Survey finds bar, party viewers cable TV likely to boost ad rates

Media Watch

August 06, 1998|By Milton Kent

Ever had the feeling that you were unnoticed? Well, if you've watched big sporting events in a bar, or a college dorm, or in a hotel, or at a party, the networks have felt for years that you weren't noticed, either.

For the first time, Nielsen Media Research, the giant ratings measurer, has quantified the number of people who watch cable television in so-called "out-of-home" locations and released their findings this week.

The result: ESPN received a 9 percent increase in its adult male audience with as many as 4 million more viewers watching the worldwide leader each week.

The survey reported that 2.9 million men 18 or older and 2.4 million men in the all-important 18-49 male demographic are watching ESPN each week from a place that is not their own home. In terms of individual sports and programs, the survey adds 200,000 males to the numbers of men watching the NFL, baseball's divisional playoffs, and live, international soccer on ESPN. An additional 100,000 are watching "Sportscenter," "Up-Close," and the NHL.

What does this mean to the average viewer? Probably not much, but it does mean ESPN executives can (and doubtless will) use the figures to help justify expected ad-rate hikes for the NFL, for instance.

The survey comes, coincidentally, at a time when Nielsen is coming under heavy fire from the networks, which have long felt that the ratings service under-reports the numbers of people watching their programming. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC reportedly agreed last week to pony up a collective $60 million to bolster Statistical Research Inc. as a challenger to Nielsen.

Three men and a booth

When Fox takes to the air a week from Sunday for the first of its two NFL exhibition telecasts, longtime partners Pat Summerall and John Madden will find the booth at Lambeau Field, the site of the Green Bay-Oakland game, a bit more crowded than usual.

That's because Matt Millen, analyst on the network's No. 2 team, will be joining Madden and Summerall, as he will for the following Sunday's game between San Francisco and Miami.

Fox executive producer Ed Goren said the experiment will give Madden and Millen, a former linebacker with a number of teams, most notably the 49ers and Raiders, a chance to talk football when second- and third-stringers trying to make the respective clubs are in the game.

"It's the nature of preseason games that you tend to run out of steam in the third quarter," said Goren. "John and Matt rode the bus [the Madden cruiser] down and thought this would be a good idea. It should be a good listen for anyone who's looking to get a handle on the season."

And rest assured, Goren said, this move has no portent. Summerall and Madden will continue to work exclusively with each other in the regular season, as they have for the last 17 years. Millen will return to pair with Dick Stockton.

Fox will employ a three-man booth this season, however, but will save the details of that for tomorrow's Media Watch.

Personnel moves

Don't be surprised to see some of your favorite cable and broadcast sportscasters in new, challenging roles over the next few months. For instance:

With Turner losing the rights to Sunday night NFL telecasts, Vince Cellini has no more pre-game show, so his usual employer, CNN/SI, has boosted his profile by naming him co-anchor of "Sports Tonight," the channel's signature new show that is simulcast at 11 each weeknight on CNN.

Cellini, who also had been host of CNN's "NFL Preview," will join Fred Hickman on "Sports Tonight." Bob Lorenz, who replaced Nick Charles on "Sports Tonight" a few months ago, will take over "NFL Preview" as well as "College Football Preview."

ESPN's expanding its "Sunday NFL Countdown" to an unholy two hours means more time to fill and an opportunity for some nice, young, clean-cut announcer to fill it.

Enter Mike Tirico, who will join Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Chris Mortensen, Sterling Sharpe, Jim Kelly and "Touchdown, the Wonder Seal," on the Sunday morning show, which moves to an expanded set with a tank for the seal. Tirico will continue as host of "Monday Night Countdown" on ESPN as well.

Just kidding about the seal. We think.

Finally, with the departure of Willow Bay for CNN, that ground-breaking, news-gathering show "NBA Inside Stuff" was left without a perky, fresh-faced co-host to pair up with Ahmad Rashad.

Enter swimmer Summer Sanders (say that three times fast), who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Sanders, who works the sidelines for Lifetime's WNBA telecasts and is host of a game show on Nickelodeon, has assumed her duties. We wish her well in her assignment.

Pub Date: 8/06/98

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