Mara Defends Giants' Handling Of Brown A's To Tour Waterfront Stadium Site Fox Sports, SI Strike Digital Deal Hershman Is New World eSports Association Commish LeBron's New Reality Debuts Tonight Sabres Unveil Dynamic Ticket Pricing Minding My Business With Vijay Setlur Marlins Park Hosting International Motorsports Event Banc of California Signs Deal With LAFC Raptors Unveil Two New Jersey Options
SBD/Issue 21/Sports MediaPrint All
Fox Earns 6.1/10 Overnight For
Phillies-Dodgers Game Four
THE SHOW MUST GO ON? SLATE.com's Ben Mathis-Lilley reviewed all the "dumb baseball commentary on television," and wrote TBS' MLB playoffs coverage is "cacophonously uninformative." The production features former MLBers Dennis Eckersley, Harold Reynolds and Cal Ripken Jr. "yelling excitedly at one another for a half hour, like a better-natured but equally unintelligible version of 'Crossfire.'" Fox MLB analyst Kevin Kennedy following the Dodgers' loss in NLCS Game Two noted that the team "'went away from good pitches,' urging them to include more good pitches in their Game 3 plan." Meanwhile, Mathis-Lilley wrote ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" features "savvy baseball analysts" like Peter Gammons and Buster Olney, but "moments of researched insight are the exception on ESPN's baseball broadcasts." Mathis-Lilley: "I'm convinced that there's room in the market for a smarter show about the national pastime. My imaginary show would ignore the axiom that the highlight is king. ... My show would take a cue from baseball sites like Prospectus and Hardball Times and put crucial decisions in context" (SLATE.com, 10/13). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Ripken during ALCS Game Two "may have been the only other resident of the planet who saw nothing wrong with leaving [P] Josh Beckett in to get pounded." During the net's postgame show, Eckersley and Reynolds "responded by pounding" Ripken (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/14).
LATE NIGHTS: SI.com's Peter King noted "three of the six Red Sox playoff games have lasted until" at least 1:25am ET. King: "These games, even the ones that don't go into extras, are just too long. Captivatingly long, but too long. The umps need to tell the pitchers, particularly with bases empty, to adhere to the quicker pace they've been told to keep" (SI.com, 10/13).
Fox' Cowboys-Cardinals Broadcast
Earns Net's Top NFL Rating This Season
SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: The Patriots-Chargers "Sunday Night Football" game earned NBC a 9.4/15 overnight Nielsen rating from 8:30-11:30pm ET. While the game was up 11.9% from an 8.4/13 overnight rating for the comparable Saints-Seahawks game last year, it also marks the lowest “SNF” overnight of the season. The game, however, beat out Phillies-Dodgers NLCS Game Three in 49 of the 56 Nielsen metered markets, earning a 31.1/50 in San Diego and a 22.8/36 in Boston (THE DAILY).
RULING ON THE FIELD: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in St. Pete for the league's Owners Meetings, said of the NFL Network, "We've been struggling to get distribution. Just this past Friday there was a very significant ruling by the FCC that said the NFL had been discriminated against by Comcast. ... We've been trying to get distribution over the last two years with Comcast and some other larger operators but they have resisted for reasons, frankly articulated in this decision, that were against the law. We're hopeful that decision will spur negotiation and more distribution" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/14). SI.com's Peter King wrote the "eight games in the NFL Network's second-half package might be much more visible now, with the news that the NFL-Comcast dispute is headed to a administrative law judge, with a possible resolution sometime this year." King: "If so, the league must hope for some of the teams on its slate to rally. Like, now." The eight matchups feature teams with a combined 43-43 record (SI.com, 10/13).
Writers Feel "Fox NFL Sunday" Too
Crowded With Addition Of Strahan
EARNING KUDOS: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote Fox NFL sideline reporter Laura Okmin during Sunday's Panthers-Buccaneers game reported that Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia and his wife were expecting their second child. Okmin was "solid all afternoon, more so than the typical do-little sideline reporters we're used to seeing on all networks," and her "good work included nice pieces" on Buccaneers RBs Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/13).
NOTES: On Long Island, Neil Best writes under the header, "Kornheiser Shticks Well In MNF Booth." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser's "wit and non-jock takes play well" off ESPN's Ron Jaworski on "MNF" and "give the show a different, lighter feel from its staid Sunday afternoon counterparts" (NEWSDAY, 10/14)....Sunday's edition of "Fox NFL Sunday" featured commentary from actor Mark Wahlberg and scenes from his new movie, 20th Century Fox' "Max Payne," intermixed with NFL game action. Fox' Curt Menefee began the broadcast by saying, "You saw the open, now go see the movie: 'Max Payne' in theaters everywhere beginning this Friday" ("Fox NFL Sunday," Fox, 10/12).
