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The BBC and Sky have "joined forces to secure live rights to Formula One motor racing" in the U.K. in a "seven-year deal from 2012 until 2018," according to John Plunkett of the GUARDIAN. Sky will "broadcast all the races, qualifying and practice sessions while the BBC will have the rights to half the races and qualifying including 'key races' such as the British Grand Prix, Monaco Grand Prix and the final race of the season." The BBC also "will have 'extensive' highlights of all races and qualifying events it does not cover live." The deal marks the "first time Formula One races have not been available live on free-to-air television." BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch said that Sky "became involved in the negotiations for Formula One very late in the process." U.K. network broadcaster Channel 4 "reportedly expressed an interest in buying the rights, while ITV rejected the idea of making a bid." Darroch "would not divulge what the company paid, although given half the races will no longer be free to air it is expected to be at a significant premium." Plunkett notes the deal also "follows speculation that the BBC would drop Formula One as it seeks to make cost savings of 20% of its budget following last year's flat licence fee settlement." The BBC "was the traditional home of Formula One motor racing for many years until the rights were bought by ITV in 1997." The BBC regained the rights in '09 (GUARDIAN, 7/29). MEDIA WEEK's Sara Kimberley reported if there are "an odd number of races in the season, the extra race will be screened exclusively on Sky Sports." BBC Radio 5 Live and Sports Extra "will continue to cover every race live" (MEDIAWEEK.co.uk, 7/29).
LOSING FORMULA: In London, Kevin Eason notes the deal was "greeted with dismay by hundreds of thousands of fans," who "bombarded social networking sites protesting that the BBC's coverage will be reduced to just ten races." Former F1 driver Stirling Moss wrote on his Twitter feed, "For F1, and more importantly the UK, fans I can not see this being good over the long term. The casual viewing figure will drop significantly. I would not want [to] pay Sky to see the rest of the season." Eason notes F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone is "due to fly into Budapest, where he will be met with a hostile reception from teams, who knew nothing of the deal until they switched on news channels in their motorhomes before this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix." The teams "have been pushing Ecclestone to keep the sport on free-to-air BBC where Formula One has been enjoying huge audiences this season" (LONDON TIMES, 7/29).
BBC DEFENDS MOVE: In Manchester, Gibson & Plunkett report the BBC is defending its decision to renegotiate its F1 deal, claiming it "would have otherwise been forced to ditch the sport altogether." BBC Dir of Sport Barbara Slater said the savings as part of the new deal were "genuinely significant." However, Gibson & Plunkett note the net is saving at least US$40.7M "less a year." Given that Sky will be paying more than US$26.8M per year "for full live rights, which it will exploit across all platforms, the expectation is that Bernie Ecclestone has again negotiated a significant increase of the total flowing into the sport" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/29).
The Pac-12 Wednesday announced the creation of a national and several regional networks, and while it was “expected to take the conference another month or two to hammer out the details,” Commissioner Larry Scott “wanted to be aggressive and set an early deadline in order to build off the momentum” from this week's conference media days, according to Bryan Fischer of CBSSPORTS.com. Pac-12 officials "were in New York nearly a week before the announcement ironing out in the details," and negotiations "were almost literally around the clock, wrapping up just past 4 a.m. Wednesday." Scott said, "We had a virtual handshake over the phone at 10 a.m. That's when I knew we had a done deal. But I only got confirmation from my general counsel right before the press event at 5 p.m. that it was signed." Scott on Tuesday was "aware of how the negotiations were going when he took the stage at the Fox Lot in Los Angeles for Pac-12 Media Day, but kept things under wraps in case things happened to unravel." Fisher noted Time Warner Cable Exec VP & Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer was one of the "key people who helped the process move along from beginning to end." Financial terms of the deal were not announced, but the networks are "expected to make money in the short term and the conference's unique position of wholly owning everything have positioned them to be rewarded well into the future." Additionally, the fact that Scott "helped bring together two major competitors and four cable operators" as distributors of the regional networks is "one reason why other companies looking to partner with the Pac-12 are eager to buy into the master plan." The "genesis" of the networks "started shortly after Scott was hired to replace retiring commissioner Tom Hansen." Fisher: "It was an idea that evolved slowly during the months and years after he accepted the job of taking a largely stale conference into the 21st century." Scott said, "I didn't come into the job with the mandate to form a TV network. It really evolved as a strategy over my first three months going on a listening tour and assessing the conference" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/28).
