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NBC Sports Group today will announce that it will "own the rights to all three legs" of horse racing's Triple Crown "for the first time since 2005," according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.com. NBC Sports "had already secured the rights to the Kentucky Derby through Churchill Downs through 2015," but the network has since "executed deals with the Maryland Jockey Club for the Preakness and the New York Racing Association for the Belmont to run through the same period of time." ABC "broadcast the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, for the last five years." The NBC Sports Group will carry "more than 25 hours of programming associated with the races." Rovell writes "part of the appeal of the deal is a natural partner in Versus to show more horse racing coverage" (CNBC.com, 2/22). BLOODHORSE.com's Lenny Shulman notes this is the "first major deal inked by the network since its purchase by Comcast." It is "unclear how much of the three undercards will be televised on Versus, although the Black Eyed Susan Stakes from Pimlico is said to be part of the package." Post-race coverage of the May 21 Preakness and the June 11 Belmont Stakes "will also be shown on Versus, as will the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, which had been shown on NBC's Bravo channel the past two years" (BLOODHORSE.com, 2/22). ESPN/ABC pulled out of the bidding for the Belmont last week. ABC had aired the race since '06.
Fox earned an 8.7 fast-national Nielsen rating and 15.6 million viewers for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500, up 13% and 17%, respectively, from a 7.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers for last year’s race. The telecast peaked at a 10.9 rating from 5:00-5:30pm ET during the race’s green-white-checkered flag finish. Fox saw gains among all key male demos, as well as the best rating among teen males in six years. Dayton, Ohio, topped all markets with a 20.4 local rating while Greensboro finished second with a 20.1 rating (Fox). Ratings for the Daytona 500 "were up in nine of the nation's 10 largest markets." Among the top 10 markets, Chicago saw the largest increase from '10, up 61%, while L.A. was second, up 46% from last year (LATIMES.com, 2/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote the ratings continue the "positive momentum of a remarkable weekend" for NASCAR (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/21).DAYTONA 500 TV TREND OVER LAST 15 YEARSYRNETRATINGVIEWERS (000)WINNER'11Fox8.715,600Trevor Bayne'10Fox7.713,294Jamie McMurray'09Fox9.215,958Matt Kenseth'08Fox10.217,800
Ryan Newman'07Fox10.117,530 Kevin Harvick'06NBC11.319,355 Jimmie Johnson'05Fox10.918,685 Jeff Gordon'04NBC10.617,796 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'03Fox9.816,835 Michael Waltrip'02NBC10.918,780 Ward Burton'01Fox10.017,081 Michael Waltrip'00CBS8.412,936 Dale Jarrett'99CBS9.614,518 Jeff Gordon'98CBS8.613,044 Dale Earnhardt'97CBS8.612,833 Jeff Gordon
Cox Communications last June offered to license its Channel 4 San Diego station to rival operators, but with Opening Day "just a month and a half away, there has not been an agreement reached between Cox and other pay TV providers that would allow access" to the Padres broadcaster, according to Mike Freeman of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The "drawn out nature of the talks has led analysts to speculate that AT&T, DirecTV and others are balking at the per subscriber fees that Cox is seeking for Channel 4." Federal law "requires cable companies to offer access to channels that they own to competitors at reasonable rates." But "for years the law contained a loophole that allowed cable operators to deny access to rivals if the channel's video didn't travel by use of satellite at some point between the TV studio and the consumers home," and Cox has "used the 'terrestrial loophole' to keep Channel 4 from rivals." Freeman noted Cox' current contract with the Padres expires in '11, and there "could be several bidders for the programming rights." Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable last week "wrestled away rights to the Lakers games" from FS West and KCAL-Ind, and "one way Time Warner Cable is likely to earn back the price it paid for the Lakers is [to] charge higher fees to other pay TV distributors in the market -- DirecTV, other cable providers -- to carry the channel in their line-ups when it launches" in '12 (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/20).
LOSING THEIR LAKERS: An L.A. TIMES editorial stated the 20-year deal between the Lakers and TWC that is worth around $300M is a "sign of how the economics of sports are pushing the game out of the reach of many fans." An estimated 620,000 HHs in L.A. "rely on over-the-air TV, more than in any other U.S. market," and for "many years, Lakers fans with rabbit ears have been able to watch a little more than half of the team's games." However, under the TWC deal, "which analysts speculate could be worth five times what Fox pays, all games not broadcast nationally will be carried only on Time Warner's new networks." Those nets are "certain to exact a heavy price, which operators will pass on to their customers" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).
TNT averaged a 5.2 fast-national Nielsen rating and 9.093 million viewers for its coverage of Sunday night's NBA All-Star Game. The 5.2 rating marks the event’s highest-rated and most-watched telecast since '03, Michael Jordan's last All-Star appearance as a player. This year’s figures are up 36.8% and 32.8%, respectively, from a 3.8 rating and 6.846 million viewers last year. TNT also saw double-digit percentage gains across all key adult and male demos. San Antonio topped all U.S. markets with a 13.5 local rating. Host market L.A. finished second with an 11.6 local rating (TNT).
HELPING OF TUNA: In N.Y., Bob Raissman reported former Dolphins consultant and ESPN analyst Bill Parcells is "not likely to be seeking full-time TV employment next season," but he is "expected to be seen on ESPN prior to its coverage of the NFL Draft." NFL sources said that ESPN is "planning an unusual pre-draft show," and as part of the show "a number of NFL scholars, including Parcells, will take viewers through the entire draft process going back to when a player is first scouted." The panel will "detail not just the players abilities and personal makeup, but also explore why he fits a team's overall philosophy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/20).
LOOK WHO'S TALKING: In Charlotte, Ken Tysiac noted live interviews during timeouts "have crept into ESPN's broadcasts" of SEC men's basketball games after coaches "agreed to do them during the conference's spring meetings." Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "That stinks. That shouldn't be. Are you kidding me? That's horrible. ... You shouldn't be distracted. You don't owe anything to anyone else." Tysiac noted Boston College Assistant AD for Media Relations Chris Cameron, an Univ. of Kentucky alum, "started a Facebook page appealing to 'Sports Viewers Against In-Game Coaching Interviews'" after watching a UK game on TV (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/19).
FINDING THEIR VOICE: Vancouver's CKPK-FM host Peter Schaad has signed a two-year contract to be the "official play-by-play voice" of the MLS Whitecaps on CTFE-AM (VANCOUVER SUN, 2/19).