SMW Top 20 Sports Media Stories of 2012 (#20-#16)

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Sports Media Watch presents 20 notable sports media stories of the year 2012. Today, #20-#16, including record-lows for Major League Baseball, record-highs for the NFL, and comings-and-goings at ESPN.

#20: Record-Lows for the World Series
Record-low ratings for the World Series are not a new phenomenon, but the 2012 Fall Classic was a stunningly poor draw. The Giants? four-game sweep of the Tigers averaged a mere 7.6 rating and 12.7 million viewers, well below the previous record-lows of 8.4 and 13.6 million. The series included the lowest rated Game 1 ever, the lowest rated Game 2 ever, the lowest rated Game 4 ever, and the lowest rated World Series game of any kind (Game 3).

The World Series capped off a weak postseason for Major League Baseball. The Giants/Cardinals NLCS was the lowest rated League Championship Series ever on broadcast TV, ending with easily the lowest rated and least-viewed Game 7 in baseball history. The Tigers’ quick sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS was tied as the third-lowest rated LCS of all-time, broadcast or cable. Competition from the presidential debates was a contributing factor.

#19: Record-Highs for the Super Bowl
The massive popularity of the Super Bowl is a given. So much so that setting the all-time U.S. television viewership record is not much of an accomplishment. With that said, February?s Giants/Patriots Super Bowl earned 111.3 million viewers on NBC, the largest audience in U.S. television history, and the third-straight Super Bowl to set the all-time record. The game was also the highest rated U.S. TV program since the 1994 Winter Olympics (?Nancy vs. Tonya?).

2012 was the seventh straight year that viewership increased for the Super Bowl, and the fifth-straight year viewership hit a record-high. To put that in perspective, the record for the most-viewed World Series on record has stood untouched for 34 years (1978 Dodgers/Yankees: 44.3M).

T18: Big Names Leave ESPN
Big names leave ESPN every year, and 2012 was no exception. Topping the list of departures this year was longtime ESPN sideline reporter and “College Gameday” co-host Erin Andrews. Easily the highest-profile woman in the sports media — for better or worse — Andrews left for a high-profile gig with FOX over the summer. That came weeks after Michelle Beadle, co-host of ?SportsNation? on ESPN2, left for greener pastures at NBC.

Also heading for the exits this year were Doug Gottlieb and Jim Rome (departing for CBS Sports Network), the husband-and-wife team of Steve Berthiaume and Cindy Brunson (leaving so Berthiaume could join the Diamondbacks broadcast team), and solid — if low-profile — performers Dana Jacobson (recently resurfacing with CBS Sports), Ric Bucher (working for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area) and Michelle Bonner.

T18: But Many Others Stay
The departure of so many familiar faces from ESPN created the perception that there was an exodus from the network. In the words of one recently re-upped ESPN analyst, ?not so fast my friend.? To combat the perception that on-air personalities were tripping over themselves to hightail it out of Bristol, ESPN has taken to announcing contract extensions via press release or corporate blog — a strategy bluntly admitted by ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys in an e-mail to ShermanReport.com:

“With all the erroneous reports of an exodus from Bristol we decided to inject a few facts into the debate. The vast majority of our folks love it here and stay, so for the time being we are reminding people of that.” (shermanreport.com, 7/11)

Those reminders abounded during the latter half of the year. ESPN announced contract extensions with — among others — anchors Chris Berman and Stuart Scott, play-by-play voices Brent Musburger and Dan Shulman, analysts Lee Corso and Jesse Palmer, and reporters John Clayton and Adam Schefter. That list does not include Scott Van Pelt, whose extension with ESPN came before the network’s new policy.

#16: FOX Keeps NASCAR
FOX was aggressive in holding onto NASCAR rights this year, reaching an eight-year extension with America?s premier racing league in October — more than two years before the network?s current contract expires. The other NASCAR rightsholders, Turner Sports and ESPN, will not even begin negotiations until next year. Under the new deal, the FOX networks will continue to air the Daytona 500 and twelve other Sprint Cup races, as well as the annual All-Star Race and the NASCAR Truck Series. Including recent deals with the NFL and Major League Baseball (which will be addressed later), FOX has now held onto its three most important sports properties over the past two years.

The #15-#11 stories of 2012 will be posted on Tuesday, December 25.

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