SBD/January 20, 2011/Media

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  • ESPN Unveils Details For New Texas Network Set To Launch In September

    UT's network will air at least one football game among more than 200 events a year

    ESPN yesterday formally announced its 20-year partnership with the Univ. of Texas and IMG College to develop a 24-hour network dedicated to the school. The yet-to-be-named net will launch in September. The channel will air more than 200 exclusive events per year, including at least one football game, at least eight men's basketball games and all available games for the women's basketball team and all Olympic sports programs. ESPN will build an on-campus studio for the net, which will produce myriad shows including pre- and postgame programs for all football and men's basketball games. An online broadband companion will offer events not included on the TV network. ESPN will also operate an online site dedicated to Texas high school sports (ESPN). In Austin, Haurwitz & Maher in a front-page piece report ESPN "has guaranteed" the $300M investment, with 82.5% ($247.5M) earmarked for the school and 17.5% ($52.5M) for IMG, which "will sell advertising for the network." ESPN "will own and operate the network and bear production expenses." UT's guaranteed revenue share "works out to $12.4 million a year on average, but payments are expected to run about $10 million a year for the first five years or so and then rise somewhat." The school "has pledged to split the first five years' revenue evenly between athletics and academics." With the new network, UT's total annual broadcast revenue is "poised to rise" into the $30M range. Distribution arrangements with cable operators, "as well as pricing for consumers, are a work in progress." UT President William Powers Jr. said that he "anticipates that the network would be included among some of the basic cable system channels in Texas and Oklahoma, and perhaps in parts of Louisiana." Elsewhere in the country, the network is "likely to be offered as a premium, perhaps part of a sports package or as a stand-alone channel" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/20).

    CONFIDENT ABOUT DISTRIBUTION: ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said that ESPN is "confident it can reach agreements" with cable distributors "in time for the September launch." Magnus: "Within Texas we will seek the broadest possible distribution, and we think the profile of the university and the content on the network will take care of that for us" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/20). In Dallas, Barry Horn notes there are "almost eight million cable homes in Texas, which will be the top market for the network." UT hopes to be "on the same pay tier as Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN," which is "where the money from subscribers and advertisers is." FS Southwest and ESPN are in "more than 6.5 million of those 8 million homes." Horn: "I have no doubt that state politics will sway the cable, satellite and telecom providers to place the Longhorn network on viewer-friendly basic digital" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/20).

    QUESTION OF OBJECTIVITY: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote the "more complicated question" concerning the launch of the network is "whether ESPN's relationship with Texas somehow compromises its overall integrity." Jones: "Can ESPN cover Texas with the same objectivity now that it has a business relationship with the school?" (TAMPABAY.com, 1/19). In Houston, Jerome Solomon asks, "ESPN will do its best to pretend to cover UT objectively, but is that possible now that the mega-sports network has a huge financial stake in the university's success? With conference television packages, you expect networks to be kind to the leagues with which they are affiliated, but this takes it to another level" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/20).

    WILL ANYONE FOLLOW? The Univ. of Oklahoma is continuing with plans to launch its own network, but sports media consultant Kevin O'Malley said that UT is "uniquely positioned to succeed despite the inherent difficulty of creating a new television network." The school's "strong brand, fervent fan base, and location in a large and populous state all work in its favor." O'Malley: "It's probably fair to say that not very many schools would have considered this possibility. Texas may be the institution that could carry it off." IMG College Senior VP & Managing Dir Tom Stultz said that other athletic programs "probably" will not try to replicate UT's plan. Stultz: "You have to have the passion for the university and the number of households in the state to make the numbers work. There will be a very limited number of opportunities to do this, if any" (CHRONICLE.com, 1/19).

    CREATIVE WAY FOR UT TO GENERATE MONEY
    : In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes, "Give Texas credit. With education facing so much economic uncertainty, a program already with the nation's largest athletic budget found a way to get more money." It is "creative, all right." If Texas A&M football coach Mike Sherman "has cable in his house, he will likely find he will be contributing a few extra cents in his bill for the Longhorns." It is "marvelous capitalism, albeit in a socialistic system." UT is "doing what others are against" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 1/20). FanHouse.com's Kevin Blackistone noted the deal is "amazing" and said, "We're accustomed to conferences setting up their own networks. Now here we have a school with a $100 million-plus athletic budget setting up its own network. This is the where things are going. ... It's all about the dollars" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/19). In Austin, Kirk Bohls notes UT is "looking after its own self interests," and you "can't fault Texas for maximizing its position in such a populous state with so many potential subscribers." The network will "put pressure on coaches to produce big-time but also give them an unspeakable recruiting advantage" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/20).

