SBD/Issue 152/Sports Media

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  • NFL Schedule: Jets Among Teams Poised To Be Primetime Fixtures

    The NFL last night released its schedule for the '10 season, which kicks off Thursday, September 9, with Vikings-Saints on NBC. The following is a list of the primetime games airing on NBC, ESPN and NFL Network (THE DAILY).

    Week 1 Vikings-Saints (Thursday) Ravens-Jets  
      Cowboys-Redskins Chargers-Chiefs  
    Week 2 Giants-Colts Saints-49ers  
    Week 3 Jets-Dolphins Packers-Bears  
    Week 4 Bears-Giants Patriots-Dolphins  
    Week 5 Eagles-49ers Vikings-Jets  
    Week 6 Colts-Redskins Titans-Jaguars  
    Week 7 Vikings-Packers Giants-Cowboys  
    Week 8 Steelers-Saints Texans-Colts  
    Week 9 Cowboys-Packers Steelers-Bengals  
    Week 10 Patriots-Steelers Eagles-Redskins Ravens-Falcons (Thursday)
    Week 11 Giants-Eagles Broncos-Chargers Bears-Dolphins (Thursday)
    Week 12 Chargers-Colts 49ers-Cardinals Bengals-Jets (Thursday)
    Week 13 Steelers-Ravens Jets-Patriots Texans-Eagles (Thursday)
    Week 14 Eagles-Cowboys Ravens-Texans Colts-Titans (Thursday)
    Week 15 Packers-Patriots Bears-Vikings 49ers-Chargers (Thursday)
    Week 16 Chargers-Bengals Saints-Falcons Panthers-Steelers (Thursday)
          Cowboys-Cardinals (Saturday)
    Week 17 TBD No Game No Game

    SPOTLIGHT ON THE JETS:'s Don Banks wonders if the NFL and its "omnipresent TV cameras ever swooned for anybody like the brash-talking Rex Ryan and his chest-thumping New York Jets?" The Jets will have a "major dose of prime time exposure," as they will play a league-high five primetime games, "including three in the regular season's first five weeks." Banks: "Mix in four more games that are currently slated for late-afternoon Sunday kickoffs, and thus eligible for mass distribution as a network's second half of a doubleheader, and the Jets will seemingly be everywhere, all the time in 2010." However, Banks notes the NFL the past two years has "shined its brightest spotlight on Cleveland (five primetime games in 2008) and Miami (four in 2009), and neither the Browns nor Dolphins lived up to that show of confidence by the league office," as they both missed the playoffs those seasons (, 4/21). Ryan: "We expect a lot of primetime games, because we're a team people want to watch." In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro notes three of the Jets' five primetime appearances are home games, including a September 13 game against the Ravens that is the NFL's "first Monday night game of the season and the Jets' first game in their new stadium" (N.Y. POST, 4/21).

    NFL Schedules 49ers In Four
    Primetime Games This Season

    POISED TO BREAK OUT? In Sacramento, Matthew Barrows notes the NFL has the 49ers "playing in prime time four times," and writes the league is "perhaps betting this is finally the season the 49ers break a seven-year playoff drought." Meanwhile, the Raiders are not scheduled to play a primetime game "for the first time since the 2007 season" and for "only the second time since the 1970 merger" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/21).'s Mike Florio wrote it appears the "powers-that-be believe the Niners will make a serious run at taking over the top of the NFC West, given the retirement" of Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (, 4/20). In S.F., David White writes, "The 49ers want to be the team to beat in the NFC West. Thanks to the wonders of color TV, they'll at least be the team to watch" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/21). But YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote the 49ers are the '10 winner "of the 'team that parlayed a decent previous season into way too many primetime appearances the following year' award." Chase: "There's one every year. Last year it was Miami. The year before, Cleveland" (, 4/20). 

