ESPN Begins Laying Off Around 100 Personalities Where Does NASCAR Go With Dale Jr. Leaving? Manfred: Bush-Jeter Deal For Marlins Not Done David Abrutyn's Career Intertwined With Caps History FedEx Signs Multiyear NFL Extension Learfield Brings On Gil Beverly, Jack Patterson Officials Break Ground On Pro Football HOF Village Hotel Woods' Endorsement Deals Suffer From Layoff Minding My Business: Williams Martini Racing's Richard Berry ESPN Cuts Drive Discussion On Twitter
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Kentucky Derby Remaining On NBC After
Posting Strong Ratings In Recent Years
NBC has taken the first step to try and consolidate all three of horse racing's Triple Crown races on one network by renewing its deal with the Kentucky Derby. The network held off a strong challenge from Fox to sign a five-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $5M per year to keep the rights, sources say. Fox' presence in the bidding process was unexpected, according to several sources. NBC's previous Kentucky Derby deal was over five years and worth $44M. The new deal also includes the rights to the Kentucky Oaks, a race that takes place on the Friday before the Derby. For the past two years, NBC-owned Bravo has carried the race. Once Comcast's acquisition of NBC gains regulatory approval, those could wind up on Versus. A formal announcement could come as early as today. The owners of the tracks that run the three races have been looking into finding one TV home, believing that will make selling sponsorships and drawing TV viewers easier. The Triple Crown has not had a title sponsor since '05, the last time all three races were on the same network (NBC). At that time, Visa signed on to be the title sponsor of the Triple Crown. When ABC/ESPN picked off the Belmont in '05, Visa decided to sponsor only the Kentucky Derby.
NBC NEGOTIATING PREAKNESS RENEWAL: With the Kentucky Derby now secured, NBC is negotiating to renew its TV deal for the Preakness Stakes, and has made no secret of its interest in winning back the Belmont Stakes. Even though it never entered serious discussions to pick up the Kentucky Derby, ABC says it will bid aggressively to keep the Belmont. "We enjoy our relationship with the Belmont Stakes," an ESPN spokesperson said. NBC has placed increased importance on its Derby telecasts over the past two years, rolling out its all-encompassing marketing plan to drive viewership. The move has paid off, as the race has drawn strong ratings for the past two years. It posted a 9.8 rating in '09 and '10, the race's highest rating since '90. Last year, it drew 16.54 million viewers, the highest figure since '89.
TBS Praised For Coverage
Of Halladay's No-Hitter
TBS gave viewers of the Reds-Phillies NLDS Game One a "great front-row seat" for Phillies P Roy Halladay's no-hitter last night, according to John Keisewetter of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. The net used 19 cameras and 14 replay machines to show how Halladay "baffled batters by mixing speeds and locations," joining Don Larsen as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter or perfect game in the postseason. Announcer Brian Anderson and analyst Joe Simpson during the second half of the game "put Halladay's performance in perspective." They also were "smart enough to say nothing after" the last out of the game, allowing viewers to "hear the crowd roar for about two minutes while Halladay was mobbed by his teammates and fireworks exploded overhead." Keisewetter: "It made you feel like you were there" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 10/7). Anderson said calling the no-hitter was the "greatest moment" of his career. MLB.com's Ed Eagle noted Anderson did break "one of the unwritten baseball broadcasting rules" by telling viewers "that Halladay had a no-hitter going." However, his "primary concern was making sure that people who were tuning in wouldn't skip past the game, unaware that they might soon see something legendary unfold." Anderson: "I don't do jinxes. ... You have to mention a no-hitter" (MLB.com, 10/6).
