SBD/Issue 167/Sports Media

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  • NFL Near Extensions With CBS, Fox; NFL Net-Comcast Deal Close

    If Broadcasters Agree To Extensions, CBS Will
    Broadcast Super Bowl In '13, Fox In '14
    The NFL is "negotiating to extend its television contracts with CBS and Fox by two years" through the '13 season, according to sources cited by Kaplan & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Also, the league reportedly is "on the verge of settling its long-running dispute with Comcast" over distribution of NFL Network, and the "two sets of negotiations are linked." The NFL "approached CBS and Fox in March about extending their deals through 2013, with the talks coming shortly after the NFL renewed DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket deal and disclosed plans to make the Red Zone Channel available to cable." Sources said that the extensions are "close," with the nets likely agreeing to a 3-5% increase "over their current rights deals." That increase "would be in line with previous" extension negotiations in '04. If the broadcasters "agree to the two-year extensions, it would ensure" that CBS would broadcast Super Bowl XLVII in '13 and Fox would carry Super Bowl XLVIII the following year. Meanwhile, Kaplan & Ourand note the NFL Net-Comcast deal "would be much more surprising, given the public acrimony between the NFL and Comcast over the past year." Sources indicated that the NFL dropped its $0.70 per subscriber license fee "significantly in order to get digital-basic penetration, the same tier that houses MLB Network." Though a deal has yet to be signed, sources said that Comcast "would not take equity" in NFL Net as part of the agreement. Once Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, signs a deal, other MSOs "generally will fall in line." In addition, sources said that NBC "eventually will sign a two-year extension" through '13 to broadcast "Sunday Night Football" games, though "it's not known whether a Super Bowl would be part of that extension." Sources suggest that the league is "looking to shore up its media deals before its labor issues come to a head" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/18 issue).

    IN-GAME STRATEGY: SI.com's Peter King noted extensions with Fox and CBS allowed the NFL to "move close to a deal with Comcast, because the league could give the cable giant a valuable chip in the Red Zone Channel to use on Sundays." Part of the NFL's "motivation to deal with Comcast and the networks, surely, was its desire to be able to use the Red Zone Channel on cable instead of only on satellite, and NBC wasn't part of the Red Zone deal." NFL Net sources "feared that without wider distribution, some owners tired of the five-year fight for wider distribution of the Network would have soon moved to kill the channel in the current bad economy." King reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been the "key player in the deal from the NFL side," working with Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts "to bridge the major differences between the two sides." King added it "could be that the league is intent on getting the deal done with Comcast first, then moving on to the second-biggest of the Big Cables, Time Warner, with the framework of a concept in place" (SI.com, 5/17).

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  • Kornheiser Leaving "MNF" After Three Years; Gruden Joins Booth

    Kornheiser Cites His Fear Of
    Flying As Reason For Leaving
    Citing his fear of flying, Tony Kornheiser has decided to leave his role as a "MNF" analyst. He will be replaced in the booth by former NFL coach Jon Gruden, joining Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski. "My fear of planes is legendary and sadly true," Kornheiser said. "When I looked at the upcoming schedule it was the perfect storm that would've frequently moved me from the bus to the air. I kept looking at the schedule the past month and wanted to find a way to quietly extricate myself." A former Washington Post columnist and host of ESPN's "PTI," Kornheiser has spent three years in the "MNF" booth. He will continue to host "PTI" with Michael Wilbon. Gruden had appeared on NFL Network during that net's coverage of the NFL Draft and Combine. He was rumored to be in the running to replace Cris Collinsworth as an analyst on NFL Network's live games. As part of his ESPN contract, Gruden has committed to appear on ESPN Radio and other platforms for ESPN's '10 Pro Bowl telecast and Super Bowl and NFL Draft coverage (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

    SHAKEUP IN FOX' PRODUCTION TEAMS: EYE ON SPORTS MEDIA reported Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill has demoted lead NFL director Artie Kempner, relegating him from the "A" team to the "C" team. Sources said that there has been a "rift or some level of tension" between Hill and Kempner, who has served as lead director for Fox NFL games since '03. Meanwhile, Hill also has split the NFL team of producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman, who have "worked together at Fox and CBS Sports for more than four decades." A source said that the split "has many people scratching their heads, as this is supposed to be Grossman's last year" (EYEONSPORTSMEDIA.com, 5/18).

