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The Best of WatchDog

Big bowls roll to cable

ESPN gets cranky when people like me distinguish between events on broadcast and cable TV.

That includes the first-ever all-ESPN BCS slate that began yesterday and continues through Jan. 10, which will be the biggest U.S. sports championship ever decided on cable television.

Oops, there I go again.

John Wildhack, executive VP of programming and acquisitions, told me Friday that while carrying the big bowls "is a great signature moment for our company,'' he added, "In terms of the so-called movement from broadcast to cable, that [distinction] is archaic.''

Fair enough, mostly. ESPN is in just shy of 100 million homes compared to about 115 million for its broadcast sibling, ABC.

In the New York area, only about 4 percent of homes don't get the channel.

And truth is, it was a little strange when Fox had the BCS, what with ESPN's year-round commitment to the sport.

"We're there literally from August when the kids report through the end of the year,'' Wildhack said. "It was a natural.''

Wildhack said in TV terms the long wait until the Jan. 10 Championship Game is a positive, providing "a little bit of separation'' from other games to allow anticipation to build.

That should not be a problem. By then it will have been 37 days since Oregon and Auburn last played.

Yankees beat The Biebs

What was the most searched entertainment entity of 2010 on FanSnap.com, a site that scours secondary market tickets across dozens of outlets?

No, not Justin Bieber, although The Biebs finished a solid No. 2.

No, not Taylor Swift, who turned 21 a couple of weeks back. Our All-American girl is all grown up! But she only ranked fifth on FanSnap.

No. 1 and still champs on the secondary market, if not the field: The New York Yankees. (Tangential question: If Bieber were a ballplayer, would his hairdo violate the Yanks' grooming policies?)

They were searched more than twice as often as the next sports team, the recently crowned San Francisco Giants, who ranked third overall behind Bieber.

The sports top 12: Yankees, (baseball) Giants, Red Sox (fourth overall), Celtics, Lakers, Blackhawks, Mets, (baseball) Rangers, Phillies, Bruins, Knicks, Jets.

NY flavor for NFL finales

No offense to the No. 1 teams at Fox and CBS, which have called more than their share of Giants and Jets games, but Week 17 brings a nice change of pace in the form of two local favorites we haven't heard much on NFL play-by-play lately.

On Fox, Sam Rosen works today's Giants-Redskins game, which 18 percent of the national will see, compared to 56 percent for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on Bears-Packers.

On CBS, well, let's put it this way: If you thought Bills-Jets would be a meaningless snoozer, think again, my friends. Gus Johnson will be on the call.

ESPN hypes women's hoops

It must say something about how far women's basketball has come, and the part ESPN has played in it, that one of the game's top coaches actually would complain about too much attention.

"It's not my fault that ESPN decided to do a 10-hour thing,'' Connecticut's Geno Auriemma said about the coverage of his team's attempt at an 89th consecutive victory.

"It felt like the Kennedy assassination. Jesus. People in my family were like, 'Turn the TV off, would you?'''

Auriemma might have been at least partly kidding, but the byproduct of the hype was no joke.

When UConn lost to Stanford Thursday after 90 straight victories, it generated the network's best-ever regular-season overnight rating for women's hoops - 1.5 percent of homes in major markets.

In the last 15 minutes the figure rose to 3.1 percent.

Boldly (and blindly) looking to 2011

It's always fun to look back at New Year's predictions to see how they turned out.

Fun for you, anyway. Painful for me. So if you want to see how wrong I've been in the past, look it up on your own. (Hint: I believe it was in 1995 that I called the Internet a fad.)

Four sports business/media predictions for 2011:

1. After officially swallowing NBC in January, Comcast will rebrand Versus, retain both the Olympics and NHL and mount the latest (and most credible) assault on the ESPN monolith.

2. The NFL will somehow make it worth the players' while to expand to 18 games, thus creating another lucrative TV package. Did you see those Tuesday night ratings this past week?

3. Following a year of excitement over 3D sets in homes and experimentation with 3D telecasts, it will become clear the technology is many years away from becoming commonplace.

4. HBO will add a scripted drama in which Rex Ryan and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau play a pair of much loved but unconventional kindergarten teachers. Title: "It's - - Snack Time.''

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