SBD/Issue 216/Sports Media

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  • Comcast And MASN Settle Nearly Two-Year Old Carriage Dispute

    Comcast and MASN “struck a deal to end the dispute that has left 1.6 million people in the metropolitan [DC] area unable to watch most” Nationals games, according to Tim Lemke of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Financial terms were not disclosed, but a source said that MASN “agreed to lower its price for carriage” by 5%. MASN is “expected to be available on Comcast cable systems in the Washington and Baltimore areas” by September 1. The deal also applies to subscribers in Salisbury, Maryland, and 600,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina will receive the network “over the next two years.” The announcement came about a week after the FCC gave MASN the right to select an outside arbitrator to help end the dispute. Each side has agreed to drop any legal complaints against the other (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/5). MASN will be carried on expanded basic on Comcast systems (THE DAILY). A source close to Comcast said that the September 1 date “might slip because the company has to give notice to channels it bumps to make space” for MASN (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5).

    THE IMPORTANCE OF DEADLINES: In Baltimore, Childs Walker noted the FCC had “ordered the sides to go to arbitration to reach a deal, and MASN faced a filing deadline in that process” on Friday. A source said that the deadline “hastened negotiations.” Orioles counsel Alan Rifkin: “If we were to go forward with the FCC complaint, then many of the issues around Comcast would be brought to the public attention, and I don’t know that they really wanted that” (Baltimore SUN, 8/5). FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell: “It’s always helpful to give parties deadlines.” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5).

    Robinson Says Deal Will
    Help Team Increase Fan Base

    GOOD NEWS FOR TEAMS: Nationals manager Frank Robinson said the new deal “makes a difference. That’s the way you create new fans. That’s the way you get your fan base to come out to the ballpark, get out of those easy chairs and come out.” MASN announcer Bob Carpenter: “As time goes on, people need to see the team and to become part of the team. I think TV helps them really get into it. ... It takes fans to that next level of intimacy with a team so that they can really feel like they're with the club.” In DC, Barry Svrluga noted “some players pointed out that, because the games weren’t available on [Comcast], agents had a difficult time getting them endorsement deals.” Since the Nationals began playing in DC last season, only LF Brad Wilkerson, who now plays for the Rangers, “has been part of a prominent, regular ad campaign on television.” The ad was for a local bank (WASHINGTON POST, 8/5). MASN will begin carrying Orioles games next season, and Rifkin said the deal “secured the future of this franchise. It means that the franchise will be on solid financial footing now and for the future” (Baltimore SUN, 8/5).

    Print | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Cablevision, New York Rangers, Southwest Sports Group, Media, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals
  • ESPN, MLS Reach Eight-Year TV Deal That Includes Rights Fees

    MLS Nets Its First Rights Fee Under
    Eight-Year Deal With ESPN/ABC
    ESPN and SUM formally announced an eight-year multimedia rights agreement for MLS that runs through the 2014 season. The deal marks the first rights-fee agreement for MLS, and previous reports said it is worth $7-8M annually. ESPN2 will air 26 regular-season games in primetime on Thursdays, as well as three playoff games each year. ABC will air each season’s opening match, All-Star Game and MLS Cup. The agreement also provides for televised coverage of the first round of the MLS Draft. ESPN will be responsible for programming and production of all league content. The deal also includes multimedia elements for ESPN360, Mobile ESPN, ESPN Deportes and other ESPN distribution platforms (THE DAILY). MLS Commissioner Don Garber said of the rights-fee arrangement, “We are out of the risk business. The new agreement has a very significant and positive impact on the economics of soccer in this country.” ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper said, “I’m the latest knucklehead who thinks soccer is going to work in the United States. Through the mind-numbing litany of ESPN products, it is almost impossible for me to believe we can’t move this (game) forward” (DAILY HERALD, 8/5). More Garber: “I’m hopeful in our new television deal, our broadcast partners will increase their exposure of MLS games and our partners are financially invested” (MLSNET.com, 8/4).

    Print | Tags: ABC, ESPN, FIFA, MLS, News Corp./Fox, Media, Walt Disney
  • NBC Earns 7.0 Overnight For First NFL Game Since ‘98

    NBC Lands 7.0/12 Overnight Nielsen
    Rating For Its First NFL Game Since ‘98
    NBC earned a 7.0/12 overnight Nielsen ratings for last night’s coverage of the Raiders-Eagles Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, the net’s first NFL game since ’98, down 1.4% from a 7.1/12 for ABC’s coverage of the Dolphins-Bears Hall of Fame Game last year. Last year’s game was on played on a Monday night. Meanwhile, NBC earned a 4.8/11 for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, down 5.9% from a 5.1/11 last year (THE DAILY).

    NICE RETURN: In Ft. Worth, Ray Buck reviews the Raiders-Eagles telecast and writes NBC “gives the show a clean look. The visuals are uncluttered. The graphics are simple and easy to read.” While the net went “a bit overboard self-promoting” the story of John Madden’s HOF induction, it reflected “more on the network than the analyst, who handled it well” (STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/7).

    FIELD POSITION: In Charlotte, David Poole writes NBC “barely acknowledged what happened in two wrecks on the final lap” of the Allstate 400. The net did “squeeze in Jimmie Johnson’s victory interview before switching to a meaningless preview of a meaningless [NFL] exhibition.” Poole: “Do you think this year’s Chase for the Nextel Cup is going to be much more than a 10-week promo for the network’s new baby or what?” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/7).