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  • Univ. Of Oklahoma Looks To Follow UT With Launch Of Its Own Network

    Oklahoma not expecting planned Sooners network to copy the UT-ESPN model

    The Univ. of Oklahoma "wants to have its own television channel up and operating sometime" during '11, according to John Hoover of TULSA WORLD. OU Senior Associate AD/Communications Kenny Mossman said, "That's our goal. ... I wish I could tell you exactly when. But we've worked on it long enough and have enough of an idea of what our model will resemble that we feel confident we'll be launching something in the not-too-distant future." ESPN and the Univ. of Texas yesterday announced a 20-year, $300M agreement for a new UT network, and Mossman said that he "didn't think OU's model would be the same as Texas' -- one independent network providing all the content." But he added, "That's not inconceivable." Mossman noted that OU two years ago spent $2.5M on a "high-definition control room, cameras and upgrades to the TV studio at Owen Field." A new studio "would be needed for an OU channel if it's produced on campus, but at least the groundwork is in place." Hoover reports the new 24-hour OU channel "will provide original programming that includes live and recorded Olympic sporting events, coaches shows and possibly men's and women's basketball games and even a football game or two each year." There also would be "plenty of historic programming." Mossman: "We don't want to announce something and have a big splash and then two years later it's not there anymore. We want to make sure we've done our due diligence for something that can stand the test of time" (TULSA WORLD, 1/20).

    OKLAHOMA LIKELIEST SCHOOL TO FOLLOW SUIT: SPORTING NEWS' Dave Curtis writes besides UT, OU "might be the likeliest school to chase the network option." The combination of "dollars, athletic prominence and fan base, both local and national, makes the network conceivable." Other schools of "that profile have elected to go a different route." Ohio State "has folded its television possibilities" into Big Ten Network, while Florida "has tied its multimedia rights into a lucrative deal with IMG." ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus yesterday while announcing the partnership with UT said that he "doesn't expect many peer projects." Magnus: "I don't think it could be replicated at any other schools very easily, based on their size and scope" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 1/20 issue). YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Hinton wrote the "only question" following the UT announcement is "what other school has the cachet to follow suit" with its own network. Ohio State and Michigan are "locked into the Big Ten Network," and while the SEC "went out of its way last spring to emphasize that its schools are free to pursue their own media deals, no single member brings quite the high-population, high-growth, multi-market oomph of a Texas on its own." Notre Dame's current deal with NBC "expires in 2015," but the "potential for an all-Irish network may depend on how much stock a few executives are willing to put into the team waking up the echoes at some point in the foreseeable future after almost 20 years of persistent mediocrity on the field" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/19).

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  • TNT's Steve Kerr To Join Nantz, Kellogg On CBS' NCAA Final Four Coverage

    CBS and Turner today announced Steve Kerr will join Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg at the broadcast table this year for the net's coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Final Four and national championship game. The announcement comes as CBS and Turner Sports have combined their talent rosters for coverage of the tournament in the first year of their joint broadcast agreement. Kerr calls games as part of TNT's NBA package. CBS also announced two studios, based in N.Y. and Atlanta, will be used to cover the tourney. Studio coverage will be anchored by CBS' Greg Gumbel and TNT's Ernie Johnson, who will share hosting duties during each day. TNT NBA analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and CBS analyst Greg Anthony will provide analysis throughout the tournament alongside Gumbel or Johnson from N.Y. TNT's Reggie Miller and CBS' Seth Davis will join the N.Y. studio rotation for the second week of the tournament. NBA TV host Matt Winer will host the studio coverage from Turner's Atlanta studio with analysts Davis and Steve Smith (THE DAILY).