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  • MLB Playoff Games On Fox To Air Earlier On Weeknights, Saturdays

    MLB and Fox as part of an agreement unveiled last night have set the "first pitch for all weeknight postseason games" on the network at 7:57pm ET, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. Saturday night games also will "start no later than weeknight games and possibly earlier," while Sunday night games will "begin after the conclusion of Fox's NFL broadcasts, as in previous years." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "This move will help us big-time. This is reaching out to fans. This is precisely what we want to do." Rosenthal reported Fox' weeknight coverage of the ALCS and World Series this season will "begin with a pregame show" at 7:30pm, and the 7:57pm start time will be "earlier than championship events in every major professional sport but the Super Bowl." MLB noted that "no regularly scheduled World Series game has started before 8 p.m. on a weeknight since at least 1975." To secure the earlier start times, Fox Sports "needed approval from more than 200 affiliates and 27 owned-and-operated stations," which "air their own programming from 7:30 to 8 p.m., the start of network prime time." Fox Sports President Ed Goren: "This could not have been accomplished without their cooperation and understanding." Rosenthal noted Fox and MLB also "considered afternoon starts for Saturday games in the LCS and World Series, but determined that more fans would watch if the games were played in prime time." TBS, which will "broadcast the NLCS in addition to all four Division Series, has not yet set its start times" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/17).

    NECESSARY CHANGE? Selig said, "I give Fox a lot of credit. I've wanted this (for) a long time. And it's a very significant change." USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the earlier start times "might seem like a no-brainer, given that baseball's weeknight postseason games can last past midnight." But despite last year's weather-plagued Phillies-Rays World Series averaging an all-time Series low 8.4 rating, World Series numbers have "generally suggested that viewers don't seem all that bothered by games ending in the wee hours" (USA TODAY, 5/18).

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  • Spice Girl: NBC Draws High Overnight Ratings For Preakness

    NBC Earns 7.9/18 Overnight Nielsen Rating
    For 134th Running Of Preakness Stakes
    NBC's telecast of the race segment of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday earned a 7.9/18 overnight Nielsen rating from 6:00-6:45pm ET, the highest overnight since a 9.2/20 in '04. The 7.9 rating is up 27% from last year's rating of 6.2/14. For the entire telecast from 5:00-6:45pm, NBC earned a 6.3/15 overnight rating, up 24% from a 4.7/12 last year. The 6.3 rating also marks the second-highest overnight since a 7.8/20 in '90 (NBC). DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell writes NBC "has effectively broadened the reach of the sport with its promotional efforts" (DAILY VARIETY, 5/18). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote NBC's Preakness coverage was "first-rate," as the network "wisely took its time and focused on the best stories, giving each of them room" to breathe. NBC "used the first half-hour of Saturday's coverage with a masterful and comprehensive look at Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird," while the race coverage also was "superb" (TAMPABAY.com, 5/17). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes NBC's Mine That Bird feature was "superb, but surely the horse's Canadian roots deserved more mention than the fact 'he was racing up in Canada' before current owners purchased the biggest story in horse racing" (TORONTO STAR, 5/18). The WASHINGTON EXAMINER's Jim Williams writes NBC producer Sam Flood and director David Michaels "should receive an award for special effects," as they were able to "make a shabby Pimlico race track look stunning on TV." Meanwhile, announcer Tom Hammond and analyst Gary Stevens "broke down the race with a number of great replays provided to them by Flood and Michaels," and the "best replay came from the blimp along with a graphic that used an arrow and a counter" (Washington EXAMINER, 5/18).

