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Conference USA signed a $43M media rights deal with Fox in January, but current rights holders ESPN is “questioning C-USA’s new deal,” according to Ourand & Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ESPN believes its contract with C-USA “gave it the right to match any offer.” ESPN execs said that they “had an oral agreement on a new deal with the conference and were working to finalize it when the Fox deal was announced.” But C-USA Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs Courtney Morrison-Archer in an e-mail said, “ESPN had every opportunity to step up and address our concerns. Following a long and protracted discussion, the conference board of directors voted to move in a different direction.” Ourand & Smith report relations between the conference and ESPN “have become so strained that the network threatened legal action" against C-USA. Meanwhile, sources said that CBS Sports Network, which has its own separate agreement with C-USA through ‘16, believes “it had the first crack at the package if it ever left ESPN.” CBS Sports Network “has not threatened legal action” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/28 issue). Sources said C-USA and CBS Sports Network the two sides remained cordial during an on-going dialogue about any modifications that need to be made to its contract (THE DAILY). Morrison-Archer said that C-USA expects its television deals with Fox and CBS Sports Network "to proceed as planned with the start of the 2011 football season” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/1).
Coverage of the NHL trade deadline has become filled with "live feeds of guys doing nothing and networks claiming scoops for the most inconsequential of trades," according to Steve Buffery of the TORONTO SUN. The "live feed of the Maple Leafs 'situation room' on Rogers Sportsnet takes the cake" as the "most boring spectacle ever to appear on TV." Every "crappy deal on NHL Trade Deadline Day has become 'Dewey Defeats Truman' big," and for the Canadian sports networks, it is "like Christmas, except with Santa showing up with a bag of coal." There were "precious few interesting trades this year, but the networks had hours of programming to fill and legions of bored hockey insiders waiting to say or do something." The coverage "wouldn't be quite so ridiculous if both networks -- Rogers Sportsnet and TSN -- didn't have so many of these guys." Buffery: "It was incredible. While Pierre McGuire and one panel of hockey insiders yammered on, you could actually see one or two groups of other hockey insiders in the background waiting to get on the air" (TORONTO SUN, 3/1). In Canada, Bob Duff writes under the header, "NHL Trade Deadline Becoming A Dud." Duff: "Even though there were more talking heads than a 1980s new-wave band, there wasn't much accomplished once the dealing was done." Fans can expect deadline day to "continue to be more about bluster than blockbusters" (WINDSOR STAR, 3/1).
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell noted several "bogus Twitter accounts" reported fake trades ahead of yesterday's trade deadline. Someone posing as Rogers Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos "tweeted that the Montreal Canadiens had acquired Dustin Penner from the Edmonton Oilers for Jarred Tinordi and a first round pick." Maple Leafs RW Joffrey Lupul was "part of a hoax of a deal that had him going to the New York Islanders and someone posing as ESPN.com columnist Pierre LeBrun said Brad Richards was coming to Toronto" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 2/28). In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes the tweets "provided at least a few moments of excitement, even if based on falsehood, during the seven interminable hours of TV panellists kicking around ideas that never came to pass, and a very few that did." They "embarrassed those who were fooled, enraged those whose identities they stole, amused the casual onlookers and got the Twitterverse buzzing with re-tweeted -- or outright stolen -- material that was spread without checking its veracity" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/1).
NUMBERS GAME: SI.com's Adrian Dater notes the NHL salary cap instituted in '05 "had the intended consequence of cutting down drastically on the number of going-out-business-for-the-year fire sales by teams out of playoff contention." The bad team "with the high-salaried player can't just unload him anymore to the rich, Cup-driving team because the Cup-driving team is already capped out." Red Wings Senior VP & GM Ken Holland: "That's it, in a nutshell. Most of the top teams probably have a pretty good payroll as it is, near the top. It's tough to do much by the deadline." Dater writes the "uncertainty of the NHL's labor situation after next season continues to play a minor role in the lack of major salary additions of players with contracts beyond then, though most influential hockey people believe there won't be any work stoppage this time around" (SI.com, 3/1).