    PACKED WITH INTRIGUE: In Green Bay, Rob Demovsky notes the Packers coming off an 11-5 season were scheduled for four primetime games, "one more night game than they did a year ago." The Packers also were scheduled for two Sunday late-afternoon window games "that could be seen by most or all of the country." Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy: "Nationally, I think we're viewed as an attractive team. Tie that in with the Colts preseason game (on ESPN), and that's five national TV games. It's exciting" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 4/21).'s Kevin Seifert wrote, "Think the Packers aren't marketable? The NFL has put them in its premier time slot -- on Sunday night -- three times" (, 4/20). 

    AFC POWERS: In Pittsburgh, Gerry Dulac notes despite missing the playoffs last season with a 9-7 record, the Steelers "remain a prime-time attraction" for the NFL, as they "will play the maximum five night games this season, including three in a row" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/21). In Boston, Ian Rapoport notes fans "across the country will see much of" the '10 Patriots season, as the team also "will be on national TV five times," including a Thanksgiving day game against the Lions (BOSTON HERALD, 4/21). In Baltimore, Jamison Hensley noted the Ravens "play four nationally televised games, three of which come in the second half of the season." Ravens President Dick Cass: "It's a challenging schedule, and with the number of primetime games, it's flattering. We've made the playoffs two years in a row -- and three of the last four seasons -- and it's evident that the NFL believes we will be highly competitive again." Cass added, "If you look at the last three games of the new schedule, you can see that we’ll be playing significant games that could be candidates for a move to Sunday night" (, 4/20).

    Shanahan (l), McNabb Help Redskins Garner
    National Attention Coming Off Down Year

    RETURN TO RELEVANCY:'s Matt Mosley noted the Redskins are scheduled to play "three prime-time games and five on national television" this upcoming season despite coming off a 4-12 season last year. Mosley: "Coach Mike Shanahan has made the Redskins relevant again" (, 4/20). Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes Redskins QB Donovan McNabb will make his return to the city for the October 3 Redskins-Eagles game, which will kick off at 4:15pm ET. Bowen: "It's a little surprising that McNabb's homecoming won't be a prime-time game; maybe the networks don't see the Eagles and Redskins as top-of-the-marquee-type teams" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/21). Meanwhile,'s Clark Judge wrote under the header, "McNabb-Philly Reunion Ranks As No. 1 Must-See Game" (, 4/20). NFL Network's Michael Lombardi: "That'll be the hardest ticket to get in Philadelphia. Not because they all want to see the game, because there's a long line of people who want to boo him at the game" (NFL Network, 4/20).

    BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT: In Houston, John McClain notes the Texans "for the first time in franchise history" will play "three prime-time games, including two on ESPN and one on the NFL Network." However, the Texans "again ... were shut out by NBC," and the NFL "didn't grant the request" by Texans Owner Bob McNair and Jets Owner Woody Johnson to schedule the Texans-Jets game for Thanksgiving night on NFL Network (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/21). In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter noted "MNF" is returning "to Atlanta after a two-year hiatus," as the Falcons will host their first "MNF" game since a game against the Saints in December '07. The team will make "two national television appearances" (, 4/20). But in Buffalo, Allen Wilson notes the Bills "do not have a prime-time game for the first time since 2006," and all 16 games have a 1:00pm ET start (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/21).

    FLEXING THEIR MUSCLES:'s Florio wrote the "SNF" slate of games is "so good that NBC likely won't want to move many of them." The "only contest that looks to be destined to be bumped out of the evening slot" is the December 26 Chargers-Bengals game. However, Florio noted ESPN pays "more than $1[B] per year to televise 17 prime-time games," and they "continue to get something less than a billion-dollar slate of games." The "MNF" schedule has "little genuine sizzle," and while the 13 divisional games ESPN has "can generate high interest among the fan bases of the two teams involved, a schedule befitting the price tag would feature more eyebrow-raisers like Ravens-Jets and Vikings-Jets" (, 4/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Chase ranked the "five (potentially) worst prime-time games on the 2010 NFL schedule," ignoring the Thursday night games on NFL Net. Chase ranked the October 18 "MNF" Titans-Jaguars game as the worst. Chase: "It's hard to imagine that in the 41-year history of Monday Night Football there have been many games scheduled between two teams that both failed to break .500 the previous season" (, 4/20).

