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SBD/January 14, 2011/MediaPrint All
Sporting News is making an aggressive push to become a top-10 sports website with a broad content-providing arrangement with AOL Sports. Execs were scheduled to inform staffs at both organizations of the agreement on Thursday afternoon. The deal will create Sporting News on AOL within the next 60 days and give the venerable sports brand instant digital relevance. “We’ve made a lot of headway as far as adding video and developing a social media strategy," said Sporting News President & Publisher Jeff Price. "Adding scale was the last thing advertisers were asking for, and this deal allows us to deliver that." "The vision is one of providing real-time breaking sports news with a dynamic social media strategy and high-quality columnists and overall great journalism," said AOL Media President David Eun. Terms of the deal were not available at presstime. Sports content for AOL has been under its internally developed FanHouse brand for the past two years. Starting in March, Sporting News will provide and develop a majority of the content for the site from its current staff based in Charlotte. Sporting News will license the FanHouse brand from AOL and use it as a home for the site’s “voice,” or its columnists. Sporting News is expected to add a handful of top columnists from AOL, but sources said a number of AOL Sports editorial staffers have already been seeking jobs at other sports sites. It was unclear if any AOL Sports management will join Sporting News. Sporting News is owned and operated by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily parent company American City Business Journals (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY).
MOVING PARTS: Price said that Sporting News is "looking at broadening its national profile by retaining some of FanHouse’s columnists," but he did not indicate "how many reporters would be kept." Price: "We’re focusing on those national voices that created a differentiation." AOL Chair & CEO Tim Armstrong estimated that "two dozen of around 40 FanHouse employees would probably be laid off." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes AOL will "continue to produce local sports coverage, which fits into Armstrong’s strategic shift from e-mail to content." FanHouse has "made a far bigger impact on the Web" than Sporting News. Data from comScore shows FanHouse had 9.7 million unique users last month; Price said that comScore measured Sporting News’s traffic at "just under three million unique visitors, meaning it had doubled since its relaunch in August." Meanwhile, Armstrong "rejected the notion that AOL’s sports strategy had failed." He said, "This is a way for us to do it in a more profitable way and to do more coverage in the future. You can see this as a combination of two brands that are keeping their focus" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/14). Price said, "This is the last piece of the puzzle for us. Advertisers have told us that they love what we've done with our site over the past year in terms of video and social media, but they wanted reach" (ADWEEK.com, 1/13).
CHANGE OF PLANS: BUSINESS INSIDER's Henry Blodget noted AOL is "handing over one of its most successful premium content sites, Fanhouse, to a third party, and releasing many of its employees in the process." This move comes "shortly after AOL hired many expensive columnists to work for Fanhouse." Sporting News "will presumably be paying AOL a lot to license Fanhouse and get traffic from AOL." At the same time, AOL will "save a bunch of money by not paying expensive content creators," so this arrangement will "obviously improve AOL's bottom line, at least in the short-term." Blodget added, "In simple terms, AOL appears to be reverting to the 'portal' strategy that originally made it and Yahoo and other portals massive sites back in the days before Google, blogs, and social media" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 1/13). PAID CONTENT's David Kaplan wrote AOL's decision to "turn to outside sources of content, after spending years of hiring hundreds of writers and editors in-house, reflects a need to get the costs of producing so much content with the reality of what advertising can support." In past years, this "was not such a big deal, as AOL relied heavily on the traffic and revenues coming off its original internet access business." But more recently, "those traffic numbers and dollars have dwindled" (PAIDCONTENT.org, 1/13).
NFL ratings this season "across the board, from network to network and market to market, have been so spectacular that it's not an exaggeration to say virtually any game is sure to get big numbers," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The numbers are "so impressive that it's a wonder the networks don't scroll them across the bottom of the screen along with the scores and injury updates." If fans "want a reason to believe there won't be a lockout next season," the ratings figures provide "some pretty compelling evidence." Owners and players "would be foolish to risk damaging such success." CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus "declined to answer a question about how a 2011 lockout might damage ratings, but he was more than willing to offer his opinion on how things got to such lofty levels this season." McManus: "It was a combination of things. There were so many story lines that continued throughout the season. Whether it was Michael Vick, whether it was Brett Favre, whether it was Tom Brady, there seemed to be so many stories that kept building throughout the year and generated interest throughout the regular season." McManus added, "The NFL has just been on fire this year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes this NFL season is "likely to be remembered as the zenith for a North American sports league, the climax of 50 years of work in which all five television networks that feature NFL games have shattered records for viewership." The league's 267 regular-season and playoff games "have continued to be appointment television, even in an era when" technology has "made the idea of tens of millions of people sitting down to watch a scheduled television show seem completely anachronistic." Futterman: "As every other sport and form of television programming struggles to retain eyeballs, NFL games are seeing improbable gains" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/14).
