SBD/Issue 181/Sports Media

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  • ESPN Banking On NBA Finals Reaching Their 9.0 Rating Guarantee

    ESPN Guarantees 9.0 Rating
    To Advertisers For NBA Finals

    ESPN officials are banking that the marquee Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals matchup will hit their guarantee to advertisers of a 9.0 rating on ABC. Game One of the '09 Lakers-Magic Finals generated a 7.8 national rating and 13 million viewers, while the five-game series averaged a 8.4 rating and 14.3 million viewers. In '08, when the Celtics and Lakers last met in the Finals, the six-game series averaged a 9.3 rating with 14.9 million viewers. Game One two years ago drew a 8.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). Meanwhile, ad sales for Celtics-Lakers are “outpacing last year’s championship series," as ESPN last week had sold “about 95 percent of its advertising inventory.” Each game has 60 advertising units and ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing & Sales President Ed Erhardt said that “all but a handful of units are sold for the Finals.” Erhardt “would not disclose price information,” but a source said that the cost of a 30-second spot in the Finals is "roughly $400,000" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/31 issue).

    GREAT MATCHUP FOR NBA, ABC: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes the NBA "can't go wrong" with the Celtics-Lakers matchup, a "fail-safe series." The series is "good for business," as the presence of the two teams "should attract bigger TV audiences and ratings." The '08 Finals drew the "biggest TV ratings in the last five years." Meanwhile, ticket brokers indicated that tickets for the Finals are "drawing higher prices in the secondary resale market" (USA TODAY, 6/3). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote Celtics-Lakers "should deliver strong audience figures for ABC" (DENVER POST, 5/31). In L.A., Mark Heisler writes, "As if confirming that Lakers-Celtics matchups are a gift, the basketball gods knocked themselves out again, breathing life into the Celtics and healing the Lakers" (L.A. TIMES, 6/3).

    COVERAGE PLANS: The Celtics-Lakers Finals will be televised in 215 countries and territories in 41 languages and streamed on NBA.com via NBA League Pass Broadband Int'l to more than 200 countries and territories. Forty-three broadcast partners will air the series for the first time and 20 partners will broadcast in HD. The Finals for the first time also will be available live in movie theaters throughout Mexico through a partnership with movie theater chain Cinepolis. Meanwhile, more than 280 int'l media members from 36 countries will attend Celtics-Lakers. A record 44 media members will attend from Spain, the home country of Lakers C Pau Gasol. There also will be representatives from the two largest papers in India and Ten Sports, the country's NBA TV partner (NBA). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes ABC's coverage of the Finals will include a "Hall of Fame" montage to "open each game; in-game interviews with coaches, along with each coach being 'wired' for sound; pregame and halftime locker room access; 32 high definition video sources; 'SkyCam' providing aerial views of the action; six Super Slo Mo cameras;" and ESPN Axis "creating virtual replays" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/3).

    DON'T BE SO MODEST: In L.A., Diane Pucin notes ESPN/ABC NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is "self-deprecating" when he "speaks about his broadcasting talents." Van Gundy "mocks his work on pregame set pieces, on the openings and closings," saying, "I'm just not good." But announcer Mike Breen, the "professional announcer of the threesome" that also includes analyst Mark Jackson, said that Van Gundy "doesn't get his own talent." Breen: "He's very good at all of it. He's very much a natural." Jackson added that Van Gundy is "as charmingly honest as TNT's Charles Barkley but with maybe a little better filter" (L.A. TIMES, 6/3). Van Gundy, when asked to "critique his skills as a game analyst," said, "I would say irritating to some. Irritating to myself sometimes. ... Because I don't have a background in broadcasting, I'm sort of unknowledgeable about when we have a good broadcast. I have not improved in that stuff you do at the start, the openings. That's still hard for me. Tried to get a little bit better at the highlights, when they come back with the replay." But Breen said, "I'm sorry, this is fake humility. I do agree with his assessment that he is irritating to some. I thought he was right on the money with that" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/3).

