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UFC President Dana White this week at the UFC Fighter Summit in Las Vegas announced that “fighters will receive bonuses for adding Twitter followers and writing creative tweets,” according to a UFC official cited by Ariel Helwani of MMAFIGHTING.com. UFC and Strikeforce fighters starting June 1 “will be divided into four categories, based on how many Twitter followers they currently have.” At the end of each quarter, three fighters from each category “will be awarded a $5,000 bonus.” The three winners will be “based on who has gained the most followers since the start of the quarter, who gained the highest percentage of new followers and who wrote the most creative tweets.” White “will be the judge of the last category.” UFC at the conclusion of a full calendar year “will end up paying $240,000 a year to its fighters for their Twitter usage” (MMAFIGHTING.com, 5/11). In Houston, Jeremy Botter wrote the initiative is a “bold new step, and a complete change of course from other sporting organizations." Botter: "Only time will tell if it’s effective, but it’s an interesting step from an organization who has embraced social media like no other” (CHRON.com, 5/11).
BIRDIES ON THE GOLF COURSE: In Dallas, Bill Nichols notes the PGA Tour Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial “is going all social media on us,” as next week's tournament “will be awash in mobile devices.” Ft. Worth-based agency Warren Douglas has been “enlisted to ‘manage the social media,’ as if that’s possible.” Twitterers will “receive up-to-the-minute updates, consumer offers from tournament sponsors, and Twitter feeds of players.” Twitter tickers “will flash updates on five digital boards on the course, and on two at Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth.” TCU marketing majors “will serve as volunteer Tweet Caddies,” and they will be “stationed at the main gate, the clubhouse and at holes 1, 3 and 9” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/12).
IndyCar's contract with ABC "expires at the end of this year, and while there's been a lot of chatter about moving races to NBC, ABC officials have said they still have a strong desire to retain the open-wheel racing series," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. IndyCar "hired IMG Media Sports Programming to negotiate with ABC and the two sides held their first meeting during the last week in April." ABC has a "90-day exclusive negotiating period before series officials can talk to other networks." ABC pays $4-6M annually "to air IndyCar races, and series officials are looking for at least that much for the next contract." Versus "pays a similar amount to air the series' remaining races." Sources said that one of the things on the table is "adding more races to ABC's package to bring in more revenue for the series." IndyCar officials also are "likely to ask ABC to increase its promotion of the Indianapolis 500" (IBJ.com, 5/11). The Izod IndyCar Series has averaged a 0.6 U.S. rating and 872,000 viewers for three races this season across ABC and Versus, up from a 0.4 rating and 557,000 viewers for four races at the same point last season. This year's figure excludes last week's race from Brazil, which was rained out on Sunday, May 1 and run the following Monday morning. Figures from the '10 season also exclude the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg due to a Sunday rainout (THE DAILY).
Versus and NBC Sports will cross-promote the '11 NHL Conference Finals between the two networks and on local Comcast-owned RSNs. NBC will carry Game Four of the Lightning-Bruins Eastern Conference Finals, as well as Game Four of the Western Conference Finals between the Canucks and the winner of the Red Wings-Sharks series. Versus will televise all other games in the two series. Versus will carry Game Three and Four of the Stanley Cup Final, while NBC airs the other matchups. Comcast SportsNet New England will televise pre- and postgame shows for each of the Eastern Conference Finals games, and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and California are prepared to offer similar coverage should the Sharks advance to the conference finals. For tonight's Red Wings-Sharks Game Seven, Versus is broadcasting an extended hour-long telecast of its "Hockey Central" pregame show.
Toronto-based Score Media Inc. has acquired rival mobile outfit SportsTap, one of the most popular smartphone sports applications, from Mobile1Sports LLC. The combined Score Media-SportsTap entity will rank among the largest sports mobile audiences in the U.S. with a combined unique user base of more than 3 million. Score Media will run its own ScoreMobile and SportsTap as separate products and separate brands. Financial terms were not disclosed. Mobile1Sports co-founders Wayne Elliot and Logan Rockmore will remain on and work for Score Media. Score Media Exec VP & COO Benjie Levy said, "Both companies were early to the mobile space and have been keeping an eye on each other for some time. It became apparent that coming together was going to make a lot of sense, and really accelerate our growth."
The Bulls hired former Chicago Tribune NBA writer Sam Smith as their blogger-in-chief for Bulls.com in '08, and “to hear Smith tell it, he has bridged the holy divide between journalism and public relations with his integrity and incredulousness intact, and with more freedom than he had before,” according to Daniel Libit of the COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW. With the team one win away from playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, “things are glorious in Chicago these days” and both Smith and the Bulls acknowledge that “their relationship isn’t currently being stress-tested.” When Smith joined the organization, the “only thing the team insisted on was that a disclaimer appear on each of his pieces, spelling out his editorial independence and lack of special access.” Smith “refused to discuss the details,” but within his “first month on the job the disclaimer was moved from the bottom to the top of the page after another NBA team raised an issue about something he had written.” The team three years later said that it “couldn’t be happier providing one of its most vigilant followers editorial independence on its own web platform.” The “returns have been noticeable: the Bulls’ website’s pageviews increased 8 percent the first year of Smith’s blog, which, according to the team, currently accounts for 13 percent of its web traffic.” Smith at the beginning of this season “re-upped with the Bulls for a three-year contract.” He declined to say how much he earns, but said that it is “commensurate with what he made at the Tribune.” The terms of his deal “remained the same: he is contracted to cover the Bulls’ games, write an NBA notes column on Monday -- just as he did at the Tribune -- and answer reader mail in a Friday column.” He “posts game follow-ups directly to the website once he’s finished them, and the typos are all his own.” Smith said that so far he has “faced only one losing battle with the Bulls: he’s failed to convince the team to leak him information, in spite of multiple attempts” (COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, May/June ’11 issue).
In Detroit, Kevin Bull reported FS Detroit averaged a 19.5 local rating and 367,000 HHs in the market for Tuesday's Sharks-Red Wings Western Conference Semifinals Game Six, a "record audience" for the net. The previous record was a 17.5 rating for Red Wings-Ducks Western Conference Semifinals Game Seven in '09 (FREEP.com, 5/11).
END OF THE LINE: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly reports Rogers Sportsnet "moved Wednesday to fire on-air host Damian Goddard" after a "spate of tweets in support of a hockey agent's stand against gay marriage." Sportsnet in a release suggested that its problems with Goddard "did not start with his decision to share his political views online." Sportsnet Dir of Communications & On-Air Promotions Dave Rashford: "Mr. Goddard was a freelance contractor and in recent weeks it had become clear that he is not the right fit for our organization." Goddard, when asked "if his dismissal was the result of a misunderstanding," said, "The truth will come out" (TORONTO STAR, 5/12). Sources said that Rogers' "policy on social media is that no employee should express opinions on Twitter that they would not say live on air or in print" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 5/11).
HITTING IT OUT OF THE PARK: MLB.com's At Bat 2011 mobile application has received Editor's Choice and Top Developer designations from Google as part of a new badging effort and redesign aimed at curating the sprawling Android app marketplace, now exceeding 200,000 applications. At Bat was the only sports app to receive both of those designations. ScoreMobile, whose parent company has acquired rival SportsTap, also received an Editor's Choice nod (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).