SBD/Issue 245/Sports Media

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  • NFL Players Files Countersuit Against CBS In Fantasy Squabble

    NFL Players Files Countersuit Against
    CBS Over Fantasy Football Dispute
    NFL Players, the commercial arm of the NFL Players Association, has fired back in its fantasy football legal fight with CBS Interactive Inc., filing suit against the media company late yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Responding to the suit CBS Interactive filed last week in Minnesota, NFL Players claims the first filing both named the wrong defendant ­-- the non-profit NFLPA as opposed to the for-profit NFL Players Inc. --­ and is in the wrong venue. Additionally, NFL Players claims CBS Interactive is violating the players' intellectual property rights by operating a fantasy football game using their names and statistics without a license. "We don't believe the other courts will follow the CDM (Fantasy Sports) ruling, and that it doesn't apply to football," said Jeffrey Kessler, attorney representing NFL Players. "That was an erroneous decision and we expect a very different outcome here in the 11th Circuit." CBS declined to comment. NFL Players, in its filing, seeks several remedies: a declaration that CBS Interactive is violating its property rights; a transfer or dismissal of the CBS Interactive suit; compensatory and exemplary damages to be determined at trial; a permanent injunction against CBS Interactive from using NFL Players rights; a declaration that NFL Players is not violating the Sherman Act by demanding unauthorized parties from using its rights; and a "reimbursement, restitution, or disgorgement" of profits currently being garnered by CBS Interactive from fantasy football games using the players' rights. "The [CDM] ruling is not binding in any way in any jurisdiction outside the Eighth Circuit, the filing by NFL Players of an amicus curiae brief did not make NFL Players a party to that action, the denial of certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court has no precedential effect whatsoever, and the Eighth Circuit in [CDM] was wrongly decided, is contrary to law, and is not applicable to [this] dispute," the filing reads.

    DETAILED AGREEMENT: As part of the filing, NFL Players also included the full text of its fantasy licensing agreement with CBS Interactive for the year ended February 29, 2008, providing a level of detail surpassing even U.S. Labor Department documents that showed CBS paid the union a total of $1.49M during the period. The contract called for CBS Interactive to pay a guaranteed royalty payment of $700,000, a 8.5% royalty payment for net fantasy subscription-based revenues less that guaranteed sum, and royalties garnered from free, advertising-supported leagues. The free-league royalty schedule called for a payment of $0.11 for each of the first 500,000 registered players not in a CBS fee-based league, $0.09 for each player in the next half-million registrants, and $0.07 for every player thereafter.

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  • Iger Confirms ESPN May Bid On English Premier League TV Rights

    ESPN May Challenge BSkyB For
    TV Rights To English Premier League
    Disney President & CEO Bob Iger yesterday indicated that ESPN "may consider mounting a challenge to BSkyB" next year by bidding for English Premier League (EPL) broadcast rights, according to Sabbagh & Andrews of the LONDON TIMES. The next auction of EPL rights is scheduled to start in January, and Iger said of ESPN, "I know they will look at the Premier League rights again, both individually and in partnership with others." ESPN is also "interested in pursuing the rights to show Premier League games" in the U.S., where the rights are currently held by Fox. Iger said that ESPN's coverage of this summer's Euro 2008 soccer tournament "proved extremely popular," with the net choosing to air the semifinals and the final on ABC. ESPN execs believe MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham's move to the U.S. "helped to lift interest in the sport" in the country. Meanwhile, Iger said that he had "earmarked about [$250-300M] for acquisitions in video games," and added that ESPN was "looking 'at companies that fit well within the Disney or ESPN brands'" (LONDON TIMES, 9/11).

