SBD/Issue 85/Sports Media

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  • IOC May Delay Bidding For '14, '16 Games U.S. Rights Due To Economy

    Carrion (l) Says IOC Seriously Considering
    Delaying U.S. Bids For '14, '16 Games Rights
    IOC Finance Commission Chair Richard Carrion said that the IOC is "seriously considering delaying until next year the bidding for the U.S. media rights for the 2014 and 2016 Olympics because of the ongoing struggles of broadcasters hurt by a rocky advertising market," according to Futterman & Ovide of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The IOC "had planned to sell the TV rights this spring following what they and TV executives believe will be strong U.S. ratings for the Vancouver Games." But Carrion said, "There is sufficient instability in the market that we may wait a bit." Carrion's comments "come just days after" NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said that his network will lose money on the Vancouver Games. Ebersol also said that ad sales "have been flat for the past two Olympic Winter Games." Media execs "saw Mr. Ebersol's comments as a signal to the IOC to lower their expectations in anticipation of bidding for 2014 and 2016," but Carrion said that he is "confident the U.S. rights fees will ultimately increase for 2014 and 2016, as they already have in Brazil and the Middle East." Carrion added that he "anticipates the conclusion of Comcast Corp.'s deal to take over NBC Universal, and a recovering advertising market combined with the increasing ability of broadcast networks to begin collecting transmission fees from cable and satellite-television providers will all help loosen the purse strings -- if the IOC can time its sale correctly." Futterman & Ovide note in addition to NBC, other companies "considering Olympic bids" include ESPN, Turner, CBS and News Corp., though sources said that "all are wary of the profitability of televising the Olympics" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/15).

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  • NBC Universal Plans 835 Total Hours Of Vancouver Games Coverage

     
    NBC Universal Thursday announced that it will present a total of 835 hours of '10 Vancouver Games coverage across six platforms: NBC, USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Universal HD and NBCOlympics.com. It represents the most total hours of coverage ever for a Winter Olympics, nearly doubling NBCU's 419 hours of coverage of the '06 Turin Games. The Vancouver Games also will be the first ever presented entirely in HD. Primetime coverage will focus heavily on figure skating and alpine skiing (NBCU). MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds noted NBCU’s plans call for the “most in-depth coverage in history for a Winter Games.” While NBC’s broadcast network “sets the pace from a linear perspective with 193.5 hours,” NBCOlympics.com will feature about 400 hours of live event competition and “more than 1000 hours of on-demand access to full-event encores and host-feed coverage of all 15 Winter Olympic sports.” The Web site during the '06 Games only “streamed two hours of the men’s gold medal hockey as a test.” Powered by Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, NBCOlympics.com’s video player “will present the action in HD quality and offer DVR-style controls.” Meanwhile, NBCU will air live coverage of all Team USA hockey games -- both men’s and women’s -- with the “majority of the time on USA Network” (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/14). Bravo, which is also part of the NBCU family, "will not be airing coverage this year despite airing it in the past" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 1/15).

    LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN: In Seattle, Ron Judd wrote under the header, "Here We Go Again With NBC's Not-Live 'Live' Coverage." The net is "delaying broadcast of the main event for three hours" to viewers on the West Coast, as primetime coverage will begin every night between 7:00-8:00pm ET/PT. The move is the "same intentional falsehood the peacock network foisted upon the not-fooled public during the Beijing Games." Either NBC "has already reinvested some of that Conan O'Brien money in new time-shifting broadcast technology, or the 'live' designation is a lie to those of you unfortunate enough to live on the West Coast." Judd: "We can only hope the people responsible for [getting] the next Olympic TV contract take note" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/14). NBC Sports & Olympics VP/Communications Chris McCloskey said, "Our extensive research has clearly shown that West Coast viewers, more than any other region, wants to see the Olympics when they're available to watch, and that is when they are home, which in almost all cases means prime time." But with NBC expecting to "lose $200[M] with its Olympics coverage," the L.A. TIMES' Diane Pucin writes, "We who love the Olympics want them to be a big television event. But maybe you deserve to lose money if you feel as if live coverage isn't good for the western outposts" (L.A. TIMES, 1/15).