    POOR TASTE: In Boston, Shanahan & Goldstein noted the L.A. Times Tuesday "pulled from its website" a column by KTLA-CW Senior Sports Producer Ted Green, a part-time contributor to LATimes.com. The column, "titled 'Your Guide to Hating the Celtics,' included this gem: '(Paul) Pierce's idea of a fun night is going clubbing and getting stabbed. Good times!'" Green later said, "That one was something I probably should apologize for. That one was not only too close to the line, but maybe over" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). Pierce in '00 was severely wounded after being stabbed multiple times in a Boston nightclub (THE DAILY).

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  • NBA Testing New Social Media Outlets During Celtics-Lakers

    The NBA for the Celtics-Lakers Finals is implementing several test expansions of its social media presence, seeking to build upon already robust followings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Among the new initiatives include a Facebook-based version of its online NBA Store, created in partnership with California-based developer Milyoni Inc., and new NBA destinations within social media hubs Foursquare, Gowalla and SayNow. Foursquare and Gowalla are both location-based social networking sites where fans can receive virtual badges or passport stamps by congregating within dedicated Finals-specific areas created for those destinations. SayNow, meanwhile, uses voice messaging for interaction, and NBA players will record personal messages during the Finals that can be accessed within SayNow or via Twitter and Facebook. The efforts in large part represent a test for potentially broader implementations on the platforms for the '10-11 season. To that end, the new destinations are not yet revenue generators. NBA VP/Marketing Melissa Brenner: "We're looking to be as nimble as possible and set up opportunities wherever we can. Our fans are there in these places, and we want to be there with them. So we're looking to learn a lot and once we have proven success stories, we'll look to bring in our (corporate) partners." The NBA, along with its individual teams and players, now has more than 38 million combined followers on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • NBA Conference Finals Ratings Saw Double-Digit Percentage Drop

    The NBA Conference Finals saw a double-digit percentage drop in ratings this postseason on ABC, ESPN and TNT. Game One of the Celtics-Magic Eastern Conference Finals was ABC's lone telecast of the series, averaging a 4.5 rating (7.1 million viewers) on a Sunday afternoon. That game was down 17% from the net's lone Conference Finals telecast last year, which featured Lakers-Nuggets Game Three on a Saturday night. ESPN's five Celtics-Magic telecasts averaged a 4.5 U.S. rating, down 15% from the same number of telecasts for last year's Lakers-Nuggets series. Meanwhile, TNT's coverage of the Lakers-Suns Western Conference Finals this year averaged a 4.8 U.S. rating for six telecasts, down 11% from the net's comparable coverage in '09 of the Magic-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals. The net's Lakers-Suns Game Three last Thursday marked the highest-rated and most-viewed Conference Finals game, averaging a 5.3 U.S. rating and 8.67 million viewers.

    PLAYOFFS TO DATE: The '10 NBA Playoffs to date have marked the league's second most-viewed postseason on record, behind only last year's record-setting numbers. ESPN saw U.S. ratings for its '10 postseason coverage decline 3% for 19 telecasts, while viewership was down 6%. However, ESPN's NBA Playoff telecasts in primetime were the most-viewed cable telecast for their respective nights for nine of 10 telecasts. Those telecasts were also tops among males 18-34 for nine of the 10 primetime telecasts. TNT's 39 telecasts averaged a 2.8 U.S. rating and 4.3 million viewers, down 10% and 9%, respectively, from 43 games last year. TNT's primetime NBA Playoff telecasts also won 17 of 25 nights, and was tops among males 18-34 for 22 of those 25 nights. Despite the year-over-year decline from '09, NBA Playoff telecasts on TNT/ESPN this postseason accounted for nine of the top 10 most-viewed telecasts on all of cable this year. Heading into the NBA Finals, ABC's postseason ratings are down 3% from a year ago. The net last year averaged an 8.4 rating (14.3 million viewers) for the five-game Lakers-Magic Finals matchup; Celtics-Lakers in '08 averaged a 9.3 rating (14.9 million viewers) for six games.

