SBD/Issue 76/Sports Media

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  • Bowl Game Blackouts Avoided As News Corp., TWC Reach New Deal

    News Corp., TWC Deal Prevents Any
    Disruption Of Service, Football Game Blackouts
    News Corp. and Time Warner Cable (TWC) Friday agreed to terms for a new contract covering Fox stations in N.Y., L.A., Orlando and other markets, “averting a blackout of the weekend’s college football games in millions of homes,” according to Brian Stelter of the N.Y. TIMES. Analysts expected that the deal “would set a new high-water mark for local TV stations that want sizable subscriber fees in exchange for so-called retransmission rights.” Fox had “demanded about a dollar a subscriber per month, far more than other stations have received.” Sources said that TWC “thought 30 cents was more reasonable.” Both TWC and Fox “refused to comment” on the final figure (N.Y. TIMES, 1/2). Analysts suggested that the “compromise ultimately would fall to around 50 cents or thereabouts.” MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Reynolds & Eggerton noted the deal prevents any “disruption of service,” and it covers all of TWC's nearly 13 million subs, as well as 2.4 million of Bright House Network’s customers. The two sides, led by TWC Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer and Fox President of Affiliate Sales & Marketing Mike Hopkins, “continued to negotiate throughout New Year’s Day." U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said that members of Congress will “see if any legislation was needed to avoid a repeat of the impasse” (, 1/2).

    DEAL DETAILS: Pali Research's Rich Greenfield speculated that Fox and TWC reached an agreement when both sides compromised. He wrote Fox likely reduced "its demands for cable network distribution and sub fee growth at FX and the RSNs, in return for cash retrans for the Fox network that likely averages out to north of $0.50/sub/month over a 4-6 year term." Greenfield also suggested that TWC's payment could reach as much as $0.75 in the last year of the deal. While the cash retrans undoubtedly will help Fox, Greenfield also said that the underlying broadcast business model "remains challenged" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). DAILY VARIETY’s Cynthia Littleton notes the agreement is “believed to run for at least three years, and the fees Time Warner pays Fox will escalate over the term of the deal.” A source said that the fee structure will rise to the $0.50-0.60 range by the final year of the contract. Also wrapped up in the negotiations were “new carriage deals for a number of Fox-owned cablers including FX, Speed TV, Fuel and 10 regional sports cablers,” and sources said that some of the retrans money TWC will pay could also “incorporate compensation and other consideration (such as marketing and promo support) for those cable outlets.” Littleton writes what “broke the Fox-Time Warner impasse was the face-to-face huddle and the threat of a political firestorm erupting if they didn’t come to terms” (DAILY VARIETY, 1/4). Fox “granted extensions in three-hour increments” to keep the Fox-owned stations on the air while talks continued Friday (DAILY VARIETY, 1/2).

    SETTING A BENCHMARK? In L.A., Joe Flint wrote the “bad news” for TWC customers is “their cable bill may go up.” Securing fees from TWC is “viewed as an important win” for Fox, but TWC can still “claim that it did its part for consumers by holding down the cost of monthly cable TV bills by not caving in to Fox’s demand for $1 per subscriber” (, 1/1). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Ovide & Worden noted the deal ends a “fierce television-programming dispute that each side had characterized as a crossroads for the television business” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/2). DAILY VARIETY’s Littleton noted the “high-public profile” of the Fox-TWC dispute put a “klieg light on the overall issue of retransmission consent, which is sure to spur more brawling between broadcasters and cable operators in the coming year.” Cable operators are “alarmed by the prospect of a triple-digit increase in programming costs and have every incentive to play hardball with station owners” (DAILY VARIETY, 1/2).