    NCAA TOURNAMENT BROADCAST TEAMS
    PLAY-BY-PLAY
    ANALYST
    Jim Nantz
    Clark Kellogg*
    Marv Albert
    Steve Kerr*
    Verne Lundquist
    Bill Raftery*
    Gus Johnson
    Len Elmore*
    Kevin Harlan
    Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner
    Ian Eagle
    Jim Spanarkel
    Tim Brando
    Mike Gminski
    Spero Dedes
    Bob Wenzel
    NOTE: * = Regional semifinal and final announce teams
       

    LEARNING CURVE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes one of the "major questions of the joint broadcast will be how adept and prepared TNT's announcers are with the actors and nomenclature of college basketball." It could get "tricky given most of these announcers are dedicated to NBA coverage and have little experience calling NCAA action." The inclusion of Barkley is "one of the wildcards of the coverage," as he has "consistently said that college athletes should be compensated and that the current athletic system is unfair for student-athletes" (SI.com, 1/20).

    Print | Tags: CBS, TBS/TNT, Media
  • Jim Miller Discusses His Forthcoming Tell-All Book On ESPN

    Miller's book on ESPN will be released in May
    The “suspense is building at ESPN” over the forthcoming tell-all book, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” and co-author Jim Miller shared some thoughts on the project with Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. Miller said it “took about a year” for ESPN to grant him the access necessary to write the book, due out May 24. Miller: “They originally decided they did not want to participate. That did not stop progress on the book. I wasn't able to go on campus or talk to a lot of people there. I spent that year there doing a lot of research and talking to people who'd already left the company. It was about a year later when they said, 'OK you can come up.'" He said the net "left it up to individuals" whether they wanted to participate in the project, as ESPN "never forced anybody to talk and they never told anyone they could not.” Miller interviewed several ESPN execs and personalities for the book, including George Bodenheimer, John Skipper, Norby Williamson and John Walsh. He said, “I was really pleased that I was able to interview Chet Simmons three times before he died. That meant a lot to me. I've interviewed every president in the company's (31-year) history. The book would not have been the same without them.” Miller added, “I was really pleased that people like Bob Ley and Chris Berman and Stuart Scott all cooperated. Dan Patrick, Peter Gammons, Dick Vitale, Robin Roberts, Keith Olbermann, Craig Kilborn, Andrea Kremer, Lesley Visser, Pam Oliver.” When asked which interviewees surprised him, Miller said, “When you interview Berman you know what you're going to get. ... People have a way on camera. Then when you sit down personally, there's so much more. I'll give you an example. John Saunders. He's Canadian and rather reserved on the air. … I just found him to be so open and so honest and so frank and so funny” (USATODAY.com, 1/19).

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Media
  • Ron Franklin Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Against ESPN

    Franklin's suit alleges breach of contract by ESPN, seeks unspecified damages

    Former ESPN announcer Ron Franklin yesterday confirmed that he has filed a "wrongful termination" lawsuit against the network after being fired for comments he made to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. The suit was filed in the announcer's home city of Austin, Texas. Franklin, who worked for ESPN for 25 years, "declined to comment on how much he's seeking in damages or details of the lawsuit" (USATODAY.com, 1/19). The lawsuit states the "brief and innocuous personal conversation" between Franklin and Edwards "in no way constituted a 'failure to fully perform.'" The suit also claims "ESPN and ABC disseminated false and inflated versions of the events" (STATESMAN.com, 1/18). The suit, filed on behalf of Franklin's company, Ron Franklin Productions, seeks "unspecified damages and alleges breach of contract." It alleges that Franklin's comments to Edwards "did not warrant dismissal because they did not violate the failure to perform clause of his contract." The suit contends that that clause "lists lack of preparation and acts of 'moral turpitude' and acts that would result in 'public humiliation to ESPN' as grounds for dismissal." In response to the lawsuit, ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz said, "We are confident that the action we took was appropriate" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/20).

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN
  • People & Personalities: MLB Rangers Hire Rhadigan As Play-By-Play Announcer

    Rangers name FS Southwest's Rhadigan the team's TV announcer

    In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson reports the MLB Rangers yesterday named FS Southwest studio host John Rhadigan their TV announcer, replacing Josh Lewin. Rhadigan "has been covering the Rangers since 1996." Rangers Owner Chuck Greenberg said that he "will be partnered with longtime analyst Tom Grieve as the Rangers hope to create a more conversational style in the booth that allows fans to learn more about the players" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/20). Rhadigan has been at FS Southwest, the "long-time cable home of the Rangers," since June '01. He has "no baseball play-by-play experience," and the Rangers "believe Rhadigan would be low key but be able to muster enough energy to engineer a broadcast." The Rangers also "like his name recognition," as he is "extremely well-liked throughout the local media" (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/19). Rhadigan yesterday said he considers himself a "storyteller," and added, "The voice should tell the story of the game, but also the story of the team." Greenberg: "Our fans really like our players and want to know our players. Going forward, that's something we really want to do" (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/19).