NO FIRST-GAME JITTERS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes under the header, "TBS Broadcast Team Of Ernie Johnson, John Smoltz, Ron Darling Have A Rapport During Yankees Game 1." The telecast of Yankees-Twins was "not spectacular, not even close," but Johnson, Smoltz and Darling "left plenty of reasons to return and check them out" during Game Two tonight. Smoltz "dominated the booth," while Darling "countered well," while Johnson was an "upgrade" over former TBS MLB announcer Chip Caray. Raissman writes it "wasn't all smooth sailing," but "on balance, Johnson had a good night. He was a good setup man for Smoltz and Darling" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/7). SI’s Richard Deitsch wrote on his Twitter feed, “EJ might need to bring up the energy level but no comparison with Chip. Far better.” However, Johnson received some grief for a call during the top of the seventh inning. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann wrote, “Did Ernie Johnson really just say ‘this game is tied’ precisely as the Yankees' LEAD run crossed the plate.” “Late Show” writer Eric Stangel: “Was Ernie Johnson checking his blackberry for that 2-run Granderson triple? He didn't seem to know it was a lead changer.” Broadcasting & Cable’s Ben Grossman: “Not sure people tweet positives about sports announcers, but put the words ‘Ernie Johnson’ into Twitter search at 10 pm PT and it was ugly.” Meanwhile, SportsBusiness Journal’s Eric Fisher wrote, “Hey Ron Darling, you've come a huge way in 5 yrs but nobody under 35 understood your comparing the Tex HR to a Reggie Roby punt. Ridiculous.”
PRIMETIME WORTHY? Yesterday's Reds-Phillies game began at 5:07pm ET, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said of the start time, "The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in major league baseball. It seems to me they should be in prime time." MLB VP/Business PR Matt Bourne said that the schedule "was set to allow fans around the country to 'see the most baseball possible'" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/7).
COCO B. WARE: TBS has used the MLB Playoffs as a platform to promote several of its upcoming shows since it gained postseason rights. The net made sure viewers were aware of the launch of "Frank TV" by highly promoting it in '07, while it highlighted "Lopez Tonight," TBS' first venture into late-night talk shows, last year. It appears "Conan," the talk show starring former NBC host Conan O'Brien that debuts next month, will be the program receiving the most promotion this year from the net. O'Brien's show was featured in 18 total promotions yesterday during TBS' MLB coverage -- 10 commercials, five on-screen mentions during play (including two shots of TBS' "Conan" blimp during Reds-Phillies) and a half-inning of signage behind home plate during each game (Joe Burger, THE DAILY).
Heat Preseason Debut Of Bosh (l), James
Brings Sun Sports Record Ratings
Sun Sports pulled amazing TV numbers for the Heat's opening preseason game against the Pistons, which marked the debut of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the same team. Tuesday night's 6.5 rating was the RSN's highest-rated Heat game of any kind -- pre-, regular- or postseason -- since a playoff against the Knicks in April '98. The game also marked the Heat's highest-rated preseason game ever. The Heat averaged a 2.48 rating during the '09-10 regular season. Tuesday night's rating peaked between 9:15-9:30pm ET with a 7.9 rating (John Ourand, THE DAILY). NBA TV broadcast the Pistons-Heat game, and the net's Steve Smith said the game was the "most anticipated preseason game in all of NBA history, and probably in all of sports history." NBA TV's Marv Albert added the game has to "be considered the most hyped preseason game in NBA history" (NBA TV, 10/5).
DON'T MESS WITH THE BULLS, SON: Comcast SportsNet Chicago earned a 2.54 local rating and 89,000 total households in Chicago for Tuesday night's Bulls-Bucks preseason game, the highest-rated preseason game ever on the net. The game also is the highest-rated preseason contest on any Chicago-based RSN since SportsChannel Chicago earned a 3.2 rating in October '97, Michael Jordan's last season with the team (CSN Chicago).
Verizon will add three ESPN channels to its FiOS lineup thanks to a carriage extension signed by the two companies. FiOS will add ESPN 3D, ESPN Gold Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater, in addition to Disney Junior. As part of the long-term agreement, it also will allow Verizon to stream the full channels of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater to PCs or tablets. This deal is similar to the one ESPN signed with Time Warner Cable last month and will make sure that all customers who stream the channels are authenticated as Verizon customers. The deal will make progamming from Disney XD and ABC Family available to Verizon Wireless' V Cast Video subs later this year. ESPN Exec VP/Affiliate Sales & Marketing David Preschlack said, "This new agreement represents the ever-evolving landscape of the media industry. Gone are the days of linear channel distribution only."