    Moonves Aiming For $250M
    Annually In Retransmission Fees
    THE NEXT ISSUES: BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Kelly Riddell noted CBS’ deal with Comcast ends next year, and the net “already collects a fee” from TWC and Dish Network. CBS Corp. President & CEO Leslie Moonves said that the net is "aiming for $250[M] a year" in retransmission fees. Analysts said that the Fox-TWC deal “opens the door for broadcasters to demand as much as $5[B] a year from pay-TV providers and their subscribers" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/4). In N.Y., Brian Stelter reports Disney is “expected to ask for sizable fees for its ABC stations in negotiations this year.” Disney’s ESPN “earns the most by far, $4.10 on average, and is forecast to receive more than $5 a month by 2012.” Fox Sports Net “gets $2.37 on average.” The next-highest paid channel is TNT, which gets $0.96. Disney Channel, NFL Network, Fox News, USA Network and ESPN2 each get more than $0.50. The price per month is “expected to rise each year” for every channel (N.Y. TIMES, 1/4).

    SINCLAIR, MEDIACOM REACH SLIGHT EXTENSION: The AP’s Nigel Duara reported Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Mediacom have “agreed to extend by eight days their negotiations over fees,” allowing football fans to watch college bowl games. The deadline was extended to midnight on January 8, and during the extension, Mediacom “will pay Sinclair a higher rate than it was paying under the contract” that expired Thursday. About 700,000 Mediacom subs were “at risk of losing Sinclair programming.” Sinclair Exec VP & General Counsel Barry Faber: “We recognize that several of the impacted markets have college teams that will be playing in the BCS Bowl games” (AP, 1/1). 

    MISSING THE GAME DESPITE SETTLEMENT: In K.C., Kellis Robinett reported with the Fox-TWC dispute settled, everyone who normally receives FS K.C. “was supposed to get” Sunday’s South Dakota-Kansas State men’s basketball game. But because of “technical difficulties, the game was never telecast.” FS K.C. Senior VP & GM Jack Donovan: “We were unable to show Sunday’s game live as planned because of a problem with the satellite uplink facilities provided by a third party” (K.C. STAR, 1/3).

    RATES ON THE RISE: The cash retrans should not hurt cable operators' position on Wall Street, Bernstein's Craig Moffett said, since MSOs "are proceeding apace with annual video price increases, suggesting that competitive forces are not limiting the ability of operators to pass through programming increases." TWC, for example, is increasing its video costs by 7%. "This year's increases appear to be roughly in-line with those of prior years', notwithstanding the fact that the average consumer is inarguably in worse financial condition. Indeed, 2010 price increases seem to target the low end of the video market more onerously than the high end, perhaps in anticipation of higher broadcast TV costs (i.e. retrans), which comprise a disproportionate share of low-end packages," Moffett wrote. "In light of the combined price increases being taken in video and broadband, it is quite likely that cable operators will, at the very least, be economically better-off in 2010 than they were in 2009, and even if reported video margins are lower, total margins may be due for a positive surprise" (Ourand). In Charlotte, Kerry Hall Singe reported TWC “has raised the rates for some of its services by as much as 15[%], blaming sports programs and network television.” The rate hike, which went into effect yesterday, is the company’s “fourth consecutive annual increase.” Basic cable rates rose $4 to $58.95 per month, while the price of digital cable and unlimited digital phone service rose $1.05 to $117.95. The price of Road Runner High Spped Online bundled with the digital cable “will remain the same” at $44.95 per month (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/3).

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  • Fox Earns 16.3 Overnight Nielsen For Cowboys' NFC East Clincher

    Fox' NFL national telecast, which featured Eagles-Cowboys in the late window for 79% of the country, earned a 16.3 overnight Nielsen rating, capping what should be the net's most-viewed NFL regular-season ever. The net averaged a 12.7 overnight rating for all Sunday NFL game telecasts, up 5.8% from a year ago. Week 17's national window was also up 14.0% from a 14.3 overnight for last year's Week 17 national telecast, which featured the same matchup. Meanwhile, CBS' NFL national telecast, which featured Steelers-Dolphins (70%) in the early window from 1:00-4:15pm ET, earned a 12.3 overnight, up from the 12.1 overnight for the net's national telecast last year, which aired in the early window featuring Patriots-Bills (68%). NBC last night earned an 11.4 overnight Nielsen rating for the Bengals-Jets "SNF" matchup, up 7.5% from a 10.6 overnight for Broncos-Chargers in Week 17 last year. The game earned an 18.4 in N.Y. and a 37.6 rating in Cincinnati. "SNF" gave NBC the win in primetime, and was the top Sunday night program for the 15th time in 16 "SNF" telecasts (THE DAILY).

