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Though the Big East's "immediate on-field football prospects look foggy, its television and financial future has never been brighter," and following the announcement of the Pac-12's TV deal last week, the Big East "is poised to cash in," according to Pete Thamel of the N.Y. TIMES. The conference's annual $37.5M TV revenue "could easily increase to more than $200 million annually," which is why Commissioner John Marinatto "couldn't stop smiling" yesterday at the conference's football media day. The event was attended by the "A-list television executives from ESPN, Fox and NBC." NBC Sports and Versus President of Programming Jon Miller "attended the event with" Fox Sports CFO Larry Jones. Additionally, nine execs from ESPN "were on the guest list," including ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus, who said that the market for college sports was "vibrant for a simple reason." Magnus: "A year ago, it was a very different marketplace. Comcast and NBC were not a part of the equation. I don't think it's any more complicated than that, to be honest with you" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). The Big East has two seasons left on a six-year contract with ESPN, and Marinatto called the upcoming talks the "most important television negotiations in our history." Marinatto: "The bottom line is the next round of media negotiations will propel the Big East to a place where we will again achieve equity with other major conferences in both revenue and exposure" (USA TODAY, 8/3).
SOMETIMES IT'S BETTER TO WAIT: In Boston, Mark Blaudschun writes the "elephant in the room" yesterday was the "future of the Big East in terms of expansion and a long-term television contract." The conference "had an offer on the table from ESPN for nearly $11 million per team in May," but Marinatto "sees something in the $19 million-$23 million-per-team range." Marinatto: "How would we look if we had accepted the ESPN offer and then someone else offered much more than that in the next several months? Why rush? We still have time. And we are talking. They are here right now" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/3). In N.Y., Dick Weiss notes Marinatto has "decided to explore all his options before sitting down with ESPN in September of 2012" for the net's 60-day exclusive negotiating window. The Big East is "gambling that other TV networks are just as desperate for live sports programming, if not more." Rutgers Univ. football coach Greg Schiano: "I'm optimistic this will be a game-changer. Save just a natural disaster, it's going to happen. The incremental difference is huge in what we're receiving and what we will receive" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/3).
TRYING TO LOOK GOOD FOR TV: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins notes several TV execs and media consultants have said that the Big East "would be best served if it parted with some non-football schools," and Marinatto "stopped short of saying that never would happen." Marinatto: "My job is to find ways to make things work. That's not an easy thing to do when you're representing schools with various commitments." Should the league "secure a deal similar to the Pac-12's $4 billion deal over 12 years, it could allot higher slices of the pie for schools that play BCS football and smaller slices for others." That "could force some schools to consider other league affiliation." Meanwhile, Marinatto said that conference expansion and a new TV deal "go hand-in-hand." Sources said that the commissioner "has had face-to-face meetings with every school that reportedly has interest in joining the Big East, or that the league might consider adding." One league source said that the conference "has long eyed Army and Navy." Robbins also noted one idea "being floated" is "alternating the television rights to the men's basketball tournament." The Big East "could strike deals with Comcast/NBC, which sources said will be a major player in the upcoming negotiations, and Fox, in which the networks alternate years televising the men's and women's basketball tournaments" (N.Y. POST, 8/3).
STRONGER OFF FIELD THAN ON: ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel wrote the "ebullience that Marinatto exuded" yesterday "seemed divorced from the reality on the field." Big East football champion UConn "got humiliated in the Fiesta Bowl" last season, and "no team won more than nine games." The Big East is a league "built on the foundation of basketball." However, Marinatto yesterday said, "Football drives the train. There's no question about it. Football is the engine that makes it go." Maisel wrote the "reason Marinatto is brimming with confidence has nothing to do with the league's football," but has "everything to do with the eyeballs that it claims it will deliver to the networks." The Big East "has a school in seven of the nation's top 14 media markets," and TCU "will arrive next year, bringing the No. 5 media market with it" (ESPN.com, 8/2). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes under the header, "Next Big East TV Contract Most Important Ever." Jacobs writes the one thought that "kept pounding" in his head yesterday was that Marinatto is "mighty confident." Marinatto "looked and sounded so much more confident than he did in April 2010 at the annual meeting among" the 11 FBS conference commissioners, at which time schools were "threatening to jump all over the place." Marinatto said, "Our basketball gives us a halo. I believe our conference is the best by far in basketball. Our basketball drives our value." But Jacobs wondered, "How is he going to continue to keep this crazy quilt of a conference together? How is he going to find a way to divvy revenues for potentially up to 20 schools? ... Like it or not, money talks in big-time college sports. And when you get down to it, every other issue pales" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/3).
