Broncos' Super Bowl triumph could make CBS a big winner

Media Watch

January 27, 1998|By Milton Kent

Sunday's Denver Broncos win means that the news just keeps on getting better for CBS.

Wait a minute. Wasn't the game on NBC, you ask? Why, yes, it was, and the Peacock gang got a healthy 44.1 rating and 64 share in the Nielsen overnight survey of the nation's largest markets.

But CBS will take over coverage of the AFC from NBC starting next season, and a win by an AFC team, the first in 14 years, should only serve to help to drive up interest in the AFC, thus making CBS's acquisition of the package seem that much smarter.

For years now, the AFC has been thought of as the weaker of the two conferences, both in terms of on-field performance and in the ratings, compared to the NFC, which is in bigger markets than the AFC.

In fact, Fox's NFC coverage got a higher seasonal rating this year than NBC's, a third straight seasonal triumph. That's why the NFC package has traditionally sold for more than the AFC and why Fox will pay $550 million annually in the new deal signed earlier this month and CBS will pay $500 million per year for at least five years.

However, the gap between AFC and NFC ratings has closed substantially since Fox grabbed the NFC from CBS in 1994, and it may close even more when CBS starts promoting the AFC more heavily than NBC did.

And there's more good news for CBS in this deal. The network owns stations in seven AFC cities (and 14 overall in the NFL), including Denver, where Broncos football was a religion even before the team won the Super Bowl. Sunday's game did an incredible 50.5 rating and 85 share, meaning that just over half of all television sets in Denver were watching some portion of the game, and 8 1/2 of every 10 sets that were turned on Sunday were tuned to the game.

For CBS, that means that the network not only takes in revenues from the national advertising it sells for AFC games, but also gets to keep money on the local level in cities like New York, Boston, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco (which carries Oakland Raiders games) and Baltimore, where CBS owns Channel 13.

And plans are afoot to take advantage. CBS Sports president Sean McManus said Sunday that each of the 14 owned stations probably will do at least an hour of pre-game shows for the team in its city.

And in the seven AFC cities where CBS owns stations, those outlets also will do post-game and coaches shows.

"That's an awful lot of incremental income that wouldn't be coming into CBS if we didn't have the NFL," McManus said.

On solid ice

Though many hard-bitten sports fans (read: men) may have a hard time coming to grips with the lure of figure skating, it has become a serious staple on the sports television calendar. For proof, take a look at the ratings chart accompanying this column. If you throw out the Super Bowl and related programming, two taped skating shows were the most-watched athletic events on Baltimore television last weekend.

With a nod to that popularity, not to mention an attempt to tap into Olympic fever, HBO tonight debuts a documentary, "Reflections on Ice: A Diary of Ladies Figure Skating" at 8 o'clock that provides an interesting historical perspective on the evolution of skating.

Narrated by actress Susan Saint James, "Reflections" deftly mixes rarely seen footage and home movies of performers with interviews with pioneers and recent giants. Whether you're a fan of skating or dubious of the entertainment factor, "Reflections" is a pretty good primer, leading into next month's Nagano Olympics.

Happy birthday, Cris

Today is former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth's 39th birthday, and as a gift, Fox has locked him up to a contract for its NFL pre-game show next season.

Collinsworth, a refugee from NBC's pre-game show, will replace Ronnie Lott, who never really seemed comfortable in the studio alongside Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long. Lott will do special assignment reports for the pre-game show and will head to the booth as an analyst, as well as contribute to Fox's cable NFL shows.

Collinsworth has never been shy about expressing an opinion, and anchor James Brown may need to don a referee's uniform to keep the combatants from strangling each other.

CBS is expected to make an announcement, possibly on the acquisition of Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms as its No. 1 announcing team, later in the week.

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:

Event .. .. .. .. .. .. .Day .. ..Ch. .. .. .. ..R/S

Super Bowl .. .. .. .. ..Sun. .. .11 .. .. ..40.5/54

S.B. post-game .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. .. ..27.9/42

S.B. pre-game* .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. .. ..16.4/29

Skating .. .. .. .. .. ..Fri. .. .11 .. .. ..13.9/21

Skating .. .. .. .. .. ..Sat. .. .11 .. .. ..12.0/19

Jazz-Bulls .. .. .. .. ..Sun. .. .11 .. .. ...7.5/16

NBA special .. .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. .. ...6.6/16

Skating .. .. .. .. .. ..Sat. .. ..2 .. .. ...6.0/13

NBA pre-game .. .. .. ...Sun. .. .11 .. .. ...5.3/13

Clemson-Md. .. .. .. .. .Sat. .. .54 .. .. ...4.3/10

*Composite rating; R-Rating. S-Share

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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