Dodgers’ ratings up 28% on SportsNet LA

Imagine you own a baseball team and that you have the best record in the majors. Your home attendance was well over 3 million and, on top of that, your local TV ratings went up 26% over last season.

What could be better, right?

Logo_for_Spectrum_SportsNet_LAYou’ve probably figured that I’m talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers and it’s true: According to SportsBusiness Journal, the Dodgers’ ratings on SportsNet LA were up 26% from 2016. However, the team ranks only 25th out of the 29 U.S. Major League Baseball teams in average ratings. SNLA’s Dodgers ratings averaged only a 1.55 for the year, despite being in the nation’s No. 2 market with MLB’s No. 1 team.

Of course, most Dodgers fans know that SportsNet LA, which is owned by Charter Communications, is available only on Charter TV to about a third of the L.A. market. So even though the ratings were up considerably, it was still limited audience potential.

The Dodgers still managed to have a better average rating than the Angels, who had only a 0.94 rating on Fox Sports West. The Angels saw their rating go down 8% from last season. It’s pretty incredible to see that the Dodgers, limited as their TV audience is, still had a rating 65% higher than the Angels.

It’s important to note the Dodgers’ 1.55 rating was their highest since 2012, two years before SportsNet LA launched, when the team was televised by Fox’s Prime Ticket.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians led MLB in regional ratings with an 8.33 average. That was up 28% from last season. Rounding out the top five were the Kansas City Royals (8.00), the St. Louis Cardinals (7.18), the Boston Red Sox (5.49) and the Baltimore Orioles (5.18).

Nationally, baseball ratings were up slightly. ESPN ratings were up 6%, with Sunday Night Baseball up 8% to an average of 1.7 million viewers. Fox was down 2% to 2.1 million viewers. Fox Sports 1 was flat at 448,000.

OVER AND OUT

The U.S. men’s soccer team’s 2-1 loss Tuesday to Trinidad and Tobago not only keeps the United States out of the 2018 World Cup, it also severely hampers Fox’s ability to draw big ratings from the tournament.

I’ve seen at least two quotes from people this week saying “there is no way to overstate” what a crushing defeat Tuesday’s game was both for U.S. soccer and for Fox. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but whatever.

It’s not likely the United States would have lasted very long in the World Cup group stage anyway, not with the team that had so much trouble even in qualifying. But Fox now has the task of making the event from Russia attractive to U.S. fans who don’t have a team to pull for.

Some have said the network could spend more time on Mexico. SI.com quoted Fox Sports president Eric Shanks saying last month that Fox had already planned to market Mexico as its second team behind the U.S. There is also likely to more coverage of international stars, such as Argentina’s Leo Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The soccer surge in U.S. popularity — though seen by some as glacial — will still bring viewers to the World Cup, no matter who’s in or who’s out.

HILL BENCHED

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Jemele Hill was suspended for two weeks by ESPN. (ESPN photo)

ESPN has suspended Jemele Hill for another political Twitter post. In response to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying any of his players who knelt during the national anthem would be benched, Hill suggested Cowboys fans boycott the team’s sponsors.

The network said Hill would be suspended for two weeks. She had previously tweeted that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist,” and later apologized.

ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, who criticized Hill’s tweets about Trump, said “when it comes to this latest action by ESPN, I am a bit perplexed.

“Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what it is that upset ESPN about Hill’s actions: One of its highest-profile personalities suggested an advertiser boycott that would impact an important network partner, and she did so on Twitter, the same platform she used to call out Trump. And, make no mistake: Many of the NFL’s advertisers are also ESPN advertisers. Additionally, the calling for a boycott — or, at least, a strong encouragement of it — treads close to activism.

“But it’s not the job of Hill — or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter — to concern herself with the network’s business relationships. In fact, the separation of ‘church and state’ is a longstanding core concept in any news organization worth its salt. So it shouldn’t matter whether Hill’s comments put ESPN in a bad position with the NFL, any more than with the network’s excellent reporting on concussions that has done the same. I’m not suggesting that months long investigative reporting efforts and tweets are of equal importance; they’re not. But both should be treated the same when dealing with the impact on ESPN’s core business relationships.

ESPN has dozens of journalists who spend much of their time chasing stories that don’t reflect well on the network’s business partners, and the network has done a good job defending its journalists in those cases. That’s why the company’s reaction to Hill’s tweets should be worrisome to other journalists at the company.”

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

CBS and NFL Network get a rare quality matchup on Thursday Night Football with the Philadelphia-Carolina game at 5:25 p.m. PDT. It’ll go up against Game 5 of the American League Division Series of the Cubs and Nationals on TBS, starting at 5. Sunday’s NFL games are New England-New York Jets at 10 a.m. and Chargers-Oakland at 1:25 p.m. on CBS, Rams-Jacksonville at 1 p.m. on Fox, and New York Giants-Denver on NBC at 5:20 p.m. The Monday night game is Indianapolis-Tennessee at 5:15 p.m. on ESPN. … Last week’s MNF Minnesota-Chicago telecast had an 8% boost in ratings to a 7.0, according to SportsBusiness Daily, thanks to the halftime unveiling of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer. … No. 13 USC hosts Utah at 5 p.m. Saturday on ABC. UCLA is at Arizona at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks. ESPN will make a GameDay visit to James Madison University from 6 to 9 a.m. Saturday before its game against Villanova. It’s the ninth trip the show has made to an FCS school. …

The NBA season tips off Tuesday with TNT showing the night’s only two games: Boston-Cleveland at 5 and Houston-Golden State at 7:30. ESPN will have a doubleheader on Wednesday: Philadelphia-Washington at 4 p.m. and Minnesota-San Antonio at 6:30. The Clippers and Lakers start the season Thursday by playing each other. TNT will have that game, too, at 7:30 p.m. … ESPN will show NBA Rookies: The Introduction at 5 p.m. Thursday, featuring Lonzo Ball of the Lakers, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers, Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, Josh Jackson of the Suns and De’Aaron Fox of the Kings.

