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The end of the NFL lockout yesterday prompted “high-fives for the networks that pay billions to carry the leagues games,” according to Jon Lafayette of BROADCASTING & CABLE. NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus in a statement said, "We are excited to get back to football." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said, “This is obviously a relief and it's an important property to both CBS Sports and the corporation, so it's a very satisfying day for us." ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches: "The expectation was it was going to be resolved, but having it done and finalized is gratifying." McManus added, "We didn't do anything differently this year than we've done in previous years. The sales force kept selling, the production team kept making production plans. We assumed all along there would be football Week One. That may have been an optimistic appraisal, but it turned out to be an accurate one." McManus said CBS “will do fine this year in sales." McManus: "I think the added excitement of the rush to sign the free agents and the draftees and all of the activity that will happen in such an abbreviated period of time will actually add some interest.” Meanwhile, Lafayette noted the cancelled Aug. 7 Rams-Bears HOF game “lost by NBC because of the lockout is usually one of the top rated telecasts of the week.” Lazarus said, "We will be working with the NFL to determine how to complete our preseason package" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/25). The end of the lockout also means DirecTV “can start collecting on NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions.” DirecTV “held off on taking payments for auto renewals until it was confirmed" that the ’11 NFL season would begin. Now it is “free to start collecting on the 1st installment of those 6 payments of $53.99” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/26).
PERKS FOR THE PEACOCK: DAILY VARIETY’s Stuart Levine wrote “no network more keenly desired a settlement” to the NFL lockout than NBC, which “has long suffered in primetime and would be in even worse shape without the help” of its "Sunday Night Football" package. NBC will also broadcast Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. Horizon Media Senior VP & Dir of Research Brad Adgate said, "Everyone has to be very happy. The rating points that would have been lost would never have been recouped" (VARIETY.com, 7/25). BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield: "The TV industry can't afford to be without football. We live in an on-demand world where football is one of the only live-viewing experiences. It is irreplaceable" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/26).
THREE CHEERS: In L.A., Scott Collins writes under the header, “TV Execs Cheer NFL’s Return.” NBC “was scheduled to air a 15-second promo Monday that celebrated the end of the four-month NFL lockout -- without actually mentioning the labor strife.” Collins: “You can hardly blame relieved TV executives for dancing like fans wearing No. 1 foam fingers. ... Football has become a major tentpole for the networks that share them.” Meanwhile, Collins notes fans have “buzzed about a proposal that could put Thursday games” on a major outlet. A bigger audience for Thursday matchups “could instantly transform what has traditionally been a highly competitive night for broadcasters,” but it might also “run the risk of making viewers tired of football” (L.A. TIMES, 7/26). In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was featured in the NBC spot and wrote, “That didn’t take long” (JSONLINE.com, 7/25). Meanwhile, Fox runs a full-page ad in the N.Y. Times and Wall Street Journal that features Rodgers in uniform and the copy, "We're Back! America's Favorite Network For NFL Is Open For Business." The ad promotes the net's first regular-season game telecasts on Sept. 11. It also touts the fact that '10 was Fox' most-watched NFL season ever and that its Sunday national game was "The #1 Show of the Fall" last year (THE DAILY).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Lafayette noted the new CBA “won’t mean an influx of new money from advertisers looking to sign up for a season taken off the endangered list.” Starcom Worldwide Senior VP & Dir of Sports Activation Sam Sussman: “For the most part the large majority have operated from day one as treating this as business as usual, like there’s going to be a deal that gets done” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/25). American Public Media’s Jeff Horwich noted networks “didn’t even bother with a backup plan for advertisers.” Horizon’s Adgate said NFL ratings “are irreplaceable.” Adgate: “There is nothing the networks can put on that can come remotely close to what the NFL brings to advertisers and viewers.” rEvolution Senior VP/Research Darren Marshall said, “The way that they’ve proceeded with this is to basically pretend that the lockout didn’t exist” (PUBLICRADIO.org, 7/25).