    TOUGH PROCESS: NFL Senior VP/Broadcasting Howard Katz, who oversees the scheduling process, in an online chat noted ESPN, NBC and NFL Network "make request[s] for individual teams," while CBS and Fox "let us know which games they don't want to lose." Katz: "We try to balance the request and come up with interesting and compelling games for primetime and try to maintain a balance of the games that would have come off from CBS and Fox." Katz also noted some teams "love to play in primetime games, and ask for more," while other teams "don't like primetime games and ask for fewer." Katz: "We take those into consideration but try to do what is best for the league" (, 4/20).

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  • USOC, Comcast End Agreement To Launch New Olympic Channel

    Sandusky Says USOC, Comcast Have Decided
    It Is Not Right Time To Create Olympic Channel

    The USOC and Comcast have agreed to walk away from last year’s agreement to launch an Olympic channel, bringing an end to the USOC’s nearly four-year effort to launch its own network. The annulment comes as no surprise. Although the Olympic network was supposed to debut after the Vancouver Games, sources said the USOC and Comcast had not worked on it since last August because of criticism from the IOC and Comcast’s subsequent and pending acquisition of NBC, which operates its own Olympic-style channel in Universal Sports. USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky confirmed the end of the Comcast partnership, saying, “The USOC and Comcast have decided it’s currently not the right time to create an Olympic channel.” Putting the kibosh on the channel is a big step for the USOC, which is focusing on improving its international relations and building the profile of its new leadership team. USOC COO Norman Bellingham, who led the network project, will shift his attention to the basic operations of the organization. The decision to end plans for a network signifies another shift in direction at the USOC under new CEO Scott Blackmun and Chair Larry Probst.

    THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: The organization first made creating a network a top priority in ’06. Former Chair Peter Ueberroth was a major champion of the idea, believing it had the power to attract new sponsors and give existing sponsors a platform to activate against 365 days a year. The USOC between ’06-09 approached everyone from Discovery to ESPN to NBC about the idea before eventually announcing a deal with Comcast last July. Within hours of that announcement, IOC member Richard Carrion blasted the idea and described the USOC as arrogant for pursuing a network without IOC approval. The Comcast and USOC partnership was contingent upon IOC approval, and the USOC’s failure to secure it ultimately derailed the agreement. Currently, Comcast is awaiting government approval of its acquisition of NBC. If that deal is approved, it will acquire a stake in Universal Sports, which already has distribution in 67 million homes and has rights to marquee international competitions such as the FINA World Swimming Championships and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. It is unclear if Comcast would be interested in bringing the USOC on as a partner in that channel.

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  • TNT, ESPN Seeing Early NBA Playoff Ratings/Viewer Increases

    Spurs-Mavericks Opener Earns TNT Its Most-
    Viewed Cable Playoff Game To Date This Year

    TNT is averaging a 2.2 U.S. Nielsen rating (3.4 million viewers) for its five NBA Playoff games through Monday night, up 5% from the same period last year, when the net was averaging a 2.1 rating (3.1 million viewers). Game One of the Spurs-Mavericks first-round series on Sunday is the net's most-viewed cable playoff game to date this postseason, averaging 3.9 million viewers from 8:18-10:53pm ET. TNT is also seeing gains in all key adult and male demos, particularly in males 18-34 (+17%). ESPN's three playoff telecasts to date, which all aired on Saturday, averaged a 2.0 U.S. rating (3.0 million viewers), up 5% from '09. The net's top telecast on Saturday was Heat-Celtics Game One from 8:05-11:01pm, which earned a 2.5 U.S. rating and 3.8 million viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

