SBD/Issue 121/Sports Media

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  • NHL Seeing Mixed Post-Olympics Ratings Impact Thus Far

    NBC Earns 1.2 Overnight Rating For Sunday's
    Red Wings-Blackhawks Game

    NBC earned a 1.2 overnight Nielsen rating for yesterday's Red Wings-Blackhawks game from 12:30-3:00pm ET, which marked the net's first NHL telecast since the end of the Vancouver Games. The rating was up from the comparable 1.0 overnight for Bruins-Rangers during the same weekend last year, but down from a 1.3 overnight for Penguins-Capitals on February 7, which was the net's last NHL telecast before the Olympics (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote there "won't be any residual ratings benefits coming the NHL's way" from the league's participation in the Vancouver Games. MSG earned a 0.96 local rating for Thursday's Penguins-Rangers game, while SportsNet N.Y. earned a 1.13 local rating for Thursday afternoon's Cardinals-Mets exhibition. Raissman wrote if a "marquee contest like Penguins-Rangers can't beat a meaningless exhibition baseball game in the ratings department, well, so much for all that Olympic noise" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/7). However, in Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman noted Tuesday's Sabres-Penguins game earned an 11.7 local rating on FSN Pittsburgh, ranking the game "second only to Mario Lemieux's comeback game in December 2000 in ratings for a regular-season game on FSN." Penguins RW Bill Guerin said the TV ratings for the Olympics were "through the roof, so you've got to strike while iron is hot and get something done." Penguins and Canada C Sidney Crosby added, "I think they did capitalize when you had Canada and the U.S., and you had that many people watching" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/7). Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said the Olympics' impact on ratings needs to be kept "in perspective." He noted when track and field is "in the Olympics package, it will get huge numbers, but when you put track and field in a different configuration, it gets much lower numbers." In N.Y., Ethan Sacks writes it "may be another 30 years before the NHL gets this much of a boost out of a Winter Olympics again." The '14 Olympics are in Sochi, "an eight-hour time difference" from the East Coast (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/7).

    VERSUS, DIRECTV NEED A DEAL: In Albany, Pete Dougherty noted ratings on Versus for the first three NHL games after the Olympics were down, though network officials said that three games "isn't a long enough time period to spot a trend." But Dougherty wrote, "How about getting a deal done with DirecTV, which has 17 million subscribers?" Dougherty: "This is a time the NHL needs to capitalize on the potential to draw [new] fans. Depriving a large chunk of the nation the opportunity to see games isn't going to get that done" (TIMESUNION.com, 3/5). In Denver, Adrian Dater writes the lack of a DirecTV-Versus deal is a "shame, because the NHL needs all the potential TV viewers they can get" (DENVER POST, 3/8).

    ISSUES TO SORT THROUGH: In N.Y., Dave Anderson wrote the future of hockey at the Olympics is "now at the mercy of the NHL's concern about a Russian time zone during an interruption to its season, the price of television rights to both the Olympics and the NHL, and the possibility of European players, notably Russians, defecting for two weeks." NBC and ESPN, the expected bidders for the Sochi and '16 Rio de Janiero Games, "will need to know whether the NHL" will play in Sochi. If the NHL does not, bids "will probably be lower." Also, "another factor for NBC is that its NHL contract for Sunday afternoon and postseason games ends" after the '10-11 season, and if NHL players are "not promised for Sochi, a new NBC deal could be jeopardized" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/7). The DAILY NEWS' Raissman wrote NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is "playing it close to the vest" in saying the league has not yet decided whether to participate in the '14 Sochi Games. Raissman: "Ya think Bettman wants something in return for committing his troops to play so far away? Like maybe some straight-up dough from NBC for the rights to air its NHL Sunday afternoon games along with a package of playoff dates?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/7).

    NHL Has Some Legitimate Business
    Concerns Regarding Olympic Participation

    UNDERSTANDABLE POSITION: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote from a fan's standpoint, "especially from a North American's view, it's impossible to think the NHL would pull out" of the Sochi Games, "especially with the Vancouver buzz still radiating." But if the Gold Medal final had featured Slovakia-Finland instead of Canada-U.S., it is a "good bet the only Olympic TV viewing across Canada and the US Sunday would have been for a glimpse of Michael Buble" at the Closing Ceremony. The NHL has a "number of legitimate business concerns" regarding participating in the Olympics, including that, "first and foremost, it's a tough nut to shut down a league -- its No. 1 source of income being ticket sales -- for two weeks in the thick of the season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/7). Former North Stars GM Lou Nanne "believes NHL fans get short-changed when the league takes two weeks off to allow players to take part in the Olympics." Nanne: "As a fan, I would like to see it continue because I'd be attending it. ... But from a business point of view, they probably shouldn't continue." Nanne added that "outside of the great exposure" provided during the Olympics, the NHL "doesn't get anything out of the deal" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/7). But in Denver, Terry Frei wrote the "positives for the NHL outweigh the negatives." Frei: "I believe the NHL ultimately will participate in the 2014 Games" (DENVER POST, 3/7).