ESPN and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) have signed a five-year multiplatform agreement through 2021. … ESPN also announced it will not have its annual season-opening 24-hour college basketball marathon this year. Citing programming challenges, it will instead show a new early-season tournament, the Phil Knight Invitational from Portland, Ore.

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Baseball playoffs ready for a wild ride

If the rest of the baseball playoffs are as crazy as the two wild-card games were, we’re in for a roller-coaster ride.

MLB Primary Marks - Digital ArtThe American League Division Series start Thursday with Boston at Houston at 1 p.m. PDT on MLB Network (Bob Costas, John Smoltz) and New York at Cleveland at 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. Game 2 in each series will be Friday. It’ll be the Red Sox and Astros at 11 a.m. on FS1 and the Yankees and Indians at 2 p.m. on MLB Network.

The two National League Division Series begin Friday with Chicago at Washington at 4:30 p.m. and Arizona at Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. Both NL series will be on TBS, although it’s likely the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will start on TNT because baseball teams can’t even say hello in less than three hours.

Game 2 in each NL series will be Saturday. The Cubs and Nationals will be at 2:30 p.m. and the D-backs and Dodgers will be at 6. The AL will be off on Saturday.

I wondered in last week’s TV-Radio column if Joe Davis, the Dodgers’ TV voice, would be involved in the team’s postseason radio coverage. I didn’t receive word until Tuesday that Davis will be calling the Red Sox-Astros ALDS games for FS1. Davis will be teamed with David Cone, A.J. Pierzynski and reporter Jon Paul Morosi. The Yankees-Indians series will be announced by Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz with reporters Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal.

The D-backs-Dodgers series on TBS will be called by Brian Anderson with analysts Dennis Eckersley and Joe Simpson and reporter Lauren Shehadi. The Cubs-Nationals series will be called by Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling with reporter Sam Ryan.

Wednesday night’s NL wild-card game with Arizona defeating Colorado produced a 3.2 big-market overnight rating on TBS, according to SportsBusiness Daily. It was the most watched cable TV show of the night, but the lowest rating for a wild-card game since the new format began five years ago. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s AL wild-card game in which the Yankees topped Minnesota earned a 5.2 rating on ESPN.

‘TAR WARS’

Following Thursday’s Yankees-Indians game on FS1 will be a completely fictional movie about a completely real event.

The Pine Tar Incident: Making of Tar Wars, looks at the July 24, 1983, “Pine Tar Game,” in which Kansas City’s George Brett had a home run taken away against the Yankees and was called out for having too much pine tar on his bat. A protest by the Royals was upheld and the game was later restarted from the point of Brett’s homer. According to a Fox news release, the movie “imagines what it would be like if someone had actually made that film, and tells the story of the Pine Tar Game in a manner that reflects the absurdity and idiosyncrasy of the original events.”

So it’s a fictional movie about what it would be like to make a nonfictional movie about a true-life event.

No, thanks. It was strange enough in real life without adding this to it.

 KATIE BAR THE DOOR

Katie Nolan
Katie Nolan is moving from Fox to ESPN. (Fox Sports photo)
The stream of talent that has gone recently from ESPN to Fox has reversed a little with a notable figure: Katie Nolan.

Nolan, who has most recently hosted Garbage Time with Katie Nolan on FS1, will join ESPN on Oct. 16.

She has a great irreverent sense of humor that is prominent in her work and, as it turns out, in news releases.

The official ESPN news release said this about Nolan:

“She will have a prominent digital presence while also making appearances across ESPN studio programming. Announcements regarding her specific assignments are forthcoming.”

Two paragraphs later, Nolan was quoted.

“Nolan said: ‘I could not be more excited to have a prominent digital presence while also making appearances across ESPN studio programming. When I was a little girl, I always dreamed that one day announcements regarding my specific assignments would be forthcoming.’ ”

GRIDIRON GATHERINGS

The NFL Thursday night game is between the strangely 2-2 New England Patriots and the 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on CBS and NFL Network.

On Sunday, the Chargers are playing a 10 a.m. game at the New York Giants and the Rams are at home to face Seattle at 1 p.m. Both games are CBS games that contractually must be shown in their entirety in the Los Angeles market. Fortunately, CBS owns not only KCBS (Channel 2) but also KCAL (Channel 9). The Chargers, therefore, will be shown on Channel 9 and the Rams on Channel 2. A similar situation occurred last weekend for Fox, who showed the Rams on KTTV (Channel 11) while farming out the Chargers to KCOP (Channel 13), which Fox also owns.

