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Giants-Cowboys draws NFL’s best regular-season game audience...U.S.-England draws over 15 million viewers on Fox...USMNT one win away from advancing in World Cup

Giants-Cowboys best NFL regular-season game ever

By Austin Karp

Giants-Cowboys on Thursday marked the NFL’s best regular-season game audience on record, and helped fuel the league’s best Thanksgiving viewership yet, per fast-national figures. Fox drew 42 million viewers for the Cowboys’ 28-20 win over the Giants in the 4:30pm ET window on Thanksgiving, a figure that passes a “Monday Night Football” game from 1990 on ABC featuring the Giants and 49ers (41.55 million viewers) as the league’s best regular-season game audience on record (viewership figures date back to 1988). Giants-Cowboys also is up 3% from the comparable Raiders-Cowboys game last Thanksgiving on CBS (40.8 million). Dallas-Ft. Worth drew a 24.5 local rating for the game to lead all local markets, followed by a pair of other Texas markets in San Antonio (19.2) and Austin (16.5). The 42 million viewers for Giants-Cowboys also makes the game the No. 5 telecast on all of TV for 2022 to date, behind only last season’s Super Bowl, NFC and AFC Championships and Chiefs-Bills shootout in the AFC Divisional round.

CBS also had a strong audience for Bills-Lions this year, as the 31.6 million viewers for the game is the NFL’s best early Thanksgiving game on record. That figure is up big from 26.7 million viewers for Bears-Lions on Fox in the early Thanksgiving window in 2021. Bills-Lions peaked at 41.98 million viewers. The game will now be the No. 10 audience on all of U.S. airwaves for 2022 date, just behind the State of the Union address from earlier in the year.

In primetime on Thursday, NBC averaged 25.9 million viewers for the Vikings’ 33-26 win over the Patriots, marking the second-best primetime Thanksgiving audience since the window began in 2006 (NFL Network carried the window until 2012). The viewership for Vikes-Pats is behind only 27.8 million viewers for Bears-Packers in 2015, and up big from 19.9 million viewers for Bills-Saints in 2021. The audience for NBC would rise to over 26 million when Telemundo is included. The Spanish-language network drew 565,000 viewers for the game, which is its best regulars-season game yet, and second-best NFL game of any kind on record (behind only last season’s Rams-Bengals Super Bowl LVI).

For the three games this year, the NFL averaged 33.5 million viewers, which is the best Thanksgiving average yet for the league. That is up from 29.7 million viewers for three games last year, and up from 27.1 million for a pair of games in 2020. It’s also up from 27.4 million for the pre-pandemic tripleheader in 2019.

U.S.-England draws over 15 million viewers on Fox

Friday's U.S.-England World Cup match drew 15.4 million viewers for Fox, by far the "most-watched game of the 2022 World Cup so far in the U.S.” Another 4.6 million “tuned in via Telemundo Deportes’ Spanish-language coverage of the match on Telemundo, Peacock and digital platforms.” The match was Telemundo’s “second-most watched game of the 2022 World Cup” after Brazil-Serbia on Thanksgiving. Friday’s match “benefitted" from a 2pm ET start time on a holiday, which "set it up for some impressive viewership" (DEADLINE, 11/26). Only the USMNT's round-of-16 extra-time loss to Belgium in 2014 “had more viewers,” with 16.94 million watching on ESPN. The largest English-language television audience for soccer in the U.S. was the 25.4 million who watched the 2015 Women’s World Cup final on Fox (L.A. TIMES, 11/26).

USMNT one win away from advancing in WC

The USMNT “must beat Iran" on Tuesday if they want to “finish in the top two and advance to the round of 16.” Any other result and "this World Cup adventure ends." After missing the 2018 World Cup, getting out of the group stage “was the threshold for modest success” and the U.S. is “in a position” to achieve that goal. Tuesday’s game has also “been framed as not just a sporting event but a clash of political enemies” (WASHINGTON POST, 11/26).

The USMNT's draws against Wales and England sent the message that the U.S. was "ascendant and ambitious for more” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25). The team, "despite its youth and inexperience," during its match with England on Friday "proved that it not only belonged, but it could go toe to toe with one of the world’s most talent teams” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/25). Friday’s result left the U.S. "knowing that their pursuit of international relevance has gained many admirers" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/25).

USSF removes Iranian flag emblem on social media

Ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup match with Iran on Tuesday, U.S. Soccer "briefly displayed Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, saying the move supports protesters" in the country. The USMNT Twitter account "displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colors." The "same could be seen in a post on its Facebook and Instagram accounts laying out the point totals so far in its group." But the normal flag with the emblem was "restored" on all platforms today as “attention to it grew.” The USSF said they “wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours.” The federation "displayed the official Iranian flag in a graphic showing Group B standings on its website" (AP, 11/27).

