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Top ESPN production execs are meeting the Olympic broadcasting execs in Madrid tomorrow, the latest signal that ESPN is interested in bidding for the '14 Sochi and '16 Rio de Janeiro Games. ESPN VP/Int'l Development Rob Simmelkjaer, the net's point person on the Olympic bid, Senior VP/Content Mike Pearl and Coordinating Producer Bill Bonnell are making the trip in an effort to demonstrate that ESPN can handle the Olympic Games and to discuss what their production plans would be. ESPN's pitch centers around televising the Games in real time rather than on a delay. Pearl brings a lot of Olympic production experience to the table, having worked on six Olympics, including as Exec Producer for three on CBS and ABC. The meetings are rather standard. Sources said Fox and NBC also have gone through similar meetings. The ESPN delegation is meeting with Olympic Broadcasting Services Managing Dir & CEO Manolo Romero and IOC VP Television & Audiovisual Rights Vincent Chupin. IOC Finance Commission Chair Richard Carrion, the organization's lead negotiator for the broadcast rights, has said that the IOC hopes to have finalized a deal by July. It historically has hosted negotiations near its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The IOC is definitely accepting bids on the '14 and '16 Games; it is considering expanding the bidding process to include the '18 and '20 Games as well.
FS South beginning today will "start incorporating live-streaming data on 10 digital billboards across the Atlanta area," according to Jeremiah McWilliams of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. The outdoor advertising will have live Hawks game scores, starting with tonight's matchup with the Lakers, "as well as Atlanta Braves spring training headlines directly from FoxSportsSouth.com." In addition, "live scores from Braves games will stream on the boards" when the MLB regular season begins. Fox is "trying to hit casual fans from as many angles as possible." FS South Dir of Marketing & Network Presentation Michael Brouder: "People are bombarded with messages in their day-to-day walk through life. We're just trying to make it easier for sports fans to catch their teams." McWilliams reports the network contends that it is the "first in the Atlanta market and first among Fox's 18 regional networks to use the technology, which will blast scores for about 18-24 seconds per minute on 40-foot billboards." FS South worked with "billboard companies including CBS, Clear Channel, Lamar Advertising and Olympus Media to design the streaming program" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/8).
YES Network and the Nets are "taking a cable rights fee dispute to arbitration, marking the first time a panel of arbitrators will be used to decide the rights fee an RSN will pay an NBA team," according to Ourand & Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The two sides "have been trying to work out a deal over the past year," with YES President & CEO Tracy Dolgin and Nets CEO Brett Yormark "leading the negotiations." It is "not clear what YES currently pays the team in an annual rights fee," but sources said that the two sides "remain far apart, leading to the unprecedented step of using an arbitrator to determine the fee." In a "last-ditch attempt to avoid arbitration," the Nets "hired CAA Sports to negotiate a deal" on their behalf. Sources said that YES and CAA's David Rone "reached a tentative agreement ... after a marathon session during the first week in February." YES "agreed to pay the Nets a healthy increase -- around $20 million per year to start, with moderate annual increases -- but only if a long-term extension was on the table." The Nets "agreed to give YES a 10-year extension." But sources said that "almost a week after CAA and YES committed to a deal," Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "stunned executives by nixing it." The sources said that the 10-year extension was the "sticking point" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/7 issue).
LATER TIP: In N.Y., Fred Kerber reports the Nets are "headed toward returning to 7:30 p.m. starts -- from 7 -- next season ... to answer empty seats at the start of games as well as the league's lowest home attendance for a second straight year." The later start time "should be formally adopted after the season" (N.Y. POST, 3/8).
ESPN's Bill Simmons said that he is "aiming to create a 'Murderers' Row' of established and up-and-coming writers" for his new website, which is scheduled to launch in May, according to Michael McCarthy of USA TODAY. Simmons said that the still-unnamed site will host "all of The Sports Guy's columns and podcasts." He has hired Chuck Klosterman, Molly Lambert, Chris Ryan and Katie Baker to contribute, and the site will boast "8-12 writers and editors, be owned by ESPN but won't carry the mothership's brand." Simmons said he is "definitely not going to edit other writers' pieces." He continued, "I felt like there was a void for a site like this. When I was growing up, I wanted to write for the Boston Globe, Inside Sports and Sports Illustrated. When I was in college, I wanted to write for The National and Spy magazine. ... When I look at the landscape now, I don't feel like there's a web site, or a magazine, or a newspaper like that. I'm not saying this is going to be the web site. I feel we have a chance." Asked about the lack of ESPN branding for the site, Simmons said, "We'll be able to take a couple of chances that a Web site wouldn't be able to take if it had ESPN in the name. But we're also using the ESPN infrastructure. The same sales staff. The same Web site infrastructure. We're taking the umbilical chord. The box on ESPN.com that I have right now will become a box for the web site. ... Together we can do some damage" (USATODAY.com, 3/8). Simmons last month also talked to THE DAILY about the new site.