    NBA CONFERENCE FINALS
    NET
    GMS
    RATING
    % +/-
    VIEWERS (000)
    % +/-
    GMS ('09)
    TNT
    6
    4.8
    -11.1%
    7,854
    -9.0%
    6
    ABC
    1
    4.5
    -16.7%
    7,030
    -19.5%
    1
    ESPN
    5
    4.5
    -15.1%
    7,134
    -17.9%
    5
    NBA PLAYOFFS THROUGH CONFERENCE FINALS
    NET
    GMS
    RATING
    % +/-
    VIEWERS (000)
    % +/-
    GMS ('09)
    ABC
    9
    3.4
    -2.9%
    5,258
    -1.7%
    10
    ESPN
    19
    3.0
    -3.2%
    4,596
    -6.1%
    19
    TNT
    39
    2.8
    -9.7%
    4,298
    -8.7%
    43

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  • Kicking The Tires: MLS, Versus In Early Discussions On Carriage

    MLS Officials Reportedly Impressed With
    Versus' Coverage Of The NHL

    MLS "could be eyeing a move to Versus, as the two sides have begun very early discussions," according to sources cited by Ben Grossman of BROADCASTING & CABLE. Officials from both sides "have met once," though neither MLS Commissioner Don Garber nor Versus President Jamie Davis were present, and another meeting is "tentatively planned to take place in the coming weeks." While the talks are "completely in their infancy and no deal is remotely on the table or has been discussed," MLS officials reportedly are "impressed with the way Versus has treated its coverage" of the NHL. But MLS execs "may just be looking to fan the soccer flames and capitalize on the halo effect that the World Cup is sure to provide the sport." The league currently has deals on English-language television with ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel, but the Fox deal is "up at the end of the season." Grossman: "Drumming up talks with potential suitors is a typical strategy for a property heading into talks over a new deal -- and in this case, MLS would hope to push Fox Soccer Channel to give them stronger terms in a potential renewal" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 6/3).

    THIS IS GOING TO BE EPIC: Fox Soccer Channel and Watercooler Inc. are launching a game for Facebook called "Epic Goal." Similar to other Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars, "Epic Goal" allows the social media network's users to form teams, train players and play against other virtual teams. "Epic Goal" also will be available at FoxSoccer.com/epicgoal. It will debut in English before the start of the World Cup, with a Spanish-language version launching soon after. Other languages, including German, French and Italian, will launch later this year (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

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  • Versus Making Pro Baseball Debut With Strasburg's Minors Finale

    Versus Airing Simulcast Of
    Strasburg Minor League Start

    Versus will air the first pro baseball game in the network's history this afternoon when P Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his final minor league start before joining the Nationals next Tuesday. The Syracuse Chiefs-Buffalo Bisons game will air at 1:05pm ET today, with Bisons announcers Ben Wagner and Duke McGuire handling the call. SportsNet N.Y. will handle the production. Versus will have its logo on the corner of the screen, but the broadcast will be a simulcast of SNY’s coverage. The net will re-air the game at 7:00pm. Versus’ initial broadcast will be blacked out in the N.Y. market. Versus Exec VP/Programming, Production & Business Operations Marc Fein noted airing the game came in part from the hype surrounding Strasburg’s minor league stint this season, as well as the buzz he is creating in DC. “This is his last minor league start, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to see if we could take advantage of it,” Fein said. He noted the agreement with SNY is similar to deals used during the NHL Playoffs to simulcast games nationally. Meanwhile, MASN will air the game at 7:00pm tonight (Rick Ellington, THE DAILY).

    MLB DEBUT GETTING NATIONAL COVERAGE: FANHOUSE.com's Josh Alper reported MLB Network will air Tuesday night's Pirates-Nationals game, which is scheduled to be Strasburg's MLB debut. Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and John Smoltz will be "in the booth offering their thoughts on the action." The three-man crew is a "good team for the game." Costas "knows the history of baseball well and can offer some context about Strasburg's debut," while Kaat and Smoltz "will be able to offer first-hand insight into the pitcher's mechanics and stuff." Meanwhile, Nationals President Stan Kasten indicated that Tuesday's game "is essentially sold out." The team "has no more single-game tickets left," though some tickets remain "as part of larger packages" (FANHOUSE.com, 6/2). ESPN's Buster Olney said on "SportsCenter" yesterday, "This is going to be like a rock concert. He's become like baseball's Springsteen" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/3). CSNWashington.com’s Mark Zuckerman said Strasburg’s debut "is the biggest story in baseball this year, and it is happening in Washington DC." Zuckerman: "DC baseball is relevant I think really for the first time since they came back in town” ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 6/2). 