    WINNING GAMEPLANS: In Sacramento, Bill Bradley wrote Bettman should make "such a tournament part of every season." The NHL "could ditch the All-Star Game and take a two-week break in the middle of each season." Bradley: "Let players participate in the Olympics every four years. In the other three years, the NHL runs the World Cup in the same format using NHL arenas." Bradley wrote such a format "sets the league apart from others; it garners international exposure every year; it rekindles fan interest at midseason; and an Olympic break becomes part of the league's routine." Such a format "might mean cutting back the schedule, but the pros far outweigh the cons for a league trying to regain its place in the sports landscape" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/6). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote the Olympics "certainly didn't hurt the NHL, but other steps must be taken for the league to increase its popularity." The NHL in order to attract more fans could "get back on ESPN" and "put another team in Toronto." The league also should explore contraction; have players wear microphones; "get rid of, or at least alter, the salary cap;" "find a new commissioner;" and shorten the season and playoffs (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/7).

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  • MLBAM Will Stream Live Events Online For ESPN Beginning In April

    MLBAM Will Begin Streaming Live
    Events Online For ESPN On April 4

    ESPN360 hired MLBAM to provide the broadband site's technology infrastructure and operations support. The deal was announced today, with MLBAM starting to work with the broadband site April 4, coinciding with its name chance to ESPN3. The move will allow ESPN to offer more HD streaming of live events, plus picture-in-picture and split screen applications. It also will allow ESPN360 to roll out new features, like scores, chats and schedules. "Our seven-year relationship with MLBAM has grown from collaborations like ESPN.com and ESPN Insider, and the new ESPN3.com in April will take that relationship one step further," said ESPN Digital Media Senior VP & GM John Kosner. ESPN360 has about 50 million homes thanks to deals with companies like Comcast, Cox, AT&T and Verizon (John Ourand, THE DAILY). In N.Y., Brad Stone reports MLBAM "will handle the technology infrastructure and customer support for the nearly 3,500 live events that ESPN streams each year." ESPN had "previously used the services" of Utah-based Move Networks. However, Kosner noted that Move's system "required that customers download a special video player that uses Microsoft's Silverlight technology." ESPN "wanted to make its site easier to use by moving to a supplier that used Adobe's popular Flash software, which operates within the Web browser." MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman said that MLBAM and ESPN "might consider cross-promoting or bundling their offerings." They could "allow a customer who pays to watch New York Yankees games online to also watch World Cup soccer games or Grand Slam tennis matches, at a discount" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/8).

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  • Disney-Cablevision Spat Blacks Out Oscars Opening For N.Y. Viewers

    ABC Restores Signal To Cablevision Minutes
    After Start Of Last Night's Oscars Broadcast

    Disney President & CEO Bob Iger "drew a line in the sand and appears to have triumphed in his battle with Cablevision Systems Corp., the New York cable operator with 3.1 million subscribers in the tri-state region," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. At issue were "fees that Disney wanted Cablevision to pay for carrying" WABC-TV. Disney officials in January told Cablevision that it was "prepared to pull the WABC signal and potentially deprive Cablevision subscribers" of last night's Academy Awards. The signal was pulled early Sunday morning, and following some "back-and-forth tough talk, Cablevision came back to the negotiating table and reached a tentative agreement, and the signal was back on about 15 minutes after the Oscars started." A source indicated that Disney ended up getting $0.55-0.65 "per subscriber per month," but another source indicated that the price is "closer to" $0.27-0.37 per month. The deal "may also factor in deals that Cablevision has for other Disney networks." Flint wrote the "pact between ABC and Cablevision is in the same league as the deal that News Corp.'s Fox reached with Time Warner Cable earlier this year" (LATIMES.com, 3/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Schechner & Smith report both ABC and Cablevision "had set up Twitter accounts to lob fusillades at each other as the Oscars neared." Meanwhile, the "nearly 21-hour blackout marked a steep escalation in the duel between media companies and TV distributors, with each willing to rope consumers into their financial disputes." Yesterday's ABC blackout was, "in part, a warm-up for a potentially bigger showdown in the summer," as sources indicated that Disney's contract with Time Warner Cable "expires in August" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/8). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Kenneth Li notes yesterday marked the "third such breakdown in fee negotiations in recent months" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/8).