FIFA pressured to resolve Saudi Arabia TV issue

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is “under intense pressure” to resolve Saudi Arabia’s "block on TV coverage as part of a power play at the World Cup.” A source said that new legal representations from Qatar-based beIN had been "taken to both FIFA and Saudi authorities on Saturday” as the net's streaming platforms “were being blocked” in neighboring countries. Coverage was "cut an hour before” last Sunday’s opening ceremony causing a "major headache for FIFA as beIN is one of its biggest right-holders for the tournament." Negotiations have “taken place between the nations," but Saudi’s Ministry of Media is "understood to have refused to relent” (London TELEGRAPH, 11/26). Under beIN’s agreement with FIFA, the net is "broadcasting 22 World Cups games on free television in Saudi Arabia,” including the opening game, final and all of Saudi Arabia’s games. The remaining 42 games are "only available" on beIN's streaming platform TOD.tv. The streaming ban comes amid a "push by Saudi Arabia to become a global sports player” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25).

CFP picture sees clarity after regular season end

Saturday’s college football results “simplified” the CFP picture. Georgia and Michigan “should both be in regardless of their performances" in Saturday's conference championship games. TCU is “likely in a similar boat” after beating Iowa State 62-14, though TCU “might be better off beating Kansas State in Arlington to remove all doubt.” USC also will have a "chance to avenge its only loss” on the year in the Pac-12 title next week against Utah. But even with some clarity, there are "still teams just outside of the top four lurking, hoping and already politicking." The ACC is “officially out of the running” following Clemson’s 31-30 loss to South Carolina (THE ATHLETIC, 11/27).

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said that the conference "'without a doubt' ... should end up with two teams” in the CFP following Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game. Warren: “One hundred percent. Clearly, Michigan and Ohio State are two of the best four teams in the country, and I think today proved it.” Since the inception of the CFP in 2014, the Big Ten has "never had two teams selected” in the same season (ESPN.com, 11/26).

Middle East-based groups interested in Liverpool

Premier League club Liverpool has “held discussions with two Middle East-based consortiums" over an around $3.6B takeover. Consortiums from Saudi Arabia and Qatar have "expressed an interest in buying” the club. Sources said that consortium officials have "approached Fenway Sports Group director Mike Gordon -- the man responsible for the sale of Liverpool -- to register their interest." Both groups are “private companies rather than state-owned,” but both are "thought to have close links with their country’s ruling families.” Liverpool also is "in discussions" with a U.S.-based buyer (London DAILY MAIL, 11/26).

The EPL has "no plans to include regulations in their owners and directors’ test" that would "prevent a Saudi investor taking control" of either Liverpool or Manchester United. The clubs have "yet to agree the terms of the latest OADT," but it is understood that its current draft will "not preclude individuals on the basis of the political or human rights’ record of their country of origin” (London TELEGRAPH, 11/25).

NFL to continue accelerator program next month

The NFL league office “will continue its ‘accelerator’ program next month” at the owners meetings. More than two dozen front office and/or football operations execs from across nearly every NFL team "will be at the day-and-a-half-long meeting” in Irving, Texas, starting Dec. 13. These men and women “had previously participated in the accelerator program” held in Atlanta during an owners meeting in the spring. Because this meeting is taking place in the middle of the NFL season, coaches and coordinators who had been part of the program in the spring “will be unable to attend.” Early indications are there "won't be as much turnover at the GM position as there was last year” when five teams hired new GMs unless there are "some surprise firings or retirements” (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/27).

Eagles to debut black alternate helmets tonight

The Eagles for the first time ever will be "dressed in black from head-to-toe" with the debut of black alternate helmets for tonight's "SNF" matchup against the Packers. The Eagles will be "decked in all black twice more this season" -- Week 16 on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys, and in Week 18 at home against the Giants. Next year, it is expected the Eagles will "shift away from their black alternate outfits and return to their classic kelly green uniforms," which Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has been an "advocate for in recent years" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/27). Lurie hopes NFL helmet rules “continues to evolve, allowing the Eagles to have two alternate helmets in 2023 and beyond.” That would allow the Eagles to "keep their midnight green helmets as their standard, but to then have a Kelly green and a black helmet as alternates” (NBCPHILADELPHIA.com, 11/23).

Penguins, Bruins unveil Winter Classic jerseys

The Penguins and Bruins unveiled the uniforms both teams will be wearing during the 2023 Winter Classic at Fenway Park on Jan. 2. The Bruins are "once again going with a vintage look," using one of the first logos in their team history on a "predominantly black backdrop with gold piping near the bottom and on the shoulders." The Penguins are "going with a design they've never worn before," displaying an "angular 'P' on a cream-colored background with two black lines running through the chest" (THE HOCKEY NEWS, 11/25). This will mark the Penguins' “fifth different jersey this season,” as well as the “seventh different alternate jersey the Penguins will wear since 2017” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW, 11/25).

