SBD/Issue 241/Sports Media

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  • Versus Denies DirecTV Claims That Dispute Is Due To Pricing

    Davis Says Versus' Price
    Similar To Other Providers'
    Versus President Jamie Davis angrily dismissed DirecTV claims that talks between the two bogged down in part over pricing. "They've been out publicly talking about price increases," Davis said. "The fact is that those market increases aren't true. We're simply asking them to pay what the other providers are paying." DirecTV said Versus was seeking a "more than 20% hike" from its currently cost of about $0.27-0.29 per sub. Davis described the dispute as centering on DirecTV's effort to take Versus away from 6 million existing subscribers. Davis: "DirecTV wanted to take Versus away from 6 million subscribers who were receiving it for no additional cost. That was simply not acceptable for us." Versus reached 14 million DirecTV homes, but the provider wanted to drop it to a lower tier. Davis seemed most perturbed by DirecTV's characterization of Versus as "a paid programming and infomercial channel with occasional sporting events." Davis: "If the quote-unquote 'leader in sports' considers the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Lance Armstrong's comeback as paid programming and infomercials, then I think the average fan knows they're not the real 'leader in sports.'" The two parties remain in discussions. Davis: "We're hopeful it can be resolved amicably. We're hopeful it can be resolved whereby DirecTV can agree to something where they're not going to take our service away from 6 million sports fans" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). In L.A., Joe Flint notes the feud "is not an isolated incident," as Versus' parent company Comcast and DirecTV have "had a particularly acrimonious relationship lately." The two companies are "involved in arbitration cases over carriage of regional sports networks owned by Comcast in Northern California and New England" (L.A. TIMES, 9/2).

    SEEKING SIMILAR TREATMENT: A DirecTV spokesperson said the satellite service is "asking for packaging rights similar" to Dish Network. DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine notes Versus is available on Dish Network "for a separate fee and not part of the main programming package." Dish's Classic Gold 250 package costs subscribers $47.99 a year "for Versus and other premium networks." Meanwhile, Davis said he hopes "things can be resolved amicably, but I can't accept a situation where Versus can lose 6 million viewers." Davis: "They didn't call us before they turned us off. Frankly, those who see us on DirecTV should consider switching providers" (DAILY VARIETY, 9/2). Meanwhile, CABLEFAX DAILY reports Dish "jumped into the fray" yesterday in announcing that Versus "would be offered to subs for free for 3 months starting today." While Versus "has some events coming up," such as the September 12 Texas-Wyoming college football game and the September 18 IRL Indy Japan 300, it is the "kickoff of NHL on Oct. 1 that is the biggest pressure point for a deal" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 9/2).

     
    IMPLICATIONS OF DISPUTE: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote DirecTV has the "more difficult PR task, which is explaining to its subscribers why a channel some of them find essential to their viewing experience is no longer available, and with the justification coming down to a money squabble between elephantine corporations." And while this is "not exactly an easy sell," Wyshynski wondered if "enough viewers care about Versus to make a difference in these negotiations." Meanwhile, the NHL "has been patiently waiting out this scenario, knowing that it has a month to see it play out before its natives get restless." But Wyshynski wrote the situation behind the scenes is an "uncomfortable one for both Versus and the NHL," as neither "wants to see the season begin with 24.2 million subscribers unable to watch marquee games, which are blacked out on the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package" when the games air on Versus (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/1). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Rory Boylen wrote it is "time the NHL got its hands dirty to ensure its investment with the Versus product pays off, rather than sitting idly by and telling the rest of us everything will be alright" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/1).

    IS TIME ON THEIR SIDE? THE SPORTING BLOG's Chris Littmann wrote if there "was a time for Versus and DirecTV to go into a protracted contract debate, it's now," as college football "hasn't started yet and neither has the NHL." But if the dispute continues "into the start of the NHL season and the heart of college football, this will be really ugly for all sides" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/1).