PERCEPTION NEEDS TO CHANGE: In Newark, Steve Politi writes the other BCS conferences are "always a step in front of the Big East, pulling further ahead in perception and revenue, and most importantly, better positioning themselves to survive in the shifting landscape of college sports." Politi: "That has to change now. The Big East, through its good fortune of being the last conference to negotiate a new TV deal after the other conferences raised the market to new heights, is suddenly in a position of power." Marinatto "spoke like a confident man yesterday." Big East football schools are paid "about $6 million under the current contract with ESPN," and the league "turned down a new deal with the network that would have doubled that." Politi writes, "This is when we'll see if Marinatto ... is up for this job. It's time to see if he has the kind of big, bold ideas the sport has seen from his high-profile counterparts" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/3).
Blue Jays Owner Rogers Communications is allowing fans "to watch live streams of the rest of the Jays' regular season on mobile phones and over the internet," according to Raju Mudhar of the TORONTO STAR. The streaming began with last night's game against the Rays, and fans have to sign up to access the programming. The games are available "to Rogers customers through their Rogers on Demand service and its mobile counterpart," which has a C$5 surcharge. Baseball has "long been leading the way in terms of web offerings of live games, mostly through MLB.TV." But webcasts of those games "are still subject to blackout restrictions -- so many Canadian fans who attempted to use the MLB web service were out of luck, since the entire country is considered to be a part of the Blue Jays home territory." Rogers Senior Dir of Sports & On-Demand Anthony Antonelli: "Up until now you could not watch the Jays on any of those other platforms here, so that's what makes this new and exciting." Mudhar reports Rogers also announced the upcoming Rogers Cup tennis tournament "will also be available." Antonelli: "We're going to carry up to three matches on both platforms for consumers, so fans will have the ability to toggle between men's and women's tournaments" (TORONTO STAR, 8/3). The GLOBE & MAIL's Susan Krashinsky notes the programming is part of Rogers On Demand Online, the company's "version of the well-known 'TV Everywhere' strategy." Rogers VP/Video Products David Purdy said, "Streaming sports and news is a big part of our strategy." He added the company is "actively negotiating with several rights holders" to add more sports content to its Web and mobile platforms. Purdy also indicated that Rogers is "willing to negotiate with competing TV and wireless providers to allow them to provide access to the games" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/3).
EPL officials are holding talks with Sony and EA “aimed at offering viewers the chance to experience ‘immersion technology’ and enjoy games being played potentially on the other side of the planet as if they were present in the stands,” according to Dominic Fifield of the GUARDIAN. Sony is “aiming to deliver ‘Super Wide,’ a panoramic shot based on footage delivered by several cameras.” Meanwhile, EA is “in the process of developing a 3D ‘graphical representation package’ which Sky hopes to use to improve its analysis” beginning with the ’12-13 season. EPL CEO Richard Scudamore said the technology would be “like an Avatar-type of thing available in your home.” Scudamore: “There’s immersion technology being developed right now where you can sit down with headphones and a screen in front of you, and reproduce the feeling of being in a stadium.” He added he thinks the technology is “only between two to five years from being readily available.” Scudamore: “It might seem a bit 'blue sky,' but it isn’t. It’ll certainly happen within my working life” (GUARDIAN, 8/3). He added, “3-D is coming along and there’ll soon be a technological development that will allow people across the world to have a much richer experience of watching football. Our efforts and energies are focused in that area, rather than the old-fashioned idea of flying around the world playing a 39th game.” In London, Matt Hughes notes Scudamore has acknowledged the idea of a 39th game "was a mistake and will not be revisited on his watch." He instead is seeking the technology as an opportunity to “drive into new markets” (LONDON TIMES, 8/3). However, fans are “unlikely to be able to experience everything the new technology will have to … offer -- with Scudamore keen to ensure grounds remain full to preserve the matchday atmosphere come Saturday afternoon” (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 8/3).