    THE TALK OF THE TOWN: SI's Joe Posnanski notes Strasburg "has been the talk of baseball since the Nationals made him the top pick in the draft last June," and he will make the "most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen" when he makes his first MLB start. The biggest reason Strasburg "makes everyone who sees him starry-eyed is this: He's as good as the hype. He might be even better." The Nationals have "tried their best to shield Strasburg." He only talks to the media "on days he pitches," and the team has "kept him on a strict pitch count." However, while the "careful handling of Strasburg is meant to ease the pressure on him, it has only increased the hype around him." His minor league starts "have become major events," as he has attracted the "two biggest crowds ever to watch baseball in Syracuse." Posnanski notes Strasburg is "at the heart of DC's sports hopes," and he "seems equipped to handle it." Former MLB manager Joe Altobelli said, "You know why there's so much talk about this kid? It's because they don't make them like him anymore" (SI, 6/7 issue).

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  • ESPN Exec Says 3D Offers Opportunity To Better Serve Sports Fans

     

    Commercial 3D TV "will officially launch in the U.S. in less than two weeks, when the ESPN 3D channel begins its coverage of the FIFA World Cup on June 11," and ESPN VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches said that 3D "represents an opportunity to better serve the sports fan, just like HD back in 2003," according to Glen Dickson of BROADCASTING & CABLE. ESPN has been "driving much of 3D's development on the production side over the past two years, producing a series of test broadcasts with 3D specialist PACE and creating a dedicated lab in Orlando." Bratches: "It seems to be a technology that's on the move, and it's an opportunity to serve our core constituency." ESPN 3D "will reach more than 40 million homes" upon its launch with carriage on DirecTV and Comcast already lined up, putting the channel "well ahead of ESPN's first HD channel, which initially secured carriage with a handful of small cable operators." Bratches said that consumer awareness of 3D is "probably better than it was for HD at a similar point in that technology's life cycle, and predicted that by 2019, 3D penetration will still lag HD but will be somewhat ahead of DVR penetration." Meanwhile, Bratches said running 3D spots on ESPN 3D is "preaching to the converted." He contends that the "much larger advertising opportunity" for ESPN 3D is in "running commercials for 3D sets on its 2D networks, which the sports giant is already doing" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 5/31 issue). Bratches noted that "being the first mass 3DTV programmer is important to the ESPN brand and to helping advertisers -- particularly TV equipment makers like ESPN 3D partner Sony -- drive business opportunities." When asked if ESPN has any new affiliates to announce, Bratches said, "We're continuing to move on that front" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 5/31 issue).

    MAJOR SELLING POINT: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand notes ESPN3.com "will stream every World Cup match live online," and ESPN is "rolling out the biggest marketing push ever behind the five-year-old broadband service to reach both hard-core soccer fans ... and more casual fans interested in watching big events." ESPN3.com is "being pushed by ESPN executives," who are "convinced that added attention from the World Cup will bring it more into the mainstream." ESPN Digital Media Senior VP & GM John Kosner: "The World Cup is going to be a breakthrough event for us. We're going to hit ESPN3 very hard there." Ourand notes the "expectations for ESPN3.com are gaudy," as ESPN officials "aren't shy about predicting record traffic for the site -- well into the millions of viewers." Those expected online crowds "helped ESPN sell a presenting sponsorship for ESPN3.com's World Cup coverage to EA Sports' '2010 FIFA World Cup' game." ESPN officials "see the World Cup as a pivotal point in the growth" of the site, as the tournament's schedule appeals "directly to the service's strengths," with games occurring in the middle of the workday. The net believes ESPN3.com's viewership "will hit record numbers from office workers that don’t have access to televisions" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/31 issue).