    '09 GAME
    '08 GAME
    % +/-
    Eagles-Cowboys (79%)
    Cowboys-Eagles (88%)
    Steelers-Dolphins (70%)
    Patriots-Bills (68%)

    COACH SPEAK: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes with "potential NFL coaching changes a hot topic in the regular season's final week," having former coaches on pregame shows can "create awkward situations." Other networks besides CBS "reported Sunday on current CBS studio analyst Bill Cowher's possibilities," and Fox' Jay Glazer and ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that Cowher "has talked to the Buffalo Bills." Glazer added that Cowher "wants to coach this coming year and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have interest." But Hiestand notes CBS "didn't have much." After being asked by CBS studio host James Brown about the "awful lot of reports about you," Cowher said he is "not going to talk about any jobs during the regular season" (USA TODAY, 1/4). SI’s Richard Deitsch wrote, “It's embarrassing for The NFL Today. Jay Glazer should not have more info on Bill Cowher's future than Cowher's own show.” THE DAILY's John Ourand: “Who tunes in to hear this? Why is he on a pregame show? Cowher on NFL Today: I'm not going to talk about any jobs during the regular season. … You have to go to ESPN's pregame show for news of Cowher coaching."

    TALENT REVIEW: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote CBS' Phil Simms is "not only famously prepared, he deftly makes his points when they matter without the slightest bit of the boy-am-I smart, hotdog about it." Also, while some play-by-play announcers "seem to always be scrambling to keep up with the action on the field," CBS' Jim Nantz during yesterday's Ravens-Raiders game "was not only on top of it, he was often ahead of everyone else." Zurawik wrote Nantz "always seems to have something worthwhile to say," and there is "not an ounce of gasbag in him" (, 1/3). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes the broadcasting of Buccaneers' games "seemed less and less inspiring" as the season continued. It is "hard to be too critical" of Fox' Charles Davis, who called yesterday's Falcons-Bucs game, as he is "solid, isn't prone to hyperbole or stupid comments and, obviously, can dissect the game." But Davis is "better at reacting to what just happened as opposed to hinting what is about to happen" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/4).

    Fewer Than 9% Of NFL Regular Season
    Games Were Blacked Out This Season
    DREADED GLITCH AWARD: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reports viewers in the Milwaukee market "did not see the pregame chatter and opening kickoff" of yesterday's Packers-Cardinals game. The screen "remained dark for a few minutes, but the problem was not network-wide," as Fox Sports VP/Communications Dan Bell said it "must be an isolated incident." Bell added that the technical support staff at Fox "told him there was no problem with the telecast on the network level" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/4).

    NOT SO DARK: In DC, Mark Maske reported fewer than 9% of NFL regular season games this season were "blacked out in the local market of the home team." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said that "as many as 20[%] of the games could be blacked out on local TV ... when the season began with some teams struggling to sell tickets in the uncertain economy." The 22 blackouts this season were the "most for the NFL in a season since there were 30 local TV blackouts in 2004." But Maske noted the number of blackouts per season "traditionally was much higher before being reduced significantly in the previous four seasons" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/1).

