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It has "become common wisdom, both internally and outside of HBO," that HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg and Senior VP Kerry Davis "are on their way out," according to Jerry Izenberg of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Fueling the "immediacy of that suggestion is the fact" that HBO co-President Richard Plepler and President of Programming Michael Lombardo, "the man to whom Greenburg reports, are completing a fact-finding mission about why the network’s entire boxing program is in such disregard." Both Plepler and Lombardo "question the competence and boxing knowledge of HBO Sports." On Tuesday, boxing promoters Bob Arum and Don King said that "they believe Greenburg has not only harmed his own network but blame him for much of the disarray in which boxing finds itself." When asked if HBO has been "bad for boxing," King said, "Absolutely, and bad for the public as well." Referring to Saturday's Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga bout, King added, "We are fighting to take back the business and put it back in the hands of professionals. That’s why this fight is on Showtime, which is owned by CBS, and the CBS-TV network will promote as will 160 of its radio stations." Arum said, "HBO Sports has trashed this sport. Don and I are fighting for survival. This fight is the first step. It will generate terrific excitement when they go toe-to-toe. You asked me about a change in HBO Sports and until or unless it happens I cannot comment on that, but I will say this: They (HBO Sports) want promoters whom they can tell when to fight and where to fight and control it. You don’t make great fights that way. You can’t be lazy and arrogant. You have to work like hell. So in this fight we are going to take this business and put it back in the hands of the promoters and the public where it belongs" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/10).
ESPN yesterday named Adrian Healey its primary play-by-play announcer for MLS telecasts starting this season. Healey, who will make his debut with the Galaxy-Sounders season opener on March 15, will pair in the booth with analyst John Harkes. Alexi Lalas returns as a studio analyst for the net's MLS coverage, and Max Bretos will return as studio host and play-by-play commentator. Also returning are reporter Rob Stone and studio/match analyst Taylor Twellman (ESPN). The AP reports Healey's predecessor at ESPN, JP Dellacamera, is moving to Fox Soccer "to become play-by-play man" for its MLS coverage. Dellacamera will work Fox Soccer's 14 Friday night telecasts, "which are exclusive to the network." He also calls games for the Philadelphia Union. Eric Wynalda will host pregame, halftime and postgame shows for Fox Soccer, alongside Christopher Sullivan. Kyle Martino "takes over from Sullivan as the color commentator" alongside Dellacamera (AP, 3/10). A source indicated that Fox Soccer in the coming days also is "expected to announce the return of Allen Hopkins to the channel." Hopkins is expected to call some MLS games for Fox Soccer, where he worked before a five-year stint at ESPN, as well as "matches involving WPS and other properties." By landing Hopkins, Fox Soccer has "added a third member of ESPN's MLS crew from last season to its MLS coverage this season" (GOAL.com, 3/9).
STATE OF THE UNION: In Philadelphia, Kerith Gabriel cites a source as saying that the MLS Philadelphia Union and Comcast are "ironing out a deal" to have Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia "potentially air 18 of 34 league matches." In addition, CSN Philly "will air a weekly soccer show, with the host to be announced." The show "tentatively will be called 'State of the Union,' which was once the name of CSN's Union blog." The Union already have a "long-term deal" with WPVI-ABC, but the source said that the "collaboration with Comcast will eliminate coverage" on WPVI's digital cable channel, the LiveWell Network. The source added that "'programming details and minor scheduling conflicts' are the only issues holding up announcements on both sides" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/10).
DirecTV will carry truTV's NCAA men's basketball tournament games in HD under the terms of a deal the satellite operator finalized with Turner Sports yesterday. Sources said DirecTV has committed to launch the HD version of the channel later this year, but is committed to carrying all the tournament games in HD. With about 19 million total subscribers, DirecTV was the biggest distributor who did not have a carriage deal in place for truTV HD.