GRIDIRON GLORY: NFL regular-season games were watched by an average of 17.9 million viewers this season, marking the league's best TV viewership since '89, when games averaged 18.0 million viewers. For the first time ever, an NFL game was the most-viewed show among all programs in each of the season's 17 weeks. NFL games accounted for the 19 most-viewed TV shows among all programming in the fall, up from 11 last season. NFL games were also the highest-rated program locally a record 90% of the time, topping the 89% mark set last season. The '10 regular season was the most-viewed season ever among Hispanics, African Americans and women, as well as the most-viewed season among kids since '97 (NFL).
LOCAL MARKETS: In Miami, Barry Jackson writes while NFL audiences are "reaching record levels," it is a "somewhat different story in South Florida." Dolphins games averaged an 18.3 local rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market this season, down from a 19.5 average in '08 and '09. The 18.3 rating ranked as the NFL's "fifth-worst compared with what other home teams drew in their markets." Meanwhile, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale's ratings, "which sometimes lag behind other big cities, ranked among the worst in the country for three" of last week's Wild Card games (MIAMI HERALD, 1/14)....In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht reports the Cowboys "remain Oklahoma City's most popular NFL team," as the team's games averaged a 14.1 local rating in the market this season. That rating was down from a 14.4 last year, but was ahead of the Vikings, featuring former Univ. of Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, who ranked second with a 12.9 local rating. The Rams, featuring former Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, ranked third with a 12.4 rating, while the Chiefs ranked fourth with an 8.1 rating (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 1/14).
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ThePostGame.com, a new daily digital sports magazine launched by Yahoo Sports and SportsFanLive.com, aims to expand its reach later this year by pushing into tablet devices. The digital publication debuted earlier this week. The partnership behind the effort combines the most trafficked U.S. sports website and a fast-growing sports startup focused on social networking and blogging. The tablet-optimized version of the publication will launch sometime in '11, but those devices will become a key part of overall readership. “The entire architecture and aesthetic of the site, with all the rollovers and so forth, was really done with tablets in mind,” said David Katz, Founder & CEO of L.A.-based SportsFanLive.com. “So you can be certain, we will be migrated to tablets, and it will be very big for us. For right now, the first step was simply to get this up and started.” ThePostGame.com seeks to expand the core missions of both Yahoo Sports and SportsFanLive.com by featuring a mix of long-form sports journalism, features, and general-interest content covering sports extensions into technology, travel, style and entertainment. “We’re really trying to think about the world, and how you would do a sports magazine, in very different ways,” Katz said. “Other people out there doing things like this are just putting things online, or more to the point, they have print extensions that totally change their entire staffing, their economics and so forth. By not having legacy costs and a legacy product, we have a lot of freedom.” ThePostGame.com is operating on a free, advertising-supported model, with Yahoo Sports and SportsFanLive.com participating in a revenue-sharing pact. Toyota signed as launch sponsor for the new site and is prominently featured.
In Miami, Barry Jackson writes ESPN's Brent Musburger "had some odd moments" while announcing Monday's Auburn-Oregon Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. Those moments included "calling the Arizona Cardinals the 'Phoenix Cardinals,' misidentifying who would appear on ESPN's halftime show and prematurely calling a touchdown for Oregon when the receiver was tackled short of the end zone." But Tostitos should "send him a thank-you note" for saying that Auburn's winning field goal was "for all the Tostitos" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/14). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN's announcing of Monday's game was "nonsense posed as expertise with overly stylized goop thrown in to ensure nausea." Musburger has "lost the fastball he never had," while his partner, Kirk Herbstreit, "so often referenced 'space' -- as in 'run to space,' 'out in space,' 'he was there with space' -- that he should’ve called the game with Alice Kramden ... on the moon" (N.Y. POST, 1/14).