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  • Rose Bowl Up 9.5% For Ohio State Win; Gators Raise Sugar Ratings

    ABC Earns 13.8 Overnight Rating
    For Ohio State-Oregon Rose Bowl

    ABC earned a 13.8 overnight Nielsen rating for the Ohio State-Oregon Rose Bowl on Friday, up 9.5% from a 12.6 for last year's USC-Penn State matchup. The 13.8 also marks the best Rose Bowl overnight since a 14.5 for USC-Michigan in '07. Meanwhile, Fox earned an 8.5 fast-national rating and 15.5 million viewers for Florida's 51-24 win over Cincinnati in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in primetime on Friday, up 57.4% from a 5.4 rating (9.3 million viewers) for the comparable Virginia Tech-Cincinnati FedEx Orange Bowl last year, which marked the lowest-rated BCS telecast ever. The 8.5 rating would give Fox the win in primetime for the night, with Cincinnati topping all local markets with a 27.1 rating. Florida-Cincinnati is also up 9.0% from last year's Utah-Alabama Sugar Bowl, which also aired on a Friday night (THE DAILY).

    GOING BACK TO THE WELL: In Dallas, Barry Horn wondered how Fox play-by-play announcer Thom Brennaman could "continue to slobber over" Florida QB Tim Tebow during Friday's Sugar Bowl after being roundly criticized for his praise of Tebow during last year's BCS National Championship game. Horn: "The Brennaman take: Tebow godlike; Tebow detractors who don't see him as a stud NFL QB just don't understand." Horn added Fox analyst Brian Billick during the telecast was "a voice of reason" Horn: "Who knew?" (, 1/2). EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY's Orson Swindle wrote Billick "wasn't as horrible as we thought he would be." Swindle: "Bad, yes, but not an atrocity like Brennaman" (, 1/2).

    OLD-TIME FOOTBALL: In Oklahoma City, Mike Baldwin wrote listening to announcer Pat Summerall during Fox' broadcast of the Ole Miss-Oklahoma State AT&T Cotton Bowl Saturday was a "treat, bringing back memories from hundreds of NFL games he called before he retired eight years ago due to health issues." Summerall's "golden voice, complemented by Daryl Johnston, an underrated analyst on Fox's weekly No. 2 NFL team, gave the Cotton Bowl a Sunday afternoon NFL-like feel." Fox sideline reporter Krista Voda also "did a solid job." But Baldwin noted Summerall, who was "working his first game since last year's Cotton Bowl," made a "couple of mistakes" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 1/3). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes while Summerall "made a few mistakes on play-by-play, he called a good game." Hiestand: "Like asking, after missed opportunities in Mississippi's 21-7 win against Oklahoma State, 'Does anyone want to win the AT&T Cotton Bowl?'" (USA TODAY, 1/4).

    MISSED OPPORTUNITY: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote CBS "had the biggest postgame coach interview in recent memory" when sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson interviewed Florida State coach Bobby Bowden "immediately after he coached his final game" during the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl. But viewers "didn't initially hear" the interview, as Wolfson's microphone "went dead just as Bowden was talking about his emotions upon ending his legendary career." CBS "rallied to get another microphone, and even that one cut out a couple of times as Bowden spoke for the second time to Wolfson" (, 1/3).

    Writer Thinks Texas Tech Controversy
    Will Impact Craig James' Assignments
    LINGERING EFFECTS: The DALLAS MORNING NEWS' Horn wrote regardless of what actually occurred in the controversy surrounding fired Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's handling of WR Adam James after James suffered a concussion, it is "difficult to imagine it won't have some effect" on the broadcasting career of ESPN's Craig James, Adam's father. Craig James was a "catalyst in getting Leach fired," and that is "baggage that ESPN's college football analyst will have to carry." The saga will "absolutely have an impact on James' assignments," as the net will be "hard-pressed to send him to any Big 12 games for awhile." Horn: "Ditto to the games of any school where Leach, in any capacity, might wind up." Horn noted Bob Davie replaced James in the booth for Saturday's Texas Tech-Michigan State Valero Alamo Bowl (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/2).