CHARTING A NEW PATH: Simmons and Klosterman discussed the website last week on Simmons' "The B.S. Report" podcast. Klosterman asked Simmons whether ESPN is "spinning you off or are you consciously spinning off?" Simmons: "Both. I wanted to create a site and find some other people that would help me create it, some writers, and have some stuff that I felt like filled in some of the voids in the Internet right now." Klosterman: "It will be fun. I'm looking forward to it." Simmons noted the "first person" he called was Klosterman, who said in response, "I'm really honored that you're finally creating a home for some of my epic poetry, my playwriting and my erotica which I have no other place to write for. But now I'm on your site I can do it all the time." Simmons noted there will be "more podcasts than just mine" on the site, and he is going to "try to brand them so you know they're podcasts that are attached to the site." Simmons said of the writers on the site, "I wanted to try to find people that were on their way up instead of the other direction, which I think is a mistake that people have made when they've planned magazines and things like that." Simmons added, "The pressure I feel is just that once we get going that everybody is just doing their best stuff" ("The B.S. Report," ESPN.com, 3/3).
ESPN President of Customer Marketing & Sales Ed Erhardt participated in a Q&A with CABLEFAX DAILY's Cathy Applefeld Olson to discuss the net moving its "nascent 3D network to a 24/7 programming schedule." The following are excerpts from the Q&A:
Q: Why does it make sense for ESPN 3D to go 24/7 now?
Erhardt: We want to be advocates for 3D advertising as part of the 3D marketplace and the 3D experience.
Q: What's the proposition for advertisers?
Erhardt: We are providing a unique feed for 3D commercials, so if you're wearing your glasses and watching the programming, you are going to see them.
Q: At this juncture, what's either enticing advertisers or causing them to wait on the sidelines?
Erhardt: There is a cost factor, and a usage factor most important. Advertisers want scale. And at the moment 3D distribution -- and 3D sets and 3D content -- need to scale up. If you think about the advertisers currently doing spots in 3D, it's the movie studios that are using their content in 3D, and the set makers -- the Samsungs, Sonys and Panasonics -- have 3D spots because it's in their vested interest. And then there are some advertisers that are cutting-edge and want their brands to be seen as cutting edge. Mercedes has taken an aggressive stance in this regard (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/8).
PAYING THE PRICE: CABLEFAX DAILY reports some cable and satellite companies may begin charging subscribers "a premium for 3D programming." Comcast "isn't yet charging a premium for Xfinity 3D and ESPN 3D," but Comcast VP/Video Services Jay Kreiling said that company execs "have discussed the possibility of packaging 3D content on a premium tier." A Time Warner Cable spokesperson declined to comment on "how the addition of new 3D channels to its lineup could impact 3D Pass pricing" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/8).
TO THE BIG SCREEN: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Carolyn Giardina reported Sony and the All England Lawn Tennis Club yesterday officially announced a "multiyear partnership to bring Wimbledon to 3D-ready digital cinemas around the world." The live 3D production, "in partnership with Wimbledon host broadcaster BBC, also will be offered to broadcasters." Coverage "will include the men's singles semifinals and finals and the women's singles finals" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/7). DAILY VARIETY's Mark Schilling noted Sony is partnering with the BBC, "which takes the lead role in the Wimbledon broadcasts, and SuperVision Media, a sports and entertainment content provider to theaters." Details, "including global partners and number of theaters, have yet to be revealed" (VARIETY.com, 3/7).
Atlanta's WSTR-FM and WQXI-AM "will become flagships of the Atlanta Falcons Radio Network for the next four seasons." The two stations "will simulcast all Falcons regular and pre-season football games, along with pre and post-game shows, beginning with the 2011 season." Falcons radio announcer Wes Durham and analyst Dave Archer will continue in their roles (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/7). In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter reported WGCL-CBS "will serve as the Falcons' official preseason television partner." WGCL also will broadcast "weekly pre-game and post-game shows during the regular season." WXIA-NBC and WZGC-FM "were the previous television and radio partners for the Falcons" (AJC.com, 3/7).
GROWTH SPURT: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Etan Vlessing reported Bell Canada Enterprises "has secured a broadcast license to get into the live sports pay-per-view business" after the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission approved the launch of the Bell Sports-Specials PPV channel. The net will "offer live and tape-delayed live sports and special events programming nationwide," and its launch signals that Bell "wants to offer marquee sports properties via terrestrial TV for a price" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/7). Meanwhile, DAILY VARIETY's Brendan Kelly noted the CRTC also approved Bell Canada's $1.3B "acquisition of leading broadcast group CTVglobemedia on Monday -- with some provisos." Bell in the deal "picks up the CTV network and a slew of cable channels, including Discovery Channel (Canada), MTV Canada, The Sports Network, MuchMusic and the Reseau des Sports" (VARIETY.com, 3/7).
MEDIA DARLING: WFAN-AM's Mike Francesa yesterday announced that Yankees manager Joe Girardi "will appear on his show every weekday on which the Yankees play," usually between 1:30-2:00pm ET. Girardi "will continue to do his longer weekly late-afternoon spot" on Thursdays. WFAN is the Mets' flagship station, and Mets manager Terry Collins "will appear once weekly, as his predecessors did" (NEWSDAY.com, 3/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Daniel Barbarisi notes while managers "often make weekly paid radio appearances on local stations," appearances with Girardi's "level of frequency are less common." The appearances "add to an extensive list of media duties," including YES Network's "The Joe Girardi Show," a "half-hour program that airs Sundays during the season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/8).
INSIDE LOOK AT PUJOLS: MLB Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols yesterday "sat for an extended interview" with CBS' Bob Simon and a "60 Minutes" crew that "has spent several months on a piece scheduled to air in April." The show was "granted exclusive access to Pujols Foundation charitable events as well as last year's humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/8).