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  • Ombudsman Encourages ESPN To Lighten Up On Cross-Promotion

    Schreiber Says ESPN Should Lighten
    Up On Cross-Promotion
    In her latest contribution as ESPN Ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber wrote when everything on ESPN "points us toward something else on ESPN, as it so often and relentlessly does, viewers start feeling trapped in the sports equivalent of 'The Truman Show.'" Schreiber noted the Beijing Games "provided ESPN with no opportunity for cross-promotion," and watching the net cover an event it "did not have rights to, an event dominated by sports not usually on ESPN's short list of priorities, proved more refreshing, and more of an eye-opener than I anticipated." Schreiber: "I found myself feeling a dizzying elation. It was as if oxygen had suddenly been pumped into an airless room, simultaneously reviving me and making me realize how close I had been to suffocation." ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria said of cross-promotion on the net, "We do carpet bomb you with information about what you can see here. ... But most of the time, the promotion is quick, doesn't terribly interrupt your viewing and provides information that is actually useful to somebody. When viewers complain, do they make legitimate points about interrupted viewing?" Schreiber noted mostly the viewers' "rage seems in excess of any specific provocation -- a recent example being complaints from viewers who used the words 'disgusting,' 'repugnant' and 'shameless' to express how they felt about seeing a highlight" from ABC's "Wipeout" as a Top Ten Play on "SportsCenter." Schreiber: "The problem might not be the cross-promotion itself, which does have its uses for viewers, but a degree of multiplatform corporate synergy that often feels so relentless and all-encompassing that ESPN's heaviest viewers go berserk from time to time." The net's "self-reinforcing practices have the effect of implanting ESPN's business interests -- especially the recouping of rights fees -- too much at the forefront of too many viewers' minds," and that "awareness can drain the fun out of sports."

    TOO MUCH SYNERGY: Schreiber: "This is my suggestion to ESPN for an antidote: Lighten up on the synergy. Don't expend all your creativity devising new ways to drive viewers into the corrals of your biggest business partners. Viewers will flock there on their own." She added ESPN should "surprise us more often with something we didn't know you or we cared about, and don't rely entirely on 'Outside the Lines' to deliver the surprises." Noting the addition of the net's morning news block, Schreiber wrote, "Use those six new live hours of 'SportsCenter' to let in some fresh air, and not just every four years" (ESPN.com, 9/10).

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  • Fox Sports Chair David Hill Discusses Future Of TV Broadcasting

    Hill Discusses Future Of TV Broadcasting
    In Q&A With Wall Street Journal
    Fox Sports Chair & Exec Producer David Hill took part in a Q&A with the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman as part of the paper's "Long Toss" feature. When asked how to "change the presentation of something as traditional as NFL football," Hill said, "We're really developing a minimalistic approach. We want to get rid of every production element that has been around since the 1970s. We want to be in the moment, don't clutter the screen, but keep the viewer informed for every second of the game." But he notes the "problem if you make a change, sports fans are the most traditional viewers there can be, and they will say, 'How dare you do this?'" Hill, when asked if he is concerned about the NFL beginning to simulcast live games online, said, "No. It won't in any way harm the telecast. The figures we saw out of the Olympics back that up. As long as you don't get your affiliates up in arms, as long as you keep them happy I can't see anything wrong with that." With the World Series only a little more than a month away, Futterman asked if Hill is "worried about having to sell the country Tampa against Milwaukee." Hill said while laughing, "As a matter of fact, yes." Hill: "You have no idea how many times that question has been asked of me in the last three or four days. But to be in this business you have to be an optimist. ... That doesn't mean you don't think how good the Red Sox and Dodgers in the World Series would be. But whatever it is we put the games on in the most compelling way so we can refresh the fan base every day." Meanwhile, Hill said HD is "merely a stepping stone on the way to 3D." Hill: "It's going to be incredible. ... I've seen boxing on 3D. It's the thing that is going to save boxing" (WSJ.com, 9/10).