    GUEST APPEARANCE: USC coach Pete Carroll will provide analysis about Thursday's Alabama-Texas Citi BCS National Championship game on ESPN on Wednesday and Thursday. Carroll will appear on ESPN's set at the Rose Bowl during Wednesday's evening "SportsCenter;" Thursday's edition of "College GameDay;" ABC's pregame and halftime coverage of the game; and during ESPN's "SportsCenter" postgame coverage (ESPN).

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  • NBC Sees Drop In Winter Classic Ratings Amid Positive Reviews

    NBC earned a 2.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the Flyers-Bruins Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Friday, down 10.3% from a 2.9 for the Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup last year, and even with the inaugural Penguins-Sabres Winter Classic in '08. The 2.6 overnight still marks the second-best NHL regular-season rating since '96 (THE DAILY).

    Coverage Of Friday's Winter Classic Called NBC's
    "Best Effort Yet In The Outdoor Game's Three Years"
    KEEPS GETTING BETTER: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote the Winter Classic has "become one of the year's most entertaining sporting events, and NBC's coverage keeps getting better." The coverage of Friday's game was NBC's "best effort yet in the outdoor game's three years." The net made the event "truly special," and NBC and the NHL "celebrated the sport, the teams involved and host city Boston" (, 1/3). In Boston, Chad Finn wrote NBC's montage of Bobby Orr highlights before the Hockey HOFer's interview with Mike Milbury was "great, timeless stuff, and better programming than most of what NBC offers in its primetime lineup" (, 1/1). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the Winter Classic is "fast becoming a benchmark for televised sports." The annual event is "hockey eye candy, the one NHL game to watch if you're watching one all year" (, 1/3). In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote Mike Emrick, who called the game for NBC, is the "best announcer in hockey history" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/2).

    RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE: NHL COO John Collins said the Winter Classic across several business metrics “was the best yet.” Collins: “The Bruins’ overtime win in an unforgettable setting at Fenway Park reminded us why in three short years, the Winter Classic has become one of the most special events on the national sports calendar and the newest New Year’s Day sports tradition. In the face of high expectations, we far outdistanced the previous records for merchandise sales and traffic.” He added, “This year’s game once again demonstrated that the NHL Winter Classic has transformed the way sports fans think about the NHL experience. By providing fans a national event to rally around, we can deliver an impressive national television audience for a regular-season game. When the final numbers are in, NBC’s broadcast will most likely be one of the most watched regular-season games in the U.S. in the past 35 years. That is impressive considering the stiff competition we faced” (THE DAILY).

    CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE TONIGHT? CBC "Hockey Night In Canada" Exec Producer Sherali Najak said that a Winter Classic in Canada would make the event "even better for him and the CBC." Najak: "That would make a huge difference for us. The buzz on Canadian soil is always more special for Canadian fans." In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich noted while the annual game has "become a big event" for the NHL and NBC, the CBC's coverage of the '09 Red Wings-Blackhawks Winter Classic from Wrigley Field drew only 938,000 viewers, "about 300,000 lower than the average Saturday night game." That is "what no doubt rankles" the CBC -- the net "pays millions in rights fees while NBC has a nothing-up-front profit-sharing deal with the NHL." However, the CBC "gets an all-American outdoor game that doesn't drive ratings and might even cost it half a million viewers" (TORONTO STAR, 1/1). The CBC's Ron MacLean said the Winter Classic is a "made-for-television event -- appointment television." MacLean: "They're saying at the league, 'This is more interesting to us than the Stanley Cup playoffs.' The networks are all more excited about this" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/2).