    ANNOUNCER ROTATION: In Seattle, Larry Stone reports the Mariners yesterday made official plans to "ease the burden" of replacing late announcer Dave Niehaus "on any one person by employing a revolving committee of announcers to team with longtime announcer Rick Rizzs on the radio." Ken Wilson, Ron Fairly, Ken Levine, Dan Wilson and Dave Valle are the "five confirmed names in that rotation, all of whom have prior ties to Mariners broadcasting." There is a "possibility that more could be added." Rizzs, "who spent 25 years as Niehaus' partner, will be on the radio as the primary play-by-play man." Mariners VP/Communications Randy Adamack said the format will "most likely" be for just one season. Meanwhile, TV announcers Dave Sims and Mike Blowers "will return to the booth and work almost exclusively on the television side" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/20).

    ON THE ROAD AGAIN
    : FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent noted ESPN "SportsCenter" host Chris McKendry is co-anchoring the net's Australian Open coverage. It was "her decision to carve out a career path that would allow her to spend as much time as possible with her two young boys that landed McKendry on the weekend morning and now weekday afternoon SportsCenters." But McKendry indicated that now that her children are "in second grade and kindergarten ... she is more willing to get out on stories and remote assignments." McKendry: "I really believe there's nothing like being at the big event, the energy, the buzz" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/19).

    PERSONALITIES: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin cited sources as saying that Toronto Star hockey columnist Damien Cox is leaving the paper to "join TSN full-time." A Toronto Star source said that Cox "has resigned effective April 1." But Cox in an e-mail said negotiations "are ongoing." Cox: "Expecting to finalize soon, but you never know." Dowbiggin noted Cox "would join Dave Naylor ... as recent additions to the journalistic side of the operation" at TSN. The move would "bolster TSN as it prepares [for] an anticipated challenge from Rogers Sportsnet" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 1/19)....Jaguars.com Senior Editor Vic Ketchman, who "became the virtual face of the franchise with his 'Ask Vic' column, is resigning to take a job with the Green Bay Packers involving enhanced media projects." Ketchman "will start working for the Packers on Feb. 15" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/20).

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  • Media Notes

    FCC's ruling on Comcast-NBCU deal will not help get Blazers games on satellite TV

    SPORTS BY BROOKS reported that of the nearly 100 "fulltime positions at Fanhouse, less than 10 will be retained by AOL" as a result of the content-providing agreement reached between Sporting News and AOL Sports. Columnists Kevin Blackistone, Terence Moore and Lisa Olson will be among those "kept on," and the "other surviving positions are likely to be staffed by columnists." Sporting News "will likely decide if it will hire any of the former AOL employees by the end of next week" (SPORTSBYBROOKS.com, 1/19). Sporting News and THE DAILY are both owned by American City Business Journals.

    GOING DOWN A SEPARATE TRAIL: In Portland, Mike Rogoway noted when the FCC on Tuesday approved Comcast’s purchase of NBCU, the provisions included “a requirement that Comcast offer its sports networks to competitors, and abide by an arbitrator's ruling if the parties can't come to agreement.” But the ruling “apparently won't break an impasse that has kept Portland Trail Blazers games off satellite TV and some competing cable systems.” A Comcast spokesperson yesterday said, "We were already living under an arbitration environment that either one of the parties could have invoked." DirecTV “agreed, calling the situation in Portland ‘status quo’ despite the FCC's order" (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/19).

    IN THE CARDS: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes the merger of Comcast and NBCU “should produce a powerful rival to ESPN,” as NBC owns Olympics, NFL and NHL rights. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s “bet has at long last played out -- just in time for the league’s U.S. TV negotiations, a process that is gearing up now.” The Comcast/NBC merger “will give the NHL extra leverage as it tries to get the IOC to compensate it for the league’s participation in future Winter Games” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/20).

    EXTREME NEWSPAPER MAKEOVER? USNEWS.com’s Paul Bedard reported the “rebirth of the conservative Washington Times is beginning this week.” Washington Times Managing Editor Chris Dolan said that the “initial hiring focus will be on editors for the sports, arts and metro sections,” and he “expects a good part of the sports staff” to be former Times reporters and editors (USNEWS.com, 1/19).

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