Killington Cup giant slalom draws record crowd

The Killington Cup giant slalom drew a crowd of 21,000 spectators on Saturday, a “record number for the event.” Windy conditions “forced the start of the race to be moved farther downhill” on Killington’s “Superstar" trail, "shortening the course by several gates and narrowing the potential for time gaps among racers.” Mikaela Shiffrin was the highest-placed U.S. racer, finishing 13th, but despite a podium without a U.S. racer, Killington fans “roared their support” for Lara Gut-Behrami, Marta Bassino and Sara Hector. They also had an "increased contingent of US skiers to cheer for,” with four finishing in the top 30 after the first run (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/26).

Speed Reads....

The Red Sox are "now shooting to host" the 2027 All-Star Game at Fenway Park following MLB awarding the 2024 game to the Rangers and Globe Life Field (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/26).

Former NBAer Dennis Scott will become the 12th inductee into the Magic HOF. Magic CEO Alex Martins made the announcement during a "surprise appearance on NBA TV’s pregame show Saturday evening" ahead of Thunder-Rockets. The date and time for the induction ceremony "will be determined at a later date" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/26).

The Glendale City Council is "taking the first steps to remove the last reference" to the Coyotes on city property with a "new name" for Coyotes Boulevard. The road is "only about a half-mile long" in front of Desert Diamond Arena, formerly Gila River Arena, which was the home of the Coyotes before they moved this season to play at Mullett Arena in Tempe (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/23).

The Federal Trade Commission is "likely to file an antitrust lawsuit" to block Microsoft’s $69B takeover of video game giant Activision Blizzard. A lawsuit "would be the FTC’s biggest move yet" to rein in the power of the world’s largest technology companies (POLITICO, 11/23).

The World Cup is drawing record viewership to Spanish-language broadcasts on Telemundo and Peacock, as Mexico’s match against Poland on Tuesday was the "most-streamed World Cup game in U.S. history" with a total audience delivery of 4.6 million viewers. The tournament-opening match between Ecuador and Qatar drew 832,000 viewers, a "record for most-streamed Spanish-language match that was broken one day later" when 1 million streamed the U.S.-Wales game (AP, 11/24).

Screenwriter Ron Shelton has obtained the option rights to “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?,” Richard Ben Cramer’s 1986 Esquire profile of the man "who remains arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/26).

Michigan State will hold its Evergreen NIL Celebration on Monday, with programming to include giving out awards and recognizing the student-athletes in the NIL space for innovation, giving back to the community and being a brand ambassador, among other categories. Monday’s "green carpet" event will involve student-athletes across all sports at MSU and be hosted by Pistons in-game host Kevin Irwin (Michigan State).

Attorneys for former Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig are "exploring a possible defense" after Puig was expected to "plead guilty Wednesday to lying to federal authorities investigating an illegal sports-gambling ring" (L.A. TIMES, 11/23).

The Patriots allowed their team plane to be used by the Univ. of Virginia so staff and players could "attend the funerals of the three players who were killed" earlier this month (USA TODAY, 11/26).

Quick Hits....

“It’s called soc-cer!” -- Chanted by U.S. fans at Al Bayt Stadium during Friday's World Cup match against England, which ended in a 0-0 tie (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25).

"Everyone wants to play faster because of the Warriors and the body movement and the ball movement, it’s unbelievable. I don’t understand how it’s like this now. I don’t know if it can stay like this, but I’m sure it’s fun to watch, especially from a fan’s standpoint" -- Kings coach Mike Brown, on NBA teams trying to copy the Warriors formula for success (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/26).

Weekend Hot Reads: Ride the Tiger

Under the header, "Tiger Woods’ $15 million bonus was a bargain -- the PGA Tour owes him so much more," GOLFWEEK's Eamon Lynch noted the PGA Tour last week announced the final results of this year's Player Impact Program and Woods collected $15M to go with the $8M he received from the inaugural PIP pool last year. That is $23M "just for being Tiger Woods," who "adds immense value to the PGA Tour." Woods’ value to the Tour is "diminished only in that he can no longer compete with the consistency and frequency he used to." But he "still draws more eyeballs" than any other player. That PIP bonus is a "bargain for what he brings, and would remain so even if it were doubled." Not everything Woods contributed to the Tour this year is "quantifiable, even with opaque metrics."

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Today's Back Pages....

The Weekend Rap offers today's back page sports covers from some of North America's major metropolitan tabloids:

N.Y. Post  N.Y. Daily News Newsday Boston Herald (front page) Chicago Sun-Times Philadelphia Daily News
 
 
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