SBD/Issue 129/Sports Media

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  • DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket Renewal Includes Wider Distribution

    DirecTV has renewed its deal to serve as the NFL's exclusive satellite carrier through '14. A broadband version of the package will be available by ’12 (NFL). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports the deal is worth $1B a year, up from the $700M it currently pays annually, and will allow fans living in areas without access to DirecTV the ability to buy Sunday Ticket on Broadband "directly from the satellite carrier." NFL Exec VP/Media Steve Bornstein: "The intent is to serve the underserved. People who can't get it, for whatever reason, will be able to get it." Sandomir notes Sunday Ticket's Red Zone Channel also will be "made available, for a fee, again no later than 2012, to Dish; telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T; wireless; and Internet providers." Bornstein: "This is a great opportunity for Big Cable to sit down and talk about a better relationship with the NFL" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds wrote the deal "opens the door to a wider reach for the out-of-home package." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that Sunday Ticket "would function as an ad hoc channel on Sundays," and noted that league officials "would soon reach out to distributors about the red zone channel." McCarthy also said that the availability of the service "would not be tied to distribution of NFL Network." Reynolds noted the NFL and DirecTV also "extended their carriage agreement for NFL Network, which will continue to be offered on DirecTV's Choice package" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 3/23).

    INSIDE THE DEAL: On Long Island, Neil Best writes the deal keeps Sunday Ticket "from cable companies that have coveted it for years" (NEWSDAY, 3/24). But the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai notes the Red Zone Channel "will now go nonexclusive" after being part of DirecTV's package for four years (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 3/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes the deal is a "sign that media rights for major sports may defy the recession." The deal "chips away at DirecTV's exclusivity when it comes to out-of-market games," though the NFL "still needs to reach agreements with cable and broadband providers on the price and access to the Red Zone Channel" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/24).

    DEAL TO BE PAID DURING WORK STOPPAGE: SI.com's Peter King cites a source as saying that the NFL/DirecTV deal "calls for the league to be paid the billion-dollar rights fee ... even if games are not played in 2011" due to a work stoppage. King notes by announcing the deal "so far in advance of its effective date ... the NFL is showing the players that it has a war chest and won't be pressured into making a deal it doesn't want just for the sake of avoiding a work stoppage in 2011." King: "This will be a huge factor in the looming negotiations, one that clearly will make the league not as desperate to resolve a simmering dispute with the players that began when owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement last year" (SI.com, 3/24). An NFL source said that the deal will "provide the owners with more than [$30M] per team in working revenue even in the event of a lockout." The source: "That allows us the juice to have a lockout from a cash flow point of view, if that's necessary" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/24).

    A RISK FOR DIRECTV: Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett in an e-mail said the deal carries significant risks for DirecTV, which he suggested would have to increase the service's price to pay for a deal estimated at $4-4.5B over four years. "DirecTV would need to acquire (or retain) about 400 to 450K incremental subscribers by 2012 who are solely attributable to the NFL Sunday Ticket package in order to break even on the contract," he wrote. "We believe finding these incremental subs will prove increasingly difficult, as uptake among consumers that want this package must already be quite high, and bar and restaurant penetration is likely near saturation" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). CNBC's Darren Rovell: "If you have something that’s good even in this economy now, you’re going to keep it and you might even raise the ante a little bit” (“The Kudlow Report,” CNBC, 3/23).

    LAST CHANCE DRIVE: In San Jose, John Ryan writes the deal "looks like another sign that NFL Network will disappear from Comcast Cable altogether when that contract expires May 1" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/24). CABLEFAX DAILY notes more evidence suggesting NFL Net and Comcast will not renew their deal "came in the past week when Comcast began notifying [subscribers] that they could lose the channel May 1." Comcast in a recent programming notice wrote, "To our Sports Entertainment Pack Customers: In spite of Comcast's efforts, the NFL may terminate Comcast's right to carry NFL Network, as a result, the network may be removed from your lineup on May 1" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/24).

    MISSING MAN: NEWSDAY's Best noted NFL Network's Adam Schefter "hasn't blogged on NFL.com since March 3, hasn't appeared on 'Total Access' since March 6 and now is nowhere to be seen at the owners' meetings in California." Schefter: "I'm under contract to NFL Network until the middle of August, and I've been very happy there and I'm hoping we can work things out." Best: "So it appears there is a lack of an agreement on the financial terms of a contract extension" (NEWSDAY.com, 3/23).