MEDIA MONITOR: Last night’s 6:00pm ET edition of “SportsCenter” dedicated more than half of its broadcast to the resolution of the lockout, with the NFL taking up 29:40 of actual broadcast time. Last night’s edition of NBC’s “Nightly News” first reported on the NFL at 12:58 into the broadcast, with 0:20 of total coverage. ABC’s “World News” first reported on the NFL at 21:06, with 0:19 of coverage. CBS’ “Evening News” first reported on the NFL at 22:18, with 0:19 of coverage. This morning’s edition of CBS’ “The Early Show” began the broadcast with a 26-second discussion on the lockout ending, with a report on the national debt crisis leading the broadcast. “The Early Show” aired a 2:50 report on the NFL at 7:15am ET and included 3:16 of total coverage. NBC’s “Today” first reported on the NFL lockout ending in the opening news cycle and had 0:23 of coverage. ABC’s “GMA” also included the end of the lockout in their news cycle at 14:04, with 0:13 of total coverage (THE DAILY).
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES: EA Sports yesterday released a new video entitled "Game On" aimed at celebrating the new labor deal being reached and touting the upcoming release of "Madden NFL 12." Set to Rare Earth's "I Just Want To Celebrate," players involved include cover athlete and Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Vikings DE Jared Allen, Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Ravens LB Ray Lewis, among others (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
NCAA VP/Academic & Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon yesterday sent a letter to Univ. of Texas men’s AD DeLoss Dodds asking the school to “participate in an Aug. 22 'educational summit' on school and conference network telecasts of youth sports,” according to Steve Wieberg of USA TODAY. Controversy has “arisen in the Big 12 Conference over plans by the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network to carry high school football games.” It is “uncertain how the high school telecasts on a Texas-centric network would conform with NCAA rules or whether new rules would have to be drafted.” Dodds said that the summit “also would include officials from Brigham Young and the Big Ten, which similarly have set up their own networks, and others with designs on their own networks.” Big 12 ADs also will “meet on the issue next Monday” (USA TODAY, 7/26).
OPPOSING COACHES ADDRESS NET: In Ft. Worth, Jimmy Burch notes the idea of showing live high school games on the Longhorn Network has "drawn the ire of fellow Big 12 administrators and coaches who believe showing such contests would give the Longhorns a recruiting advantage." Missouri coach Gary Pinkel: "It's a lack of common sense to think that network can ... have high school games on their network. To me, there's no common sense there" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/26). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes the network "commanded the attention -- most unwillingly -- of the coaches and players of five schools" that participated in the first day of the Big 12's football media days yesterday (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/26). In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian writes Big 12 coaches were "wishy-washy about the rekindled controversy surrounding" the net. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy: "The good thing is I don't have to worry about that. I've got faith in our athletic director (Mike Holder) and our commissioner, Dan Beebe, and I'm sure they'll make the right decisions." Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said that "'half a million Aggies' and the Big 12 will be scrutinizing Texas' efforts." But he added, "I have enough on my plate getting our team ready to play" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/26). In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington notes Texas A&M officials yesterday "made all the media stops, including ESPN, ESPNU, CBS and Fox Sports." Sherrington: "But when they came to the Longhorn Network stand, they passed." Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne is "clearly miffed that the NCAA hasn't already made a ruling on what Texas can air, though he may get his wish soon" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/26).
