SBD/Issue 136/Sports Media

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  • CBS' Final Four Ratings Show Decline From '07 Levels

    CBS' Ratings For Final Four Games Down From '07

    CBS' coverage of Saturday's Memphis-UCLA NCAA men's basketball tournament national semifinal game, played in the early window of the net's Final Four coverage, earned a 7.2 overnight rating, down 14.3% from an 8.4 for the comparable Ohio State-Georgetown game in '07. In the late window, Kansas-North Carolina averaged an 8.8 overnight, down 1.1% from an 8.9 for Florida-UCLA last year (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/7).

    PACK MENTALITY: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes CBS' Billy Packer has "drifted from what made him a valued analyst." Packer "used to speak only to tell us something worth our attention; he seemed to understand that live TV didn't need that much extra help." Mushnick: "He now seems compelled to say something -- anything -- on every possession" (N.Y. POST, 4/7). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes in Packer's "world, every play requires a comment even if there's nothing to say." Zelkovich: "He must have told viewers five times in the Kansas-North Carolina game that the former team was looking a little tight after almost blowing a big lead" (TORONTO STAR, 4/7). In South Carolina, Sean Horgan writes Packer's "one-size-fits-all analysis tells you the same things about the same games no matter which teams are playing." Horgan: "At some point, CBS has to figure out how bad Packer is, right? ... Packer is the Dick Cheney of sports announcing. The only thing that makes him remotely palatable is the serial niceness of Jim Nantz" (Myrtle Beach SUN NEWS, 4/7). However, in Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote, "To their credit, neither Packer nor Nantz raised their coverage to histrionic levels, offering measured responses about what was happening on the floor" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 4/6). Packer: "My job is to say what I see, not have some kind of subconscious feelings about offending anybody" (USA TODAY, 4/7).

    EYE-SIGHT PROBLEMS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes CBS "could have done more by bringing its studio show on-site" instead of broadcasting from N.Y. Also, the NCAA "should have insisted CBS air fewer commercials -- even if it meant CBS would pay smaller rights fees -- so viewers don't have to sit through on-air corporate onslaughts to watch amateur sports" (USA TODAY, 4/7). In K.C., Jeffrey Flanagan reports CBS yesterday arranged an interview with Memphis coach John Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self, though the net "apparently forgot to tell either coach about the setup." Calipari arrived first and asked a CBS staffer, "What is this for?" When Self arrived a few minutes later, he "seemed a bit surprised and said, 'Are we doing this together?'" (K.C. STAR, 4/7).

    CBS Feels Basketball Configuration Of
    Large Domes Not Conducive To Television
    DOME DRONE: In Jacksonville, Jeff Elliott reports the NCAA's "quest to draw record crowds to future Final Four dome venues with a change in the configuration of the court setup is not meeting with the same enthusiasm" from CBS. Packer: "That may sound good (attracting big crowds in the domes), but the angle that the announcers have of the game in this configuration is of the ankles of the players. It's like those guys that go in swimming pools and they're underwater so they can see the stroke from underneath. That's basically how you announce the game in this configuration, which is kind of strange." CBS Sports Producer Bob Dekas: "The audio gets lost in a dome like that. You'd have to have a roaring home crowd in order for the audio to be good" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/7).

    KNIGHT AND DAY: The N.Y. POST's Mushnick wrote ESPN is "so proud to have Bobby Knight on its NCAA tournament studio team" it has created a promo featuring highlights of Knight's time at the net. Mushnick: "Suddenly, ESPN wants us to think of Knight as Will Rogers. ESPN apparently has misplaced that other Knight clip reel, the one with footage, compiled over 35 years, of him physically and verbally abusing and bullying people for no better reason than that he could get away with it" (N.Y. POST, 4/6).

    HALL BOUND: In Ft. Worth, Wendell Barnhouse reports Packer and ESPN's Dick Vitale are among the seven inductees for the third class of the National Collegiate Basketball HOF. Former players Danny Manning, Charles Barkley and Arnie Ferrin, along with coaches Nolan Richardson and Jim Phelan, round out the class (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/7). Vitale today also was selected into the Basketball HOF as a contributor to the game (Mult., 4/7).

