SBD/Issue 56/Sports Media

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  • Disney Seeks To Protect ESPN From Cablevision's FCC Efforts

    The Walt Disney Co. yesterday "went on the offensive" to halt Cablevision's effort to push the FCC into restricting ESPN "from demanding access to the vast majority of cable subscribers," according to Ted Hearn of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. Cablevision's attorneys have been working with FCC Chair Kevin Martin and his staff to get the FCC to "start a rulemaking that would greatly restrict Disney's bargaining leverage not just for its cable networks but also for its 10 ABC TV stations." The rule would "give cable operators the option to keep ESPN in a package or sell it a la carte." But Disney "hit back in a sternly worded letter Wednesday to Martin and the other four FCC commissioners that accused Cablevision of two-faced behavior." Disney alleged that Cablevision's advocacy at the FCC was "totally [at] odds with Cablevision's statements as a defendant in an antitrust suit aimed at breaking up cable programming packages and mandating more a la carte options as a remedy." Disney in the letter also "complained that Martin's staff had prepared a list of 'findings' designed to justify new rules curbing the bargaining clout of program suppliers." Martin yesterday said that he "wanted the FCC to vote Dec. 18 to start the rulemaking," and that "among other things, he wants to bar ESPN from demanding carriage on expanded basic." Hearn noted Cablevision owns MSG Network and "withholds the HD version of MSG from Verizon, Cablevision's cable competitor in the greater New York City region." Martin said that he has "no plans to eliminate the legal exemption that allows Cablevision to restrict access to MSG's HD feed" (, 12/3).

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  • National Canadian Broadcasters Seeing Ratings Jump For NHL

    Viewership for the CBC's "HNIC" "has grown in all time slots" so far this season, while its pregame show is "making the largest gain," according to William Houston of the GLOBE & MAIL. The first game of the "HNIC" doubleheader is averaging 1.348 million viewers, up 13% from the same point in the '07-08 season, while the second game is averaging 763,000 viewers, up 19%. The CBC's pregame show, which airs from 6:30-7:05pm ET, is averaging 527,000 viewers, a 56% increase over last year, indicating that the time slot "has become destination viewing." The "After Hours" late-night wrap-up show is drawing 281,000 fans, which is up 53%. Meanwhile, NHL telecasts on TSN are up 21% from last year with an average of 496,000 viewers, while RDS is averaging 773,000 viewers, also a 21% jump, for its national coverage of Canadiens games. However, Houston reports the "flip side to national NHL audiences is regional viewership," as audiences on Rogers Sportsnet for the Maple Leafs, Canucks and Senators are all down. Rogers Sportsnet President Doug Beeforth is "skeptical" of the ratings decreases, as he indicated that the "problem may be caused by HDTV." Beeforth said that the net "has doubled its HDTV telecasts since last season," and while national HD audiences "are given an accurate measurement, regional audiences are not." Beeforth: "By BBM Nielsen's own admission, their measurement of HD homes isn't where it should be." A "more accurate system" in collecting regional HD data will be available next fall, but Beeforth said that is a "long time to wait." The following chart shows the ratings trends for Sportsnet regional coverage so far this season (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/4).

    % +/- (YR-to-YR)
    Maple Leafs

    VERSUS NATIONAL RATINGS: Through 17 NHL games on Versus this season, the net is averaging a 0.3 cable rating and 306,000 viewers, up from a 0.2 rating and 250,000 viewers through the same period last season (18 games). Versus most-viewed regular-season game this season to date was the Maple Leafs-Red Wings game on October 9, which drew a 0.5 cable rating and 577,000 viewers. The net is also seeing gains in key male demos, including M18-34 (+49%), M18-49 (46%) and M25-54 (31%) (THE DAILY).

    U.S. REGIONAL RATINGS: In San Jose, John Ryan reports the Sharks are averaging a 1.2 HH local rating on CSN Bay Area, a 50% increase from the same time period in '07. The increase is the third-largest jump among NHL teams, behind the Capitals (140%) and the Blackhawks (71%) (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/4). The Capitals also have a local HH rating of 1.2 for games airing on CSN Mid-Atlantic (Nielsen).

    DEF-INITELY WATCHING: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand cites a Nielsen report that indicated "at least 22%" of U.S. HHs receive HDTV, and in those HDTV HHs, "ratings for TV sports are 20% higher than in the USA overall." Nielsen said that sports commentary is the "most popular TV programming of any kind for HD viewers" (USA TODAY, 12/4).