    EASY RIDER: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "What is it with horse racing that it so effectively grabs the American imagination?" Jockey Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird and the Preakness with Rachel Alexandra, delivers a "pair of knockout performances in the two biggest races of the year, and suddenly we're getting all dew-eyed and gooey." NBC "wisely made him the showcase" during its Preakness coverage, "even catching him zipping up his fly just before walking to the track." But it has been "hard not to detect a slightly patronizing tone in some of the coverage of the jockey, as if he's some magical bayou Zelig, a la Forrest Gump," and what has been "overlooked is what a ruthless, Jordanesque competitor he is" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/18).

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  • Staples Singers: ABC Sees 5.6 Overnight Rating For Lakers' Rout

    Lakers' Win Down 12.5%
    From Comparable '08 Game
    The Lakers' 89-70 win over the Rockets in Game Seven of their Western Conference Semifinals series earned a 5.6 overnight Nielsen rating on ABC from 3:30-6:00pm ET, down 12.5% compared to a 6.4 for Game Seven of the Celtics-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Semifinals on the same weekend last year (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Bob Raismann wrote, "Finding out what outlet is televising an NBA playoff game is as hard as finding a fanny to fill one of those Legend Suite seats at the new Yankee Stadium." Yesterday's LakersComparative-Rockets game aired on ABC because the NBA "wants the ratings magnet -- the Lakers and Kobe Bryant -- for its network telecast." But if ABC/ESPN and NBA Commissioner David Stern "had true faith in the NBA product," Lakers-Rockets Game Seven "would air Sunday night on ABC in prime time when maximum eyeballs are available." However, Raissman noted ABC execs likely decided airing the season finale of "Desperate Housewives" was "far more important" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/17).

    CABLE GUYS: ESPN earned a 5.4 cable rating and 7.352 million viewers for Lakers-Rockets Game Six last Thursday, marking the net's most-viewed basketball game ever. The previous record was held by Game Six of the Heat-Pistons Eastern Conference Finals in '06, which drew 6.602 million viewers. Lakers-Rockets Game Six earned a 13.0 local rating in L.A., and a 16.0 rating in Houston, marking the net's highest-rated NBA game in the Houston DMA (ESPN).

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  • Strong NHL Playoffs Overshadowed By Lingering TV Rights Issues

    First Two Periods Of Canes-Bruins Game
    Seven Available Only On Regional Nets
    While the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a "showcase for the NHL's greatest young players," they also have "exposed the folly of [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman's love affair with Versus and the grudge he carries against ESPN," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. Bettman "may have been justified in not taking ESPN's crumbs coming out of the lockout," but he was "not justified in granting Versus a contract that included unilateral options for the network to retain exclusivity through 2010-11." The playoffs have "exposed the NHL's empty approach to a television strategy, even as Bettman risks dislocating his shoulders in patting himself on the back for his league's innovative approach to blacking itself out." The NHL Network is "no help," as it "doesn't seem to have the authority to pick up local feeds." As a result, Game Seven of the Hurricanes-Bruins Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Thursday was "played in the dark" nationally until Versus joined the game in progress after Red Wings-Ducks Game Seven had ended. Versus also "did not go live to [Hurricanes-Bruins] between periods" of Red Wings-Ducks (N.Y. POST, 5/17).

    CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE: Bettman appeared on WFAN-AM's "Mike Francesa" show Friday and discussed why Game Five of the Penguins-Capitals Eastern Conference Semifinals series on May 9 was on Versus instead of NBC. Bettman, citing the PGA Tour The Players Championship, said, "NBC had contractual commitments, and we knew about it. ... NBC is a terrific partner and we have no complaints." Bettman: "Had we shown the game in the afternoon, I promise you there would have been screaming from our friends in Canada that we didn't have a game on Saturday night for ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’ We have five national packages that all go at about the same time. We have multi-language and two countries. It is more complex in terms of the scheduling than perhaps anybody else has to deal with at the league level." Bettman added, "Versus has really been growing and doing a terrific job. They don't get enough credit for what they're doing. If you look at Versus’ numbers for the semifinal round this year and compare it to the last time we were on ESPN and ESPN2 we are actually doing better numbers. So this myth that we are somehow not in the right place is ridiculous" ("Mike Francesa," YES Network, 5/15).

