thursday Night Football game, one other appearance on Monday Night Football and a trip to London to play the Vikings.

Florio believes it is unfair to have teams with this much travel and this many featured games. “See, this is a TV show,” he said. “This is where the pursuit of money, the pursuit of maximum ratings, laying the foundation for putting all of the TV contracts out to bid again after the 2029 season, it gets in the way of giving teams a fair shake.”

He later added, “The truth is, the broadcast partners are clamoring for Aaron Rodgers…so they loaded it up early before the Jets have the wheels come off…The problem is they’re kicking the wheels off by doing this. By having them hopscotch the country and play short weeks twice and all of these prime-time games. There’s an extra layer of stress and strain that goes into all of these stand-alone games and all of this travel early in the season.”

Rodgers is coming off missing an entire season due to an Achilles injury and will turn 41 in early December. “Let’s be realistic about it, you’re putting him in a position where this 40-year-old body is going to be strained beyond reasonable limits from all these games on short [rest],” Florio said. “…It’s dangerous to Aaron Rodgers and its disadvantageous to the Jets and it compromises the integrity of the game.

“You still have an obligation to balance things out. It can’t be ‘let’s have the best possible TV audiences, that can’t be the driving factor…It should be a fair balance for all teams…At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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Marv Albert Talks Retirement, Play-by-Play and OJ Simpson Chase with Dan Patrick

“I must say retirement has been great.”

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Marv Albert
Courtesy: PDA Speakers

Three years ago on Friday, legendary play-by-play announcer Marv Albert announced that he would be retiring from his role as the lead voice of the NBA on TNT. This concluded a 55-year broadcast career during which he called 13 NBA Finals matchups, eight Super Bowl championships, eight Stanley Cup Final series and countless other memorable games across a variety of professional sports. Albert is the former television play-by-play announcer for the New York Knicks and appeared on the Dan Patrick Show where he discussed his takeaways of the team. In fact, Albert divulged that he was at Madison Square Garden during the team’s first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Patrick wanted to know from Albert how he was enjoying retirement, a reality that he himself will be facing in three years. Last summer, Patrick announced that his final show would take place on Dec. 24, 2027 and inked a four-year contract extension with NBC Sports and iHeartMedia. Patrick’s show currently airs on FOX Sports Radio and can be live streamed through NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. Albert has not been behind the microphone for approximately three years, but he is still keeping in tune with what is going on around the sports world.

“Life is good, Dan. How are you doing?,” Albert asked. “I must say retirement has been great. I do miss the preparation and the people I work with, and we do stay in touch, but I am Mr. Binge TV, and I do a lot of reading, work out, all those kind of things, but all is good. I’ve been enjoying the playoffs also.”

Earlier on Friday morning, PGA Tour professional golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and charged with a felony and other counts after he allegedly injured a police officer. Scheffler was driving by the scene of a fatal crash and was charged with felony second-degree assault on a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from officers during traffic. Scheffler was released from jail in the morning and played the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Course in Louisville, Ky. Patrick mentioned the police chase involving O.J. Simpson that lasted for two hours following Simpson being charged with murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

Albert was in the midst of calling Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks. He vividly remembers players going to the press table at Madison Square Garden, which had televisions, and trying to see the latest action going on during the car chase.

“Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports, was sitting to our left in the stands, but he had an earpiece so he heard exactly what was going on, and he was kind of directing the activity also,” Albert recalled. “‘Send it back to Tom [Brokaw]; go over to Bob [Costas],’ all this stuff. ‘By the way, there’s Charles Smith with the jump shot.’ It really was the most unusual situation I have been in on the air.”

Patrick was curious to know what has changed in terms of play-by-play announcing since Albert has retired, to which he replied that things largely remained the same in basketball. In other sports though, Albert has observed that there is more talking than there was in the past, articulating that he watches a lot of baseball and has noticed it during the broadcasts. Patrick added that he enjoys the usage of silence within a call and believes it is a lost art with the ostensible need to consistently speak when they are describing something, a sentiment Albert agreed with and explained was more compatible with television broadcasts.

“There’s no question,” Albert said. “You can use the crowd – the crowd is very important, particularly at times like this during the playoffs where the crowds are at another level.”

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Gregg Giannotti: Emmanuel Berbari Needs to Do a Little Better Than ‘Gone, Goodbye’

“I just know as a listener, it’s not doing it for me.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Peter Ackerman, Asbury Park Press

The New York Yankees are entrenched in the upper pantheon of the Major League Baseball standings to begin the new season. The team has won eight of its last 10 games, including a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins and looks poised for a deep postseason run, but there have been hardships the organization has had to overcome to get there. Additionally, longtime Yankees radio play-by-play voice John Sterling retired from the broadcast booth in mid-April, ending an illustrious 36-year run calling the team’s games. Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti talked about one of Sterling’s replacements on Boomer & Gio.

Occupying the play-by-play announcing role throughout the regular season has been Justin Shackil and Emmanuel Berbari, both of whom have filled in for Sterling in the past when he had to miss games. Berbari worked alongside analyst Suzyn Waldman for the team’s series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, broadcast on the team’s flagship station, WFAN. Shortstop Anthony Volpe hit a leadoff home run to commence the final game of the series, and Berbari gave a home run call of ‘Gone, goodbye!’ on the air. WFAN host Gregg Giannotti, however, believes that there is room for improvement for the young announcer.

“I am fascinated by these guys that are now filling in for John Sterling, and John has retired, because you have to kind of thread a needle because you don’t want to be too over the top but you don’t want to be too boring, so how do you figure that out,” Giannotti said on Friday morning’s edition of Boomer & Gio on WFAN. “If I were giving Emmanuel Berbari advice, I would say we go to to just do a little bit better than ‘Gone, goodbye.’”

Giannotti ultimately compelled Berbari to try and find a middle ground between his ‘Gone, goodbye’ call and Sterling’s signature call for home runs by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Co-host Boomer Esiason asked Giannotti to give Berbari an example of what he would be satisfied with, to which he replied that he was not a play-by-play announcer.

“As a consumer, as a listener, I don’t know,” Giannotti said. “I’m not the one who has to think about it. I just know as a listener, it’s not doing it for me.”

Esiason proceeded to remind Giannotti of the time that they called a New Jersey Devils game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He wanted to know if Giannotti had thought about his call if the Devils scored a goal, off which he stated that he had not. Anchor Jerry Recco, who also works as a play-by-play announcer, explained that he perceives it to be a different situation when calling a baseball game.

“Yeah, you do think about it,” Recco said. “I’ve never really done baseball, but there are different home runs as well though. You’ve got the little line drives that you don’t know are going to get out and you kind of react to it. You’ve got the Judge one the other night that was a moonshot.”

From there, Esiason added that if he were calling the games, it would be difficult for him to manufacture excitement in a mid-May matchup that the Yankees are expected to win. In fact over the last five years, the Yankees have a 19-8 regular-season record against the Twins and have also defeated them during the postseason.

“John figured out a way to do it for a million years – 162 games,” Giannotti replied.

“Yankees-Marlins on a Tuesday night, he was fired up,” Recco added.

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