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SBD/Issue 129/Sports MediaPrint All
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).
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).
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
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
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
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).
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).
MSG Plans To Run "The Bronx Is Burning"
Miniseries In Conjunction With Opening Day
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.
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).