CHOMPING AT THE BIT: Former Univ. of Florida football coach Urban Meyer was part of ESPN's broadcast team for the BCS title game, and he said that he "could be closer to continuing to work for the network." Meyer said, "I’m not sure in what capacity. We haven’t made those decisions yet. And obviously, my family’s going to be involved in the decision" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/14).
SAVE A SPOT FOR ME? The Cubs and Kerry Wood have denied a report that the pitcher "has been promised a broadcast job with the team after his playing career ends." Wood said, "I have no interest in broadcasting and that report is untrue." Chicago's WSCR-AM had reported that Wood "had an unwritten agreement that he would get a broadcasting role with the team after he retired." A separate report indicated that Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts told Wood that he "could be a part of the organization for as long as he likes after retiring, but no specific role was discussed" (CHICAGOBREAKINGSPORTS.com, 1/12).
BAND OF BROTHERS: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth profiles Andy and Brian Kamenetzky, who have been "taking a blog they've been crafting on the Lakers for the past five-plus seasons and squishing into as many multi-tasking, double-helix platforms as today's technology will allow." In addition to their blog, now part of ESPN L.A., the brothers have a weekend sports-talk show and contribute to Lakers pregame on KSPN-AM. Hoffarth writes the Kamenetzkys' approach -- "attention to detail while covering the team as credentialed journalists, while adding their own snarky, smart commentary propped up by whatever pop culture or deadpan line that comes out of their comedy-writing heads -- deftly cuts through the clutter and rises above the noise" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/14).
CHANGING THE LINEUP: In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter reports after "one year on Reds' radio broadcasts, Jim Kelch will move part-time into the television booth." Kelch will "replace Paul Keels as the secondary Fox Sports Ohio play-by-play announcer when not on radio" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/14).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.NFC Wild Card: Packers-Eagles1/9Fox4:30-7:30pm22.1AFC Wild Card: Jets-Colts1/8NBC8:16-11:05pm18.7AFC Wild Card: Ravens-Chiefs1/9CBS1:06-3:59pm17.1
NFC Wild Card: Saints-Seahawks1/8NBC4:35-8:00pm16.8 "Fox NFL Sunday"1/9Fox4:00-4:30pm9.4 AT&T Cotton Bowl: LSU-Texas A&M1/7Fox8:00-11:00pm5.8 "The NFL Today"1/9CBS12:00-1:00pm4.5 NCAA Basketball: Kansas-Michigan1/9CBS4:30-6:30pm1.6 High School: U.S. Army All-American Bowl1/8NBC1:00-4:00pm1.4 Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular (taped)1/9NBC5:00-6:00pm1.2 NCAA Women's Basketball: UConn-Notre Dame1/8CBS2:00-4:20pm0.7 PBR: MSG Invitational (taped)1/9NBC2:30-4:00pm0.7 "ESPN Sports Saturday"1/8ABC11:00am-1:00pm0.6 NCAA Women's Basketball: Ohio State-Iowa1/8CBS4:20-6:00pm0.5 Off Road Racing: Lucas Oil Challenge Cup (taped)1/8CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS
(000)Allstate Sugar Bowl:
Ohio State-Arkansas1/4ESPN8:35pm-12:20am8.213,635Discover Orange Bowl:
Stanford-Virginia Tech1/3ESPN8:38-11:38pm6.710,682BBVA Compass Bowl:
"College GameDay"1/4ESPN7:00-8:00pm1.72,622 GoDaddy.com Bowl:
Miami (OH)-Middle Tennessee1/6ESPN8:00-11:33pm1.72,617
"NFL Countdown"1/9ESPN11:00am-1:00pm1.82,597 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl:
NBA: Lakers-Suns1/5ESPN10:30pm-1:08am1.52,140 "NFL Countdown"1/8ESPN11:00am-12:00pm1.52,037 "College GameDay"1/3ESPN7:00-8:00pm1.31,969
ONION RINGS: The premiere of Comedy Central's fake sportscast out-rated the real thing on Tuesday night. The premiere of "Onion SportsDome" pulled a 0.9 household rating at 10:30pm ET, which is higher than that night's "SportsCenter" on ESPN, which earned a 0.7 rating. The fake sportscast nearly doubled "SportsCenter's" audience (1,500,000 vs 900,000) and performed even better in the coveted male 18-34 demo (1.9 vs 0.6) (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
FORE! Golf Channel averaged 340,000 viewers for live coverage over four days of the PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions last week, up 34.4% from 253,000 average viewers for the season-opening tournament last year (THE DAILY). The 555,000 viewers for the opening round "represent the highest season-debut audience in the four-plus years that Golf Channel has televised Tour events." GOLFWEEK's Alex Miceli wrote seeing that it "was Wild Card weekend for the NFL, and the players missing on Maui included Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, it is still a big positive for the PGA Tour" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/12)....Golf Channel also averaged 310,000 viewers for Tuesday's season premiere episode of "The Haney Project" featuring Rush Limbaugh. The show was the "most-watched season premiere of any Golf Channel original series since" TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley appeared on the first season of "The Haney Project" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13).