GOING GLOBAL: In N.Y., Graham Ruthven notes Scudamore "has proposed two preseason tournaments organized by the league to be played on two continents as he attempts to capitalize fully on the global appeal of England's top teams." The EPL has "become not just a global interest but also a global brand," and "naturally, it now plans to take its product where demand is highest." The league "already lends its brand name to a preseason tournament -- the Barclay's Asia Trophy is in its fourth years" (NYTIMES.com, 8/3).
Broadcast equipment manufacturer EVS said that the '12 London Games "will get the 3D treatment, with plans currently in the works for at least 10 venues to be covered by 3D cameras," according to Giardina & Pennington of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. A 3D feed "would mean that UK rights holder BBC could potentially transmit some events live in 3D over the BBC HD channel as it did for Wimbledon last month." The 3D coverage of Wimbledon "was licensed to six additional 3D channels, including ESPN3D in the US." Australia's Nine Network and Italy's Sky Italia, both Olympic rights holders for the London Games, "have broadcast 3D content." Giardina & Pennington note as production and broadcast details "are addressed, the bigger question might be what potential impact 3D coverage of the London Olympics might have on global 3DTV sales?" Regardless of "3DTV demand there has been an argument for capturing some Olympic events, such as the opening and closing ceremonies and the men's 100 meters, in 3D for archival purposes" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/3).
Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to the PGA Tour at this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational nearly three months after playing his last competitive round, and media coverage of his press conference yesterday showed that he "still triggers a frenzy wherever he goes," according to Bob Dyer of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Immediately following the announcement last Thursday that he "would make his long-awaited return from the disabled list" this week, requests for media credentials "shot up." Since Woods "tweeted his intentions, 18 more news organizations and 30 more reporters have signed on," bringing the "total media attendance to 367 reporters from 125 organizations and nine countries." N.Y. Times golf reporter Larry Dorman yesterday in the media workroom said, "I’ve been here on Tuesday before, and I’ve never seen as many people in this room as I’m looking at right now. There’s always a different vibe when Tiger’s around. Now it’s different in a way." Dyer reports ESPN's Tom Rinaldi was "among those whose plans changed" because of Woods. Rinaldi was "scheduled to cover another event this week but was redirected at the last minute." Meanwhile, Akron police officer Mike Gilbride said, "We definitely ramped up our security. We were not supposed to be here today. When they found out Tiger was coming, they wanted an additional four officers" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/3). In Charlotte, Ron Green Sr. wrote Woods is "going to brighten up pro golf this week the way no other can," and his return will "turn on a lot of TV sets." Green: "You may not approve of his off-the-course activities or his on-the-course language but when Tiger's playing, it's hard to take your eyes off him" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/2).
In DC, Adam Kilgore cited a Nationals team official as saying that MASN "did not exercise a 2012 option for play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter by yesterday's deadline." The official said that the decision "does not imply Carpenter will or will not return for next season, only that MASN would need to negotiate a new contract for him in the offseason if they intend to keep him -- and he intends to stay." A source said that Carpenter "hoped his option for 2012 would be picked up and neither he nor his agent agreed for the option not to be exercised" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/2).
TRYING TO MAKE NICE: On Long Island, Neil Best reported the Jets have invited WFAN-AM to "do a show from their practice facility." Host Mike Francesa "will visit Aug. 11 after that day's Mets game, perhaps a step toward normalizing relations with the team." The Jets "have insisted all along they have no feud with Francesa despite his sharp, relentless criticism" of the organization and coach Rex Ryan. Francesa said of the invite, "I'm not sure; I'll take it at face value right now. I'll go out there with an open mind and a clean slate" (NEWSDAY.com, 8/2).
OFFSEASON ACQUISITIONS: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick reports former Browns and Jets coach Eric Mangini "has agreed to become an ESPN studio football analyst." ESPN is expected to announce the addition of Mangini "within the next few days" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). Meanwhile, former NFLer Hugh Douglas has joined ESPN as an NFL studio analyst, making his debut on Monday's edition of "NFL Live" (ESPN).
SPREADING ITS WINGS: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote having Versus "be all sports" when it is rebranded as NBC Sports Network "will be good" for IndyCar. Cavin is "not sure it can ever rival ESPN," but through "promotion by NBC, it can become a destination channel." Cavin: "It will be interesting to see what other sports properties land there. That will be one of the factors helping or hurting IndyCar" (INDYSTAR.com, 8/2).