    STREAM WEAVER: PAIDCONTENT.org’s Staci Kramer wrote the more than 400 hours of streaming event coverage is an "astonishing amount of live video" compared to the Turin Games. However, that is "far less than the 2,000 hours of live coverage of the Beijing Olympics.” Kramer: "More important, it’s a lot less than NBC has the right to deliver.” The development “isn’t surprising,” as NBCU President & CEO Jeff Zucker last summer said that live streaming “devalues top events like the Olympics or Super Bowl -- and there wasn’t a model that exists [that] could show him how to avoid that.” Given projections that NBC “may lose money on an Olympics for the first time, it’s hard to see that changing” (PAIDCONTENT.org, 1/14).

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  • Lack Of Uniform NFL Divisional Schedule Could Hurt Ratings

    Primetime Start For Ravens-Colts Saturday
    Gives CBS Both Late Games This Weekend
    The NFL's failure to "adopt a uniform divisional round schedule, in terms of starting times, will cost it this time around when it comes to TV ratings points," according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The "perception hanging out there" is that the NFL "won't go to uniform divisional round (4:40 p.m./8:15 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday) because CBS does not want" to preempt "60 Minutes." The ratings that will be lost by putting Cowboys-Vikings at 1:00pm ET Sunday "will come at the expense" of Fox. As soon as the NFL "designated CBS' Ravens-Colts game for its Saturday night prime-time window," the Jets-Chargers game on Sunday was scheduled for a 4:40pm ET kickoff, as a "game played on the West Coast cannot start" at 1:00pm ET. So not only are Fox officials "looking at their red hot Cowboys-Vikings telecast being scheduled at 1 p.m., when maximum viewers are not available, but they also have to deal with CBS having the two 'late' windows on Saturday and Sunday" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/15). Fox Sports President Ed Goren: "As the day goes on, there are more and more viewers. So ratings go up. That late Sunday slot is where all the networks want to be" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 1/15).

    BIG CHEESE: CBS earned a 16.9 final Nielsen rating and 27.4 million viewers last Sunday for its coverage of the Ravens-Patriots AFC Wild Card, up 13% and 15%, respectively, from a 15.0 rating and 23.9 million viewers for the net's Ravens-Dolphins Wild Card last year. The NFL's four Wild Card games last weekend averaged 29.9 million viewers, making it the most-viewed opening weekend of the NFL Playoffs since '94. The 29.9 million viewers also represented a 16% increase over 25.8 million viewers for last year's Wild Card round (THE DAILY). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reports last Sunday's Cardinals-Packers NFC Wild Card game earned a "monstrous" 49.1 local rating on WITI-Fox in Milwaukee, the "highest rating for any wild-card game on any Milwaukee station" since a 51.2 local rating for Packers-49ers in January '02. Cardinals-Packers also had a "whopping" 70 share (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/15).

    Writer Calls Simms (r) The "Best
    Football Analyst In The TV Business"
    BOOTH REVIEW: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes now that CBS' Phil Simms is the "best football analyst in the TV business," he can "stay his course and remain a valued analyst, the best of the lot, even." However, he also can "take it one notch higher, the way fellows in his TV position have never done because they become cautious, even frightened." After a big hit by Ravens CB Frank Walker on Patriots WR Sam Aiken during last Sunday's Ravens-Patriots game, Simms "should have taken a poke at Walker for pounding his chest and demonstrating his great self-regard after his free shot at a defenseless receiver left him laid out." Simms is "too good to have said nothing about it" (N.Y. POST, 1/15).

    HITTING ITS GROWTH SPURT: CABLEFAX DAILY reports Nielsen Universe estimates for January '09 and December '09 indicate that NFL Network "saw the biggest percentage gain in subs among metered networks," increasing 30.6% to nearly 55 million HHs in December. That is "not a surprise given its deal with Comcast that got it off a sports tier," but another factor was the "launch of NFL RedZone, which affiliates can only get if they take NFL Net." NFL RedZone "helped bring new distributors on board, like Massillon," and the net is "hoping to entice a few more operators this year." NFL Network VP/Affiliate Distribution John Malkin: "All of the operators I'm talking to are engaged, they want to talk more about RedZone, [they] all are very well aware of the successful season we've had. ... I expect a good year" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/15).

