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Could North American Fans Embrace a One Man Booth?

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Eric Koreen has an interesting piece on The Athletic Toronto inspired by the World Cup coverage on TSN. With Canada not sending its own national broadcasters to Russia, the network was forced to run the international feed that featured one-man broadcast booths. Koreen asks if it is possible they may someday become more common in North American sports coverage.

Koreen and a series of interview subjects note that soccer is ideal for a one-man booth. The culture surrounding the sport conditioned most fans over 30 to expect the action on television to be allowed to speak for itself.

“In North America, we’re a little bit more analytical in how we want sports broken down, and that’s why we have separation between a play-by-play person and a colour analyst,” said Rob Corte, vice-president, Sportsnet and NHL productions. He added that in his role he has never discussed using just one voice to call a game. “I think the analyst’s role is to really dig deep. Play-by-play: who and what. Colour analyst: how and why. …

“In soccer, it’s more commentary generally. They don’t really get into the X’s and O’s within a broadcast if you watch it. There’s not much of a technical breakdown as to strategy. Even on the replays, it’s more just commenting on the reactions of what you see as opposed to exactly why something happened. They save that for the pre-game shows, the post-game shows and halftime.”

That is not the case in the US and Canada, where Koreen says “When broadcasters on this side of the Atlantic Ocean experiment with the size of a booth, they tend to try to squeeze more voices in.”

The pace that North America’s most popular sports are played is a problem for one-man booths as well.

It is hard to imagine single voices carrying a broadcast for certain sports. Hockey’s pace of play is fast, with players hopping on and off the ice on the fly. At some point, the play-by-play caller needs to take a sip of water, and stoppages are the obvious time to do that. Basketball has more whistles than hockey thanks to more fouls and substitutions, but there is still a lot going on.

Football’s slower pace would theoretically allow for a play-caller to keep up, but there is arguably no sports that is more steeped in strategy.

Baseball, Koreen writes, is the one major pro sport where one-man booths could work. Vin Scully was a one-man-show for years on Dodger broadcasts and he is often pointed to as the most influential man to ever do the job. To be fair, Koreen points out that while Scully was on air alone, he often had someone else in the booth with him.

Many minor league broadcasters are on their own in the radio booth, but could the practice become common at the Major League level?

If there is a North American sport where we could eventually see a one-person broadcast booth become more common, it is baseball. Corte noted that 162 games — almost every day for six months — is a lot of time to hear the same voice, over and over and over. Storytelling is an accepted part of broadcasting in baseball, though, and one voice, so long as it is attached to a great memory, can accomplish a lot in the sport.

Koreen’s article is a long read, but an interesting one. You can find it here.

Sports TV News

ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years

“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”

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The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.

The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.

Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.

NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.

That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.

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Sports TV News

NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.

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Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.

So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.

ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.

At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.

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Sports TV News

AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.

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The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.

53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.

CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.

With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.

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