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  • Bright House Sports Net To Launch In Central Florida Next Week

    The Bright House Sports Network (BHSN), a new 24-hour RSN in Central Florida, will launch next Wednesday with a lineup including an emphasis on local sports and "live weekly telecasts of high school football," according to Buddy Collings of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The net "combines programming geared for Bright House's nine-county Central Florida market" with Catch 47, the company's 24-hour RSN launched in Tampa in '05. Bright House VP/Public Affairs Sara Brady: "Content will be customized in each market, and there's also going to be a blend of programming you'll see in both." Bright House said that programming will include "coverage of college teams," including the Univ. of Central Florida and Univ. of South Florida, as well as "pro sports, fishing, auto racing, extreme sports, boxing and soccer." Bright House Tampa produces "The BaysBall Show," a weekly baseball show covering the Rays (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/11). In Orlando, Etan Horowitz reports BHSN, which is a digital channel, will "broadcast more than 75 live high school sports events a year and have its own studio shows" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 9/10).

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  • Five New NFL Pregame Show Talents To Watch This Season

    Last week, I gave viewers five college football broadcasters worth watching this season. This week, I give you five that viewers are not going to want to miss on Sundays during NFL pregame shows: Spero Dedes and Warren Sapp of NFL Network, Cris Carter of ESPN, Michael Strahan of Fox and Dan Patrick of NBC.

    Williams Lauds Dedes For Handling Of
    "NFL GameDay Morning" Hosting Abilities
    SPERO DEDES: He can be seen on “NFL GameDay Morning,” the newest edition to the NFL pregame show lineup. Dedes is known primarily for his NBA play-by-play skills, but here he has taken up the challenge of juggling the responsibilities of hosting this fast-paced show. He demonstrates a good sense of timing as he skillfully moves between the local announcers at each of the game-day sites, seeking their early analysis of the upcoming contests. Dedes also triggers a review of top stories with NFL insider Adam Schefter, gathering last-minute updates on the teams and their players. He also demonstrates a willingness to share the spotlight with analysts Marshall Faulk and Warren Sapp. I was very impressed with the way Dedes took control of his duties in his first week as the host of NFL Network’s new pregame program.

    WARREN SAPP: Speaking of Sapp, he is my second broadcaster to watch. The former Pro Bowl NT is animated and informed. As a player he was famous for his “on-the-field analysis” that he provided freely to all his opponents. Now on set with Dedes and NFL Net veteran Faulk, Sapp is a natural. Just like during his playing days, he is not afraid to speak his mind. Sunday, he was one of the few pregame analysts to pick the Ravens to up-end the Bengals. Sapp: “I am telling you, I love Marvin Lewis but his team can’t play defense and the Ravens can. I think Baltimore will be able to run and to keep the ball away from the Bengals. The Ravens play great defense, they will score enough points to win and will shut down the Bengals. I smell upset here.” Bingo.

    CRIS CARTER: Over at ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” Carter is the new kid, joining returning commentators Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson. But Carter is a good addition. His calm, confident manner of analysis complements the bold style of Johnson and Ditka. An example of his ability to provide sharp insight was proven when he was quick to debunk the theory that Brett Favre has to learn the Jets’ offensive system. He said, “I’m so sick of people talking about the system. In the National Football League, most of the systems make the players. But, when someone like Brett Favre shows up, he’s an elite player, he’s a rare talent. When he shows up, you create a system for him because of his ability.”

    Strahan's Experience In Front Of The Camera
    Shows In Debut On "Fox NFL Sunday"
    MICHAEL STRAHAN: On “Fox NFL Sunday,” Strahan is someone who comes right off the field with a clear understanding of the broadcasting business. While a DE with the Giants, he frequently was a guest on a number of national TV and radio shows, as well as appearing in a number of national commercials. So he has a practiced presence in front of the camera. But because he is far from being politically correct, he brings a self-confident edginess to his commentary that is fun to watch. For example, Strahan had some strong comments on coaches being able to communicate defensive plays through a headset to players on the field: “The players don’t like it because the coaches try to over-coach and when you’re out there getting banged in the head, the last thing you want to hear is a coach. When they start banging coaches over the head to make sure they make the right calls, then they’ll have an understanding why this is a bad idea.”