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  • TBS Using Bon Jovi Music To Promote MLB Postseason Coverage

    Watch The Clip
    TBS for the third straight year will use Bon Jovi to "promote its postseason baseball coverage," according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. TBS is using the band's new single "We Weren't Born To Follow" in its promos, and Turner Sports VP & Creative Dir Craig Barry said, "The new song has a strong message of standing up and believing. That's what the postseason is about." TBS execs "would not say how much they are spending on the campaign." Barry said that he was "open to other artists, saying it was a 'unique scenario' to bring back Bon Jovi again." Ourand reports "shorter versions of the full-length music video will appear" this week on TBS. The video also debuted Monday on MLB.com and will "run on JetBlue and Frontier Airlines video systems from Sept. 15-30." TBS is "rolling out the full 2 1/2-minute video to 15,167 movie theater screens starting Friday" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/31 issue). YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk wrote of the song, "I'm sure it won't be long until it's burned into our minds and we're mindlessly singing at work, at home, at the gym, at church and in our sleep" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/31).

    MUSIC MAKERS: The Dave Matthews Band will serve as the official band of ESPN's college football coverage throughout the '09 season. The band will provide 10 original songs -- seven from the recent release "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King" -- for game and studio telecasts on multiple platforms. Uses for the music will include highlight montages, promotions of upcoming shows and coming in and out of commercial breaks (ESPN).

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  • Media Notes

    ESPN earned a 6.0 cable rating and 7.918 million viewers for the Vikings-Texans "MNF" preseason telecast this week, marking the net's most-viewed NFL preseason game ever and its highest-rated since a 6.6 rating for Patriots-Cowboys in August '96 (ESPN). Meanwhile, DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell reports CBS, NBC and Fox last week "all benefited from football," as they "picked up steam thanks to a larger serving" of preseason games. ABC beginning this week "will get a lift of its own" from "Saturday Night Football" (DAILY VARIETY, 9/2).

    YES BLUE CAN: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds reported Pennsylvania-based Blue Ridge Communications and YES Network have reached a deal in which Blue Ridge "renewed its linear distribution agreement" with YES and secured VOD and local streaming rights to Yankees games on the network. Also Blue Ridge beginning next year will offer YES' national package of content "for its subscribers that fall outside the RSN's telecast territory." Reynolds noted Blue Ridge is the "first distributor to finalize an agreement for all four of the YES properties simultaneously," and the company follows Cablevision and Verizon FiOS as the "third distributor to sign local market broadband streaming deals" with YES, the Yankees and MLBAM (MULTICHANNEL.com, 9/1).

    PRIVACY POLICY: YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell wrote he wonders how much of the NFL's motivation for its amended social media policy "is aimed at protecting traditional media sources." Darnell: "Players can't break any injury news or anything in the moments leading up to the game, so those tidbits still have to come from Yahoo Sports, ESPN, Fox, CBS, or whoever. Juicy postgame quotes can't go directly to Twitter. ... They want as much news and exposure as possible on the television networks, and that's good business for them." Darnell wrote the new policy is "great news" for national NFL reporters, but does it "benefit them at the cost of the players?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/1).

    JOINING THE SCRUM: Spike TV picked up the rights to Australia's '09 National Rugby League (NRL) playoffs and championship. The channel will telecast all games in HD on same-day tape delay, starting September 11 with weekly playoff games and running through the October 4 championship. This marks the first time the NRL will appear on national TV in the U.S. Nine Network Australia will produce the games, with Peter Sterling, Ray Warren, Andrew Johns and Phil Gould announcing (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

    NRL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE ON SPIKE TV
    PLAYOFF ROUND
    DATE
    TIME (ET/PT)
    Qualifying Round
    9/11
    11:00pm
    Semi Finals
    9/18
    11:00pm
    Preliminary Finals
    9/25
    11:00pm
    Grand Final
    10/4
    11:00am

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