PGA Tour weekend telecasts are averaging a 2.0 final Nielsen rating on CBS and NBC through five tournaments, up 42.9% from a 1.4 rating for four CBS tournaments at the same time period last year, which saw many weekend telecasts up against the Vancouver Games. The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on NBC this past weekend averaged a 1.7 rating and 2.5 million viewers for Luke Donald's victory over Martin Kaymer. This year's figures are the best for the tournament since NBC's broadcast in '08, which saw Tiger Woods win the event over Stewart Cink. NBC's viewership was also up 71% for the weekend from CBS' coverage last year. Golf Channel is seeing PGA Tour viewership up 59% to start the season (live telecasts + replay telecasts). The net's coverage of the Match Play Championship also led Golf Channel to its second most-viewed February in the net's history (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In San Diego, Tod Leonard writes this season's PGA Tour ratings are "reflective of a brighter television outlook for all of the West Coast Swing." PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw said that the Tour and its sponsors are "encouraged by the amount of time viewers are staying with broadcasts," which is "about 100 minutes this season" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/1).
SPREADING ITS WINGS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted with Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal complete, it "didn't take long for NBC to invade then overrun Comcast-owned Golf Channel." Mushnick: "From Johnny Miller to Al Michaels, everything on the network has quickly been marinated in NBC." He added, "How long before CBS, which has a preexisting deal to co-produce the early rounds of its PGA events on GC, begins to fight NBC's pervasive GC presence on CBS's time? And how long before the Versus network, also owned by Comcast, is renamed and re-programmed to become the NBC Sports Network?" (N.Y. POST, 2/27).
Large audiences for annual events such as the Super Bowl have not "translated into consistent viewing for regular series -- a familiar scenario that nevertheless has implications for both the networks and rights-holders to such sports and specials," according to Brian Lowry of DAILY VARIETY. Fox, "in terms of marketing platforms," used last month's Super Bowl to "trumpet newcomers 'The Chicago Code' and 'Traffic Light,' while featuring a postgame episode of 'Glee.'" But just weeks later, "The Chicago Code" "isn't raising any alarms, 'Light' is flickering at a generous flashing yellow, and 'Glee' hasn't enjoyed any appreciable bump from the additional one-time-only exposure." NBC also "tried leveraging playoff NFL to put some wind behind 'The Cape,' a superhero drama that has seen its episode order cut." Lowry noted in theory, "maintaining the Olympics as Comcast seeks to rebuild NBC would look like a no-brainer," but the net's "primetime fortunes have steadily eroded despite the advantage of televising the Olympics every other year." Fox Exec VP/Strategic Program Planning & Research Preston Beckman "referred to big tune-in recorded by events like the Olympics and World Series as 'borrowed audience' -- the point being it's difficult to convert such drive-by viewers into steady support for new series." Lowry wrote, "With many of these events, the audience is simply incompatible with the profile of typical primetime series viewers" (DAILY VARIETY, 2/26).
USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes college basketball has "momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament," as last weekend it "drew higher weekend overnights in 14 of the TV windows on ESPN or CBS where there was comparable coverage last year." CBS earned a 2.0 overnight for Saturday's BYU-San Diego State game, and both teams "could give CBS/Turner NCAA tournament coverage some ratings boosts in the West, which otherwise might not have many strong teams" (USA TODAY, 3/1).
SEAL OF APPROVAL: Former UNLV men's basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian on his LAS VEGAS SUN blog wrote HBO overall "did a good job" with its upcoming documentary entitled "Runnin' Rebels of UNLV." Tarkanian: "They were professional and fair. The story had to be done and they had a lot of guts for doing it. ... I would say 75 percent of the program was positive. For me, that is a pretty good percentage" (LASVEGASSUN.com, 2/28).
ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE: In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis in a front-page piece reports signs point to Univ. of Hawaii sports "moving exclusively to Oceanic Time Warner Cable this fall," which would "end more than a quarter-century of free over-the-air television," most recently on KFVE-MYT, which has carried Hawaii sports for nine years. Yesterday was "listed as the final day of the negotiation window between Oceanic and KFVE, according to the contract" (Honolulu STAR-ADVERTISER, 3/1).