Madden Says Decision To Skip "SNF"
Telecast Is A "Quality Of Life Issue"
NEEDING A BYE WEEK: Madden: "I just wanted to have a bye. ... The whole thing starts with the Raiders and 49ers not being good. I never get a home game. I've got five grandkids now and I want to be home a little. Last year, I never got home at all." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports Madden actually will "get two weeks off," as NBC on October 26 "will not carry a game rather than go head-to-head with Game 4 of the World Series on Fox." Madden is scheduled to return to the booth for the November 2 Patriots-Colts game (N.Y. TIMES, 10/14).
A SIGN OF WHO'S NEXT? DEADSPIN's A.J. Daulerio wrote Collinsworth filling in for Madden leads "to the obvious speculation that he'll be the eventual heir to the Madden throne." However, Collinsworth has said that is "not in his future plans and he has no desire to fly around the country every weekend covering football games because he likes watching his kids grow up" (DEADSPIN.com, 10/13).
Golf Channel To Add Weekend Coverage
Of PGA Tour Events Airing On CBS
CBS Seeking To Have District
Court Stay Or Dismiss NFLPA Suit
Schreiber Thinks ESPN Was Right To Publish
Sensitive Story About Vince Young
Several Sports Media Execs Meet To
Discuss Industry With SBD/SBJ Staff
Q: There’s, of course, a lot of concern about the national economy and its impact upon sponsorship sales. How have digital ad sales been affected?
KOSNER: It’s obviously a challenging time, but I think sports continue to hold up well considering what’s going on. That gets to the importance of live events and the passion the audience has. In the case of ESPN, our biggest packages sold involve multiple media including TV, and many of them are done on long-term deals. We have a really expert sales staff that goes out and does it. So I feel like we’re holding up pretty well. In the industry, there’s a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of display ads. That’s obviously very, very important to all of us because most of us are not in the direct response business. A colleague of mine said last week that when you have dark times, it makes people innovative. So I think we’re going to come out of this time with more effective advertising, in part because we have to, and also in part because amid all the money flowing to digital, there’s a demand for better results and better brand advertising.
PRICE: I agree completely with John. In this difficult environment, you’re clearly seeing auto and pharma as two categories that from a media perspective are being impacted very heavily. When Detroit has two launches of trucks that continue to be pushed back, in a tough environment for trucks and sports being traditionally such an important vehicle for the truck market, it’s going to have an impact on what we all do. But I do think the opportunity to innovate and think about our audiences and fans we’re engaging with, and think about a multi-platform approach, allows us with a chance to come out of this much stronger.
Q: Jeff, when you sold an exclusive entitlement around Peter King to GMC a few years back, that was seen as a bellwether event for the industry. Are you seeing as many of those specific deals being sold now?
PRICE: Television has certainly set a marketplace where advertisers have an opportunity to wrap themselves and ‘own’ certain segments of shows. There are various ways they can wrap themselves around the content, and that is certainly being pushed across all mediums. You continue to have to make sure it works for both the advertiser and the fan and that you don’t sell one out for the other. But ultimately, trying to create engaging opportunities on a multi-platform basis is at the core of what many of us in the room are trying to do.
Rolapp Admits NFL Feeling
Economic Pressure Like Others
ROLAPP: A little bit, but we’re not immune to what’s going on any more than anyone else here at the table. We’re a little akin to John’s model in that we sell cross-platform, we have a TV network and we have a sponsorship business in which people are contracted and locked in for a while. But at the same time, there’s a tremendous amount of discretionary spending that goes on in our business. So we’re feeling it like everyone else. I do agree there is a flight to quality in a market like this. And I think sports in general is classified as quality, and that the NFL holds up pretty well in that regard. But you also have to innovate, and the burden is on the content producer and the site operator to generate value. I think you’ll see a continued trend in which advertisers are looking to wrap themselves around content, not only online but in other places. And it’s an ongoing balance of creating value for them and making sure the consumer experience for them holds up and doesn’t become a complete homage to the advertiser. There’s a tactful, effective way for you to make it work both ways, and I think everybody here is figuring that out. But yeah, the tough economic times will definitely breed innovation and cause us to hustle a bit more.
PITARO: The days of us walking into a client’s office and saying, ‘This is what we have. Take it or leave it,’ are over. It’s all about customization and working with a client, cultivating partnerships.
Q: So where are we foremost seeing the effects of the economy?
RAAB: We’re certainly feeling it, but as I think was mentioned earlier, we’re not feeling it I think as badly because so many of our [digital] deals are tied to TV deals. And for us, our upfront period has sort of become fourth quarter and first quarter. Much of our business, of course, is around the Mets and a lot of that got clarified early this year. And now, going into this period again, we’ve just picked up a huge property in the Big East, which is something we’ve never had before. Some of this we’re still figuring out, but it’s new. It’s a new opportunity and we’re out there knocking on doors.