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  • New NHL Network Online Video Portal Debuts This Week

    NHL This Week To Unveil Online
    Video Portal On NHL.com
    The NHL this week will unveil a "dramatically reworked online video portal, creating a full-fledged online counterpart to the NHL Network and the first of a two-step digital strategy that this fall will bring a complete relaunch of NHL.com," according to Fisher & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. NHL Network Online will be led by NHL Senior Exec VP/Business & Media John Collins, VP/Broadband & New Media Production Andre Mika and Senior VP/Media Sales Larry Gelfand, and will feature a daily program called “The Hockey Show.” It also will include a “channel-based directory not unlike ESPN360 with numerous links to highlights, live programming including news conferences and radio simulcasts, archive material, podcasts and other content.” The portal, “essentially replacing the much less organized NHL.tv, will be housed primarily within NHL.com but also will be accessible through the club sites starting in late June.” Mika: “We are in the midst of a complete rethink in terms of how we deliver content digitally. We’ve never really programmed directly to NHL.com as opposed to just populating the site. … We’re after a much more emotional play where you feel as if you are in the arena each time you visit.” Fisher & Mickle note many of the videos will be “edited in a faster-paced presentation for online consumption, and behind-the-scenes access is also being given significant priority.” Early ad buys for NHL Network Online include Bud Light, which is sponsoring “The Hockey Show,” Cisco and Dodge. The channels sponsored by Bud Light and Dodge will be “‘skinned,’ in which the color scheme and imagery of those channels will match the respective brand colors.” Financial terms for the sponsorships were not disclosed, but in the case of Bud Light, the ad is “part of its required ad spend on NHL media platforms” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/7 issue).

    Analyst Feels Video Portal Aimed
    At NHL's Most Passionate Fans
    TARGETING AVID FANS: Jupiter Research analyst Bobby Tulsiani, who was offered a sneak preview of the site, said, “I thought it was really engaging. It draws you in. For a video product, they’ve really raised the bar on the experience.” He called it a “branded and rich experience for the top [1-5%] of passionate fans.” Tulsiani: “It is immersive, but as a huge traffic driver to acquire new customers, I’d be skeptical." Mika said, “We have 53 million avid fans that we know of. If we can attract anyone outside those 53 million, that’s icing on the cake. But the experience is to expose them on a more national level to the game.”  Collins added, “We’re focused on things that get to the heart of activating the avid fan. We’re the premier league in an international sport -- what’s missing in this $2.5[B] business is the national scale” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/6). Mika: “Compared to an ESPN fan … our fans are worth a 40[%] premium over some of the regular sports fans because of their ability to use technology.” The AP’s Ira Podell writes an “interesting feature of the new site that has a sleek look and many areas to draw attention, is a column displaying scores of the previous night’s games. With a user-friendly setup, fans can click on a particular contest to see all the goals, big hits and key saves listed in a boxscore format. With another click on a particular play, a video replay will be seen” (AP, 4/7).

    NO PLANS FOR LIVE GAME BROADCASTS: In Ottawa, Vito Pilieci reports the league has no plans to use NHL Network Online "to broadcast games live." In addition to "The Hockey Show," the portal will include Livewire, which offers exclusive videos of warmups, news conferences and teams' morning skates and practices, while the Playoff Channel will deliver news around the NHL playoffs (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/7).

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  • Setanta Sports Calls Off Plans To Sell Amid Little Interest

     
    Setanta Sports has "quietly abandoned plans to sell itself after potential buyers balked at the [US$1.99B] asking price," according to Dan Sabbagh of the LONDON TIMES. Investment bankers said that Goldman Sachs had "tried to drum up interest in a sale of the loss-making company, producing some basic documentation, but it proved impossible to get an auction moving because the price was too high." One investment banker said, "They tried to drum up interest, but nobody bid. Even Disney didn’t bid." Setanta now likely will "tap existing shareholders, which include Balderton Capital, Doughty Hanson and Goldman Sachs, for more funds if it needs money to secure additional sports rights." Analysts estimated that Setanta "may need another [US$298.3M] to break even" (LONDON TIMES, 4/5).