The extra CBS channel actually enables L.A. viewers to choose up to four NFL games during the day Sunday (and yes, I know the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package lets you watch any game you want). Channel 11 will have Carolina-Detroit at 10 a.m. and Green Bay-Dallas at 1:25 p.m.

The NBC Sunday night game is Kansas City-Houston at 5:20. The ESPN Monday night game is Minnesota-Chicago at 5:15.

In college football, there are only two games in which both teams are ranked and one of those is Thursday night. No. 17 Louisville plays at No. 24 North Carolina State at 5 p.m. on ESPN. The other is No. 23 West Virginia at No. 8 TCU at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on FS1.

USC is on Pac-12 Networks on Saturday. The No. 14 Trojans host Oregon State at 1 p.m. UCLA has a bye.

 UP & DOWN THE DIAL

The WNBA Finals earned their highest rating since 2003. The five-game series, in which the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Los Angeles Sparks, earned a 0.5 rating, up 24% from 2016’s Finals featuring the same two teams. Game 5 had a 0.8 rating, doubling last year’s deciding game mark of 0.4. Game 5 had a 7.9 rating in Minneapolis-St. Paul and a 0.9 in L.A. … The Anaheim Ducks will have 74 games televised by Prime Ticket, Fox Sports West and KCOP this season, starting Thursday at home against Arizona at 7 p.m. The Kings host Philadelphia at 7 tonight on NBCSN. Formula 1 racing will move from NBC to ESPN starting in 2018. There will be 16 races on ESPN2, three on ESPN and two on ABC, which showed its first F1 race in 1962. ESPN’s last F1 race was in 1997. … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup playoffs start at 11 a.m. Sunday on NBC from Charlotte, N.C. …

NBC has acquired rights to the Six Nations Rugby Championship, starting in 2018. The event features England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. …The U.S.-Panama World Cup soccer qualifier will be shown at 4:35 p.m. Friday on ESPN2. … The World Gymnastics Championships from Montreal will be shown 11 a.m. Saturday on NBC and at 10 a.m. Sunday on NBCSN. Olympic Channel will also have coverage Thursday through Saturday. …

ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were honored by the National Press Club on Wednesday with the Fourth Estate Award, which recognizes journalists who have made significant contributions in the field. Other honorees have included Wolf Blitzer, Gwen Ifill, Charlie Rose, Andrea Mitchell, Bob Woodward, Jim Lehrer, Walter Cronkite, Christiane Amanpour and David Broder. … NFL reporter Josina Anderson and analyst Damien Woody have signed extensions with ESPN. Pac-12 Networks may not be able to get distribution on DirecTV, but they have worked out a deal with Alibaba to distribute content in China.

Faust ready to step into role as Kings TV voice

Alex Faust
Alex Faust will be the Kings’ new TV announcer, replacing the retired Bob Miller. (Los Angeles Kings photo)

If you thought Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis was young, wait till you see new Kings broadcaster Alex Faust.

Faust, 28, takes over this season as TV play-by-voice for the Kings on Fox Sports West, replacing the legendary Bob Miller, who retired after last season. Faust can be heard Thursday night in the preseason game against Arizona. The season opener for the Kings is next Thursday, Oct. 5, against Philadelphia.

Faust told the Los Angeles Times he is doing all he can to learn about Kings history and tradition, having met both with Miller and with longtime radio announcer Nick Nickson. Both Miller and Nickson are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I may not be able to give you exact days and events, but telling that broad story — being able to understand someone who’s coming from a perspective of 20, 30, 40, 50 years following this team — it’s incredibly important,” Faust told The Times. “It’s probably been the most challenging part of this job.”

Faust has also met with the 29-year-old Davis, who had a similar task this baseball season: filling the booth after the retirement of Vin Scully.

 WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEKEND?

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Joe Davis is concluding his first rull season with the Dodgers. (Fox Sports photo)

All season, we’ve tracked the weekend wanderings of Davis as he balanced Dodgers broadcasts with doing college football and basketball for Fox. Thankfully for him, he has no Fox football assignments this weekend and will be able to call the Dodgers’ final three regular-season games at Colorado for SportsNet LA.

They also will be the final three TV games Davis will be able to do since postseason games are exclusively shown by national networks. There is no word if Davis will be involved at all on the Dodger Radio Network. In past years (until his retirement year last season), Scully would move over to radio and do the first three and the last three innings, and Charley Steiner and Rick Monday would handle the middle innings. It remains to be seen if Davis would do any radio.

The American League wild-card game will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN and the National League wild-card game will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday on TBS.

The AL Division Series starts Thursday on Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network and the NL Division Series starts Friday on TBS.

FIRST THE ANTHEM, THEN FOOTBALL

All the turmoil in the past week over NFL players protesting during the national anthem has overshadowed the games themselves. Recently, right along with coverage plans, NFL news releases from TV networks have also included if they plan to show the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. Spoiler alert: They will.

Typically, the anthem has been sung while networks are away on commercials, or when they’re still doing their pregame shows. But with protest passions running so deep, the networks, to their credit, are covering the anthems for their news value.