CONCERNS FOR THE LONGHORNS: Texas coach Mack Brown said that the net "would be a challenge just as much as an advantage for Texas." Brown: "It's not going to be an easy partnership, because they're paying us $300 million for access, and we've got to figure out how much access we can give them and not hurt our chance to have an edge to win the game." Brown noted that net officials told him they "wanted to televise the first scrimmage," and that "everybody would want to see it." Brown: "I said: 'Yeah, Oklahoma, A&M, Kansas, Texas Tech, they're going to be sitting there grading our practice as we do it. We can't do that'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/26). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, "If ESPN gets its way and its relationship with UT includes covering and glorifying the 16-year-old kid who just got his driver's license, take all of the ugly that comes with college sports and apply it to the high school level" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/23). In Houston, Richard Justice wrote under the header, "Longhorn Network Is More Trouble Than It's Worth." The net is "going to be one long infomercial for Texas, and fans aren't stupid." Justice: "They're going to know the network's reporting and commentary have been filtered through the Texas propaganda machine" (CHRON.com, 7/25). But in Tulsa, John Klein wrote if Texas is to "stay in the Big 12, essentially keeping the league from falling apart, then allowing the Longhorns to have their own network is the price of business." Klein: "Despite constant complaints and concerns, the bottom line is that the Longhorn Network is not going to have near the impact that rival Big 12 schools envision." Oklahoma is exploring creating its own network, but the school is "likely to find out that the interest in any type of network, over a variety of platforms, may have a limited audience." Klein: "The same goes for Texas A&M or any other school in the Big 12" (TULSA WORLD, 7/24).
PAC-12 NETWORK SUITORS: In San Jose, Jon Wilner reported Fox is "definitely in play as a potential partner" for the Pac-12 Network despite Fox Sports VP/PR Chris Bellitti last week saying the company is "not in any discussions with the conference about" the net. The Pac-12 is "considering at least three competing proposals, including traditional partnerships (with a cable and satellite operator) and setting a new course by teaming with Apple or Google." Sources said that the conference "won't create a model in which football and basketball games are exclusively on the internet, or on web TV." Google and Apple are "pursuing what's called multi-platform distribution models which will allow them to be viewed through cable/sat systems" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 7/25).
TIMING THE BLITZ: Raycom Sports has launched a new studio show called "ACC Blitz." McAlister's Deli will title sponsor the show, which is scheduled to air at noon ET every Saturday during the college football season. Speed's Danielle Trotta and former Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden will serve as hosts (Raycom Sports).
ESPN has "ordered high school makeover show 'Rise Up' to series and the network has enlisted country music star Kenny Chesney to write the theme song for the franchise," according to Marisa Guthrie of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. "Rise Up," hosted by ESPN college football analyst Chris Spielman and DIY personality Deanne Bell, gives "needy high schools' athletic facilities a makeover." ESPN is currently "in production on new installments in Boston, Seattle, Chicago and Wellston, Ohio, while executives hope to expand the series to six yearly installments" in '12. The season premieres on Sept. 13 at 7:00pm ET with Wellston High School. Guthrie notes the show "comes at a time when the recession has sapped funding for public education making sports and extracurricular activities particularly vulnerable." The series is a "bit of a departure for ESPN, which has branched into documentary" TV, but so far has "stayed away from what could be categorized as reality television." ESPN's sales team is "busy lining up sponsors after EAS Sports Nutrition dropped out as presenting sponsor." Powerade is an associate sponsor and the network "expects to sign up apparel makers." The franchise "bowed with a backdoor pilot last fall" in New Orleans, and Xenith Helmets served as a sponsor for that show. "Rise Up" Exec Producer Joan Lynch said, "Apparel companies and equipment companies want to know: are you going to have my product in every episode? Which is a typical request and they should ask that question. But we don't know exactly what we're doing in each of the schools. So it becomes a little more complicated" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 7/25).