FUTURE OF POSSIBILITIES: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes, "How to successfully pull off this yet-to-be defined multi-platform approach ... is always up for discussion," since the "fluid media landscape means that making concrete decisions today can be nearly outdated by the next season." ESPN or Fox is "just as much in play as a Google or an Apple." Scott: "The more I've looked into this, the more I realize that no one knows what the world will look like five years from now. That's one of the motivations for having our own network, frankly. It's so that we're able to evolve with technology and distribution. And being here based on the West Coast, and having the leading institutions that supply the leaders of these cutting-edge technology and media companies out here, I see it as part of our DNA." ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said of Scott, "I hope the fans appreciate the work he has been putting in. I rarely compliment a conference commissioner, but he's someone who is a breath of fresh air. ... Whatever he and his group researched after all their due diligence, I assume it's the way to it" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/29).
FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD: SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote, "'Unique' and 'one-of-a-kind' have been recurring mantras the past two years as Scott, a rare outsider among mostly lifelong college administrators, has repeatedly bucked convention in overhauling the once-sleepy conference." Scott was hired in '09 to "modernize the league and negotiate better television contracts." Mandel: "Just over two years later, the Pac-10 is the Pac-12, ESPN and Fox are teaming up to provide the richest fees for any conference in the country, and, starting next season, [the conference]...will be able to televise all football and men's basketball games." Scott is "not the first commissioner to land a lucrative television deal, but he's the first to convince two purported competitors (ESPN and Fox) to team up and split inventory." Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "was the unquestioned trendsetter in launching the Big Ten Network." But Scott's "unique arrangement with the three most dominant cable companies in the Pac-12 markets (Cox, Comcast and Time Warner) as well as a fourth, Brighthouse, is that the network(s) won't face the same distribution battles the BTN, The Mtn and now Longhorn Network have endured." Scott: "The game-changer here is we got a conference network, but essentially, each of our schools -- with their rival school in their state or market -- has their own network too. It's kind of the best of both worlds." Mandel wrote Scott's "nonconformist, outsider's mentality happens to be exactly what college sports could desperately use right now" (SI.com, 7/28).
Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany Thursday said that while "televising high schools games has been discussed," the net will "not do so in the near future," according to Stu Durando of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Delany: "Maybe it's a recruiting advantage and maybe it's not. But that's not why the network was created. While we try to sort out the best way of doing business, it's going to be the Big Ten's position that we refrain from telecasting high school sports for at least the next couple of years." The NCAA "has scheduled a summit for Aug. 22 when it will address the issue," and all schools or conferences that "have started or plan to start a network have been invited." Delany said, "If the NCAA in its wisdom makes these games televiseable, we'll probably look at it. But it does nothing but confuse an already confused environment" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/29).
FOILED PLANS: In Austin, Cantu & Bohls report before ESPN "backed away from its plan to televise high school football on the Longhorn Network because of the outcry from other Big 12 Conference schools," network officials "approached a 'handful' of high school coaches about the possibility of airing their teams' games this season." Austin High School coach L.D. Williams Thursday said that he was "contacted 'two or three weeks ago' by Paragon Marketing, which acts as a third party to acquire high school games for broadcast by ESPN Networks." Lake Travis High School coach Hank Carter also said that he was "approached by Paragon about the Cavaliers' season-opening game against Westlake, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27." ESPN Dir of Communications for College Sports Keri Potts in an e-mail Thursday said, "We will honor all of our obligations (regarding the Longhorn Network). I think there's a handful (of high school games that were considered for broadcast), but not a lot. I really don't want to go beyond that" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/29).
NFL Films' impact on the league, "both in terms of popularity and profitability, is unquestioned," yet the company "finds itself battling for survival against people who seem to think it has outlived its usefulness," according to the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS' Paul Domowitch, who writes under the header, "NFL Films And Network: A Marriage Gone Bad." NFL Films' budget has been "slashed, its workforce has been gutted by two rounds of layoffs and buyouts, and it essentially has been reduced to an assembly line for cheap, quick-turnaround content for the NFL Network." A workforce that "once included more than 300 employees has been whittled to 215." Most of the "signature programming that made Films so distinctive has been eliminated" because it was "determined to be either too costly or too yesterday or both." CSNPhilly.com's Ray Didinger, who worked at NFL Films for nine years before leaving in '09, said, "The thing that has always set NFL Films apart, the thing that has been its trademark, is the slow spiral in the air. ... But you've got these guys (at NFL Network) now with ADD, they're watching that ball spinning and they're saying, 'OK, let's catch it already. Go, go, go. Catch the ball, will ya.'" He added, "Every time we would propose an NFL Films-type look at something, you could kind of see them say, 'Well, ya know, we were thinking of something that was a little edgier and a little punchier and a little faster.'" Domowitch notes since the arrival of NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein and NFL Films COO Howard Katz eight years ago, "several quality shows, including critically acclaimed 'Game of the Week' and 'Lost Treasures,' were deep-sixed." Former NFL Films VP/Special Projects Phil Tuckett said, "They're destroying that company. It's a cold-blooded killing. Bornstein and Katz are just cold-eyed network killers. They don't care about what we represented." Bornstein declined to comment.
CHANGING BUSINESS MODEL: Domowitch writes the NFL "never cared whether Films made money." But when Bornstein and Katz arrived, it "suddenly started caring how much it was losing." Katz "wouldn't say how much that was," but a league exec indicated that it was "somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a year." Katz said, "Eight years ago, there was less attention paid to the business of NFL Films. We're a better company today because we've been forced, partially through the volume and deadlines that were established by the NFL Network, to establish a degree of financial responsibility that I think is necessary in today's environment." Katz insisted that the league "isn't trying to put Films out to pasture." He added that the company "remains as relevant as ever." Katz: "We produce great content, and there's always going to be a meaningful market for great content. Whether that's short features on mobile devices or giving people access to our shows on Hulu, this company has an enormous future" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/29).
Versus averaged 642,000 viewers for its telecast of the Izod IndyCar Series Edmonton Indy last Sunday afternoon, marking the net’s most-viewed IndyCar telecast in three seasons of televising races. The telecast was also up 99.4% from 322,000 viewers for the same race last year -- this year's race began at 2:55pm ET compared to 5:45pm in '10. The race marks the most-viewed Edmonton Indy event (IndyCar or Champ Car) ever on cable TV, surpassing ESPN’s coverage in ‘07 and ‘08 and the race on Speed in ‘05. Versus’ previous best for an IndyCar telecast was 525,000 viewers for the June 11 Firestone Twin 275s from Texas Motor Speedway.
JUST FOR KICKS: Univision averaged 2.87 million viewers for its telecast of the Paraguay-Venezuela Copa America semifinal on July 20, topping all sports telecasts on broadcast and cable TV for the week ending July 24. The net’s Uruguay-Peru semifinal on July 19 (2.67 million viewers) ranked third for the week. Meanwhile, with the return of many FIFA Women's World Cup players to WPS competition, Fox Soccer added coverage of the magicJack-Western New York Flash match on July 20 to its schedule. While the game sold out in Rochester, the telecast averaged only 27,000 viewers from 7:30-9:38pm ET.
SECOND DOWN: NFL Network averaged 71,000 viewers for 20 AFL regular-season telecasts this year, down 22.8% from an average of 92,000 viewers for 18 telecasts last season. However, the season did end on a high note. The Spokane Shock-Jacksonville Sharks matchup last Friday averaged 192,000 viewers, marking the league’s most-viewed telecast on NFL Net in two seasons of coverage. The net’s previous high was 141,000 viewers for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz-Tulsa Talons game on July 30 last year.
NOTES: ABC averaged a 0.5 rating and 756,000 viewers for the WNBA All-Star Game last Saturday from 3:30-6:00pm. Those figures are up 25% and 46%, respectively, from a 0.4 rating and 519,000 viewers for the game in ’09, which was the last time ABC aired the game. This year’s telecast peaked at 1.09 million viewers during the last 15 minutes of the telecast....FS Arizona earned a 5.2 local rating in Phoenix for the D'Backs-Padres game on Tuesday, marking the net's best rating of the season for a D'Backs game....The Blue Jays-Rangers game on FS Southwest on Sunday earned a 6.0 local rating in Dallas-Ft. Worth, marking the net's highest-rated Rangers game of the season. The rating surpassed the previous mark set by the A's-Rangers game on July 10.
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts on broadcast and cable TV. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) Copa America Semifinal:
MLB: (regional)7/23Fox4:08-7:15pm1.82,863 Copa America Semifinal:
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open:
Copa America Final:
F1: GP of Germany (taped)7/24Fox12:00-1:50pm0.91,406 PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open:
American Oaks (Saratoga)7/23NBC5:00-6:00pm0.81,183
FINA Swimming World
Tour de France recap7/24CBS2:00-3:00pm0.5855 WNBA All-Star Game7/23ABC3:30-6:00pm0.5756 Dew Tour: Pantech Open7/24NBC4:30-6:00pm0.5705 Dew Tour: Pantech Open7/23NBC3:30-5:00pm0.5669 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) MLB: Braves-Reds7/24ESPN7:58-11:02pm1.52,324 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Federated Auto Parts 300 (Nashville)7/23ESPN7:29-10:06pm1.11,728
MLB: Rays-Yankees7/18ESPN7:00-11:13pm0.7994 Senior British Open: Final Round7/24ESPN12:00-2:02pm0.5763 MLB: Cardinals-Mets7/20ESPN7:00-10:29pm0.5712 NHRA Full Throttle Series:
Mopra Mile-High Nationals7/24ESPN27:00-10:00pm0.5705
World Cup of Softball: U.S.-Canada7/23ESPN2:00-4:30pm0.5688 World Series of Poker7/19ESPN8:00-10:00pm0.5646 Izod IndyCar Series: Edmonton Indy7/24Versus2:55-4:53pm0.4642 Men's Softball: Border Battle III:
HBO Friday morning confirmed that it will not air a version of its “Hard Knocks” series this year due to the condensed NFL training camp schedule. However, a 90-minute special taking a look at the first 10 years of the show will air on August 31 at 10:00pm ET. The show will include flashbacks to previous “Hard Knocks” seasons, as well as unseen footage and new interviews. SI’s Peter King on July 23 reported the show would not air this season (THE DAILY). In Boston, Chad Finn writes the absence of the show this season will be “a letdown for HBO Sports” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/29).
DIALING UP THE COMPETITION: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes the “race for Yankees radio rights, starting next season, has begun.” The possibility that the Yankees’ flagship will leave WCBS-AM after nine years "for an FM station -- specifically 101.9 WRXP -- is good.” WRXP this month was purchased by Merlin Media, which “this fall will turn the station from classic rock to all-news,” and Merlin "would love to make an extra-big splash by adding the Yankees.” WCBS’ expiring Yankees rights “went for about $14 million per, a money-losing deal.” A source this week said that “he would be stunned if the Yankees could renew at an increase, and, with AM/FM hurting, he anticipates that the Yankees will be forced to accept less, no matter from whom” (N.Y. POST, 7/29).
ROUNDING 'EM UP: FS Southwest on Wednesday announced it would begin airing “Fox Sports Live: Cowboys Training” after MLB Rangers postgame shows, with Cowboys radio announcer Brad Sham and DallasCowboys.com's Mickey Spagnola hosting the 15-minute updates from the Alamodome. Sham and Spagnola also will host “Cowboys Roundup” on Sundays at 10:00pm CT. The 30-minute show will recap the week’s training camp activities and analyze the team’s roster heading into the regular season. Replays of three Cowboys preseason games will also air on the station (FS Southwest).
NOTES: In L.A., Mark Lacter cited a source that said that L.A. Times NBA writer Mark Heisler has left the paper in a “big round of staff cuts.” Sports columnist Jerry Crowe also reportedly is set to depart the paper (LAOBSERVED.com, 7/27)....Former CNN host Rick Sanchez this fall will serve as “color commentator for Florida International University’s football games.” Sanchez will work with play-by-play announcer Tony Calatayud (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/28).