IndyCar Viewership Up 16%
On Versus From '09
The '10 Izod IndyCar Series' second season on Versus averaged 366,000 viewers for 12 telecasts, an increase of 16.2% from 315,000 viewers last year, but still a long way from the 778,000 viewers that ESPN/ESPN2 averaged in '08 for 11 races. The season finale Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw a 34% jump in viewers from last year, benefiting from Versus being in 11 million more homes this October compared to the finale in October '09. Versus aired the final seven races of the '10 season, averaging 316,000 viewers for those events. That is up 8.2% from 292,000 viewers for the net's final seven telecasts last year. ABC's four telecasts, which included the Indianapolis 500, averaged 2.696 million viewers, up 2.3% from 2.636 million viewers in '09 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Tripp Mickle notes in addition to "television and attendance increases, the series added 14 new sponsors in the last 12 months." Izod IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard: "I feel really good about where we’re at. When we did the deal with Versus, it was with long-term thinking and confidence in Comcast. When they’re able to close this acquisition with NBC, it’s going to be a big positive” (SBJ, 10/4 issue).'10 IZOD INDYCAR SERIES RACE-BY-RACE VIEWERSHIPDATERACEVENUENETSTART (ET)VIEWERS (000)3/14Sao Paulo Indy 300Streets of São PauloVersus11:54am4113/29Honda Grand Prix of
St. Petersburg*Streets of St. PetersburgESPN2n/an/a4/11
Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Barber Motorsports ParkVersus3:49pm3104/18 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Streets of Long BeachVersus4:21pm4905/1 Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 Kansas SpeedwayABC1:30pm9695/30 Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis Motor
Firestone 550k Texas Motor SpeedwayVersus8:04pm5186/20 Iowa Corn Indy 250 Iowa SpeedwayVersus2:07pm4007/4 Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen Watkins Glen Int'lABC3:30pm1,0857/18 Honda Indy Toronto Streets of TorontoABC3:30pm1,3487/25 Honda Indy Edmonton Edmonton City
Honda Indy 200 Mid-Ohio Sports
Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County Infineon RacewayVersus5:41pm3868/28 Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 Chicagoland SpeedwayVersus7:42pm3759/4 Kentucky 300 Kentucky SpeedwayVersus8:43pm2519/19 Indy Japan 300 Twin Ring MotegiVersus12:04am18110/2 Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 Homestead-Miami
NOTE: * = race was scheduled for ABC, but was rained out on Sunday and run on the following Monday on ESPN2.
New App Helps Coaches
Decide Player Rotations
In N.Y., Bob Tedeschi reviews several new smart phone apps that can be used by coaches of youth sports leagues and writes the Bench Coach app is “fairly good but not great.” The app’s “potentially best feature is its ability to help track the team members’ playing time.” You can “select one of eight sports on the list, type in your roster and attach photos.” The app “then allows you to set player rotations” so that each team member “plays the same amount of time.” Bench Coach “includes a clock that you can easily match to the game clock to account for time outs and other stops in the game, though it adds a task that might be difficult to manage in the heat of the match.” Meanwhile, the 23 Ways to Destroy Defense app “features full-speed, step-by-step video instruction of offensive moves as they are performed by NBA stars” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/7).
NEVER MISS A MINUTE: YinzCam Inc. said that it launched a smart phone app for the Steelers on Sunday that “expands the Carnegie Mellon spinoff’s coverage” of Pittsburgh sports teams. The app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms will “provide real-time action and replays from four camera angles at Heinz Field, including the NFL’s Red Zone channel” (POST-GAZETTE.com, 10/7).
KEEP SPORTS AND POLITICS SEPARATE: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand reports ESPN's Lou Holtz made a "testy plea for donations for the Republican National Congressional Committee," but people should not "expect another” from him. ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said, “We have discussed this with him, and he will not be involved in any future similar efforts.” Holtz sent a fundraising letter suggesting congressional Democrats “will say or spend anything to get another four downs to spend our money and strip away our freedoms that have made America a beacon of hope for 234 years” (USA TODAY, 10/7).
A PLEA TO MURDOCH: CABLEFAX DAILY reports Sports Fans Coalition, the lobbying group that counts Time Warner Cable and Media Access Project as members of its advisory board, sent a letter to News Corp. Chair & CEO Rupert Murdoch yesterday “asking that fans be able to watch sports programming.” The SFC “had meetings at the FCC” one day before Dish Network stopped carrying Fox’ RSNs. Meanwhile, Cablevision “remains silent on its pending Oct. 16 contract expiration with Fox,” but the American TV Alliance “is speaking up” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/7).