Thursday night, CBS and NFL Network will show Chicago-Green Bay at 5:25 p.m. On Sunday, the Rams visit Dallas at 10 a.m. on Fox at the same time Pittsburgh plays Baltimore on CBS. At 1 p.m., Fox is shipping the Chargers’ home game against Philadelphia to KCOP (Channel 13) since Fox is obligated to show the entirety of both the Rams and Chargers to the Los Angeles market. Indianapolis-Seattle is the Sunday night game on NBC.

In college football, No. 5 USC visits No. 16 Washington State at 7:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN and UCLA hosts Colorado at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

Games featuring two ranked teams include No. 2 Clemson at No. 12 Virginia Tech at 5 p.m. on ABC and No. 24 Mississippi State at No. 13 Auburn at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

 UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Doris Burke
ESPN’s Doris Burke will primarily be an NBA game analyst this season. (ESPN photo)

Doris Burke has been named as a game analyst for the entire ESPN NBA season. She will continue her sideline duties during the postseason and important games during the regular season. … Kara Lawson will be an analyst for the Washington Wizards this season while continuing her ESPN commitments, according to SportsBusiness Daily.Mike Milbury will fill in as NHL analyst on NBCSN while Mike Olczyk recovers from colon cancer surgery, according to USA Today.ESPN’s Barry Melrose will also serve as an analyst for NHL Network, SBD reports. … Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose will be a part of Mike Greenberg’s new morning show on ESPN, according to The Hollywood Reporter.Paul Pierce has officially been named an NBA analyst by ESPN.

DirecTV is allowing some customers to cancel their NFL Sunday Ticket package if they cite the national anthem dispute as their reason, according to the Wall Street Journal. DirecTV usually doesn’t allow cancellations once the season is underway, but it said it is making exceptions this season because of the protests. … NBA TV will debut Open Court: Coaches Edition at 4 p.m. Tuesday. It’s a roundtable of coaches, including Washington’s Scott Brooks, Sacramento’s Dave Joerger, Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd, Utah’s Quin Snyder and Golden State’s Mike Brown.

The ESPN-owned Puerto Rico Tip-Off basketball tournament is being moved to Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Nov. 16-19 because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Ohlmeyer made an impact in every part of television

There have been only a few television executives who have not only had an impact on one part of a network they’ve worked for, such as entertainment or news, but also on another, such as sports.

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Don Ohlmeyer, left, sits next to ABC Sports president Roone Arledge in the control room at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. (ABC Photo Archives)

Don Ohlmeyer was such an executive. He was one of the first producers of Monday Night Football on ABC, executive producer for NBC Sports, the creator of his own production company which brought viewers offerings like the Skins Game golf exhibition as well as entertainment programs, the president of NBC’s entertainment division where he oversaw such series as Seinfeld and Friends, and finally back to MNF for one year for ABC where he hired comedian Dennis Miller to be an analyst.

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Don Ohlmeyer talks to analyst Dennis Miller before a Monday Night Football game. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Ohlmeyer died of cancer Sunday in Indian Wells at the age of 72. Al Michaels, a longtime friend, announced Ohlmeyer’s death on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

“With great sadness, I have to report on the death of a great pal, a man who was one of a kind, Don Ohlmeyer,” Michaels said. “Don [was] the original producer of Monday Night Football when he was in his 20s. He made NBC an entertainment powerhouse in the ’80s and ’90s, a must-see during that particular time. He came back and produced Monday Night Football in 2000. … Our thoughts and prayers to [wife] L.J. and Don’s four boys. He was truly special and one of a kind.”

Under Roone Arledge, Ohlmeyer also worked on the ABC’s Olympics coverage, which included during the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists in 1972.

Ohlmeyer had the task of managing Monday Night Football’s three-man booth: egotistical curmudgeon Howard Cosell, mischievous former quarterback Don Meredith and play-by-play straight man Frank Gifford.

In 1977, Ohlmeyer left for NBC, where World Series and Super Bowl telecasts highlighted his work. But he was disappointed that the 1980 U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics wiped out NBC’s telecasts.

He started his own company, Ohlmeyer Communications, in 1982, which briefly owned a 20% stake in ESPN. He then returned to NBC in 1993, this time as president of the entertainment division. It was Ohlmeyer who coined the phrase “Must See TV” as the network showed series such as ER, Frasier and Will & Grace as well as Seinfeld and Friends.

Ohlmeyer did a stint for alcohol abuse in 1996, according to Variety. He reportedly had Norm Macdonald removed as anchor of the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live in 1998 after repeated jokes calling O.J. Simpson, a friend of Ohlmeyer’s, a murderer.

After his retirement, Ohlmeyer was a professor of television communication at Pepperdine University and served a stint as ESPN’s ombudsman.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt had a statement on Ohlmeyer:

“Don Ohlmeyer was a towering figure in sports and entertainment who had an indelible impact both on NBC and our industry. His legacy will live on not only because he is directly responsible for some of the biggest hits in television … but also because he brought NBC to a new level of classy, sophisticated programming of the highest quality which we all still aspire to achieve today.”

And there was this assessment from ESPN president John Skipper:

“Don Ohlmeyer was an unsurpassed creative force in all forms of television as well as a brilliant and visionary executive — a truly unique combination. His involvement with ESPN spans many years and we are unquestionably better for it in ways that go well beyond his impact on Monday Night Football. He was a believer while sitting on our board in the early days, and as an effective ombudsman, he made us think. He leaves an indelible imprint on how millions consume entertainment to this day.”

WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEKEND?

The Dodgers will be without Joe Davis this weekend at Washington as he announces the Army-Ohio State football game on Fox at 1:30 p.m. PDT Saturday.

It’s not as if Davis would have had a lot to do this weekend anyway. Saturday’s Dodgers-Nationals game is going to be exclusively on Fox at 10 a.m. (Why didn’t they just have him do that game instead?) and Sunday’s game is on ESPN at 5 p.m.

Other national MLB games this weekend include Cardinals-Cubs, 11:20 a.m. Friday, MLB Network and 11:20 a.m. Sunday, TBS; Mariners-Astros, 1 p.m. Saturday, Fox; and Royals-Indians, 4 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports 1.

PIGSKIN PRODUCTIONS

There are only two ranked-vs.-ranked college football games on Saturday: No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville at 5 p.m. on ABC and No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida at 12:30 p.m. on CBS.

No. 4 USC hosts Texas at 5:30 p.m. on Fox and No. 25 UCLA is at Memphis at 9 a.m. on ABC.

In the NFL, the Los Angeles market will see Eagles-Chiefs at 10 a.m. and Redskins-Rams (going to 10% of the nation rather than Cowboys-Broncos to 81%) at 1:25 p.m. on Fox, and Dolphins-Chargers in the Chargers’ first L.A. game at 1:25 p.m. on CBS. Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman are calling the Rams game and Greg Gumbel and Trent Green are doing the Chargers.

The Sunday night game is Packers-Falcons at 5:20 p.m. on NBC. The Monday night game on ESPN is Lions-Giants at 5:15 p.m. Next Thursday, the Rams and 49ers will be on KNBC (Channel 4) and NFL Network at 5 p.m.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Beth Mowins on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and Tony Romo on CBS both received rave reviews for Week 1 in the NFL.Sunday Night Football’s opener (Giants-Cowboys) was seen by 21.7 million viewers, up 6% from last season. … The L.A. Kings announced their Fox Sports West TV schedule of 70 games this season. Alex Faust will be the Kings’ new play-by-play announcer following the retirement of Bob Miller, with Jim Fox staying on as analyst. The remaining 12 games will be on national TV. The season opener is Oct. 5 against Philadelphia on NBCSN. …

CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said the sports streaming service CBS plans to start will be more newsy and less opinionated than ESPN or Fox. “I’m turning on ESPN a lot and seeing people shouting at each other. I want to see the scores,” Moonves told an investor conference, according to Variety.

After being suspended by WFAN Radio from his Boomer and Carton show (simulcast nationally on CBS Sports Network), Craig Carton has resigned. Carton had been arrested for his part in a fake concert ticket scam. A replacement is being sought to join co-host Boomer Esiason. … After ESPN’s Jamele Hill tweeted that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist,” she later made a statement: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.” The network followed saying, “Jemele has a right to her personal opinions, but not to publicly share them on a platform that implies that she was in any way speaking on behalf of ESPN.”

NFL — warts and all — ready for Week 1

The vast behemoth that is the NFL begins play this weekend, beginning Thursday night with the champion New England Patriots hosting the Kansas City Chiefs at 5:30 p.m. PDT on NBC.

NFL_Shield_mark_rgbFor the first time in more than two decades, Los Angeles will have two NFL teams. The Rams start the season at home, playing the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum at 1:05 p.m. on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts in the booth. The Chargers, who for reasons known only to themselves, decided moving out of San Diego was a good idea, will start 2017 on the road, playing the Denver Broncos. That game will be the second of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader, starting at 7:20 p.m. In addition to ESPN, the game will also be shown on KABC (Channel 7).

The Chargers-Broncos game will also be notable because Beth Mowins will do the play-by-play, becoming the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game and the first to do any kind of NFL game since Gayle Sierens did a regional game in 1987. Mowins will be paired with analyst Rex Ryan, new to ESPN this season.

Also shown in the L.A. area on Sunday will be two games on Fox: Philadelphia-Washington at 10 a.m. and Seattle-Green Bay at 1:25 p.m. The opener on the ESPN MNF doubleheader will be New Orleans-Minnesota at 4:10 p.m.

The Tampa Bay-Miami game was postponed until Nov. 19 in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

MORE PALATABLE

The NFL is fighting an image problem right now. Its players continue to have problems with the law. There continue to be violent concussions that are keeping youth from even taking the game up in the first place. Increasing numbers of players are protesting during the national anthem and no NFL team is willing to sign Colin Kaepernick, the player who started it all.

Still, a Washington Post/University of Massachusetts-Lowell survey showed 60% of Americans still say pro football is their favorite sport. Baseball is next at 45%, followed by basketball at 39%.

In the poll, 76% see head injuries causing long-term health problems as a major problem for the league and 59% see injuries caused by hits and tackling as a major problem. Domestic violence (61%) and violent crime (60%) caused by players were also major problems. Players, such as Kaepernick, speaking out on political issues was seen as a major problem by 36%.

The number of TV commercials was seen as a major problem by 31% and the number of penalties called by 20%. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday on Fox Sports 1’s First Things First the league is trying to address all of its problems.

