Local TV

Colo. Stations Pray Tebow Mania Stays Mile High

Don’t TiVo Tebow—Denver viewers need to see Broncos live 12/19/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

While the national media attention surrounding
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is nothing
short of frenzied,
Tebow Mania is even more pitched
in the home market of Denver. As
Tebow—with his unorthodox approach
to football and exuberant,
not to mention polarizing, religious
faith—continues to lead the Broncos
to victory, the region’s viewers
simply can’t get enough of No. 15.

“He’s the biggest story, not just
in the NFL, but in all of sports,”
says Lionel Bienvenu, sports director
at KMGH Denver. “We’re
chasing the guy—and the stories
surrounding him—every day.”

The season looked like a washout
in Broncos-mad Denver as
recently as mid-October. But the team went on a roll after
Tebow was named the starter. Suddenly, Coloradans are drawing
comparisons to a legendary Broncos QB, John Elway.

But unlike Elway’s late ’90s Super Bowl teams, which were
expected to steamroll opponents, local TV news execs say
the current team’s success snuck up on everyone. “You want
to watch every time,” says Tim Wieland, news director at
KCNC, who calls the local love for Tebow “insatiable. They
seem to win a different way each time.”

Local reporters are suddenly forced to jump into a media
scrum on Wednesdays and Sundays—when Tebow is made
available—and battle for quotes with feature talent from ESPN,
CBS Sports and Fox Sports. Fueling the attention is not Tebow’s
“reliably vanilla” interviews, as Wieland puts it, but the QB’s
unconventional skills (few quarterbacks who carry the ball
frequently in college find those skills useful in the NFL), his
knack for heart-stopping comebacks, and unflinching religious
beliefs. The young star’s habit of kneeling in prayer on the turf
has become known as “Tebowing.”

Amidst the ceaseless culture
wars in the U.S., Tebow’s frequent
references to his “Lord and
savior” are cheered by some and
derided by others. “His faith is a
very large topic of discussion,”
says Michael Langley, news director
at KOAA Colorado Springs.

It all makes for a media sensation,
with ancillary stories dotting
the Denver newscasts, such
as people arranging their Christmas
lights to spell his name,
fans photographing themselves
“Tebowing” and even stories
about church attendance on the
rise thanks to the QB. KUSA sports anchor Drew Soicher recently
defended Tebow’s right to express his faith in an on-air
commentary. “We got more feedback on that than most things
got in the last month,” says news director Patti Dennis.

KCNC is enjoying the ratings boost on Sundays; Broncos
games showed a 28.6 household rating/57 share through Dec. 11,
up from 26/53 last year, with a bigger bump in adults 25-54.

Colorado news vets say Tebow has enough goodwill in the
bank to sustain a few substandard performances. And they
hope Tebow Mania continues into the playoffs. “A lot of the
newscast is gridlock in government and the slumping economy,”
says Wieland. “So when there’s a positive story in the community
to report, it’s an exciting thing for our newsroom.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

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