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  • Mark McGwire Interview A Long-Time Coming For Bob Costas

    McGwire's Belief Steroids Did Not Aid Strength
    Forced Costas To Change Interview Strategy
    MLB Network's Bob Costas "had been hoping to line up an interview" with Mark McGwire for years, and when he landed the opportunity on Monday, it "took McGwire only a few minutes to show live TV's unpredictability," according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Costas, who "hadn't seen or heard" McGwire's interviews with the AP and Post-Dispatch earlier in the day, had a "game plan going in" to the interview. However, he was "taken aback when McGwire said in this very public setting that he believed steroids didn't give him additional strength." Costas said, "You try to prioritize it. We'll first get to the stuff that's most topical, then get to personal stuff." He added, "But when a couple minutes in he says this (that steroids didn't help his strength), then I had to audible. It was like, whoa! If you believe that, it puts a lot of other things in a different light. If you believe you got no benefit from that, how do you explain the whole era?" Costas noted that he "thinks the reason that he and MLB Network were picked for McGwire's first national TV interview about the subject was the result of several factors, including Costas' track record and the amount of time ... the outlet could devote to the conversation." Costas: "I had talked to him a couple times, the most recently of which was probably two years ago just to say if you ever want to talk about any of these issues, I believe you'd find a fair and credible place to do it with me. At that time I was at HBO, but I felt it was very important that if he ever spoke, that he do it at a place that not only was credible but also would be able to have a lot of time to devote" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/15).

     
    NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP: MLB Net President & CEO Tony Petitti Thursday at the MLB owners' meetings spoke to team officials "on the MLBN's first year." Petitti's presentation was "well-received, reflecting the strides made by the MLB Network, which is 13 days into its second year on the air." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "The Network's first year was excellent, to say the least" (MLB.com, 1/14). In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes MLB Network "has made a major impact on the television landscape" in its first year. The net is "already in more homes than the NFL Network, which has put profit margin ahead of distribution, and Bob Costas' interview Monday night with Mark McGwire was a major boost to MLB Network's credibility" (Albany TIMES UNION, 1/15). In California, Jim Carlisle writes the McGwire interview was "just another feather in MLB Network's cap." When ESPN's Bob Ley interviewed McGwire on Tuesday, the network "made a big deal out of it, but the impact wasn’t nearly as great because it had been beaten to the punch" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 1/15).

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  • Dick Ebersol Defends NBC's Decision To Return Leno To Late Night

    Ebersol Says Conan Is Being Ousted
    Because Of His Disappointing Ratings
    NBC Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol Thursday said that the reason NBC is returning Jay Leno to the net's "late-night roster after a short stint in prime time this season was a simple one: disappointing ratings for Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show,'" according to Bill Carter of the N.Y. TIMES. Ebersol, referring to the "pointed jokes made this week by Mr. O'Brien and David Letterman," said that Leno "had not pushed for any of the changes." Ebersol added it was "chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn't beat in the ratings," and also said what the move is "really all about is an astounding failure by Conan." Carter notes ratings for "The Tonight Show" with O'Brien hosting have "dropped off sharply from what they had been under" Leno. Ebersol also "chided Mr. O'Brien for declining to take advice about how to adjust his show to the 11:35 p.m. slot from the style he had used on NBC's 12:35 a.m. 'Late Night' show." Ebersol added that he met personally with O'Brien "three weeks before he stepped behind the 'Tonight' desk for the first time to urge him to take steps to expand the appeal he had built up in his 'Late Night' years." Carter notes Ebersol has a "longstanding relationship" with NBC Universal President & CEO Jeff Zucker, and has a "deep link to the network's late-night history, having been a creator of 'Saturday Night Live,' and he has been frequently consulted on changes in NBC's late-night lineup." Ebersol said he and Zucker are "big boys." Ebersol: "When we do something big in the public forum and it doesn't succeed, we know we'll be the butt of criticism. But you don't personally attack someone who hasn't done anything" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/15).

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  • People & Personalities: Kevin McHale Enjoying NBA TV Analyst Role

    McHale's (c) Main Role Is In-Studio Analyst
    On NBA TV's "Fan Night" Program
    In Boston, Chad Finn notes former T'Wolves VP/Basketball Operations and coach Kevin McHale is in his first season with TNT and NBA TV, and his "main role is in-studio analyst ... on NBA TV's freewheeling 'Fan Night' program, in which fans vote on NBA.com for the game they want to see." McHale said of the program, "It's kind of a busy night. Everything's pulled together real fast, on the fly. You have 90 seconds to get three games' worth of highlights in." McHale added what he enjoys "the most is doing the telestrator, getting to go over some of the stuff on the floor and going over the whys and hows of something happens." McHale: "It's fun to show the audience why something is successful or why it didn't work" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/15).