Tonight's broadcast of the World Series of Poker on ESPN will not include "ads from two big sponsors that long bought commercials for the tournament" following the U.S. government's indictments of top execs from Internet sites PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, according to Schechner & Berzon of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. ESPN's WSOP coverage "will air thanks to advertisers including GoDaddy.com, which is a new official sponsor, and long-time sponsor Jack Link's Beef Jerky." ESPN tonight begins "a weekly program that will broadcast highlights from the tournament and run through November." But other poker programs "are beginning to fall by the wayside." Sources said that until the April indictments, PokerStars "had an advertising deal worth between $20 million and $30 million a year across ESPN properties and also had a time-buy show." ESPN has since "removed domestic advertising from the targeted poker sites." But a network spokesperson said ESPN "remains committed to the WSOP." Poker money "wasn't huge" for TV networks, but "it helped." Sources said that Full Tilt Poker, through a production company, "paid millions of dollars a year for NBC to air 'Poker After Dark' six nights a week as part of a time-buy." NBC continues to air the show's current season, and an NBC Sports spokesperson said the net is "continuing to evaluate" its poker programming, which also includes its own "National Heads-Up Poker Championship." ESPN and Fox since April have "removed shows, including Fox's 'PokerStars.net Big Game.'" Some TV networks "are hoping fewer poker shows means bigger audiences -- and new advertisers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/26).
ALL IN: MACLEAN'S Jonathon Gatehouse reported former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack's new professional poker league, Epic Poker, "will host its inaugural tournament at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas" in August, and the event promises "to turn top players into a gaming elite." Pollack said, "In any other sport there are platforms, brands or associations that are focused on the best of the best. Poker doesn't have that. We're going to celebrate skill and strategy above moments of luck." Pollack added that a broadcast deal "is in place, but would not divulge details or plans beyond his desire to give the game 'a new look and feel'" (MACLEAN'S, 7/18 issue).
The NCAA has "mined the social media accounts of athletes in recent years for potential violations, but only now has the clear message been sent that schools must really pay attention, too," according to the BIRMINGHAM NEWS' Jon Solomon, who writes under the header, "What To Do About Social Media? Colleges Tackle How To Monitor What Athletes Are Saying." Terry Ray, Joey McGilberry, Mike Murphy and Josh Dennis 18 months ago co-founded Centrix Social, a Birmingham-based software company that assists colleges and universities in monitoring the social media activity of student-athletes. Mississippi State Univ. last fall "became Centrix Social's pilot program to monitor what athletes post on Facebook and Twitter." Ray said that the company "is very close to adding another SEC school" to its list of clients. At Centrix Social, "the company preloads the rosters of a school's teams." The software "attempts to locate the social media identities, at which point it's up to the athletics department's policies on how to follow athletes." The company provides schools with "a list of 300 to 400 ... red-flag words," which can be customized to include "drug terms, gang phrases or people's names." When there is "a hit on a key word, Centrix Social generates e-mail warnings to the compliance department as well as any coaches who want to be notified." The program "costs $10,000 a year." Murphy, an attorney who works with the company, said that "simply banning athletes from social media could present two problems: Restricting free speech and failing to convince the NCAA that the ban constitutes monitoring." Murphy added, "I have a hard time believing the NCAA would see a ban as a sufficient way to monitor because intuitively, most people believe that won't work. Most people know social media is not going anywhere." Centrix Social "isn't the only program tracking social networks of college athletes." UDiligence has "emerged as a leading company, listing as clients Florida, Ole Miss, Baylor, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Louisville, Memphis, Texas and Texas Tech" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 7/24).
The Charlotte duo “behind a soccer Internet enterprise in the late 1990s is at it again,” with business partners Mac Lackey and Ross Saldarini launching a new venture called kyck.com, according to Celeste Smith of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Details about kyck “are still under wraps.” Lackey, who is "recruiting investors for the project," said that the site “will have a social media bent ‘focused on global soccer at the highest level.’" The project “will share similarities with internetsoccer.com, which the partners launched” in ’99. Lackey said that parts of that company “were sold and resold over the years,” and he “recently bought the domain name back with plans to revive the venture along with kyck.” Kyck is based in Charlotte, and Lackey said that it “will officially launch between October and the end of the year” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/23). Saldarini in an e-mail to potential investors wrote, “Today Facebook, Twitter, etc. have ‘connected’ us in a way the world has never seen before, but these networks do not provide us (the core soccer players and fans) the deep, rich experience we crave focused exclusively on our soccer passion. … Kyck will provide that. It does not replace other social networks, it works with them and makes them and their content more relevant to us” (THE DAILY).