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  • CBS' MMOD Setting More Records; Net Explains Louisville Gaffe

    CBS Sports' March Madness On Demand (MMOD) through the opening weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament drew 5.6 million unique users, up 60% over the same period last year, and there have been 6.5 million total hours of video and audio consumed thus far, a 71% increase over last year. MMOD users clicked the "Boss Button" 2.5 million times through the opening weekend (THE DAILY). CBS Sports Sunday added another 900,000 hours of consumed audio and video for MMOD (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Steven Zeitchik notes CBS has "made a number of tweaks" to its MMOD during its four years of existence, "increasing the number of users who can access it, removing blackouts of locally televised games and adding new platforms like the iPhone." CBSSports.com Senior VP & GM Jason Kint: "The game-changer this year was CBS Interactive marketing it in a way they never have before." Kint said that CBS "will hit its pre-tournament projection of $30[M] in dedicated online revenue" for the tournament (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 3/24).

    Close Finish In Michigan State-USC Game
    Helps CBS Win Ratings Battle Sunday
    RATINGS GAME: DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell notes the "conclusion of some nail-biter" games in the tournament, as well as President Obama's appearance on "60 Minutes," carried CBS to a "strong Sunday in the ratings, winning in both demos and total viewers." The NCAA tournament coverage Sunday, which ran until about 7:50pm ET and included Michigan State-USC and Missouri-Marquette, averaged "more than 15 million viewers to dominate the opening hour of primetime" (DAILY VARIETY, 3/24). Meanwhile, with just two teams remaining seeded fifth or higher, ESPN’s Erik Kuselias said, “There is no Cinderella this year. Is it better this way when you get the favorites? I think most people would say no. … But the ratings are much better when the big teams show” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 3/24).

    BAIT & SWITCH: CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco yesterday explained the decision to cut away from the end of Sunday night's Louisville-Siena game in the Louisville and Albany markets in favor of the Missouri-Marquette game. Aresco: "We always plan on staying with a constant. In some situations, and we've done it over the years, we'll try to get to just a buzzer-beater and get right back to the constant. In this particular case we had an unusual situation that developed. You had two exciting potential buzzer-beaters at the same time. We're trying to what we call ping-pong back and forth and then there were some bizarre circumstances in those games and we did use commercials as best we could. When games were stopped we would go back but in this particular case, yeah, we didn't get back fast enough and things were happening quickly and it happens." Aresco said CBS "in this particular case" made a mistake. Aresco: "I think in this particular case we probably needed to get back a little quicker." Meanwhile, Aresco described the network cutting away from Friday night's Wisconsin-Florida State game while the final shot was in mid-air as a "control room error" ("Mad Dog Unleashed," Sirius XM Radio, 3/23).

    CBS Admits Mistake In Cutting Away From
    Louisville-Siena Game In Home Markets
    CARDINAL SIN: Louisville's WLKY-CBS President & GM Glenn Haygood said CBS "apologized for what they did." Haygood: "They pledged that they would never again cut in on a University of Louisville constant feed in the Louisville television market. They completely understand their mistakes" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 3/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Eamonn Brennan wrote of CBS switching away from the Louisville-Siena game, "Something tells me that this was a flub rather than an intentional programming decision. Either way, it's a major mistake, one CBS would do well to make up to Louisville-area viewers in the near future" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/23). ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb said fans wanting to watch the Missouri-Memphis Sweet 16 matchup Thursday night but are outside of the home markets should make plans to go out and watch it instead of watching it at home. Gottlieb: "You don’t want to depend on CBS’ switcher guy. I’m not sure who the switcher guy was, but he had a very difficult weekend last weekend” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/24).

    OPENING WEEKEND GRADES: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Brian Powell listed his winners and losers among CBS' announcers for the opening weekend. Analysts Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas are listed among the winners, and Powell wrote of Raftery, "He always has fun and anytime he brings his 'lingerie' reference into a game, I just crack up. Some might find him annoying, but I've always loved his passion, and he should be on the first team with [Jim] Nantz." Powell wrote there "isn't a better live game analyst in the game at the moment" than Bilas. Meanwhile, announcer Tim Brando and analyst Clark Kellogg are ranked among the losers. Powell: "I thought Brando had a much better showing this go around, but he still tries to force things." And Kellogg "just isn't ready for the big time yet." He is "another guy who tries to force everything and make the routine exciting" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 3/23).

