SBD/Issue 94/Sports Media

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  • Thinking Big: Several Sports Properties Excited By New iPad

    MLBAM Participates In iPad Announcement,
    Shows How Live Games Will Operate On Device
    Numerous sports properties and execs are seeing a bright future from the iPad, the mobile tablet device unveiled yesterday by Apple Inc. targeted to go on sale beginning in March. The device, featuring a 9.7-inch touch screen, will run a version of Apple's iPhone operating system and combine mobile application functionality with a color e-reader. Pricing will start at $499 and run to $829 depending on the model. As such, the device is being positioned as a hybrid between a traditional mobile smartphone and a laptop. MLBAM participated in the iPad announcement in S.F., showing how live MLB games will operate on the device. MLBAM's successful MLB.com At Bat mobile application may carry a different name for the iPad. But baseball's digital arm yesterday began marketing MLB.TV subscriptions, the earliest it has done so for an upcoming season. Pricing for MLBAM's flagship video product will be $119.95 for a premium-level version, and $99.95 for a basic-level one, and the single subscription will include portability between wired computers, and mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, provided a user has also made the one-time purchase of the At-Bat application. "The portability is going to be a big element this year," said MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman. "There are a couple of things that have been very clear with Apple -- people love their products and they work very well with our technology. We're delighted with this announcement." Bowman also cheered Apple's support for content owners such as MLBAM and the N.Y. Times, which also was part of the device announcement yesterday. "Their appreciation for publishers and copyright is critical," Bowman said. "Their understanding of rightsholders is a hidden strength of theirs."

    THE START OF SOMETHING BIG? Digital media consulting outfit Convergence Sports & Media President Tom Richardson called the iPad a "gamechanging" product. Richardson: "We've seen what's happened with the iPhone and a 3-inch screen. Can you imagine the possibilities with the larger real estate? That said, a lot of functions here could be done before in a various ways, but what Apple's done is packaged it all together with a big-time ease of use and a surprisingly competitive price. Apple has a big time halo effect around it, and again has something I think can be pan-demographic in its appeal." Early criticisms of the device, however, have centered on its lack of a camera of any type, another virtual keyboard that will require an adjustment period to use efficiently, and its use of the much-debated AT&T Wireless network. Some execs also questioned the pricing, as it still is higher than virtually every netbook on the market, and many full-featured laptops that use the Windows 7 operating system. NBA Digital Senior VP & GM Bryan Perez: "It's going to be interesting to see how that price point plays out. It still seems rather expensive" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    WE'VE GOT AN APP FOR THAT: ESPN.com’s Ryan Corazza reported Magic C Dwight Howard, Vikings DE Jared Allen and Bills WR Terrell Owens are expected to debut personal iPhone apps that will “closely align with their personal brands.” Bengals QB Jordan Palmer is a Partner in Rock Software and is helping to create the apps, which the company already did for Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco. Howard’s app will be largely based on his "well-known sense of humor by featuring a joke of the day.” Allen’s will be centered around his “love of hunting and his ‘Mullet Militia’ lifestyle," while Owens’ will revolve around his “penchant for fashion and workout routine.” Palmer: “We do not want to make cookie-cutter applications.” Corazza noted as smartphones “continue to become more widespread in the mobile landscape, it’s likely so too will athletes continue to integrate their personality and brand with technology specifically catered to them” (ESPN.com, 1/27).

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  • Sky To Launch 3D Channel, Broadcast Sunday EPL Match In 3D