    GOING FOR SECONDS: ESPN.com's Damien Cox wrote under the header, "Will NHL Benefit From These Playoffs?" The question is "how much the NHL benefited from having its most competitive second round in almost a quarter century." The "ongoing bankruptcy battle over the future of the Phoenix Coyotes offers an instructive backdrop to these NHL playoffs, for although the quality of play has been undeniably high, if a tad vicious at times, there are still those who argue that the league remains stubbornly regional in nature and thus is wasting its time keeping teams in certain markets as part of a larger U.S. footprint." But the league is "populated these days by the largest collection of young stars it has boasted in years, maybe ever, and many are still active participants in the postseason." Cox: "Is it all growing the game and expanding its appeal? Big cities, big stars and thrilling competition might just catch on if the NHL can keep up the momentum established in the past two weeks" (ESPN.com, 5/15).

    NUMBERS UP IN CANADA: TSN averaged 681,000 viewers for 13 broadcasts during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, up 21% over 561,000 last year. The 681,000 total also marked the most-viewed second round ever on the net, topping the previous high of 575,000 viewers set in '07 (TSN).

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  • Spike Set To Debut Michael Irvin's "4th And Long" Reality Show

    Irvin's "4th And Long" To Provide The
    Winner With A Shot At Making Cowboys
    Spike TV's "4th and Long" reality show featuring Pro Football HOFer Michael Irvin debuts tonight at 10:00pm ET, and it is the "anti-Hard Knocks," as it is a "training camp taken to a 'survivors boot camp' extreme," according to Barry Horn of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The "brutality is like nothing seen in an NFL training camp," as all drills in the show are "in pads and helmets, and they are run to excess." Coaches Joe Avezzano and Bill Bates "don't play 'good cop, bad cop,' just 'bad and badder' cop." And "don't expect any of the rich Irvin belly laughs you may have heard over the years," as he too is "strictly business." Spike has "placed the show in a prime spot" -- following "UFC Unleashed," the network's most-watched show -- and the net is "hoping UFC's viewers linger and a legion of Cowboys fans are introduced to Spike." Spike officials and producers "know how to put a 60-minute 'reality' show together," as the premiere episode is "fast paced, with an emphasis on hard work and pain." Horn: "Just guessing that if you tune in Monday, you won't cut yourself. You'll come back for more" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/16).

    NO HOLDS BARRED: In N.Y., Neil Genzlinger writes the show "has the courage to show the ugly side of professional football," as "lots and lots of vomit is spewed in the opening episode of the program, which despite all the retching and a fair amount of disingenuousness is pretty entertaining, in its testosterone-fueled way." The winner of the competition will earn a chance to attend the Cowboys' training camp, which "isn't much of a prize," but Irvin "sells the bit perfectly, injecting his role as drill sergeant/eliminator with a menacing, overhyped gusto" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/18). Also in N.Y., David Hinckley writes the show "maintains a fast pace while focusing on just how high a level of skill is required to become even a marginal pro." But that does not mean the show "avoids all trappings of reality shows," as Irvin "sounds like he's trying to channel Gen. Patton when he makes his speeches to the players." Also, there is "way more footage than we need of a player throwing up after running drills," and it is "hard not to notice the product placement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/18). When asked if he is "running the show like an NFL training camp," Irvin said, "I have to, because there's no other way to show this is real football. You're pushing people to go places that in their mind, they don't know they can. There's no easy way to do that, except by emphasizing the realness of it all. You push hoping to pull the best out of them" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 5/14). Spike Dir of Original Series Joe Weinstock: "It's not going to feel like a reality show. It's going to feel like a training camp to compete for a roster spot on the Dallas Cowboys. It's very real. Competition is high and these are all incredible athletes" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 5/15).