“We had a very busy off-season this year,” Goodell said, “focusing on a lot of changes for the game presentation and how we make the game better on the field and off the field.

“We focused a lot on officiating: centralizing replay and also adding full-time officials, also spending an awful lot of time on the game presentation: how do we make the game experience better for the fans in the stadium and also at home, and reducing the commercial time and trying to make sure we reduce the interruptions. I think all those things are going to make a difference for our fans this year.”

OLD COLLEGE TRY

The best college football games are always when two ranked teams are playing each other and there are four on Saturday, headed by No. 5 Oklahoma visiting No. 2 Ohio State at 4:30 p.m. on ABC. You’ll need to switch back and forth or have a second screen to see another big game going on at nearly the same time: No. 13 Auburn at No. 3 Clemson, kicking off at 4 p.m. on ESPN. NBC will show No. 24 Notre Dame hosting No. 15 Georgia at 4:30 p.m.

USC will also get into the act as the No. 6 Trojans host No. 14 Stanford at 5:30 p.m. on Fox. UCLA, which took a remarkable come-from-behind win over Texas A&M last weekend, hosts Hawaii in a matchup of unranked teams at 2 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

In terms of ratings, ESPN and Fox bickered back and forth a little bit through news releases over which of them had the better college football numbers last weekend.

From ESPN:

“ESPN/ABC generated the largest audiences across all networks throughout college football’s kickoff weekend, as the two networks combined to air the five most-watched games. Among just cable networks, ESPN was the clear leader, airing the two most-watched matchups. Factoring in the full slate, ESPN and ABC combined to air 11 games throughout the five days, averaging 4,400,000 viewers, 189% greater than seven game average on FS1/Fox.”

Fox, which said more than 3 million saw the UCLA comeback, said:

“Sunday night’s instant classic provided the exclamation point to a thrilling opening week of college football. With top games featuring the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences, college football enjoyed its best opening week ever on Fox and FS1 in terms of viewership, with an average audience of 1,522,000 across the networks’ seven games. Fox and FS1 are up a combined 15% over 2015, the last time an opening-week game aired on Fox, while the competition saw year-over-year decreases.”

The biggest game of the weekend was the Florida State-Alabama game on ABC with 12.5 million viewers.

SPORTSNET LA GOES KAFLOOEY

The Dodgers, who have lost 11 of their last 12 (thank goodness for Clayton Kershaw) going into Thursday’s start of a four-game series against Colorado, will be on national TV at 1 p.m. Sunday on TBS. It’s a chance for those who don’t get SportsNet LA to see the Dodgers. But how many really want to these days?

Speaking of SportsNet LA, the Dodgers-Diamondbacks telecast Tuesday, which was simulcast on KTLA (Channel 5), went kaflooey, forcing some drastic measures.

First, there was briefly nothing, just a black screen. Then the picture came back with crowd noise but no announcers (not the worst thing in the world), no graphics and no replays. Then the announcers came back. Then, strangely enough, the whole telecast shifted over to the Fox Sports Arizona feed. Finally, it was Dodgers announcers Joe Davis and Nomar Garciaparra and the Fox picture and graphics. A bizarre night.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

ESPN Radio host Ryen Russillo returned to his show Tuesday and apologized to listeners and to his employers for his arrest last month in Wyoming for which he was suspended. Meanwhile, Craig Carton of the Boomer & Carton show on CBS-owned New York’s WFAN (which is simulcast on CBS Sports Network) was arrested this week by the FBI, according to the New York Post on charges he defrauded customers in a fake concert ticket scam netting $2 million dollars that he used to cover gambling debts. …

U.S. Open tennis ratings were at 0.6 for ESPN and ESPN2 through Tuesday, a 20% increase from the 0.5 at that point last year. Streaming is up 45% over 2017. … CBS has extended it contract with Army through 2022. The deal arranges for CBS Sports Network to continue to show all Army football games. The network will also have the option to televise additional football games through the Patriot League, as well as select Army lacrosse and basketball games.

Mayweather-McGregor brings a PPV record — but some had trouble seeing it

I’m always surprised by the people who watch pay-per-view boxing. It attracts people you wouldn’t ordinarily think would purchase such a thing. Some of the gentlest, sweetest people I know spent the $99.99 and watched the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight last Saturday night.

However, in some cases, they couldn’t watch it right away.

Mayweather-McGregor
The fight between Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather was purchased by more 5 million pay-per-view customers, a record. (Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime)

The main event at Las Vegas was delayed until after 9 p.m. PDT because of problems with the PPV feed. There apparently were so many people who wanted to see the fight, some of the servers became overloaded.

Kind of sounds like what happens when a party of eight dines at Outback. The servers become overloaded. Thanks. I’ll be here all week.

Those trying to watch via the Showtime or UFC Fight Pass apps complained about delays and missing the first few rounds, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Things were so bad, according to The Hollywood Reporter, one fan, Zack Bartel of Portland, Ore., filed a class-action suit against Showtime “for unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment, alleging the network rushed its pay-per-view streaming service to the market without securing the bandwidth necessary to support the scores of cable-cutting fans.”

Showtime said this week it would issue a $99.99 refund to any viewer who purchased the fight through Showtime’s app and was unable to see the fight. It said those who purchased it from UFC or from a cable or satellite provider must request a refund from that operator.