    DAN PATRICK: Patrick is not new to television. After a year off the air, though, he has returned to be part of “Football Night In America” on NBC. He wanted to reprise his role as part of the best highlight team in TV history with partner Keith Olbermann. The duo’s work on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” is taught in journalism schools all around the country, earning them not only Emmys, but a best-selling book that helped spawn the TV show “Sports Night.” Now Patrick and Olbermann are back together again, and this is just what “Football Night” needs.

    These are my picks for your NFL Sunday. If you are a fan, these guys are the ones to watch.

    Jim Williams is a seven-time Sports Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer who lives in Baltimore. He will be reviewing sports programming occasionally for SportsBusiness Daily and SportsBusiness Journal. He can be reached at jameswilliams360@comcast.net.

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  • Blog Hound: Simpson's Smack Talk Captures Bloggers' Attention

    Over the past 24 hours, singer Jessica Simpson's comments on "GMA" regarding Monday night's Eagles-Cowboys game stirred conversation among bloggers, with many believing that Tony Romo's girlfriend would be further vilified by Cowboys fans should they lose. The Angels winning the AL West and clinching a playoff spot was a popular topic among bloggers, with many taking note of their joyous post-game celebration. Concerns about Titans QB Vince Young's mental state continued to be a popular topic. Bloggers were also concerned by news that the Giants and Jets are in stadium naming-rights negotiations with Germany-based Allianz. Rounding out the top five was "Inside the NFL" analyst Warren Sapp referring to Univ. of Florida football coach Urban Meyer as a "classless dirtbag" for kicking a field goal in the final seconds of UF's 26-3 win over the Univ. of Miami, Sapp's alma mater, and stating that the Raiders, his former team are "going to suck." Visit www.sportsmediachallenge.com for more info or see chart below.

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  • Media Notes

    ESPN Star Sports Acquires Champions
    League Twenty20 Rights In 10-Year Deal
    ESPN Star Sports (ESS) has acquired the global commercial rights for all matches in the Champions League Twenty20 cricket league in a 10-year deal through 2017. As part of the deal, ESS has Champions League Twenty20 TV, online, mobile and radio rights. ESS also will have all title rights, event sponsorship, ground rights and merchandizing rights around the property (ESS). ESS agreed to pay $900M for the rights, which ESS said is the "highest price ever paid for a cricket tournament on per game basis" (DAILY VARIETY, 9/11).

    MUST SEE TV: In DC, Leonardo Shapiro wrote NBC's "Football Night In America" is a "crackling show jam-packed with highlights, interesting analysis and up-to-the-minute reporting on the breaking news of the day." Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, a pair of "truly clever former ESPN anchors," offer a "rousing reprise of the same sort of schtick that made them both famous a decade ago." Meanwhile, "FNIA" host Bob Costas Sunday during the show's season debut "as usual guided the show seamlessly from one element to the next." The show also features analyst Cris Collinsworth, "arguably the best and brightest football analyst on television," and SI's Peter King, who offers "his own inimitable take on the day's events" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/10).

    FLAG STILL THERE? In Orlando, David Whitley writes the national anthem "has faded from sight" from sports TV broadcasts. Whitley: "The networks won't quite say that, but when was the last time you saw a performance of 'The Star Spangled Banner'?" The NFL said that it "takes a 'special occasion' for the song to warrant precious TV time," such as the Super Bowl. Several nets declined to comment on the record, but NBC Sports Dir of Communications Brian Walker said, "There's not a set policy" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/11).

    TV LISTINGS: The Jazz will have all 82 regular-season games televised this year for the fourth straight year, as well as all seven preseason games "for the first time." FSN Utah will air 60 Jazz regular-season games and KJZZ-MYT will air 16, with the remaining six "televised exclusively by" TNT. Craig Bolerjack and Ron Boone will call the FSN Utah and KJZZ-MYT broadcasts (DESERET NEWS, 9/11)....FSN Wisconsin will carry 70 Bucks regular-season games this season, "the same number it carried last season." Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin will continue as the club's long-time on-air broadcast team (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/11)....CSN Mid-Atlantic will televise 73 Capitals games this season, with 50 games airing on CSN HDTV. That marks a record number of HD game productions for the club (CSN).

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