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Disney and Time Warner Cable have agreed to the framework of a deal that will ensure that TWC will not drop ESPN or ABC this week as its current contract comes to an end, sources told THE DAILY. A new agreement may be announced this week, though it may take much longer for the deal to be signed formally. One of the sticking points during negotiations was with ESPN's broadband service, ESPN3, though sources said it appears that is part of the new deal and will become available to TWC's broadband subscribers. Another sticking point -- the price to be paid for ABC's O&Os -- also was settled, though it is not yet known how much TWC agreed to pay. The two companies agreed to take down all of their marketing targeting the dispute, which included ads in newspapers, radio and local TV. Both sides released a statement saying that they "have made significant progress in our negotiations for continued distribution of ABC, Disney and ESPN networks and services. We are now focusing all our attention on a successful conclusion of these efforts prior to the September 2 deadline" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). In N.Y., Claire Atkinson cites a source as saying that it "would be surprising if Disney took less" than $0.40 per subscriber per month for ABC, "but the bigger question was just how much of a raise ESPN gets" (N.Y. POST, 8/30). Sources indicated that "all major substantive issues had been tentatively settled, and the two sides are now working to finalize language of an agreement." Sources noted that in recent days, the two companies "bridged a gap on an issue that has been at the center" of the negotiations: what TWC "should pay Disney to offer its local ABC TV stations to subscribers." The sources also indicated that the two sides "previously forged a tentative agreement on what Time Warner Cable would pay for at least some of ESPN's suite of cable channels" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/30).
Fox Earns Its Best NFL Preseason Overnight
Since '03 For Last Night's Steelers-Broncos
Fox earned a 6.8 overnight Nielsen rating for last night's Steelers-Broncos preseason game, marking the net's best preseason overnight since Cowboys-Steelers earned the same overnight in '03. Last night's telecast is down 6.8% from a 7.3 overnight on the same night last year, when NBC carried Bears-Broncos. Fox' third preseason game last year, Dolphins-Buccaneers, earned a 4.4 overnight on a Thursday night. The Steelers-Broncos game peaked at a 7.5 rating from 10:00-10:30pm ET. The game earned a 31.4 in Pittsburgh and a 22.9 in Denver. Fox also finished second last night among all nets in primetime behind NBC, which earned a 10.1 overnight for the Primetime Emmy Awards. The 10.1 overnight is up slightly from '09, when the awards show aired on CBS during Week Two of the NFL regular season. Meanwhile, CBS earned a 4.5 overnight for Cowboys-Texans on Saturday night, up 40.6% from a 3.2 for Chargers-Falcons on the same night last year. The net also earned a 4.0 overnight on Friday night for Chargers-Saints, down 18.4% from a 4.9 for Patriots-Redskins on the same night last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
HALLOWEEN SHOWDOWN: DAILY VARIETY's Stuart Levine wrote the NFL's "monolithic presence weights heavily across the entire TV landscape," and the league "casts such a large shadow that it impacts other sports." The World Series "will be nervous on Halloween night as it finds itself going up against the broadcast primetime game of the week for the first time." The NFL in previous years "would take Sunday night off when the World Series is slated," but that is no longer the case. Both the NFL and MLB "had a chance to blink and re-sked their games when they discovered what the other had planned," but neither "backed down." Fox Sports President Eric Shanks: "You have to adjust yourself to the new world. This won't be the last time this happens. The World Series has performed amazingly well against tough competition in the past and we're as confident as we've ever been." Levine noted advertisers are "betting that the World Series, in general, will be OK," as Fox has "already sold out ad inventory for the first five games, including the fourth game that faces off against the NFL" (DAILY VARIETY, 8/28).
PLENTY OF CHOICES: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht wrote the city's KOKH-Fox has a "pleasant problem with its NFL telecasts -- too much of a good thing in the NFC." The net already is "blessed with an abundance of telecasts with two powerhouses" in the Cowboys and Vikings, but the presence of No. 1 draft pick and former Univ. of Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford on the Rams has also "made that team a hot property here." The Cowboys "certainly will get their due with nine games" on KOKH, and the Vikings, who boast former OU RB Adrian Peterson, "made strong inroads last season with a 13.6 ratings average" in the city. Only two Rams telecasts are on KOKH's "preliminary schedule" this season, but KOKH GM John Rossi said that the station "would be interested in more Rams games' earlier in the season, if Bradford is playing" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 8/28).
Silver Chalice Ventures, the ancillary business unit formed by the White Sox, has taken an undisclosed equity position in 3D-4U Inc., a Virginia-based virtual reality outfit, and will be representing the technology company as it seeks partnerships with various sports entities. 3D-4U has developed a panoramic system of camera pods enabling the production and distribution of both 2D and 3D live broadcasts with full user control over camera angles and replays. The 3D-4U camera system is compatible for both TV and broadband platforms, and through its 360-degree field of view, provides a high degree of fan immersion. "We see just a ton of potential in this company and think they've got an absolutely cutting edge way of experiencing a live event," said Silver Chalice Ventures COO Jason Coyle. He added he has had extensive discussions with several sports media outlets, with some partnerships to distribute the 3D-4U technology potentially soon forthcoming. The 3D-4U platform for the immediate future is being positioned more as an online companion to traditional live broadcast, but "eventually, we think this becomes more of a primary broadcast tool," Coyle said. "It's a different way of experiencing a live event, but it really unlocks that feeling of actually being there."
