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ESPN `Full Circle' Doesn't Square With the Viewers

September 06, 2006|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

ESPN showed off its many bells and whistles with "Full Circle" coverage of Monday night's Florida State-Miami football game, and early ratings indicate viewers far preferred the traditional telecast on ESPN over a multi-screened presentation on ESPN2.

The overnight rating for the ESPN telecast was a 6.1, and if that rating holds when the national numbers come in, it will be ESPN's highest-rated regular-season game since Florida State-Miami on Oct. 8, 1994, got a 7.7. The actual number of viewers for Monday night's game was not yet available.

The ESPN2 multi-screened telecast, which featured the main feed surrounded by seven screens, each with a different camera angle, got a 0.6 rating, and drew criticism from viewers.

"I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the stupidest things I've ever seen since Fox introduced the glowing puck," was one comment in a deadspin.com chat room. "I don't care what [Miami quarterback] Kyle Wright's reaction was when [Florida State's] Lorenzo Booker gained three yards on second down. Just give us the game, ESPN, and stop tinkering with what works."

The "Full Circle" coverage also included SkyCam coverage on ESPNU that featured commentary from ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd. This coverage was also video-streamed on ESPN360, ESPN's broadband computer service.

Mobile ESPN, a cellphone video service, offered the traditional ESPN telecast.

ESPN.com offered a chat room, live reports, a real-time animated game representation and in-game polling.

ESPNews had frequent updates and analysis.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said the "Full Circle" coverage drew a mixed response from viewers.

"Some people liked it, some people didn't," he said of the coverage.

It is noteworthy that even an 0.6 rating is better than what many traditional sports telecasts draw on ESPN2.

ESPN2 and ESPNU viewers were continually reminded that there was traditional coverage on ESPN by a message at the bottom of the screen.

This was the third time ESPN offered "Full Circle" coverage of a sporting event. The first time was for the North Carolina-Duke men's basketball game on March 4. The other time was for a Miami-Chicago NBA playoff game.

It appears the promotion surrounding such coverage draws more viewers overall.

The traditional coverage of North Carolina's upset over Duke got a 3.5 rating, making it the network's highest-rated college basketball game since 2002. The coverage on ESPN2 for the North Carolina-Duke game had an "above the rim" angle and drew a 0.7 rating. Combined, the two telecasts reached 3.78 million households, making it the most-watched college basketball game in ESPN history. The previous high was 3.44 million homes for an NCAA tournament game between Princeton and Arkansas in 1990.

When USC played Virginia Tech in the BCA Classic at the start of the 2004 football season, there was supplemental behind-the-scenes coverage on ESPN2.

Of Monday night's multi-screened coverage, one person wrote at the deadspin.com chat room, "This seemed like a total eyesore, as it was hard to follow. But, hey, that's just one man's opinion. If others liked it, good, great, grand, wonderful."

Columnist Justin Doom of SI.com was one who did think it was wonderful. He raved about the eight-screen view that he said included "one slightly larger main screen, one SkyCam, one camera on each coach and each starting quarterback, and two random screens searching out faces in the crowd such as ... Edgerrin James."

Wrote Doom: "I want the coach cams, I want the QB cams. Most of all, I want SkyCam."

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larry.stewart@latimes.com

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