In any event, Showtime is going to replay the fight (as it planned all along) on its regular channel at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT Saturday. It will be followed by All Access: Mayweather vs. McGregor Epilogue, showing the aftermath of the fight.

The fight had more than 5 million purchases, beating the previous record of 4.6 million for the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in 2015. Fox’s telecast of Saturday’s prelims was seen by an average of 2.4 million viewers, the network said with a peak of 3.1 million from 5:45 to 6 p.m.

HIRING MICHAEL VICK

Fox announced Sunday it has hired former NFL quarterback Michael Vick to be a studio analyst for Fox NFL Kickoff and studio shows on Fox Sports 1.

The network took some expected heat for the hire because of Vick’s involvement with a dogfighting ring in 2007. He spent 18 months in a federal prison and his NFL career came to a halt until 2009.

A petition came to Fox asking them to reconsider hiring Vick because the 60,000 who have signed it “do not believe that Michael Vick is repentant.”

“We absolutely and completely understand,” Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told USA Today. “It’s not a different reaction than what we had prepared ourselves for internally at Fox Sports. We discuss it. We talk about what happened then. What type of person is Mike is now? What debt has he paid to society? We still believe it’s the right thing to do.”

What Vick was involved with was reprehensible, no doubt. But he has paid his debt to society. The people who apparently think Vick should never be able to make a living again are wrong.

WHERE’S JOE DAVIS THIS WEEK?

Dodgers telecasts went through a few weekends earlier in the season when play-by-play man Joe Davis was away doing baseball games for Fox. Now it’s college football that will take Davis away from the SportsNet LA booth.

Davis is gone for an extended period of time this week because he is calling not one but two football games, both in the state of Oklahoma. He’s doing the Tulsa-Oklahoma State game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on FS1 and the Texas-El Paso-Oklahoma game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox. His analysts are Brady Quinn and Bruce Feldman.

Charley Steiner is doing TV play-by-play this week for the Dodgers with Rick Monday going from analyst to play-by-play on radio. The provisional broadcast setup will have to deal with a day-night doubleheader Saturday at San Diego.

No word on if Davis plans to be back Sunday in time to work the series finale against the Padres. My guess is probably.

Meanwhile, it’s important to point out that seven of the Dodgers’ final 30 regular-season games will be on TV channels other than SportsNet LA, for those of you who can’t get the Dodgers’ network. Three are on KTLA (Channel 5), one on Fox, one on ESPN and one on TBS. The TBS game — Sept. 10 vs. Colorado — is especially rare because those games are usually blacked out in home markets.

Here’s the full list of non-SNLA games:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 5 vs. Arizona, 7:10 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Sunday, Sept. 10 vs. Colorado, 1:10 p.m. (TBS)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 12 at San Francisco, 7:15 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Saturday, Sept. 16 at Washington, 10:05 a.m. (Fox)
  • Sunday, Sept. 17 at Washington, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Philadelphia, 4:05 p.m. (KTLA)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 26 vs. San Diego, 7:10 p.m. (KTLA)

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Pete Rose will not return to Fox Sports after recent allegations that Rose had a sexual relationship with an underage girl in the 1970s. Fox declined to comment to THR. Stu Lantz, who has been a Lakers TV analyst for 30 years, has been selected for the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Ed Cunningham, an ESPN college football analyst and former NFL player, has resigned from the network “because of his growing discomfort with the damage being inflicted on the players he was watching each week,” according to The New York Times.

The Rams and Chargers both conclude their NFL preseason schedule Thursday night. The Rams are at Green Bay at 4 p.m. on KCBS (Channel 2) and the Chargers are at San Francisco at 7 p.m. on KABC (Channel 7). Also, the Oakland Raiders host Seattle at 7 p.m. on KTLA (Channel 5). … Saturday’s BYU-LSU college football game is still on for 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN, but the location was changed from Houston’s NRG Stadium to New Orleans’ Superdome because of Hurricane Harvey.

ESPN has signed contract extensions with four NFL commentators and reporters: Wendi Nix, Louis Riddick, Dianna Russini and Darren Woodson. Phil Simms, who was relegated from top CBS NFL analyst to the pregame show, will join Chris Russo on SiriusXM Radio. His first appearance will at 1 p.m. Thursday and then at 1 p.m. Fridays thereafter. … SiriusXM also announced it has hired Danny Kanell as a college football analyst for its new college football channel (84), now called ESPNU Radio.

Taking Lee off Virginia broadcast a blunder for ESPN

It was so ludicrous that when the story broke, many thought it was satire from The Onion.

ESPN was going to change the play-by-play announcer for the Sept. 2 college football game at the University of Virginia against William & Mary because his name is — get ready — Robert Lee.

Robert Lee
Robert Lee was taken off play-by-play for the college football game at the University of Virginia. (Twitter photo)

It was a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that helped bring about the violence Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va., where the university is located. The announcer was switched, apparently at his request, to the Youngstown State-Pittsburgh game.

The idea, ESPN president John Skipper later told staffers in a memo, was to prevent Lee from being the subject of bullying and ridicule on social media.

Instead, the network has been ridiculed in every form of media imaginable. Columnists around the country have taken ESPN to task for overreacting to the situation.