    Kellogg Not Making
    People Forget Packer
    LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP: In DC, Leonard Shapiro offered a love/hate list for the opening weekend of the tournament. Shapiro wrote he loves that ESPN's Dick Vitale "mercifully is not remotely involved in the CBS coverage and, so far, hasn't even shown up in a tournament-related commercial." And ESPN's Bob Knight is a "must-watch on ESPN, a natural born analyst with spot-on observations every time he talks." But Shapiro wrote he hates that Billy Packer, who retired as CBS' lead game analyst after 27 years, "has not been included in the network coverage." Shapiro ranked Kellogg as neutral. Shapiro: "I've always liked Clark Kellogg's work in the CBS studio at tournament time, but I'll wait until after the Final Four before making a definitive judgment on his replacing Packer as the lead game analyst. So far, he seems far less analytical than Packer, gets a tad too high-decibel excited at times and more than occasionally points out the obvious." Meanwhile, Shapiro wrote he loves CBS' "look-ins" to other games. Shapiro: "After all these years, with so many staggered starting times, CBS has this down to a science, updating close games from other regions and usually leaving blowouts at just the right time, then getting back to the same game if things get a little closer." Shapiro added he loves "having every game on streaming video" through MMOD (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/23).

    TAKE A BREATH: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes of the CBS analysts, "These guys won't shut up. They won't allow the game to breathe. They begin non-stop analysis from the opening tip. Why even bother having play-by-play men? The producers are letting these analysts (mouths) run wild. Perhaps they are not familiar with the following phrase: A moment of silence, please" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/24).

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  • MLB Network Attracting Interest From Variety Of Advertisers

    Media buyers "seem to agree" that MLB Network is "becoming a successful player in the television sports marketplace," according to John Consoli of the N.Y. TIMES. MLB Net execs said that the net is "on target to meet its first-quarter ad revenue projections, with major advertisers like Sprint, IBM, Kraft, Domino's Pizza, Geico, Progressive, Sony PlayStation, 2K Sports and Viagra, among others, already on the air." And "none of them are among the 18 official MLB sponsors, who, at some point this year, also are expected to jump in with varying amounts of advertising-dollar support." MediaVest Senior VP & Dir of Video Investment & Activation Christine Merrifield said of the net, "It's lean and its staff can put deals together very quickly and creatively. And it is getting good traction not only from sports advertisers but from some nontraditional sports advertisers." MLB Net Exec VP/Advertising Sales Bill Morningstar said that he is "in discussions with a number of advertisers in a range of categories, including beer companies, fast-food restaurants, banks and credit card companies, movies and pharmaceuticals." Morningstar: "Our motto has been to try to do a deal a day, bringing in a steady stream of advertisers in small increments of dollars. We're telling advertisers to give us a little money and grow with us." Optimedia Exec VP & Dir of National Electronic Media Larry Novenstern said the net is a "very good alternative for us to put some seed money down for clients and to see how the audience grows." Novenstern: "What they need to be doing is looking outside the box, and they are." Novenstern noted that Denny's, which is "looking to further invest in TV sports, is interested" in advertising on the net (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).

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  • Say What? Washington Post's Harlan Embarrassed To Cover Sports

    Washington Post Nationals beat reporter Chico Harlan said he does not "like sports" and is "embarrassed" that he covers them, according to Harry Jaffe of the WASHINGTONIAN. Harlan, who joined the paper last year and is set to start his first full season covering the Nationals, said of covering sports, "I can't wait to stop. It is a means to an end and a paycheck." Harlan added, "My approach might drive hard-core fans crazy because I might not get inside for that nitty-gritty play-by-play. The passion I can drum up is wanting to capture what is unique about each game. ... I never want to be obvious. I never want the reader to say nothing in my story caught him by surprise." Jaffe writes Harlan's distance from the Nationals "might make for tough reporting that's sometimes missing in Post coverage of local teams." Meanwhile, Harlan said of Nationals Owners the Lerner family, "They're running this team, and they remain a mystery. It drives me crazy. Cracking them will be one of my true goals of the year, my daily mission." He added Nationals President Stan Kasten is a "bit of a control freak." Harlan: "He wants to control every piece of information the Nationals put out. He hates sportswriters and agents, but he watches out for his employees" (WASHINGTONIAN, 4/ '09 issue).

    TOO LATE TO APOLOGIZE? Harlan Sunday wrote on the Washington Post's "Nationals Journal" blog, "I owe an apology, because I said something stupid." Harlan: "The quote is accurate. The sentiment is not. I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for my job. I know I'm lucky as heck to do what I do. ... I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have passion." He wrote he "didn't want to be portrayed ... as some central casting sportswriter: the sort who always dreamed of athletic glory, lacked the skills, and chose the next best thing." Harlan: "That's not me. I wanted [to] make the point that I have other interests, many more" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/22).