NOTES: Rogers Sportsnet's RSNs drew 1.56 million viewers last Friday for the four NHL games the nets aired -- Oilers-Canucks, Maple Leafs-Thrashers, Senators-Blackhawks and Red Wings-Flames (Rogers)....ESPN averaged a 1.2 rating for its Jan. 5 telecast of the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game, marking the net's highest-rated live high school football game ever (Intersport)....Fox Deportes was the No. 1 Hispanic cable sports network in primetime in '10 and finished No. 1 in primetime 33 out of 52 weeks. The net's telecast of the Copa Libertadores final between Brazilian club Internacional and Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara drew 876,000 viewers, making it the No. 1 Spanish-language cable program for the year (Fox Deportes).
NBA China has struck a multiyear deal with Tencent Holdings Ltd. to create a comprehensive online NBA community across six of its web properties. Content included in the pact involves live and on-demand games, video highlights, blogs, statistics, news, e-commerce, fantasy gaming and other material. A premium-level, subscription-based component is also under development. "Tencent is at the forefront of innovation in the online space in China and an ideal partner to help us deliver more interactive digital experiences to our fans," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
AN AZTEC TEASE: The San Diego State men's basketball team is currently ranked No. 6 in the country with a 17-0 record, and in San Diego, Jay Posner notes the team's next three games will air on Channel 4 San Diego. The station is "producing its own telecast" of next Wednesday's game against Air Force and is "simulcasting the CBS College Sports telecast" of Saturday's game at New Mexico and the Jan. 26 game at BYU. However, beginning with the Jan. 29 game against Wyoming, seven of SDSU's "final 10 regular season games will be carried only on The Mtn., which shuts out everyone in San Diego County except some Cox digital and DirecTV subscribers." Posner writes it is "ridiculous that the Mountain West Conference doesn't have wider TV distribution for its channel." Posner: "The conference is at the top of the blame list, but there's plenty for Time Warner, Dish and AT&T, too" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/14).
TOO MUCH TO GO AROUND: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes there currently is a "serious glut of prime-time TV sports attractions" on Canadian television, meaning that "finding prime-time slots to meet the demand for contracted events is difficult." TSN President Stewart Johnston noted the net found itself "in triple conflict situations maybe a dozen times" last year. Johnston: "That's 12 more times than I'd like to have. We do have TSN.ca (to handle some of the overflow). Is that the same as the HD TV hanging from the wall? No." As a result, Dowbiggin wondered if viewers are "in line for TSN3 or TSNU." Johnston: "A third network of some kind certainly is not out of the question. Is it an offshoot channel or 3D-related? We'll see" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/14).
RADIO JUNGLE TO ROAM: Bengals Dir of Corporate Sales & Marketing Vince Cicero confirmed the team's radio rights are "expiring with the end of the 2010-11 NFL season." In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter notes Cicero "won't share the Bengals' game plan yet," but it is "conceivable in this budget-conscious era that Clear Channel could balk at the Bengals' price and end the 11-year deal for WLW-AM, Cincinnati's top-rated station" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/14).