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Media column: From tickets to TV ratings, how Heat interest now compares with LeBron era; Dolphins, NFL, NCAA TV notes


Asking and answering sports media and business questions:

### We know the Heat’s win total has plunged without LeBron James. But what about local interest in the team? Has that dropped, too?

There are a few ways to measure this. For starters, the Heat has sold out all 19 home games, extending its home sellout streak to 224. That’s paid attendance, not bodies in the seats, which the Heat declined to disclose.

But White Glove International CEO Michael Lipman, whose company partners with the Heat on re-selling tickets, said Heat tickets on the secondary market are generating far less money this season than last. But he said that has resulted in more paid tickets being re-sold to people who want to attend games.

For premium seats, “tickets are down a third of the price from last year,” he said. “The premium seat holders are taking a loss on the seats when they re-sell. For upper bowl seats, the average ticket price was $60 to $80 last season on the secondary market. Now they’re going for $30 to $40.

“Lower-bowl seats are 20 to 30 percent cheaper. But more fans go to the games now because it’s more affordable [in the re-sale market]. And the Heat has done a good job branding the product.”

But for non-marquee games, there seem to be more unfilled seats in the lower bowl than last season.

The challenge for the Heat will be this offseason, because the multiyear contracts for many of the premium seats are expiring.

As for TV ratings, 5.1 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets have been watching Sun Sports’ Heat cablecasts on average, down 23 percent from the 6.8 for Heat games both at this point last season and overall last season.

But that 5.1 rating is still very solid, ranking fourth-highest among NBA teams. (One local ratings point equals 16,328 homes.)

Nationally, the Heat has dropped in merchandise sales from first overall last season to eighth from October through December 2014. That’s obviously tied to LeBron, whose jersey was the most-sold both last season and during the past three months.

One other point: There doesn’t appear to be a significant post-LeBron effect so far for businesses around AmericanAirlines Arena. Bruce Earl, regional manager of the Bayside Hooters, said his business is comparable to last season both before and after Heat games. But Bayside restaurants likely will feel an impact without a long playoff run in May and June.

### Most dumfounding comment of the NFL playoffs so far?

Had to be ESPN’s Skip Bayless, after Andrew Luck outplayed an erratic Peyton Manning in the Colts’ win at Denver, inexplicably insisting that Colts owner Jim Irsay “made [a] big mistake dumping Peyton for Luck. Peyton has had three straight better seasons.... Is it possible that, subconsciously, the Broncos wanted no part of Seattle in another Super Bowl?” Huh?

### Why did NBC’s Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who are universally praised, come under fire last week?

For leaving some viewers with the perception that they were defending commissioner Roger Goodell in summarizing the Robert Mueller investigation of the league’s handling of the Ray Rice fiasco.

As cameras focused on Goodell watching the Patriots-Ravens game, Michaels said “the report… outlined several improvements the league should make, some of which have already been implemented.”

(Deadspin reported Michaels discussed this with a producer during a commercial break, but NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus told Newsday that Michaels and Collinsworth weren’t instructed what to say.)

Collinsworth said: “The decision to initially suspend Ray Rice for two games was a mistake. Roger Goodell has admitted that. I never once in all my dealings with the commissioner doubted his integrity.”

Collinsworth is absolutely entitled to his opinion. But here’s the problem: The topic was too complicated, too nuanced, to cover in less than a minute of air time during a competitive playoff game. If they were going to raise the issue, they owed it to the audience to give a more detailed account.

Michaels could have noted the inconsistencies that still exist, including that the Associated Press stands by its story that a woman in the league office confirmed receiving the Rice video tape long before Goodell claimed he saw it --- something Mueller couldn’t substantiate because all 128 female employees (who weren’t under oath, incidentally) denied knowledge of it.

The issue should have been addressed in the pre-game show, not uncomfortably shoe-horned into a playoff telecast.

### With CBS and Fox each airing conference championship games Sunday, who has the better game presentation?

The announcing teams (Jim Nantz/Phil Simms and Joe Buck/Troy Aikman) are comparable, but CBS has the slight edge in game production, partly because Fox inexplicably refuses to list the entire starting lineups early in games, instead opting to superimpose the names of a few impact players.

Fox has the far better officiating expert in Mike Pereira. CBS’ Mike Carey lacks Pereira’s TV presence and seems hesitant at times when explaining whether calls should be reversed.

Fox uses Pereira correctly by asking for his opinion before referees rule on a challenge. CBS sometimes doesn’t summon Carey until after the replay challenge has been ruled on. And when Carey’s opinion is solicited before the replay review, his success rate on predictions isn’t particularly high.

### As we noted in the last post from earlier today, ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have the Dolphins selecting Washington outside linebacker Shaq Thompson 14th overall in their mock draft. Any dissenting opinions from draft analysts?

Absolutely! NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has Miami selecting Mississippi State inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney. "He has the size to bang inside with linemen and plenty of speed/atheticism to make plays in coverage," Jeremiah said.
He also fills more of a need than Thompson would because McKinney could play middle linebacker --- a position that Miami will explore upgrading partly because of Koa Misi's durability issues.

### To whom did former All-Pro Ed Reed give his "you are who we thought you were" award on Showtime's Inside the NFL?

To the Dolphins and Chargers, for starting strong but then fizzling late.

### How did South Florida’s ratings stack up for the College Football Playoff title game?

Not well, comparatively. Among 57 major markets, Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 12.3 rating (12.3 percent of TV households) ranked 51st --- though that’s higher than every UM game this season except UM-FSU. West Palm Beach was 21st (20.4).

### This year's College Football playoffs drew monster TV ratings. (The championship, predictably, was the most-watched program in cable TV history.) But what’s the new challenge with next year’s playoffs?

Whereas this year’s semifinals were on New Year’s Day, next season’s semis --- hosted by the Orange and Cotton bowls --- will be on New Year’s Eve, when some fans would prefer to be out partying.

Each of the four semifinal games played at the OB over the next 11 years will start at 5 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, but the OB won’t know if it’s the early or late game until after the matchups are set.

### Strangest part of ESPN’s college football championship Megacast Monday?

Had to be the strained, at times awkward dialogue among the motley crew of analysts on ESPNU. Mark Schlereth, Jay Bilas, Julie Foudy, Barry Melrose, Aaron Boone and Michael Wilbon texted, scarfed down food, demonstrated how to use a vuvuzela, discussed cast members of The Mary Tyler Moore show and desperately tried to fill air time with lots of “wows” and virtually anything they could think of, no matter how irrelevant.

This was akin to forcing six people with different interests to sit together for 3 ½ hours at a party and asking bystanders to watch.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz