SBD/July 26, 2011/Media

The NFL Goes Back To Work: Network Execs Excited For Business As Usual

Sean McManus called the end of the lockout a relief and a very satisfying day
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).
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