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  • Wash Times Sports Reporters Bid Adieu As Paper Shifts Focus

    Washington Times Eliminates Sports Section,
    Lays Off Sports Reporters, Columnists
    The Washington Times last Wednesday announced newsroom layoffs, following a “company plan that is resulting in the dismissal of more than 40[%]” of the paper’s employees, according to Stephanie Green of the WASHINGTON TIMES. A new local print edition targeting “local, national and international audiences with an emphasis on investigative reporting and coverage of national politics, geopolitics, international and domestic business and economics, and cultural issues,” will be available beginning today. The new print edition also will include “national news, sports features and in-depth local reporting” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/31). In DC, Mark Zuckerman wrote the paper is "eliminating its sports section," and the final print sports section was Friday (, 12/30). The WASHINGTON POST’s Dan Steinberg wrote, “Aside from the general lament about so many good people losing their jobs in such a shoddy way, the worst thing about this news is that it hurts DC as a sports town.” Sports towns have “rollicking media contingents, packs of beat writers, inter-paper feuds and all the rest.” They have “columnists with rival sport-talk shows on at the same time, and they have hurt feelings and back-stabbings, ... and they have drunken group dart games after playoff wins during midwestern road trips.” There is “no substitute for being a genuine two-paper town” (, 12/30).

    FINAL FAREWELL: Several Washington Times sports reporters said their goodbyes in articles and blog posts last week. Dan Daly, the paper's first sports department employee in ’82, wrote a eulogy for the sports section. Daly: “As irony would have it, the sports department is disappearing at a time when, frankly, it’s never been better” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/1). The TIMES’ Time Lemke wrote under the header, “A Final (Perhaps) Blog Post” ( 12/30). The TIMES’ Zuckerman wrote under the header, “Farewell, And Thanks” (WASHINGTON, 12/30). Former Washington Times writers Tim LemkePatrick Stevens and Mike Jones have new blogs, and the POST's Steinberg implored readers to visit the sites. Steinberg: "Don't do it out of charity; do it because there will be stuff there you'll want to read, as a DC sports fan" (, 1/1).

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  • What Lies Ahead For Sports Media Throughout The Next Decade?

    Some Questioning If Game Experience
    Will Have Same Importance In '20
    The key story in sports media looking at the next decade "will be how we watch and perhaps how much," according to Harvey Araton of the N.Y. TIMES. Digitalization is the "watch word for sports industry power brokers and planners, seducing and scaring them as they stampede into the great electronic unknown." Some industry execs "worry that a fast-changing home viewing experience -- 3D television, in particular -- could make pro sports more of a studio event than a public spectacle." Others wonder if sports "could be the new decade’s print news media, reconditioning consumers with online alternatives that diminish traditional revenue streams." SCP Worldwide Chair Dave Checketts said, "The way young people are growing up with their blogs, texts and Facebooks, the game experience is just not going to be as important. In 2020, a generation of kids who don’t have much expectation of long-term employment with the same company won’t have the same live-and-die loyalty to the Yankees.” But ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer said, "All of these other apps are the hors d’oeuvres, and the game is still the meal." Araton noted the consensus at a recent Microsoft forum was that football "would be best equipped to deal with 2020 challenges, because of its weekly format and its old-school social networking system, the tailgate." Almost everyone in the industry "agrees that globalization is the companion to digitalization." NBA Commissioner David Stern: "Because there are huge populations that have not played it or viewed it, we still see globalization as a huge growth potential." Meanwhile, Northeastern Univ. AD Peter Roby believes that college sports is "in for a government-induced smackdown." Roby: "I’ve been speculating that Congress is going to get involved, taking a hard look at the fund-raising, the multimillion-dollar salaries for football and basketball coaches and asking, how is this connected to the mission of higher education and tax exemptions? We already have the precedent with baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3).

    TRIPLE-THREAT POSITION: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich noted the "advent of streaming games online, an explosion in the number of digital sports channels and the popularity of digital video recorders all revolutionized the business" during the past 10 years "in ways few expected in the 1990s." The consensus in the industry is "things will continue to evolve at breakneck speed in the next decade." But while those changes will "basically build on what's happened in the previous 10 years, there is one potential newcomer that could rewrite all the rules." 3D television "already is being tested for sports," but the "jury is out on its commercial viability, with many believing that wallets depleted by investments in HD won't be able to handle yet another upgrade." TSN President Phil King said, "It's a great development, but it may have come a decade too soon" (TORONTO STAR, 12/31).

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