Q: Brian, what about the NFL? Where are you seeing the effects of the economy, particularly online?
ROLAPP: Again, a lot of stuff is contracted longer-term, just like John was mentioning. But you’ve seen it -- GMC was an example Jeff brought up. Here’s a traditionally big NFL sponsor who’s just saying that the money is drying up. And if they’re pulling back Super Bowl 30 [second spots], you know they’re pulling back everywhere. I think we compete for a fair amount of discretionary spend, just like everyone else does, and it starts with sponsors who are looking to activate around their sponsorships. But there are also non-sponsors, and since the NFL has adopted a media model to go along with the sponsorship model, it means that if you’re not an NFL sponsor, you can actually get in and associate with NFL content under certain parameters. And so, I think we’re feeling it there. We’re hitting our numbers. We’re sort of on track. But we’ve got a lot of football left to play and a there’s lot of money in the market. And it’s incumbent upon us to execute not only from a sales standpoint, but also from an execution and programming standpoint. We’re not running around the building with our hair on fire just yet. But we’ve got a healthy level of paranoia to keep us moving. And as some people have often said, only the paranoid survive in this business, and I think we’re no different.
PRICE: Also looking forward, the buying cycles for digital have moved. If you look back to 2006, 2005, deals were coming literally a month prior to their running. Many of the major deals we’re now seeing are coming six, eight, 12 months in advance as digital planning has become more sophisticated and is starting to match up against TV upfronts as seasons go. So we’re now in first and second quarter [of 2009] in a lot of advertiser conversations, that’s where we need to see how this all plays out [with the economy]. I don’t think it’s been an immediate impact, but we need to see where the economy evolves.
KOSNER: Right, it’s not a static thing. This is a moment in time we’re talking about and we’re telling you where it is today, but that doesn’t mean that in another couple of months it couldn’t be more dire or it could get slightly better.
Kosner Says ESPN Has Ad Sales Advantage
Due To High-Profile Content Like "MNF"
KOSNER: It’s not easy. ESPN has an advantage because it has some great properties everyone understands. No one is going to get fired for going out and buying "Monday Night Football." We have a group of people in our ad sales department who know how to go out and sell those deals and put them together. And we have the advantage of significant numbers that we can talk about. The other thing I’ll say is that the innovation is ultimately what gets you home or doesn’t. We’ve done really well with this concept of surround. If you logged on before "Monday Night Football," we had a tremendous amount of content, all the game-before-the-game content leading up to Jets-Chargers. We just made a big renewal with StubHub around ticketing that includes some mobile ticketing. We just made a big renewal with Orbitz around a really cool product called Passport, sort of like a digital scrapbook. So if you were at the final Yankees [home] game, you’d have a chance to upload your photos, participate and do that. We’re all in the renewal business. It’s easier to do those [multi-platform] deals if you can renew them. And one of the cool things is that if the deal’s a turkey, you can’t renew it, so I think everybody’s incentivized. But, no, it’s not easy getting them done. It’s not easy executing them. And the devil’s in whether there’s value in them for both sides.
Q: Brian, how about you? Does the NFL have a paradigm on all this yet?
ROLAPP: No, we’re figuring it out. We don’t have 40 years of television legacy to lean on. So we’re figuring it out as we go along. But I would just echo what John said in that there’s no magic to it. You figure it out as you go along, and if the execution isn’t performing, then it really doesn’t matter what medium it is. If the television isn’t getting ratings or if there’s not consumption online, no one’s going to be interested in it. I think it’s all a lot of trial and error, and hopefully less error than anything else. But we’ve done some things, we’ve taken segments from the NFL Network, and because we’ve reserved all our digital rights with footage, we can do unique things online that no one else can do. And when you have that kind of advantage, that’s something that people understand. So if you want to associate with NFL highlights and if you want to extend the segment, you can do that on our Web platforms, and that actually translates very well. And in a lot of ways, the Web has driven the television.
KOSNER: And online video is still growing, it’s driving interest to a lot of these sites, it was a big factor in the upfront for us this year.
ROLAPP: We’ve hung our hat on the notion that there’s not enough [online] video for us, that it’s a scarce commodity. But it drives the majority of our deals. Video keeps growing and growing and growing. I don’t want to say the appetite is insatiable, but we’ve had some good growth. We’ve used that well and it’s become a hook for us.
Price Says SI.com Saw Record
Traffic During Beijing Games
KOSNER: I thought NBC did a spectacular job with the Olympics. It was a watershed event for us in the industry. I also thought we did an excellent job on ESPN.com. We did not have some of the same access to events that we would normally have, but I thought the editorial coverage was very good. The traffic was very strong. For us, the biggest value comes from events that have a long season. Major League Baseball. NBA. College and pro football. The Olympics is a special event, and time sort of stands still when it happens, but it’s not really the core of what we do every day. I think we did a very solid job, but we salute the job that NBC did.
