Media Sportswatch: November 2017

Joel Bulkley

Everyone has an opinion about why NFL TV ratings are down 5 percent overall through week 7. Am sure there are multiple reasons, but remember the Big Four networks are down an average of 8 percent in prime time, according to CSN Money and Nielsen data.

NBC is down 4 percent, CBS 6 percent, ABC 11 percent and Fox 20 percent, and those figures include nights with live sports programs that normally boost viewership.

We know people are watching TV differently and cord cutting is increasing and a major issue for cable companies and networks.

The World Series was both exciting and disappointing for this Dodger fan, but one highlight was Vin Scully’s pre-game first-pitch activities before game 2 with Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Yeager. Tough to beat Scully who turns 90 this month.

Correction. Contrary to my prediction (CSN, Oct 2017), USMNT did not make the World Cup.

Fox Sports took a big financial hit when The U.S. men failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The U.S. team was involved in four of the five most-watched games of 2014 WC, averaging 14.3M viewers. The other 60 WC games averaged 3.85M. ESPN sold $529M in ads.

Fox paid $425M for English language rights for 2018 and 2024, up $100M from what ESPN paid for 2010 and 2014. Telemundo paid $600M for Spanish language rights.

CSN won’t be doing a special and separate WC issue, as we have in the past, but plan a major feature in June.

“Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers” blared the headline in the New York Times last month. In the story, Alex Mather, a co-founder of the Athletic, a new sports (pay) website that’s recruiting brand-name writers, added, “We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.” The response was not surprisingly negative, with more than 225 angry responses online.

Meanwhile, they’ve added analyst Ken Pomeroy, C.L. Brown and Dana O’Neil, former ACC writers for, to the college basketball crew headed by Seth Davis, formerly of SI/CBS. They charge $3.99/month if you sign up for a year, with frequent teaser specials and discounts. No ads or video. Football writers are headed by Stewart Mandel, formerly of SI/Fox. Sports.

I don’t subscribe so I can only read the first graph or two of stories, but looks interesting.

Changes. John Manuel, Baseball America editor for many years, has moved on to scouting for the Minnesota Twins. Ral­eigh & Co, a lifestyle blog owned by Capitol Broadcasting, will shut down in November. That will mean one less Triangle outlet for sports, film, TV commentary. The folks who publish Chapel Hill and Durham magazines are now doing Chat­ham magazine, a quarterly.

Good stuff. Tar Heel Times offers UNC sports news online at Free. ESPN E60 had a nice story on the legacy of late UNC mascot Jason Ray. Indy’s annual Finder magazine is the best they’ve done, with some useful info for newcomers and extensive restaurant list for geographic subsets of the Triangle.

Not So Good. FCC to ease limits on local media ownership and likely approve Sinclair-Tribune merger. They’ll have a lot of small NC radio outlets spreading their political message, disguised as news. The first Triangle edition of College Parent magazine from Boulder, CO, looks like a formula mag: popular visitor sites plugged into generally irrelevant national copy. One of their full page ads was for a business that closed months ago. Plus they threw copies into local news racks, burying local papers like CSN.

Sportsmanship and charity. Players from Hillside and Orange football joined in prayer circle, exchanged handshakes, hugs, well-wishes and quick words of encouragement after an Orange player was injured in a varsity game. He was hospitalized for one night and is fine.

Not so for an Orange player in a JV football game against Hillside. He was seriously injured and his condition is improving in the hospital. A GoFundMe campaign for Thys Olden­burg, 14, has raised more than $25,000of a $100,000 goal from nearly 300 donors.

A Celebration of Life for Phil Campbell (CSN, Sept 2017) was held last month in Chapel Hill with friends, family members, former employees and customers attending.