    NOT OUT OF THE ROUGH YET: In N.Y., Stelter & Barnes note the blackout "prevented more than three million viewers from watching the beginning of the Academy Awards show." But sources said that the terms of the new deal are "still quite tentative." One ABC exec cautioned, "If Cablevision doesn't honor the deal points, we're right back where we started." Stelter & Barnes note Iger was "under pressure to stand his ground," as it "would have been virtually impossible to push for so-called retransmission payments when ABC contracts come due with bigger distributors ... if he had failed to win concessions from Cablevision" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/8).

    SPORTS PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Martin Peers wrote sports are not "central to Cablevision Systems' fee dispute with ABC," but they are the "subtext of the battle." Anyone "doubting that need only listen to Cablevision's recorded message to its subscribers that plays every time their set-top boxes are turned on." Cablevision argues that "part of the reason ABC is asking for the fee increase ... is that its 'sister company ESPN is stuck making huge payments for out of control sports broadcasting rights.'" ABC "would undoubtedly disagree," but there is "no getting around the fact that the high cost of sports cable channels distorts the TV business" (WSJ.com, 3/5).

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  • CSN Chicago Offers Live Streaming Broadcasts Of Six Bulls Games

    Comcast is planning to embark on its second local streaming effort next week in Chicago. Starting with the Bulls' March 19 game against the Cavaliers, Comcast is making live telecasts of the team's final six regular-season games on the net and the first round of playoffs available on CSNChicago.com. The games will be available for free to eligible subscribers; Comcast is planning to announce a sponsorship to the streamed games in the next week. This marks a major change from the company's test in Philadelphia, where eligible subscribers pay $17.76 for a 30-day streaming package. Company officials would not say how many people signed up, though they acknowledged that the number was small. The 76ers are 23-39 through yesterday, eight games out of the playoffs. In both cases, the online stream mirrors the television broadcast, with the same pictures and announcers. Online viewers also have full DVR controls (pause, rewind and fast forward) and access to Twitter and Facebook applications and chat rooms with CSN Chicago talent. Viewers can access the games if they receive CSN Chicago as part of their cable or satellite package -- so long as the video provider agrees to participate in CSN's authentication process. Users will have to register their name, email address and name of their video provider to access the streamed games.

    DATE
    OPPONENT
    Friday, March 19
    vs. Cavaliers
    Thursday, March 25
    vs. Heat
    Sunday, March 28
    at Pistons
    Friday, April 2 at Wizards
    Friday, April 9 at Nets
    Wednesday, April 14 at Bobcats

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  • Two Million And Counting: NBA Facebook Page Hits Milestone

    NBA Surpasses 2 Million Followers
    On Its Official Facebook Page

    The NBA over the weekend surpassed 2 million followers on its official Facebook page, by far the largest among major pro sports properties and double the mark of just eight months ago. The league will commemorate the milestone with several promotional elements and fan giveaways, including personalized video messages from players such as Cavaliers C Shaquille O'Neal and Magic C Dwight Howard, the awarding of a fan gift package that includes tickets to an upcoming game and autographed player jersey, and distribution of a discount code to NBAStore.com to all of the fans of the NBA Facebook page. More broadly, the increasing scale of the NBA's Facebook presence has allowed league execs to sell it to corporate sponsors as a key media tool along with other broadcast, cable and digital outposts. It also has helped elevate the overall value of advertising and sponsorship packages with the league. Official QSR partner Taco Bell recently used the page to help tout its new NBA Five-Buck Box. "It's really become a key asset," said NBA Senior Dir of Marketing Dan Opallo. "Fans there, in many instances, are not replicated in other areas, so this has become a critical piece to us in a very short period of time." The league and NBA Digital, meanwhile, are looking to expand the content programmed into the Facebook page. "The idea is to bring more of a NBA.com experience within the news feeds. There is unquestionably a group of fans that wants to stay within their news feeds, so we'll enable them to do that."

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  • People & Personalities: Jim Nantz Discusses Woods, His Divorce

    Nantz Says Tiger Woods' Placement In
    Golf Is Sometimes Overly Emphasized

    CBS announcer Jim Nantz in a Q&A with GOLF.com's Alan Bastable said he thinks Tiger Woods' "placement in the game of golf overall" sometimes is "overly emphasized." Nantz: "The sport is not about one player, and I say that with a world of respect for his talents on the golf course. But the game is bigger than Tiger Woods. The doom-and-gloom theorists really don't understand the sport. His stepping away from the game is not the end of the world." Nantz added he is "not a bit" concerned that the Woods scandal has tarnished the game, as Woods' personal life "doesn't have anything to do with golf." Meanwhile, Nantz said his divorce last year was "so misrepresented, so inaccurately reported" in the media. Nantz: "Once something gets reported ... there's layering and layering and you can never get back down to the original truth." Nantz added, "I heard people I'm close to speculating on the radio about the divorce and ridiculing and laughing about some things that were written that just weren't true. I thought, 'Gosh, you know me better than that. I would never do that. How could you do this? Where's the sensitivity?' That's all I'm going to say about that" (GOLF.com, 3/6).