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  • NFL's Live 3-D Debut Tonight Could Pave Way For Future Broadcasts

    Third Dimension On-Tap For Raiders-Chargers
    Tonight's Raiders-Chargers game on NFL Network marks the first time an NFL game will be broadcast live in 3-D, and it could be a "landmark in sports television history -- such as ABC's first Monday night prime-time football game -- and pave the way for home 3-D telecasts on enabled TVs, according to Bill Ordine of the Baltimore SUN. However, the 3-D broadcast also "could wind up a curious footnote." Eight digital 3-D cameras will "capture the action, and the signal will be transmitted to theaters where the game will be shown on 3-D enabled movie screens and similarly equipped big-screen monitors." The feed will be shown to invited audiences in N.Y., Boston and L.A. While details have yet to be released, 3-D industry execs said that "tickets for such a live telecast would be more expensive than a typical movie theater admission but would cost less than attending the game." Tonight's telecast is the "culmination of five years of talks" between the NFL and L.A.-based 3ality Digital, which is operating the broadcast. Former Ravens President David Modell serves as Chair of 3ality, and NFL Senior VP/Broadcasting & Media Operations Howard Katz said that he was "first approached by Modell's brother, John Modell, about an IMAX 3-D football movie about five years ago." While that did not happen, the "door-opener for tonight's telecast was a 3-D segment shot" at Super Bowl XXXVIII in '04. David Modell said that tonight's game comes with the "challenge of capturing a spontaneous event and allowing the audience to see it 'as they see everything else in their lives.'" Ordine notes the "soonest that the public might see the marriage of the NFL and 3-D could be a movie presentation" of Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010 (Baltimore SUN, 12/4).

    RED CARPET APPEARANCES: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, who serves as Chair of the NFL Broadcasting Committee and "will help shape how the league uses 3-D," is expected to attend the screening in Boston. In addition, Vikings Owner Zygi Wilf, Giants President & CEO John Mara, Jets Owner Woody Johnson and Redskins Owner Dan Snyder, who also sits on the league's Broadcasting Committee, are slated to attend the N.Y. screening (AP, 12/3).

    RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio reported the league originally planned to show the game only in N.Y., L.A. and San Diego, which "made sense" because the NFL HQs are in N.Y., 3ality is based in L.A. and the game is being played in San Diego. The Raiders reportedly "felt a bit left out, since a screening of the game in the Bay Area would have been a great way for the organization to engender goodwill with current local sponsors, potential local sponsors, and folks who plunk down big money each year for luxury suites at home games." But Florio wrote the decision to allow the Patriots to screen the game at the Emerald City outside Boston "sent blood pressures in Oakland soaring." Florio: "How do the Raiders get shut out completely from demonstrating the new technology via a game involving their team while the Patriots -- who have no direct or indirect stake in the outcome -- secure a valuable marketing tool?" (, 12/3).

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  • Blog Hound: Bloggers Disagree With Tuberville's Auburn Ouster

    Over the past 24 hours, the firing of Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville was the most popular topic among the top sport blogs, with the majority of bloggers disagreeing with the decision. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge in college basketball was also highly discussed, especially Duke's win over Purdue on Tuesday night and North Carolina's win over Michigan State last night. A video of a shot by SUNY Geneseo basketball player Scott Morton to win a game versus SUNY Oswego is making the rounds, with bloggers amazed by the winning bucket. Sean Avery's comments and ensuing suspension remained in the top five, with many thinking the punishment was too harsh. Also re-appearing in the top five was the banned substance-related suspensions of five NFL players and a Minnesota judge issuing a restraining order allowing the two suspended Vikings players to re-join the team. Visit for more info or see chart below.

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  • Media Notes

    Melrose Back At ESPN
    With New Three-Year Deal
    In Dallas, Barry Horn reported Barry Melrose, who served as ESPN's main NHL analyst for 12 years before leaving this summer to become coach of the Lightning, is "moving back to Bristol" after agreeing to a new three-year deal with the net. Melrose was fired as Lightning coach after just 16 games this season (, 12/3). NEWSDAY's Neil Best writes current ESPN NHL analyst Matthew Barnaby's on-air role "will be unchanged" (, 12/4). Melrose will make his return on January 1, coinciding with the Red Wings-Blackhawks Winter Classic (ESPN).

    NEW VENTURE: Bobcats Owner and BET Founder Bob Johnson participated in a Q&A with TVNEWSDAY, which reported Johnson is "proposing to launch another network targeting black viewers, this time using digital broadcasting as the distribution platform rather than cable." Johnson's partner in the project is Ion Media, which owns stations in 42 markets and has been "struggling for years to find programming that will produce some audience and revenue growth." When asked what he envisions "in terms of programming" for the net, Johnson said, "I really don't know yet. I know it's got to have a public interest focus. It's got to serve the broad base of the urban population, which is sorely underserved. So, I'm thinking about a range of things -- going out to Hollywood and talking to some of the top African-American producers to see what they'd like to see on television that they can't get on" (, 12/2).

    BUCS OVER DENNY CRANE: In St. Petersburg, Eric Deggans notes WFTS-ABC's simulcast of the "MNF" broadcast of Buccaneers-Panthers next Monday night "will pre-empt two major TV events: the finale of long-running drama Boston Legal and the December showing of the Peanuts cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas." "Charlie Brown" will air on the station Tuesday, December 16 at 8:00pm ET, while "Boston Legal" will air Sunday, December 14 at 4:00pm (, 12/3).

    CUTS ALREADY COMING: The GLOBE & MAIL's William Houston reported as part of the job cuts at Rogers, "five staffers, including reporter-anchor David Bastl, have lost their jobs" at Rogers SportsNet. The total number of firings at Rogers has been "estimated to be 100, but some sources pegged it at closer to 200" (, 12/3).

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  • Media rights: We really know our stuff

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