Why the men’s Final Four viewership might tank; ESPN’s investigative best: Media Circus

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus has always been honest about the TV realities of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. What makes the opening rounds great (and increases interest) is when Cinderella advances over US Steel. But at a certain point in the event, when it comes to historical television viewers, what drives mass interest are the famous college basketball schools.

“You obviously want the big brands in the tournament if you can have them,” McManus said ahead of the 2021 tournament when asked about Kentucky’s absence from the draw. “But I think what happens every year is stories that emerge, and it’s the stories that emerge that people really care about. I’ve already said that Kentucky, Duke, Michigan or one of the traditional powerhouses like Kansas or North Carolina will help your ratings. But we will focus on the teams and stories that are included. Would we like to have these teams? Sure we would.”

This year’s Final Four will provide a glimpse into the importance of the Bluebloods. San Diego State, a No. 5 seed, meets No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the early semifinals on CBS Saturday at 6:09 p.m. No. 4 UConn and No. 5 Miami follow on CBS with an approximate tip time of 8:49 p.m. ET. San Diego State, Florida Atlantic and Miami are newcomers to the Final Four. (In fact, the Aztecs had never reached a regional final before, and Florida Atlantic’s only other tournament appearance was a first-round loss 21 years ago). UConn has won four NCAA tournament championships, the last coming in 2014.

The historical context for what may be to come: Baylor’s blowout win over Houston in the early Final Four window in 2021 averaged 8.36 million viewers — in what stands as the least-watched Final Four game of all time. The previous low, according to SBJ’s Austin Karp, was Kansas-Marquette in 2003 (9.9 million) on CBS, which Karp says was marred by coverage surrounding the start of the Iraq war. The least watched title game from 1975, according to Sports Media Watch, is Villanova’s win over Michigan in 2018, which averaged 15.987 million viewers on linear and 16.5 million viewers including streaming. This comes with a slight caveat as it aired on TBS, TNT and TruTV as opposed to broadcast television. The all-time low was 17.09 million viewers in 2004 for UConn’s win over Georgia Tech on CBS.

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As sports history, it’s exciting that either Florida Atlantic or San Diego State will be in the championship game. As a television draw – and I hope I’m wrong – I expect the Final Four game to set a new all-time low for broadcast television. As for potential championship games, CBS will have a Cinderella trying to win it all, but neither UConn nor Miami come out exactly as 1990 UNLV. (UConn wing Jordan Hawkins is the only player in the game to make the top 25 for most mock drafts.) If you’re CBS, you really need a tight title game this year, maybe more than any in quite a while. But I think we’re looking at the least watched title game of all time. We’ll know in the days after next Monday’s game.

ESPN investigative reporters Nicole Noren and TJ Quinn have spent more than four years covering the institutional mistakes that led to the 2018 murder of Lauren McCluskey, a student athlete at the University of Utah, who was shot and killed by a man , who she briefly dated , Melvin Shawn Rowland, who lied about his identity. ESPN reporters will be sharing the results of their work in a variety of ways this week, including an original documentary, “Listen,” which premieres Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and ESPN+ on Hulu, and a written feature on ABC’s 20/20 will also cover McCluskey’s death this Friday at 9 p.m. ET, with the reporters.

“We began work on the story in January 2019, not quite three months after Lauren’s murder, and realized very early on that telling it the way we wanted to tell it would be a long-term commitment. ‘ Noren said. “We have been actively reporting and sourcing new information and materials, but we wanted to remain behind the scenes and further broaden our focus to see how the institutions and individuals involved responded and moved forward following this tragedy. Additionally, we knew that there was a wealth of unreleased material (surveillance video, audio recordings, police interviews, etc.) that could paint a more complete picture of what transpired in the last few days of Lauren’s life, but acquiring this material would take time and require perseverance and patience.”

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“Finding all the documents and videos was time-consuming, to say the least, and sometimes had to be resolved through state hearings,” Quinn said. “But ultimately we were able to get what the public is entitled to by law. With humans, however, it was a different story.”

Noren and Quinn said they were granted time and resources by management, particularly Chris Buckle, who heads ESPN’s investigative unit, to tell a more complete story. The documentary I watched last week meticulously examines how multiple institutions are failing McCluskey. The reporters received the full cooperation and support of Lauren’s parents, Jill and Matt, and Lauren’s friends, but said they were aware they had to check everything they said with the same care they gave everyone else. Noren said the documentary addresses how people (and women in particular) are treated when they come forward to report troubling signs in a relationship. It’s ESPN at its best investigative form.

“It certainly wasn’t news that the institutions had let them down, which the school itself said,” Quinn said. “With campus police, it’s harrowing to look back and see how many chances there were to step in and stop Melvin Shawn Rowland. We learned that the campus police chief was reluctant to deal with (Utah) Adult Probation and Parole for fear they would jeopardize ongoing cases. No one in the department was trained to check anyone’s parole status. The detective didn’t follow up on Lauren’s case in part because she had other serious business and nobody told her to do it. No one passed information about her case from one shift to the next.

“But we also learned that there was deep confusion among both Lauren and the officers she interacted with as to whether Rowland was the person harassing and blackmailing her. Many of the people she dealt with in the police and housing departments were also inexperienced. Systemic and procedural safeguards had to be in place here, serving as a safety net for a young woman unsure of what was happening to her. Part of what seemed revealing was how Rowland was able to manipulate people and systems. Just six days before he killed Lauren, he told colleagues he blackmailed her and was worried about going back to jail. And nobody did anything.”

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Some things I read in the last week that were interesting to me:

• A sandwich shop, a tent city and an American crisis. By Eli Saslow of The New York Times.

• How a German programmer created the deepest baseball simulation ever. By Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic.

• Vince McMahon reimburses WWE for sexual misconduct investigation costs. By Sabela Ojea of ​​The Wall Street Journal.

• Jaylen Brown tries to find a balance. By Logan Murdock of The Ringer.

• Steve Cohen’s amazing, maddening, money-losing attempt to own New York. By Matt Flegenheimer and Kate Kelly of The New York Times.

• What counts as an “American name” in a changing nation. By Marian Chia-Ming Liu of The Washington Post.

• In the CIA office for hiding defectors. By Bryan Denson and David Wolman from the 1843 magazine.

• Jerry Green, legendary Detroit sportswriter who covered 56 Super Bowls, dies at 94. By Bill Shea of ​​The Athletic.

• One of the author’s most haunting mysteries is the story of his own death. By Randy Dotinga of the Washington Post.

• Get in the ring with the podfather of pro wrestling from Alabama. By Tony Rehagen of Garden and Gun.

• Forced to live in horse boxes. How one of America’s worst injustices played out in Santa Anita. By Darrell Kunitomi of the Los Angeles Times.

• The untold story of Jimmy Carter, his best friend and a murder charge. By Danielle Paquette of the Washington Post.

(Photo of Florida Atlantic celebrating Saturday’s win over Kansas State: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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