    CABLE CAR: ABC will air just nine playoff games before the NBA Finals, and ESPN Senior Dir of Programming & Acquisitions Doug White said, "ESPN has proven to be a very viable platform." He added, "The distribution is very comparable to that of ABC. And a lot of times, we really look at the two networks as interchangeable." When asked about moving more games to ABC in future seasons, White said, "We analyze each season on a season-by-season basis. So next year, if we see something in terms of the way we schedule the playoffs, or if we want to rethink things, that option is always open for us." ESPN this season will air the entire Eastern Conference Finals for the first time, and White said, "We're always trying different things out. We like the consistency that we're able to bring on ESPN" (, 4/19).

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  • Versus Already Seeing Notable Gains For NHL Playoff Coverage

    Canadiens-Capitals Game Two Marks Versus'
    Most-Viewed First Round Playoff Telecast Ever

    Versus is averaging 534,000 viewers through six nights of its NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs telecasts, marking the most-viewed NHL Conference Quarterfinals to date since '02, when ESPN/ESPN2 aired the first-round games. The six-night average viewership is also up 20.8% from 447,000 viewers for the same period in '09. The Canadiens-Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Two on Saturday night averaged 731,000 viewers, marking the net’s most-viewed first-round playoff telecast ever. The NHL Conference Quarterfinal telecasts are also seeing the best ratings among men 18-49 and 25-54 since '02, and the best ratings among men 18-34 since '04.

    THE CITY THEY CALL LONG BEACH: Versus’ telecast of the Izod IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday earned 490,000 viewers, marking the net’s most-viewed IndyCar race since Versus acquired TV rights prior to last season. The 490,000 viewers are up 3% from the same race on Versus last year. Sunday’s race peaked with 525,000 viewers from 4:45-5:00pm ET. Through the first three IndyCar races on Versus this season, the net is averaging 404,000 viewers, up 30% from 310,000 viewers for the first three races last season. Additionally, viewership among all key male demos is showing growth, including men 18-34 (+104%), 18-49 (+38%) and 25-54 (+60%).

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  • Out Of Print: Rick Reilly Dropping Column From ESPN The Magazine

    Reilly Cutting Mag Column As He
    Increases TV Work For ESPN

    ESPN's Rick Reilly is "dropping his print column" from ESPN The Magazine, marking the "first time in more than a quarter century that Reilly won't be cranking out a regular column for a magazine," according to Keith Kelly of the N.Y. POST. Since joining ESPN in '07, Reilly has "done a lot more video," including appearances on, a video essay on the Sunday morning "SportsCenter," and hosting the one-hour program "Homecoming." ESPN The Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gary Belsky said, "Rick has limitless talent, but limited time, so as he increases his TV work for ESPN, we've agreed to take one for the team and free him from his regular magazine duties." Reilly said, "Yes, the magazine decision was mine. I really like the magazine, but I was ready to try more TV and Internet. I will still contribute longer pieces to the magazine now and then." Reilly added that the "change in workload didn't alter the pay" of his reported five-year, $17M contract with ESPN (N.Y. POST, 4/21).

    WHERE HE BELONGS: In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote Chris Berman's new contract to stay at ESPN is "welcome news for television critics around the country ... who have taken a wide variety of shots at Berman for an even wider variety of reasons over the years." Berman is as "talented a sports communicator as there has ever been, one reason both the NFL Network and DirecTV made a run at acquiring his services in recent months." His popularity is "obviously off the charts after 30 years with the ESPN juggernaut, even if there are times Berman seems to be a walking, talking parody of himself on the air with much of the same old shtick he's been using forever." Berman starting tomorrow night will anchor ESPN's coverage of the NFL Draft, where he "does some of his best work." Alongside ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., Berman is "one of the main reasons it's become one of the most anticipated events on the NFL calendar" (, 4/20).