    Italy, South Korea Theaters To Air
    World Cup Games In 3D

    3D ON THE BIG SCREEN: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eric Lyman reports this year's World Cup "will be the first in Italy to be available in 3D, with selected games screening on 20 movie screens that are part of the network run by the company Space Cinema." Around a dozen "key matches starting in the final days of the second round" will air, including all games "from that point and onward featuring Italy." The June 24 Italy-Slovakia game will be the first to air (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/3). Meanwhile, movie theaters in South Korea will air the country's World Cup matches "live in 3D to lure fans away from their televisions at home." Major chains like CGV, Lotte Cinema and MegaBox have "signed deals with SBS, the Seoul-based broadcaster that has the exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament in Korea" (AFP, 6/2).

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  • YES Using New Slo-Mo Camera With Up To 1,000 Frames Per Second

    YES Network Will Use Super Slow-Motion
    Camera For All Remaining Home Games

    YES Network has signed a deal with Chicago-based Fletcher Sports to use a super slow-motion camera, dubbed for now YES-MO, for the rest of the year, using it for all remaining home games and select road games. Building upon technology introduced earlier this year at the annual show for the National Association of Broadcasters, the native HD camera is able to show slow-motion replays of up to 1,000 frames per second, roughly 11 times some other slow-motion systems, and is also usable for normal live production as well. SportsNet N.Y. in April participated in the initial tests of the super slow-motion system, and continues to use it periodically this season as the technology finds rapid acceptance with both regional and national broadcasters. "We believe there is real value in this, and that it presents a huge enhancement to the broadcast. It's definitely a hot topic in the industry," said Ed Delaney, YES Network VP/Operations of the super slow-motion cameras. "And we're fortunate that we have management that wants to be out on the forefront." YES is now working on finding a corporate sponsor for YES-MO, similar to several other sponsored in-game broadcast elements it has.

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  • Media Notes

    CBC, NBC Seeing Strong Stanley Cup Final
    Numbers Despite Lack Of Canadian Teams

    In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote the Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final is "working wonders for both CBC and NBC." The CBC averaged 3.164 million viewers for Saturday's Game One and 2.775 million viewers for Monday's Game Two, numbers that are "always welcome at CBC -- especially when no Canadian team is involved" (THESTAR.com, 6/2). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote there is no "logical correlation between the NHL's success" during the postseason "and the success of hockey at the Winter Games." Wyshynski: "The nationally televised regular season games that were shown in the weeks after the Olympics didn't have significantly higher ratings, but the playoffs are up because of the Olympics? Makes zero sense" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/2).

    WORLD WATCHING: DIGITALSPY.com's Andrew Laughlin reports the BBC "has outlined its World Cup coverage plans across all platforms." BBC One "will carry all of the corporation's allocated matches at the World Cup, with BBC HD also running an extensive schedule of ties during the tournament." The BBC will televise one of England's group stage matches, the June 23 game against Slovenia. If England advances past the group stage, the BBC "will air the team's last-16 and quarterfinal matches," while the BBC and ITV "will jointly show the final and a semi-final if England reach that stage." Laughlin noted all BBC matches "will be streamed live in high quality video on the corporation's site, which will also carry selected highlights from non-BBC games" (DIGITALSPY.com, 6/3). EPL Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and EPL Fulham manager Roy Hodsgon will serve as studio analysts for the BBC's World Cup coverage (BBC.co.uk, 6/2).

    THE PERFECT STORM: Tigers P Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game last night led to massively increased ratings for both ESPN and MLB Network. MLB Net said its ratings jumped by a whopping 330% in metered markets from 8:00-9:00pm ET as Galarraga pitched the final innings in his quest for MLB's third perfect game this season. Meanwhile, ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said on Twitter the net's overnight rating increased 57% as it cut to live action of the game (John Ourand, THE DAILY). In L.A., Diane Pucin wrote in the "good old days about two, three years ago, we'd switch immediately to ESPN and hope for a highlight" from MLB games. But now "we switch to the MLB Network and within seconds we see the play" (LATIMES.com, 6/2).

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