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  • White Out: MLB To Address Blackout Issue At May Owners' Meeting

    DuPuy Driving Blackout Issue That Will
    Redraw MLB Team's Territorial-Rights Map
    MLB blackout restrictions preventing viewers from watching games on TV and over the Internet "may be lifted as early as the 2009 season," according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. A source said that all 30 teams at the owners meetings next month are "expected to deliver reports outlining the territories in which they currently broadcast games or have concrete plans to in the future." Based on the reports, MLB will "redraw its territorial-rights map ... to better reflect the present broadcast landscape." A different source, however, indicated that some owners "were concerned about existing TV contracts and potential discord among advertisers who were promised certain territories covered." MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy, who at "last year's meetings took a hard-line stance on the blackouts," this year is the "catalyst behind MLB's sudden action." A source said that while it is "too late to implement the changes for this season," the league will try to put the changes into effect "before 2009, when it launches the Baseball Channel." Passan: "If nothing else, the re-written territorial-rights map could give teams incentive to actively pursue areas such as Iowa and Las Vegas and draw new fans instead of relying on what they inherited" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/6).

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  • Slaten, Fired By KFNS, Claims Cardinals Behind Decision

    KFNS-AM Friday fired radio host Kevin Slaten in the wake of a "controversial interview last week with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan" in which Slaten aired a conversation between the two that Duncan believed was private, according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. KFNS GM Evan Crocker said that management made a "thorough review of the matter ... and that there was no choice but to fire Slaten and [producer] Evan Makovsky" due to potential FCC ramifications. Slaten "disputed that and said the station was reacting to pressure from the Cardinals." Slaten added that the team "used the Duncan incident as an excuse to persuade KFNS management to remove from the local airwaves a voice that often is critical of the team." Slaten: "This is a vindictive and retaliatory practice by the Cardinals that has gotten me fired. The Cardinals are at the very root of this, and [KFNS] has thrown me under the bus to curry favor with the Cardinals. ... I'm simply stunned that any station in this day and age would cave in to pressure from an athletic team -- especially one that they don't even broadcast their games." Slaten added that he believes pressure to remove him came from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, "a frequent target of Slaten's criticism, rather than the front office." La Russa Friday denied talking to the station about Slaten. Crocker said there was "no pressure from the Cardinals" and it "didn't matter who was on the other end of the call" for the interview in question. Crocker added that "even if the incident had happened with someone from another organization, 'the outcome would have been the same'" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5).

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  • Men's Final Four Dominates Last Week's Blog Discussion

    Sports Media Challenge's Sports Blog Index identifies the top issues discussed over the past week on some of the top sports blogs. The pie chart details the percentage of posts spent on each topic. These five topics represented 17.06% of the total discussion last week.

     
     

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  • Media Notes

    In DC, Jennifer Harper reports MASN and the Washington Times have formed a partnership to "share sports coverage and some live talent." The RSN will feature Times sports reporters Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling in a new "Hot Corner" segment during Nationals games, as well as the team's pre- and post-game "Nats Extra" shows (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/7).

    FAULT: In Houston, David Barron reported FSN Southwest "apologized to viewers ... for switching away from the final games" of Thursday night's Andy Roddick-Roger Federer match at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Roddick was leading 4-3 in the third set when FSN Southwest "switched to the scheduled Southwest Outdoors Report" at 8:00pm CT, followed by a Stars pregame show at 8:30pm. FSN said that the match "aired in its entirety in other FSN regions" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/5).

    Smith To Host His Final ESPN
    Radio Show On Thursday
    FILM FIGHT: Filmmaker Don Argott's documentary "Two Days in April," whch  focuses on four NFL draft prospects as they trained at IMG Academy in Bradenton, debuted last night in Florida. CAA agent Tom Condon, who originally brought the idea to Argott, bowed out of the project "saying the film didn't reflect well on his clients.'' The NFL also "wasn't happy, mainly with how Condon obtained footage of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis." Due to the controversy, Argott said there was a "period of time when we didn't think the film was going to get released. As with anything, you don't want it to be a huge waste of time" (Sarasota HERALD-TRIBUNE, 4/6).

    SIGNING OFF: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith Friday announced that he "soon will be a former radio host," as his final show on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y. will air this Thursday. Smith said that ESPN "wanted him to concentrate on TV" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/6).

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