In the memo, according to Variety, Skipper said it was the media who was overreacting.

“There was never any concern – by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game.

“Among our Charlotte [N.C.] production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling. Since Robert was their primary concern, they consulted with him directly. He expressed some personal trepidation about the assignment and, when offered the chance to do the Youngstown State/Pitt game instead, opted for that game — in part because he lives in Albany [N.Y.] and would be able to get home to his family on Saturday evening.

“I’m disappointed that the good intentions of our Charlotte colleagues have been intentionally hijacked by someone with a personal agenda, and sincerely appreciate Robert’s personal input and professionalism throughout this episode.”

Lee, who is an Asian-American freelance broadcaster, has made no comment about the situation.

The news of the reassignment was first reported by the Outkick the Coverage sports website, which has criticized ESPN for what it sees as a liberal bias.

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to see how covering sports gives ESPN a liberal bias, but apparently it’s primarily for covering things like the Colin Kaepernick controversy. People are indeed way too excited about giving labels to everything and everyone these days.

To cast ESPN as politically biased is wrong. Maybe it’s been guilty of “East Coast bias,” but that’s it.

ESPN, of course, could have handled this better. How? By not doing it. With all due respect to Lee (the broadcaster, not the general), he is virtually unknown nationally, and the game he was going to announce was not going to be seen by very many people. It’s certainly the most attention anyone has ever paid to William & Mary’s football program. Fewer people would have noticed Lee staying on the telecast than have noticed his being pulled from it.

Of course, it appears that Lee (the broadcaster, not the general) was given the choice on whether to stay or switch and that’s fine. But this whole thing sounds like a joke and everyone is laughing at ESPN — or worse — and poor Lee (the broadcaster, not the general) is caught up in the middle even more than he would have been otherwise.

END THE HYPE — PLEASE

The Floyd Mayweather-Colin McGregor will finally take place Saturday night in Las Vegas on pay-per-view and once it does, all the incessant hoopla leading up to it will finally end. Relief at last.

It’s boxing, but it’s also being called “combat sport,” since McGregor is a mixed martial arts fighter. For better or worse, it has attracted a storm of attention.

“This will be the most widely distributed event in PPV history,” Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said. “This event will be distributed in over 200 countries and might grow to 225 countries by the time we’re done. That’s a broader distribution than virtually any other event in combat sports history. We are well on our way to being a record-setting event in many categories.”

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Speaking of Kaepernick, NBC plans to show the playing of the national anthem before the NFL opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots at Foxborough, Mass., on Sept. 7, according to Sporting News. Networks typically don’t show the anthem at NFL games, except for major events and NBC has done so for its Thursday night openers. With controversy over which players kneel or stand for The Star-Spangled Banner, the airing will have more than just an ornamental significance. … This weekend’s nationally televised NFL preseason games are led by the Rams hosting the Chargers (who will get to see what an NFL-sized crowd really looks like) at 5 p.m. PDT on CBS. On Thursday night, NFL Network will show Dolphins-Eagles at 5. On Friday night, CBS will have Chiefs-Seahawks at 5. Three games on Sunday: Bears-Titans at 10 a.m. and Bengals-Redskins at 1:30 p.m., both on Fox, and 49ers-Vikings at 5 p.m. on NBC. … The Chiefs-Seahawks was supposed to be the on-air debut for Tony Romo as Jim Nantz’s partner, but Romo and his wife Candice just welcomed their third son, Jones McCoy Romo, on Wednesday, and so that debut will be delayed. … There’s a smattering of college football games Saturday, led by No. 14 Stanford playing Rice at Sydney, Australia, at 7 p.m. CBS Sports Network will show Oregon State-Colorado State at 11:30 a.m. and No. 19 South Florida-San Jose State at 4:30 p.m. …

U.S. Open tennis starts Monday on ESPN. The event, shuffled around ESPN, ESPN2 and online, concludes Sept. 10. … Eric Dickerson is joining Fox Sports 1 as an NFL analyst. … Former Today show correspondent Jenna Wolfe is joining FS1 as host of First Things First with Cris Carter and Nick Wright. ESPN is putting Scott Van Pelt on for an extra night of SportsCenter. He’ll add Sunday nights during the football season. Meanwhile, Sage Steele will co-host SportsCenter AM with Jay Harris and Randy Scott starting Tuesday. … In ESPN news of another kind, ESPN Radio host Ryen Russillo was arrested Wednesday in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for misdemeanor criminal trespassing. Russillo allegedly entered a condo at about 3:30 a.m., according to the residents. Russillo was “lying on the bed in the south bedroom naked except for his pants around his ankles,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Oaks Christian visits Chaminade at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Prime Ticket’s first high school football game of the season. … Fox has renewed its deal with BIG3, the pro three-on-three basketball league. The league’s first championship game, between Trilogy and the 3 Headed Monsters, will be shown live on Fox at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. … Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, the Spanish-language broadcaster for the Miami Marlins, died Monday at 94. Ramirez, a Hall of Famer, had worked for the Marlins since 1993. … Angels broadcaster Jose Mota did play-by-play on radio flagship station KLAA (830 AM) over the weekend and became the first to do play-by-play and be an analyst in English and Spanish on both radio and TV (Fox Sports West). Mota is in his 16th season with the team.