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  • MSG Obtains Rights To "The Bronx Is Burning" Miniseries

    MSG Plans To Run "The Bronx Is Burning"
    Miniseries In Conjunction With Opening Day
    MSG picked up the rights to ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning" and plans to run the miniseries with limited commercials starting April 5, the day before the Yankees' season opener. MSG will telecast the series about the '77 Yankees' run to a World Series title on eight consecutive Sunday nights at the start of the baseball season. At the end of each episode, the N.Y.-based RSN will run 15 minutes of new interviews it conducted with several members of that Yankees team, including Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers. "We feel we are presenting this in a way that will be completely different," said MSG Networks GM & Exec VP Dan Ronayne. The net will run the series with three minutes of commercials each hour, thanks to a six-figure title sponsorship deal with the Tri-State Cadillac Local Marketing Association. MSG will break into programming three times in the hour -- at the beginning, halfway and end -- for the Cadillac group's message. "Trying to sell things traditionally right now doesn't really excite our advertisers," said MSG Senior VP/Media Sales Art Ventura. "They're looking for something different right now." MSG will repeat the series a couple of times during the week. It also is planning to run it as a marathon around the All-Star Game. MSG also plans to provide bonus footage and full-length interviews on its Web site, www.msg.com/summerof77.

    PART OF A LARGER PACKAGE: The network acquired the miniseries' rights as part of a larger syndication package it picked up from ESPN, which included college basketball telecasts, sources said. MSG was eager to pick up the rights even though it has no live MLB programming on its schedule. The planned episodes on April 26 will run opposite a Yankees game against Boston on ESPN. The Mets do not have any Sunday night games scheduled for the first half of the season. Produced by ESPN Original Entertainment, ESPN ran the miniseries in the summer of '07. Its debut, which followed MLB's "Home Run Derby," pulled a 1.9 cable rating. The following week, it dropped to a 0.7 cable rating, which is how most of the remaining series rated.

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  • Media Notes

     
    Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network is partnering with the NBA to develop long- and short-form basketball-themed content across multiple platforms, including online, mobile, VOD and on-air. In the fall, Cartoon Network will debut "My Dad’s a Pro," a short-form series that follows children of NBA players, to coincide with the start of the '09-10 season. The network also has plans to launch a basketball section on its Web site (Turner Broadcasting). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Alex Weprin noted the deal is "in some ways an extension of the NBA's longstanding partnership" with Turner. The company, in its 25th year as an NBA broadcast partner, airs games on TNT and also manages the league's digital portfolio, including NBA TV and NBA.com (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 3/23).

    GAMETIME ANYTIME: Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Senior VP/News Operations Princell Hair said that CSN Chicago and CSN Bay Area will offer Cubs and White Sox, and Giants and A's games, respectively, "on an on-demand basis this season, in a effort to better serve its fans." MULTICHANNEL NEWS' R. Thomas Umstead notes several CSN channels "began experimenting with on-demand content last season, although Hair would not reveal specific VOD performance numbers." Hair said VOD "is not a game changer for us -- it's really an incremental revenue source for us." Hair: "It's a matter of wanting to offer our programming on as many platforms as we can and we do that as a service to our audience" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 3/23 issue).

    NOT A BAD DEBUT: In Toronto, Gareth Wheeler wrote GolTV Canada's game-day production "has a lot of potential." Though there were "a lot of technical issues" during the net's broadcast of the MLS Toronto FC-Wizards match Saturday, that "happens in live production, especially on a first broadcast." But there are "many issues that need to be dealt with from a creative approach to maintaining the integrity of the game from a soccer perspective," and the "most important thing that has to be dropped are the tacky, full-frame player profile boards that were thrown up during live game-action." Wheeler wrote soccer is "constant and isn't conducive to filling space with unnecessary visuals" (TORONTO SUN, 3/23). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Jack Bell notes GolTV has "extended its deal to carry games from" Spain's La Liga through '12 (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24).

    NETWORK WARS: In Orlando, Matt Humphrey noted Fox execs nixed Darrell Waltrip's participation in Saturday's legends charity race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Waltrip, who serves as an analyst on Fox’ NASCAR coverage, was "scheduled to be the in-race reporter" for ESPN2's coverage of the event, which "apparently made [Fox] more than a wee bit miffed." Waltrip: "We had a plan. But we have a man who is bigger than the plan." Humphrey wrote Fox "needs to cut [Waltrip] some slack" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 3/21).

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