The WAC "launched its own television network Friday designed to grant more exposure to its teams," according to Daniel Lyght of the FRESNO BEE. The WAC Sports Network "will boost the league's visibility to 15 total regional markets in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Louisiana." Fresno State and Nevada are planning to leave the WAC for the Mountain West Conference, but Fresno State Associate AD for Broadcasting & External Relations Paul Ladwig said that the "one-year television arrangement will not affect the number of Fresno State football and basketball games seen on TV or the amount of money the school will spend on broadcasts." Ladwig added that the deal for the TV net is "expected to bring in the same amount of money for Fresno State, but since the school will sacrifice some WAC revenue because it's leaving the league, it is an issue that still needs to be addressed." Meanwhile, Lyght noted news of the syndicated network comes "amid further signs" that Fresno State and Nevada want out "as soon as possible." WAC Commissioner Karl Benson Friday said that he "received notice from Fresno State of its desire to leave the league for the Mountain West Conference before next fall," and Nevada President Milt Glick said that he "has sent a letter to the WAC stating the school's plans to leave by then as well" (FRESNO BEE, 8/28). In Boise, Chadd Cripe noted the WAC Sports Network will air as many as 15 football games and "also will be used for basketball games." The TV agreement is "between the WAC, Learfield Sports and TV stations throughout the WAC footprint" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 8/28).
INDEPENDENT SPIRIT: In Salt Lake City, Jay Drew reports "indications abound that Brigham Young University is still doggedly pursuing a plan to go independent in football and has been in simultaneous membership negotiations with both the Western Athletic Conference and the West Coast Conference for the rest of its non football sports teams." E-mails and internal documents that surfaced Sunday indicated that Benson had "preliminary discussions with ESPN in June in which the television sports giant indicated a WAC-BYU agreement might result in a 300 percent increase in television revenue over the roughly $500,000 per school currently being received by WAC institutions" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/30).
Open Sports Secures Additional Venture Capital
Funds As Company Readies Fantasy Live Product
Open Sports has raised $3M in additional venture-capital funding for the company, ending a brief period in which Chair & Founder Mike Levy was self-funding the operation. The money was raised through a private round involving previous Open Sports investors, many of whom are friends and business colleagues of Levy, a former SportsLine.com exec. The new round adds to two prior ones totaling $14M. The fantasy sports start-up, meanwhile, is readying several new football products that now comprise the flagship representation of the company. Operating the suite of games under the brand name Fantasy Live, Open Sports' new Fantasy Live Challenge is an ultra-short form fantasy football game in which each game is played in 20 minutes during the Sunday 1:00pm ET NFL games, with unlimited real-time, in-game roster substitutions. Fast Draft Challenge is a salary cap game played in one-week increments, similar to Open Sports' NASCAR fantasy game launched earlier this year, and Fantasy Football Commissioner is a traditional, season-long commissioner-style game. But Fantasy Live Challenge is primarily the game that Levy founded the company upon in '08, but did not have it ready for commercial use in time for the '09 football season. Open Sports is supporting Fantasy Live Challenge with its own, custom-built statistics and live scoring system, rather than contracting out to a third-party outfit, in order to minimize delay between actual NFL plays and their entry into the Fantasy Live Challenge game. "We've got something that nobody else does, and something I believe is the future of fantasy," Levy said of Fantasy Live Challenge. "We believe this is going to be very addictive." Open Sports remains in partnership with Fox Sports.
In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted NESN's announcers "will be stationed stateside" for the net's broadcasts of the Oct. 9-10 Bruins-Coyotes games in Prague "because of the prohibitive cost of shuttling personnel and equipment to the Czech Republic." Meanwhile, former NHLer Aaron Ward will serve as a "part-time studio analyst for Versus, where he'll be sharing space with Mike Milbury, who will continue his NESN duties as well" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/29)....In Minneapolis, Michael Russo reported all 82 Wild regular-season games will be televised this season "for the first time in history," as well as two preseason games. FS North "will televise a total of 50 games" and KSTC-Ind. will air 24 games. The Wild are scheduled to make 10 national TV appearances (STARTRIBUNE.com, 8/27).
Wie Not A Main Focus Of
CBC's Early Coverage
RUSTY GOLF GAME: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich notes the CBC "doesn't do golf very often and that lack of repetition exhibited itself loud and clearly during the final round" of the LPGA CN Canadian Women's Open yesterday. The coverage "got better as the day went on and was pretty good in the last hour, but the first couple of hours were a bit of mess." The CBC "decided viewers would rather watch" Canadian Lorie Kane, who "wasn't a contender, than the leaders." Viewers saw more of Kane "in the early going than they did co-leaders" Michelle Wie and Jiyai Shin. But the CBC's "worst crime came as eventual winner Wie lined up a birdie putt on the seventh." Instead of "hearing analysis or even an explanation of what was happening, viewers got a lengthy interview with the sponsor in which they learned that share prices are up and that the guy gave an interesting speech during the week" (TORONTO STAR, 8/30).
CHILD'S PLAY: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN's Karl Ravech and Bobby Valentine did a "good job" during their coverage of the Little League World Series. Ravech and Valentine "addressed 12-year-olds as kids, not as participants in some scouting combine looking to be graded on their hard, breaking stuff" (N.Y. POST, 8/30). But in S.F., Scott Ostler awards his "Knucklehead Of The Week" to ESPN and "anyone over 12 watching the Little League World Series on TV." There is "something weird about millions watching tots play baseball, with former big-league stars providing the TV color commentary." Ostler: "I have better ways to spend my time" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/29).
ON A WINNING STREAK: The Northwoods League, a summer collegiate baseball league based in the upper Midwest, has signed a deal with Pointstreak Sports Technologies Inc. to be an initial client of the Canadian technology outfit's new Live Publisher system. The Live Publisher system directly integrates live scoring with video editing ability, enabling nearly real-time tagging, creation and distribution of digital video highlights. For Pointstreak, the Northwoods League deal is the first part of a major sales effort for Live Publisher to be conducted through North America, particularly in its base sports of baseball, hockey and lacrosse (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).