PRICE: From our perspective, it showed what a differentiator the independent voice is and the value that can bring to sports fans. Obviously, there are lots of folks going to NBC for video and engaging in that content. But we were able to set a record [for us] in Nielsen in terms of traffic for the month. Bringing the unique photography, whether it was the Phelps story and actually understanding something that TV couldn’t show, with the touch, and the behind-the-scenes storytelling that we were able to give, given the commitment we were putting forth as a franchise, we had a very successful Olympics across all measures. How well we drove traffic. How well we monetized that traffic. And the experience and engagement we had for our users. It shows that while NBC had a record-breaking performance, we had a record-breaking performance. And ESPN and Yahoo also had success. So if you can create differentiation, you can drive engagement with sports fans.
PITARO: We’re using [the Olympics] as a promotional platform for the rest of Yahoo Sports. It was a massive investment for us -- we started on our Olympics microsite around a year ago. To make that investment for a 17-day period, you have a decent amount of revenue coming in, but not really enough to justify it [by itself]. The main idea was to introduce Yahoo Sports to more casual fans. We have a lot of passionate fans, certainly driven by that our foundation has been in fantasy sports. So we looked [at the Olympics] as a way to bring in a lot of casual fans, a lot of women to the site and hopefully keep them there post-Olympics. For the first two weeks of September, we’ve seen traffic up about 100% year-over-year. So the strategy is paying off.
Smith Claims To Have Left MSG Net Because
He Cannot Bring Local Feel To Knicks Games
THREE-MAN WEAVE: Comcast SportsNet New England last week let Bob Cousy go after serving as a Celtics analyst 34 years, and CSN New England Exec VP & GM Bill Bridgen said, "I like the consistency of a two-man booth, as opposed to going with a three-man booth for nine or 10 games." Bridgen: "This is not anti-Bob Cousy or for financial reasons." Cousy, who noted he earned about $50,000 annually from Comcast, said, "Last year was kind of fun, frankly, and I was looking forward to doing it again. Comcast can choose to do the hiring and firing, but if it's a financial situation, I'm not being overpaid." Cousy said that the three-man broadcast team was "contrary to an NBA directive but the Celtics made an exception for him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/11).
WELCOME TO THE TEAM: ESPN yesterday introduced Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson as an NBA studio analyst. Johnson will make his debut with the net on ABC’s “GMC NBA Countdown” before a Christmas Day tripleheader. Johnson had served as a studio analyst for TNT the past seven years, primarily during the net’s Thursday night coverage. ESPN also announced analyst Jeff Van Gundy signed a five-year deal to remain with net as part of its lead announcing team alongside Mike Breen and Mark Jackson (THE DAILY). Johnson said of joining ESPN/ABC, "Nothing went wrong or was bad (at TNT). This is an opportunity. I wanted to work the NBA Finals" (USA TODAY, 10/14). Meanwhile, Van Gundy's brother, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, said, "He's a good broadcaster, but I still think of him as a coach. I think that's what he does best, so it's hard for me to imagine him going another five years without coaching" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 10/13).
Dale Jarrett Described As The "Ultimate
Natural" As NASCAR Analyst
NOTES: KMOX-AM Blues analyst Kelly Chase "has a lesion on his brain." Chase said that a biopsy "is possible, but that the hope is to diagnose the ailment before that procedure would be necessary." Chase noted that he "doesn't plan to miss" any remaining Blues games this season (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/10)....YES Network has hired NBA analyst Mike Fratello for Nets telecasts, teaming up throughout the season with play-by-play announcers Marv Albert and Ian Eagle. Analyst Jim Spanarkel also will return for another season (YES)....FSN West and Prime Ticket have hired Kings Vision host Heidi Androl to work as a reporter for all Kings home games televised on the RSN (Kings).
Over the past 24 hours, Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden's decision to step down was the most popular topic. Most bloggers were pleased to see Bowden go and were intrigued by comments from Clemson QB Cullen Harper that Bowden got "what he deserved." The Dodgers-Phillies NLCS was highly discussed after the Phillies took a 3-1 lead in the series last night. News that Cowboys QB Tony Romo would be out for four weeks due to a broken pinkie finger was a hot topic. Bloggers also speculated about NBC's John Madden's announcement that he would be ending his streak of calling 476 regular season games, as Madden will not travel to Tampa for NBC's Seahawks-Buccaneers telecast Sunday night. Rounding out the top five was the Rays taking a 2-1 lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS. Visit www.sportsmediachallenge.com for more info or see chart below.