Cable subscribers couldn’t get enough of the profanity-laced harangues of Brian Dennehy as Bobby Knight in ESPN’s first original TV movie “A Season on the Brink,” which aired Sunday.
The uncensored version, featuring more verbal explosions highlighted by the word “fuck” than any show in the history of basic cable, delivered a powerhouse 3.2 rating in cable homes in the metered-market overnights, a number that — based on past Nielsen performance — should climb to at least 3.4 when the full country weighs in by Tuesday, according to ESPN researchers.
By contrast, ESPN2’s cablecast of the bowdlerized version, where the curse words were bleeped out, managed only a 0.5 rating in cable homes. But the ratings of the two networks together will put the movie in more than 3 million homes.
An ESPN spokesman said the movie got “minimal viewer response” despite Bobby Knight’s mule-skinner vocabulary, probably because the network filled the screen at every commercial break with parental-advisory notices. In the advisory, ESPN urged easily offended viewers to switch to ESPN2.
ESPN also said that, for people who missed it Sunday night, the network would make the movie available immediately through video-on-demand to the 990,000 or so subscribers who get ESPN programming.