    KNOCK ON WOOD: The Bengals will be featured this season on HBO's "Hard Knocks," and ESPN’s Herm Edwards, who was coaching the Chiefs when they appeared on the show in '07, said, "Very important: This is not a reality show." Edwards: "You’re not trying to become a soap opera star. It’s about football. It’s about going to training camp, getting better as a football team." But ESPN's Trey Wingo said, "They say any publicity is good publicity. We’ll find out this summer” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 5/15). ESPN's Jim Rome: "Nobody wants to see a buttoned-up professional franchise, like the Pats or the Steelers, on that show. Reality TV is all about casting. They need knuckleheads and dysfunction, or they’re not going to get the train wreck that they’re looking for and that we all want" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 5/15).

    REALITY CHECK: VH1 currently is filming Bills WR Terrell Owens for an upcoming reality show, and SI.com's Ross Tucker wrote of the potential restrictions on filming, "I would imagine the Bills would forbid T.O. from filming anything that could either put the organization at a competitive disadvantage or paint the Bills in a negative light. Buffalo is a small market, so maybe the franchise is happy to get this type of exposure and coverage just like the Bengals are thrilled to be this year's featured team on HBO's 'Hard Knocks.' That said, I can't imagine teams like New England, Pittsburgh or even Kansas City, now that [GM] Scott Pioli is in charge, condoning something like this in any way, shape, or form because of the either real or perceived distraction" (SI.com, 5/15).

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  • Sportgenic To Use ComScore Traffic Figures In Ad Platform

    S.F.-based Sportgenic has signed a multi-year deal with comScore Inc. to incorporate the digital measurement agency’s Internet traffic reports into its Torque advertising platform. The Web-based Torque platform, introduced earlier this year, incorporates purchasing and monitoring for both offline and online advertising in one spot, and the comScore Media Metrix data is part of an increasing attempt by Sportgenic to bring more third-party information into the system. “Data rules the world, and by including comScore within Torque, we can allow buyers with us to do their job quicker and better,” said Sportgenic President & CEO Robert Tas. "Before, they had to go outside to another source to validate what they were buying. The goal is to provide as much transparency as possible.” Terms were not disclosed, but the pact was structured as a licensing agreement for Sportgenic to use the comScore data.

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  • Media Notes

    Streeter Says USOC Close To
    Making An Announcement
    Sources said that USOC acting CEO Stephanie Streeter recently answered a question regarding a potential USOC TV network by "holding her thumb and a finger about a half-inch apart" and saying, "We're this close." Streeter also "used the word 'June' to emphasize how close the USOC was to making a significant announcement, then sought leeway by saying, in effect, 'be patient'" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 5/15)....SportingNews.com has launched two new blogs, The Baseline and MLB Draft Central. The Baseline covers the NBA, and contributors include Sean Deveney, Bethlehem Shoals, Benson Taylor and Chris Littmann. MLB Draft Central, sponsored by Gillette, focuses on the June 9-11 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and the primary author is Cubs Manager of Editorial Projects Michael Huang (THE DAILY)....In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich notes Speed Channel's Mike Joy during Saturday's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race told viewers driver Tony Stewart was "taking a call on his Sprint phone." Zelkovich: "Do we really need more advertising in NASCAR broadcasts?" (TORONTO STAR, 5/18)....MLS Quick Kicks, powered by technology from Gotuit, "went live Friday night." The site allows fans to "compile clips of their favorite goals, saves and other plays to construct personal highlight reels, which can include music and graphics." Users also can "construct a highlight reel with every touch from (selected) players from national TV games" (NYTIMES.com, 5/16).

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