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Area ratings for opener take a hit

The local ratings for the Buffalo Bills' 25-24 loss to the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football were high but it was a little surprising they weren't even higher.

The game had a 27.4 rating on Channel 7, the local affiliate that simulcast ESPN's coverage of the game. It had an 11.7 rating on ESPN for a combined rating of 39.1, meaning 39.1 percent of area households were tuned in.
That beat the 38.4 local rating for the Bills' 29-27 MNF home loss to Cleveland last year but was 3.1 points lower than the 42.2 rating for the final-second home loss to Dallas in 2007.

With the Bills ahead against a dreaded AFC East rival on the road, you might have expected the Pats game would have had a rating in the 40s. Perhaps the pessimism surrounding the team kept early viewership down.
Local viewers didn't want to stay around too long for the postmortems. Two-thirds of Channel 7's high end-of-game viewership (34.9) left when the postgame show started and about 15 percent of viewers stayed past 10:30 p.m.
ESPN reports that the Bills-Pats game featuring the return of New England quarterback Tom Brady had a 10.3 rating and drew more than 10 million households. It won prime time over the broadcast networks and was cable TV's largest audience of the year.

* Bills fans better hope that the "Inside the NFL" crew on Showtime isn't right about what the loss to the Pats means about the season. On Wednesday's show, Cris Collinsworth said the game "was one of those magical moments for the Buffalo Bills" that slipped away and won't happen again. And Warren Sapp said of the loss, "That one there might last the whole season."

* Tennis anyone? Local fans of the U.S. Open had to scramble Monday to find CBS' coverage of the stunning five-set win by Juan Martin del Potro over heavily favored Roger Federer.
The match started on WNLO-TV, the smaller sister of WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate. This enabled Channel 4 to carry Oprah's interview with Whitney Houston and its 90-minute news block. By 6:30 p.m., Channel 4 carried tennis on both channels. But at 8 p.m., when WNLO began carrying its CW entertainment programs, the match was only on WIVB.
This may have upset the DVR plans of some tennis fans. I DVRed WNLO, which meant I unintentionally recorded "One Tree Hill" and lost most of the fifth set of the classic upset.
Tennis isn't that big of a draw in Western New York. The match averaged a 0.5 rating while it was on WNLO and a 2.6 while it was on WIVB. Nationally, the match had a 2.3 rating, which means locals follow tennis about as well as the nation when viewers can find it. Fortunately, the match was also replayed Tuesday night on ESPN Classic.

* I've always admired tennis analyst and HBO feature reporter Mary Carillo. But she really earned my respect last week when she came down hard on Serena Williams for her tirade after a foot fault call in a semifinal match against eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Carillo essentially called the fines that Williams had to pay a joke and suggested she should have been immediately suspended and prevented from playing in the doubles final with her sister Venus. Too often, network analysts protect stars in any sport, which made Carillo's stand practically seem courageous.

ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe also deserves praise for the way he handled a post-victory interview with the Williams sisters after they won the Open doubles. McEnroe almost gently tried to coax an apology out of Serena before the crowd turned against him, prompting Venus to advise him the crowd was saying it was time to move on. McEnroe was right to ask the questions even if the crowd doesn't understand journalism.

* He's back. The NFL Network has hired former ESPN analyst Joe Theismann to be part of its "Playbook" show cast. Consider it a warning.

* One of the best things about the adding by Monday Night Football of analyst Jon Gruden concerns how often he and Ron Jaworski disagree. Before the Pats kicked off deep to Leodis McKelvin with about two minutes left, Gruden said he would have tried an onside kick and Jaworski said he would kick the ball deep. And we all know what happened after that.


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