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Fox Sports Media Group yesterday officially named Gus Johnson its lead announcer for college football. Johnson will team with analyst Charles Davis to call Big 12, Conference USA and Pac-12 games on FX, as well as a pair of games for the Big Ten Network, one of Fox' two conference championship games and the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Johnson and Davis in '12 also will call Fox' regular-season broadcast schedule. Johnson will continue to be the lead men's basketball announcer on the Big Ten Network, will call Fox' Pac-12 men's basketball tournament games in '13 and will work select NFL broadcasts following the college football season this year (Fox). FSMG Exec Producer, co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said that Johnson and Davis "will do about 15 college football games during the regular season" (L.A. TIMES, 5/11). In Houston, David Barron wrote given the "amount of money that Fox is dropping with the Pac-12 and its relationship with the Big Ten, I presume that we will see and hear Johnson and Davis primarily" work games involving those conferences and "less so on Big 12 games" (CHRON.com, 5/10).
END OF THE MADNESS? Johnson said, "I don't know if it's necessarily a better fit. It's a new opportunity and a bigger stage for me -- getting to be a lead play-by-play guy for a network like Fox." Johnson added he "lost a lot of sleep over" leaving CBS' NCAA basketball tournament coverage. But Shanks said that Johnson "might not have worked his last CBS broadcast." CBS "has used announcers moon-lighting from other networks" during its tournament coverage (Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 5/11).
Walt Disney Co. President & CEO Bob Iger yesterday said that bidding for the rights to the '14 and '16 Olympics "could present much more than an ad revenue opportunity" for ESPN, "as it could also help drive the network's already industry-leading affiliate fees even higher," according to Mike Farrell of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. SNL Kagan indicated that ESPN has the "highest monthly carriage fees" of any cable network -- about $4.50 per month per subscriber. When asked if ESPN has "maxed out its leverage with affiliates," Iger said that "while major events like the Olympics would definitely be a boost to advertising revenue, there is ample room to grow affiliate fees." Iger: "There are definitely opportunities for ESPN to address its subscription revenue based on the general programming offering that it has which is both a collection of events including the Pac 12 or sports it's already bought and possibly sports that it may buy. I think it would be wrong to assume that the purchase of an Olympics should only be looked at as a possible generator of incremental advertising revenue. It would definitely generate incremental subscription revenue." Iger said that Disney "will consider obtaining the rights for the games, but added that they also won't pay too much for them" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/11). Iger said ESPN needs to be "a must-have product." The net "hopes to persuade cable and satellite operators to pay higher fees for Olympic programming." But Iger added that "if that falls short," then ESPN execs "must be 'mindful of their margins'" (DEADLINE.com, 5/10).
NOT CONCERNED ABOUT NFL LOCKOUT: Iger said Disney is "hoping that the league and its players association resolve" the NFL lockout and "we get a season." However, he said if there is no NFL season, the "impact on ESPN will not be significant for a few reasons." Iger: "There's a huge demand for male demographics, and advertisers are going to have to find places to express their advertising needs for male demographics. ESPN has almost 300 college football games, so you're going to see some extremely, extremely improved pricing for ESPN's college football games. CPMs will be up, rates will be up, and they'll probably expand their format so that they'll add more inventory to take advantage of that. We believe the significant increases that we'll see, not just in college football but across ESPN's other programming, will offset -- at least somewhat -- the impact of an NFL strike" ("Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo," CNBC, 5/10).
DO THEM A SOLID: In Chicago, Philip Hersh wrote the IOC "owes NBC one" in the Olympics rights talks after it "told U.S. networks it wanted" $2B for the rights to the '10 Vancouver and '12 London Games. NBC, "which has become a loyal and valuable broadcast partner to the IOC, took that request at face value and wound up with egg on its face." NBC paid $2.2B for the rights, about $1B more "than had been offered by Fox, the next highest bidder." IOC member Dick Pound: "I think they (NBC) got suckered by the other networks." Hersh wrote, "To help pay the cleaning bill, the IOC should accept NBC's bid next month even it it falls slightly below those from other contenders, likely ESPN and Fox." IOC Finance Commission Chair Richard Carrion said, "We value greatly the relationship we have had with NBC, but that is not an issue here. The issue is wanting a fair process so everyone is bidding under the same conditions. We want to hear about specific plans for coverage and promotion. It's not just about who bids $1 more." Meanwhile, Carrion noted "some have criticized" NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol's coverage of the Games, but he said the IOC has "no complaints." Carrion: "Dick knows how to tell a story. NBC has the status of knowing how things have worked the past 20 years. Whether that's an advantage or disadvantage, I don't know" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 5/10).
A group of 21 NFL players including Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Cowboys TE Jason Witten has partnered with N.C.-based startup online outfit Gridiron Ventures to create Gridiron Grunts, a new social media channel in which players will provide unfiltered audio updates, dubbed "grunts," several times per week on their various activities through a newly released iPhone application. The "grunts" can also be adapted into ringtones for users' mobile phones. The Gridiron Grunts application is being distributed for free, with premium content priced at $0.99 per month for each player "channel." An Android version of Gridiron Grunts is also under development, and Gridiron Ventures is aiming to expand the concept to other sports.
Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said that based on early projections, he believes PPV buys from Saturday's Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley bout "would match or exceed the roughly 1.2 million buys for Pacquiao’s previous fight," a unanimous decision against Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13. In N.Y., Greg Bishop notes the PPV buys are "significant because the fight, distributed by Showtime Pay-Per-View, was promoted heavily by CBS, in what Arum viewed as the first step toward returning boxing to terrestrial television." Arum said that 1.4-1.5 million buys "would highlight the effect of the promotion on the buy rate." He said that he "expected to know the exact number by the end of the week" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/11).
IF YOU'VE GOT NOTHING NICE TO SAY...: Versus NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick on the net's postgame show following the Red Wings' 4-3 win over the Sharks in Game Four of their Western Conference Semifinal series Sunday night said Sharks LW Patrick Marleau turned in a "gutless, gutless performance." Roenick's comment was "an overnight Internet rage," but despite "considerable criticism from fans via Twitter and the hockey media, Roenick didn't backtrack an inch -- for almost 24 hours." Roenick Monday night said on Versus, "Gutless might have been the wrong choice of words, probably it was the wrong choice of words." Sharks TV announcer Randy Hahn tweeted, "Jeremy Roenick only cares about furthering his broadcasting career. His Marleau take was WAY over the line. Many bridges were burned" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/10).
FOX MAKING NEWS: FS Southwest will launch a new reality TV series this week to chronicle the start of the Univ. of Texas at San Antonio's inaugural football season. "UTSA Football: The Birth of a Program" will premiere on Saturday, with the first of six 30-minute episodes. The series will air on FS Southwest, FS Houston and FS Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the American Youth Soccer Organization has reached a multiyear sponsorship deal with Fox Soccer. AYSO and Fox Soccer will co-produce soccer-specific online programming, beginning with six webisodes featuring Fox Soccer analyst Kyle Martino. In addition, the net will air AYSO-specific commercials (THE DAILY).