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When the NFL completes its TV rights negotiations, a combined $7B will be committed by five networks over the next four years, according to Jones, Kirk & Hirsley of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Jones, Kirk & Hirsley: "The competition for pro football TV rights, which may be resolved within the next two weeks, is a cutthroat, price-inflating game of musical chairs. ... Therefore, the price for the rights will likely be 50 percent higher than the $4.6 billion contract awarded in 1993. ... Is the bidding crazy? Sure it is. Stupid? Probably not, because in the media economy created by televisionland, enormous leaps in sports rights contracts are part of the game." Westinghouse Chair Michael Jordan: "The sports business, you have to recognize, is a zero- profit business. We all essentially run the sports business at break-even. Hopefully." Jones, Kirk & Hirsley add that for advertisers, football "is demonstrably the most efficient way to reach men." FCB Senior VP/Dir of Media Scot Butler: "Because prime time is eroding so quickly, sports from an advertising standpoint becomes more attractive. They [sports ratings] are holding steadier than anything else out there" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/22).
ONLINE: AOL Studios, which has been "coming up with snazzy online content targeted at mass TV audiences and Internet surfers who may be bypassing AOL," is examined in BUSINESS WEEK. Among AOL Studios' new content is the Real Fans Sports Network, "expected early next year." AOL Studios purchased Extreme Sports, which will relaunch as "the core" of Real Fans (BUSINESS WEEK, 12/1)....Tiger Woods will launch his new Web site and "Club Tiger," his new fan club, on December 2 in Orlando, FL. The Web site is being launched with SportsLine USA (AD AGE, 11/23). GENERAL: In San Diego, Fritz Quindt ranks his top football announcing teams, with Fox's Pat Summerall and John Madden No. 1, followed by NBC's Dick Enberg, Phil Simms and Paul McGuire and ESPN's Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann. Quindt: "However, the gap between [Summerall and Madden] and the creme de la networks has been closing, and the current margin of brownie points between Nos. 1 and 3 is thinner than Kate Moss" (UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/21)....In N.Y., Michael Shain profiled Total Sports, which "has created its own imprint" to publish its own books, and will release "Total Hockey" next year. Total Sports is also negotiating with the NBA to do a "Total Basketball." "Total Baseball" Publisher John Thorn said that Total Sports, which merged with NC-based Koz Sports last year, has combined revenues "of less than" $10M, and that the new company will "extend the concept" of the "Total Baseball" and "Total Football" to non-team sports such as boxing, auto racing and "maybe even chess" (N.Y. POST, 11/23)....The Canucks will televise four regular season home games on PPV cable in British Columbia. The four-game package will cost C$34.95, and single games may be selected for C$9.95. The games will be sponsored by Molson Canadian and be commercial free (VAN. SUN, 11/20).
The NHL announced a new Canadian cable agreement with CTV Sports Net for English language cable telecast rights in Canada. The four-year deal will take effect at the start of next season. CTV will broadcast 27 regular-season games, including two broadcasts for each of the Canadian teams, as well as coverage of up to 14 first-round playoff games of U.S.-based clubs (NHL). In Toronto, Rob Longley called the deal "a stunning hit from behind" for incumbent rights holder TSN, adding that CTV's new sports network "will gain instant credibility in the Canadian TV marketplace." Sources put the deal at C$60M (TORONTO SUN, 11/22). DETAILS: NHL Senior VP & COO Steve Solomon said that the CTV offer was "modestly higher" than the TSN offer. TSN President Jim Thompson: "We lost it. We're obviously very disappointed." When asked why TSN lost the rights, Thompson said, "Don't know" (Rick Matsumoto, TORONTO STAR, 11/22). Also in Toronto, David Shoalts called the deal "a devastating blow" to TSN, and added that "there had been complaints" from Western teams that TSN "was too Toronto- oriented" in its programming. Insiders "believe TSN lost the contract because it was unwilling to pay more than [C]$10 million a year," and that CTV "had agreed to pay more than" C$60M over four years (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/22). In Montreal, Pat Hickey: "The question is whether [CTV] can convince cable companies to buy the product and pass the cost on to their viewers. The question is whether there are enough advertising dollars to carry CTV Sports Network during the days when there is no hockey" (GAZETTE, 11/23).