    Print | Tags: ABC, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, NBC, Nextel, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Media, Walt Disney
  • “Talladega Nights” Tops Weekend Box Office, Earning $47M

    “Talladega Nights” Passes Analysts’
    Expectations For Opening Weekend

    Sony Pictures’ “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” earned an estimated $47M at the box office over the weekend, marking a 53% increase over Warner Bros.’ The Dukes of Hazzard,” the No. 1 opener during the comparable weekend last year, according to Nicole Sperling of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The debut “marks the second-biggest original comedy opening behind” Jim Carrey’s “Bruce Almighty” in ’03 (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/7). In L.A., Greg Hernandez writes “Talladega Nights” posted the “third-biggest August opening in history.” Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarbedian, whose company tracks box office numbers, said, “‘Talladega Nights’ had everything going for it. There was a natural built-in appeal that attracted the NASCAR audience. Everything came together for this movie” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/7). USA TODAY’s Scott Bowles reports the $47M take “is $15[M] more than most analysts projected,” and marks the largest debut for star Will Ferrell, whose previous high was $31M for “Elf” in ’03 (USA TODAY, 8/7). DAILY VARIETY’s Ben Fritz notes 53% of audiences were male and 52% were under 25. Sony Pictures President of Domestic Distribution Rory Bruer said that the movie “played well in both NASCAR-centric markets and in general release.” Bruer: “We were very strong in the South and Southeast, but whether it was small towns or big cities, having Will Ferrell in a NASCAR movie got just about everybody” (DAILY VARIETY, 8/7).

    Print | Tags: NASCAR, Media, Time Warner
  • Satellite Subs Slow As Cable Companies Offer New Services

    DirecTV and EchoStar are “seeing a sharp slowdown in the number of new subscribers” as the cable-TV industry, after “years of seeing satellite steal market share and customers, ... is regaining ground,” according to a front-page piece by Angwin & Pasztor of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. In the last year, gains by the two satellite services “have shrunk to half of what they were during the industry’s heyday early in this decade, and they are projected to decline further.” Meanwhile, cable companies like Time Warner and Cablevision are “wooing customers by providing video, telephone and high-speed Internet services in an attractively priced ‘triple play’ bundle.” EchoStar CEO Charles Ergen earlier this year said cable’s offerings are “stealing good customers away from us.” Angwin & Pasztor noted DirecTV and EchoStar have “teamed up with phone companies to offer high-speed Internet access,” but those partnerships “are fraying now that the phone companies are ramping up their own competing television products.” Subscription services “now can reach most of the nation’s 110 million households.” Around 66.5 million homes have cable and 27 million use satellite. Harris Associates analyst Kurt Funderburg, whose company owns shares in both DirecTV and EchoStar, said, “If there’s no merger, it’s a tough row for them to hoe.” DirecTV investor Morris Mark sold his entire 420,000-share stake in the company in the past few months “because he is so pessimistic about the sector” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/5).

    Print | Tags: DirecTV, Media, Time Warner
  • Media Notes

    Time Warner Cable “invited about 40 football-related bloggers in various markets ... to participate in a conference call” concerning its carriage dispute with NFL Network. The Jets Blog operator Brian Bassett said, “I started doing this for fun, but when a multibillion dollar organization wants your help mobilizing a grassroots campaign against some policies by the NFL Network, it makes you think that this isn’t just a hobby anymore.” But Endzoner.com wrote, “I feel like these guys are unable to comment with any sort of candor, since they’re actively engaged in negotiations with the NFL.” Trade and consumer reporters were not invited to the call (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/7). Deadspin.com editor Will Leitch was also invited on the call, but said, “I really don't need to sit on a conference call for a half hour, asking questions that, in such a canned setting, I'm not going to get an even slightly interesting answer to” (THE DAILY).

    YES OR NO? In N.Y., Bob Raissman reported YES Network’s deal to simulcast WFAN-AM’s “Mike & the Mad Dog” expires at the end of the year, and there are “two schools of thought about the future” of the relationship. If YES “can cut a financial deal that makes sense, they will continue the simulcast.” But Chris Russo’s contentious interview with Yankees GM Brian Cashman, “could be the last straw,” as some Yankees execs “are tired of Russo’s anti-Yankee rants.” YES pays WFAN $800,000 for the simulcast (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/6).

    Fox Exec Says Net Is Happy
    With Status Quo Of BCS

    HAND OFF: Fox Sports President Ed Goren said of the BCS potentially changing its format, “I do not believe we have a lot of influence. When we negotiated this deal we were very specific: It’s your event. It’s your sport. If you want suggestions along the way, we certainly have opinions. But we don’t run it. And we’re happy with the way it is right now.” Goren believes that a “Plus-One” title game that would be played after the bowls “would take money away from the other four BCS bowl games.” But Oregon AD Bill Moos does not think the idea is dead, as he “keeps hearing of more support from the coaching ranks” (DENVER POST, 8/6).

    BROWNS’ NEW TOWN: In Cleveland, Roger Brown reports FSN Ohio, after “months of relative inactivity, ... has made some impressive moves to replace the loss of Indians ballgames to SportsTime Ohio.” FSN Ohio signed a cable-rights deal with the Browns, extended its current deal with the Cavaliers and inked a deal with the Mid-American Conference. FSN Ohio GM Steve Liverani said of the Browns deal, “We’re going to have unbelievable behind-the-scenes access” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/7).

    Print | Tags: Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, New York Jets, New York Yankees, News Corp./Fox, NFL, Media, Time Warner, YankeeNets
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