    AROUND THE RINK: In L.A., Helene Elliott reports NHL Kings broadcaster Bob Miller "will miss at least three games while he recovers from shingles." Miller missed Saturday's Canadiens-Kings game, "only the 18th broadcast he had missed" in his 37 seasons with the team, and will miss today's game against the Blue Jackets and Wednesday's game against the Blackhawks. Radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson "will join analyst Jim Fox in the TV booth for the games" (L.A. TIMES, 3/8)....In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote some of CBC analyst Don Cherry's "shtick over the years has been offensive and just plain cruel." But hockey fans embrace Cherry "like that old, crazy, flatulent uncle who dithers in the corner at Thanksgiving." Though some of Cherry's views are "startlingly warped, he can be admired for identifying a niche, exploiting it, and turning it into a fortune" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/7).

    BOYS OF SUMMER: FANHOUSE.com's Tom Krasovic noted though Padres officials have decreased announcer Jerry Coleman's "workload from 162 games to 40 for this year," Coleman said that he is indebted to both Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad and President & COO Tom Garfinkel for "putting him behind the microphone again." Coleman: "I've got to thank them for keeping me alive." Krasovic noted Coleman, the oldest MLB broadcaster at 85 years old, is entering his "65th professional baseball season and 47th as a radio broadcaster" (FANHOUSE.com, 3/5)....In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich writes this weekend's Blue Jays Spring Training games "accentuated what a good team the FAN 590 duo of Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby has become" in just their third season together. The pair has "meshed so well they sound like they've been in the same booth for a decade." Howarth is the "master of describing the game," while Ashby is a "first-rate analyst who's not afraid to speak his mind when criticism or caution is called for" (TORONTO STAR, 3/8).

    NOTES: SPORTS BY BROOKS cited a source as indicating that the Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor has joined the editorial staff of the forthcoming ESPNNewYork.com. O'Connor also makes appearances on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y. (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 3/5)...ACC play-by-play announcer Mike Hogewood "feels he's recovered from a stroke last summer that threatened his career." Hogewood called yesterday's Duke-N.C. State ACC women's basketball tournament championship game nationally for FSN, and will "also work for Raycom Sports as host for the ACC men's basketball tournament, which begins Thursday" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 3/8).

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  • Media Notes

    ESPN Handling Roethlisberger Story
    Differently With Latest Allegations

    In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones noted ESPN last summer "came under fire for, at first, refusing to report a civil suit in which a Nevada woman accused" Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger of sexual assault. But with Roethlisberger again "being accused of sexual misconduct," ESPN is "taking a different, more aggressive tact." The network "has dispatched ace reporter Kelly Naqi to Milledgeville, Ga., the site of the latest allegations." Jones noted there is a "difference between the cases," as in the first situation, a "civil suit was filed without a police report and, at the time, ESPN said it would not report a story based on nothing more than a civil suit." But this time, the "police are investigating" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/7).

    HARSH CRITICISM: MLB.com's Keith Olbermann wrote ESPN.com's Bill Simmons in a recent column shared the "most poorly-informed conclusion I've come across in sports media this year" by arguing that the "comeback of Tiger Woods will be more difficult than the one Muhammad Ali faced in the 1960's." Olbermann: "If the writer can let me know when Woods is punitively drafted by the military even though he is about eight years older than almost all the other draftees, I'll begin to take him seriously. In the interim I am again left to marvel how somebody can rise to a fairly prominent media position with no discernible insight or talent, save for an apparent ability to mix up a vast bowl of word salad very quickly" (MLB.com, 3/5). Simmons, on his Twitter feed, responded: "KO, please know the feeling is mutual. You’re my worst case scenario for my career in 12 yrs: a pious, unlikable blowhard who lives alone" (TWITTER.com, 3/5). The BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre wrote Olbermann's comments on Simmons were "impulsive, spiteful and unnecessarily personal" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 3/6).

    POST-OLYMPICS BOOST: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sam Schechner reports NBC's primetime lineup "got a ratings boost in the week after" the Vancouver Games ended, and the "biggest gains came in" the 10:00pm ET time slot, which last week averaged 8.1 million viewers, "up 57% from the average of about 5.2 million" before the Olympics. The net's overall primetime viewership last week was up a "more-modest 21%." Ad buyers said that it is "too early to tell how much of NBC's bigger audience will stick around once the glow of its Olympics promotions ... wears off." Meanwhile, the Olympics "may have helped NBC improve more than its Nielsen numbers." BrandIndex, which "tracks consumer perceptions of more than 1,100 brands," said that the buzz around NBC in February "improved most of any brand it tracks." NBC's buzz "shifted from a negative view to a slightly positive one" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/8).

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