MLBAM and the NBA have each expanded the availability of their online live game subscriptions to include Apple TV, the technology giant's digital media receiver. For each league, the Apple TV functionality will work similar to other set-top digital video boxes such as Roku and Boxee. Users will still need separate subscriptions to MLB.tv and NBA League Pass, but those subscriptions will now become usable through the popular Apple TV, which was re-released last fall as a much smaller and more powerful unit. The baseball and basketball content became available as part of a broad software update being conducted today by Apple. In addition to the live game content, a version of the NBA Game Time mobile application will also be available on Apple TV with free content such as live scores, statistics and video highlights, similar to what the league did last fall for Google TV. MLB.tv is now available through 11 total platforms encompassing broadband, smartphones, video game consoles, tablets and connected TVs (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). The FINANCIAL TIMES' David Gelles notes the deal "could signal a shift in thinking for sports leagues about how they make their content available online." Sports leagues typically have been "judicious about making live content available online, so far preferring to control the digital rights to their live games themselves" (FT.com, 3/10).
Univ. of Minnesota football games will be broadcast on KFAN-AM and simulcast on KTLK-FM "for the next three years, while men's and women's basketball and men's hockey will move" to ESPN Radio 1500 Twin Cities, according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. WCCO-AM previously was the "longtime radio home" for the UM sports. UM AD Joel Maturi "declined to disclose the terms of the three-year contracts," and it is "not clear whether the university will receive rights fees or buy the airtime and sell its own advertising" through Learfield Sports. The contract "calls for Learfield to produce the broadcasts, including hiring the announcers." Miller notes the loss of the rights marks a "subdued end to a sports epoch" for WCCO. The station's "lone remaining sports property" is the Wild. Maturi noted that when Learfield "began shopping Gophers' broadcasts recently, reaching a younger audience than WCCO's older demographic was important" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/10).
FALLOUT FROM MOVE: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports Learfield is "believed to be paying the University of Minnesota more than $3 million annually to oversee Gophers broadcasting and marketing." It is "clear that the Gophers were seeking a younger audience for football and basketball and hockey broadcasts." Maturi "notified season-ticket holders of the moves through an e-mail" before UM announced the new partnerships yesterday, and he wrote that KFAN and ESPN Radio 1500 "were aggressive with 'very strong' business proposals." WCCO GM Mick Anselmo said that he "wasn't surprised at the Gophers' moves." Anselmo: "It's not that I didn't see it coming. I think it's the evolution of the marketplace -- two sports stations." WCCO losing UM sports "would seem to benefit the Wild, if there is a contract renewal, in that there seemingly would be fewer conflicts for game broadcasts." Anselmo said that he "wants to renew with the Wild" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/10).
Media analysts believe that the Big East "may get as much as $460 million for multiyear television contracts to its college basketball and football games." The Big East's six-year, $200M contract with ESPN "runs through the end of the 2012 season." RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said that the conference "may get an increase close" to the 230% the ACC received when Fox and ESPN "got in a bidding war" last year. In the end, the ACC increased its annual rights fee from almost $67M to $155M under a new deal with ESPN (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/9).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Outdoor Channel picked up the re-air rights to "The Bassmasters," which includes the "Bassmaster Classic" and "Bassmaster Elite Series" tournaments. Episodes will debut on March 28, about 30 days after they originally are telecast on ESPN2. Outdoor Channel is committed to run 26 weeks of programming from this deal, which also includes episodes from last year (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
MEDIA BLACKOUT: Heat G Dwyane Wade and his teammates have "avoided the airwaves with the Heat being such a hot topic" since coach Erik Spoelstra revealed to the media that some players cried after losing to the Bulls on Sunday. Wade said that he "hasn't watched any sports channels or read newspapers since Sunday," adding he "went as far as telling anyone at his house to avoid turning the television to ESPN." Wade: "The only thing I found out was Chris Paul got injured the other night and I reached out to my friend. Besides that, I totally have not watched anything" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/9).
RADIO PERSONALITY SUSPENDED: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare cites sources as saying that Harry Teinowitz has been "suspended for the rest of the week" at ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago. Teinowitz on Friday night was "charged with driving under the influence and improper lane usage" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/10).