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  • FIFA Not Finding Many Takers For 3D World Cup Broadcasts

    Twenty-Five Matches At This Summer's
    World Cup Will Be Filmed In 3D

    Twenty-five matches at this summer's FIFA World Cup "will be filmed in 3D," but FIFA as of last weekend had "only struck deals to broadcast them to televisions in three countries, and only one deal is for terrestrial TV," according to Robin Harding of the FINANCIAL TIMES. FIFA currently has agreements with ESPN in the U.S., Sogecable in Spain and SBS in South Korea, and said that it has "received enquiries from more than 25 countries about 3D broadcasts and expects to announce more deals in due course." But the "slow take-up" for the 3D broadcasts "highlights some of the obstacles to launching 3D broadcasts around the world." The World Cup in the U.K. "will only be broadcast in 3D to venues such as cinemas," as U.K. rights holders ITV and the BBC "confirmed that they do not intend to screen matches in the format." Harding noted the main reasons are a "shortage of spectrum space for terrestrial broadcasts and the lack of an agreed standard for how to broadcast in 3D" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/17).

    A SENSE FOR 3D: In Toronto, Kathleen Kenna reports Montreal-based Sensio Technologies has "signed a deal with Aruna Media, which owns the rights to live 3D broadcasting of the World Cup, to use its technology for showing the games in three dimensions." The company has "caught the attention of the industry because it does [3D] without sacrificing high-definition quality, which has been one of the biggest complaints in the past about 3D." Sensio "went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2006, and continues to expand." The company is "armed with $10[M] in new capital" and is "working with manufacturers and engineers to improve 3D technology, aiming at capturing the live events market." It also is "planning for 20 live concerts and sports events a year" (TORONTO STAR, 4/21).

    STRONG ADVERTISER INTEREST: The AP's Ronald Blum previewed TV coverage of the World Cup and noted ad sales "have been strong" for both ESPN and Univision. Univision President of Advertising Sales David Lawenda: "Many of them are treating this like the big event that it is, and launching new creative and really activating brand in a very big way across all of our platforms." The known World Cup advertisers on ESPN and Univision are listed below (AP, 4/20).

    A-B InBev Hyundai
    adidas M&M Mars
    AT&T Miller Brewing
    Cisco Sony
    EA Sports U.S. Marines
    A-B InBev Nationwide
    Allstate Nike
    Best Buy Paramount Pictures
    Castrol State Farm
    Coca-Cola Time Warner Cable
    Comcast T-Mobile
    Corona/Modelo Unilever
    Fujifilm Valvoline
    GM Verizon
    M&M Mars Volkswagen
    Marriot Wal-Mart

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  • Media Notes

    Financial-research firm Sanford Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson yesterday in a report suggested that cable networks "saw more downwards rating pressure than broadcast networks in the first quarter as the Olympics and other big sports events buoyed broadcast trends." Nathanson said, "The broadcasters continued to benefit from sports programming as the NFL playoffs and Winter Olympics helped drive strong trends in January and February" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/21).

    WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST: In DC, Leonard Shapiro wrote Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Mid-Atlantic's coverage of Monday's Capitals-Canadiens Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Three was "almost always a pleasure to watch." However, the "commercialization of the telecast seems a tad excessive." Shapiro: "Do we truly need the 'Ford Keys to the Game,' the 'Manhattan Auto Matchups,' the 'American Service Center Key Fact' and the fishiest of them all, 'Legal Seafood (Sound) Bite of the Night?'" (, 4/20).

    JOINING THE CABLE LINEUP: FS Arizona and its affiliates last Friday launched FS Arizona Plus "so the network can televise" Coyotes and D'Backs games "at the same time" (, 4/19)....NESN is moving tonight's Rangers-Red Sox game to NESNplus, as the Sabres-Bruins Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game Four is on NESN (THE DAILY).

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