    STILL IN THE GAME: KOTAKU.com's Owen Good reported former ESPN MLB analyst Steve Phillips, who was fired by the net in the wake of his affair with a production assistant, "remains in the commentary booth for 'MLB 2K10,'" according to previews of the game. Good wrote Phillips' presence in the game is "not surprising, nor can 2K Sports be blamed for ... keeping Phillips on." When the "scandal came to light in late October," it likely was "too late to replace him." The videogame is scheduled to be released March 2 (KOTAKU.com, 1/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk wrote, "Maybe it's too expensive at this point to go back and wipe his voice, but it's still kind of weird that he could be in the game" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/14).

    TRADING PLACES: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes ESPN college basketball announcers Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale Wednesday will call the Spurs-Jazz game the "same night that ESPN NBA announcers call a college game -- Wake Forest-North Carolina -- in ESPN's second annual on-air basketball assignment-swap night." Also, ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck and his wife, ABC's "The View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, will "swap roles," as Elisabeth Tuesday will "appear on ESPN's 'NFL Live' while Tim drops in on 'The View'" on January 28 (USA TODAY, 1/15).

    SUSPENSION LIFTED: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin reported Leafs TV producer Mark Askin was "initially suspended for two games" for his criticisms of the CBC's "HNIC" and Don Cherry on Twitter, but "by the end of last week, Askin had sent his mea culpas to 'Hockey Night,' and the suspension was lifted." Askin's comments were "controversial, but still fair -- everywhere, that is, but in Canadian broadcast circles, where dishing the dirt on competitors is considered not a done thing" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 1/14).

    READY FOR A BIGGER ROLE? In L.A., Chris Erskine writes TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley is "becoming the Oprah Winfrey of sports." Erskine: "And I don't mean that just because he shows up almost everywhere. I mean it because he's amazing." During Barkley's "triumphant hosting of 'Saturday Night Live' last week," he "transitioned into comedy better than most comedians." Barkley "might be NBC's answer to what to do about all those 10 p.m. slots that suddenly opened up" with the pending return of Jay Leno to late night (L.A. TIMES, 1/15).

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  • Final Nielsen Ratings From Recent Sports Telecasts

    The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts (THE DAILY).

    TELECAST
    DATE
    NET
    TIME
    RAT.
    NFC Wild Card: Cardinals-Packers
    1/10
    Fox
    4:41-8:06pm
    19.6
    NFC Wild Card: Cowboys-Eagles
    1/9
    NBC
    8:06-11:12pm
    18.0
    AFC Wild Card: Ravens-Patriots
    1/10
    CBS
    1:04-4:13pm
    16.9
    AFC Wild Card: Jets-Bengals
    1/9
    NBC
    4:37-7:41pm
    15.2
    "Fox NFL Sunday"
    1/10
    Fox
    4:00-4:30pm
    7.1
    "NFL on NBC Studio Show"
    1/9
    NBC
    4:00-4:37pm
    5.0
    "The NFL Today"
    1/10
    CBS
    12:00-1:00pm
    4.1
    NCAA Basketball: Kansas-Tennessee
    1/10
    CBS
    4:30-7:00pm
    2.5
    High School Football: U.S. Army All-American Bowl
    1/9
    NBC
    1:00-3:59pm
    1.4
    Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular (taped)
    1/10
    NBC
    4:00-6:00pm
    1.3
    PBR: Built Ford Tough Series:
    New York City Invitational
    1/10
    NBC
    2:30-4:00pm
    0.7
    U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix (taped)
    1/10
    NBC
    1:30-2:30pm
    0.6
    Women's NCAA Basketball: North Carolina-Connecticut
    1/9
    CBS
    4:14-6:04pm
    0.5
    Women's NCAA Basketball: Ohio State-Michigan State
    1/9
    CBS
    2:00-4:14pm
    0.5
    TELECAST
    DATE
    NET
    TIME
    U.S.
    CABLE
    VIEWERS (000)
    GMAC Bowl:
    Central Michigan-Troy
    1/6
    ESPN
    7:00-11:10pm
    2.4
    2.7
    3,518
    "Sunday NFL Countdown"
    1/10
    ESPN
    11:00am-1:00pm
    2.2
    2.5
    3,115
    "College GameDay"
    1/7
    ESPN
    7:00-8:00pm
    1.5
    1.8
    2,355
    NBA: Cavaliers-Nuggets
    1/8
    ESPN
    10:36pm-1:24am
    1.4
    1.6
    2,250
    NCAA Basketball:
    Duke-Georgia Tech
    1/9
    ESPN
    2:03-4:20pm
    1.4
    1.6
    2,087
    NBA: Lakers-Clippers
    1/6
    ESPN
    11:10pm-1:06am
    1.4
    1.6
    2,039
    NBA: Celtics-Hawks
    1/8
    ESPN
    8:02-10:36pm
    1.2
    1.4
    1,987
    NBA: Cavaliers-Trail Blazers
    1/10
    ESPN
    9:00-11:38pm
    1.2
    1.4
    1,779
    "NFL Countdown"
    1/9
    ESPN
    11:00am-12:00pm
    1.3
    1.5
    1,631
    NCAA Basketball:
    Connecticut-Georgetown
    1/9
    ESPN
    12:00-2:03pm
    1.1
    1.3
    1,515