    BSkyB Will Broadcast First Live 3D TV
    Sports Event With Sunday's EPL Match
    BSkyB announced it will launch Sky 3D, Europe's first dedicated 3D TV channel, this April. The company also will become the first TV company in the world to broadcast a live 3D TV sports event to a public audience when it broadcasts Sunday's Manchester United-Arsenal EPL match in 3D. The match will air over the Sky 3D platform to selected pubs in the U.K. and Ireland and will mark the first-ever 3D EPL match broadcast (BSkyB). The AP's Rob Harris reported soccer fans will "have to wear special glasses to watch the 3-D televisions" at nine available venues "as they preview Sky's dedicated 3-D channel." Sky 3D "will be available to pub subscribers before being expanded to regular customers and will initially broadcast one Premier League match a week in the new format" (AP, 1/27). Sky Sports Dir Of Operations Darren Long said that filming in 3D "offers viewers a different experience from HD." Long: "Normal practice is to have a camera high in the stand, but with HD we move closer to the pitch. The camera moves less, too, to give the viewer time to appreciate the image. With golf, for example, we can show every small undulation on a green, so that you can, for instance, for the first time see why a player misses a putt that even in HD appears simple" (TIMESONLINE.co.uk, 1/27).

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  • Canucks, CBC Resolve Differences; Team Ends Boycott Of "HNIC"

    Canucks Believe CBC Did
    Not Present Burrows Fairly
    The Canucks and the CBC "resolved their differences in a conference call Wednesday and Canuck players will again be doing interviews" Saturday on "Hockey Night in Canada," according to Elliott Pap of the VANCOUVER SUN. The disagreement began January 16 when the CBC's Ron MacLean "presented a one-sided piece on the Alex Burrows-Stephane Auger affair." When MacLean "refused to offer an apology to either Burrows or the Canucks, Canucks President & GM Mike Gillis told his players to decline all interview requests" for "HNIC's" January 23 telecast of Canucks-Blackhawks (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/28). CBC Sports Exec Dir Scott Moore: "It's fair to say we're putting the incident behind us. They expressed their views and we understand them. We have agreed to move forward." In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich notes "neither side would divulge what was said in the meeting or if an apology was offered" (TORONTO STAR, 1/28). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes the resolution is a "huge relief" to "HNIC" -- which has been "playing defence on this story for almost two weeks." Sources said that the Canucks are "not happy but they will move on." However, Dowbiggin writes the team is likely "to monitor how they're covered" by the "HNIC" crew. The team "may also wrest some behind-the-scenes concessions" from "HNIC" as the CBC "tries to make nice to avoid alienating its West Coast mandate" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 1/28).

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  • Media Notes

    Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts yesterday reiterated that the company "isn't going to make NBC a cable channel" once its takeover of NBC Universal is complete. Roberts said there is "still a broadcast audience," as when "MNF" went from ABC to ESPN, the audience "went down." Roberts: "For those of us who are connected, you can't understand that. But there are people who aren't connected, and there are people who turn on their dial and they want to watch broadcast because that's how they were trained" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/28). Roberts added, "We think there is a vibrant role for local broadcast and national broadcast television" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 1/27). 

     
    COVERAGE PLAN: ESPN yesterday announced that 10 FIFA World Cup games will be on ABC, including U.S.-England on June 12 and the July 11 championship game. ESPN will televise 44 matches, with the remaining 10 on ESPN2 (ESPN). The AP's Ronald Blum notes all but the ABC games "will be on ESPN360.com, 46 games will be on ESPN Mobile TV and every game will be replayed at night on ESPN Classic." Meanwhile, in what "appears to be an attempt to ambush Univision's Spanish-language coverage, ESPN Deportes will broadcast up to 40 matches" in Portuguese. Blum noted ESPN2 also will "go all soccer for a 24-hour countdown before" the opening game of the World Cup on June 11. ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake: "The level of ambition we have for this project is second to none compared to anything we do at ESPN" (AP, 1/27).

    COMFORTABLE WITH SHOW: NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson said of his control over the content of HBO's "24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona" documentary, "If there's something they're shooting that I don't like, I can certainly say no, but once they have it, they take it. ... Essentially once they seal the package and FedEx that little package off, it's done. It's in the hands of the editors." However, Johnson added the "part that probably makes it easier is it is not a reality show." Johnson: "They're not camped out in our house waiting for every moment. ... I would not be interested in this if it was a reality show. I have no desire to open my life up and have my relationship with my wife and my personal stuff exploited" (SI.com, 1/27).

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