    SOARING HIGH: The Falcons "for the second consecutive year ... have seen a significant rise in TV ratings." The team finished the '09 season 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs, but ratings improved 7% over the '08 season, when the team finished 11-5. The team averaged 498,000 HHs per game this season. The Falcons this season "did accomplish consecutive winning seasons for the first time," and the team's ratings "have increased 57[%] since 2007, the largest increase of any NFL team" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/14).

    COOL BREEZE: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reports the Blackhawks "have more than doubled their Nielsen ratings for games telecast on" Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Chicago in the last year. A CSN spokesperson said that game telecasts have averaged a 2.1 local rating for 28 games through Wednesday, up 102% over the same period last season (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/15). Meanwhile, CSN Chicago on January 7 earned a 3.4 local rating for Blackhawks-Bruins, marking its highest regular-season Blackhawks rating ever (CSN).

    BIG APPLE: YES Network finished the '09 broadcast year as the most-watched RSN on a total-day basis (Monday-Sunday, 6:00am-2:00am ET) for the seventh consecutive year, experiencing a 10.3% growth over '08. YES averaged 82,000 primetime HHs in the N.Y. market for the year, up 13.9% over 72,000 HHs in '08 (YES)....SportsNet N.Y. following last Saturday's Jets-Bengals AFC Wild Card game drew a 0.9 local rating and more than 128,000 viewers from 7:30-8:45pm ET for "Jets Post Game Live," marking the highest-rated "Jets Post Game Live" show ever (SNY).

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  • Media Notes

    ABC/ESPN Moving All But Three Of Its 17
    Sprint Cup Races To Cable This Year
    SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass wrote the "problem" with ABC/ESPN moving all but three of its 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races this year to cable is that NASCAR and the circuit's tracks "have been touting the fact that for the last three years 24 Cup races have been on network television." But now that is "not the case," as there "will now be 20 points races on cable and 16 on network television." Pockrass: "No one should blame people for being angry and having the perception that things are better on network than on cable. It has been NASCAR people who sold us that theory in the first place" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/14).

    AIR WAVES: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik reports a new sports-talk radio station in the city is “in the advanced planning stages and could be on the air as early as next month.” The CBS Radio Group is “planning to launch the station on the FM dial,” either on WBZW or WZPT. Pittsburgh’s two current sports-talk stations – ESPN Radio 1250 and Fox Sports Radio 970 – both are on the AM dial. It is unknown “how much local programming will be carried by the new station,” but a source indicated that it “will be considerable, and in that respect comparable to 1250 ESPN” (POST-GAZETTE.com, 1/15).

    BROTHERLY LOVE: HBO Sports has begun production on “Broad Street Bullies,” a documentary about the ’74 and ’75 Stanley Cup-champion Flyers teams. The documentary is set to debut during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May (HBO Sports).

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