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Longhorn Network nabbed its biggest distributor late yesterday, signing Verizon FiOS to a carriage deal. The deal takes effect Sept. 1, two days before the channel's first football game, Rice-Texas. Verizon will make LHN available nationally. Eventually, it will make the channel available online, on tablets and on smartphones. The channel will formally launch tomorrow to a handful of subscribers. ESPN, which is managing the channel, has signed several deals with small distributors in the state, and will be making formal announcements before the launch. The channel is believed to be close to agreeing with Grande Communications, as well, sources said. However, the biggest distributors in Texas appear to be far from a deal, including the state's biggest cable operator, Time Warner Cable, the state's biggest satellite distributor, DirecTV, and the country's biggest cable operator, Comcast. The big distributors have questions over what programming the channel can actually carry, like high-school games and intra-conference matchups. LHN is seeking $0.40 a subscriber a month from distributors in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma (John Ourand, THE DAILY). CABLEFAX DAILY cites a source as saying that LHN is “‘not even close’ to scoring with Time Warner Cable.” But ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisition Dave Brown insists, “We’re in great shape.” He added that “active distribution discussions should bear fruit imminently.” Brown is “pleased with the ‘incredibly good’ response the net has received from advertisers” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/25).
WHERE NCAA STANDS: NCAA President Mark Emmert during an appearance on "The Dan Patrick Show" Tuesday discussed the NCAA's stance on LHN. Patrick asked, "I'm trying to understand the NCAA and their reaction to the University of Texas getting their own network and being in bed with ESPN. Why did the NCAA allow that to happen?" Emmert: "First of all, we don't have any legal authority over who a university builds an affiliation with a TV network. They can do that if they want. Of course, conferences are doing that right now.” Patrick said that "gets into dangerous territory," and asked, "Is it an unfair advantage for Texas with the other schools in the Big 12?" Emmert: “That's the important question that we do have to get involved with, and we have just recently a couple weeks ago ruled that the broadcasting of high school … events of any kind would constitute that kind of unfair advantage.” He added, "The very real concern is that an institution, or even a conference for that matter, could or might broadcast games or events with potential recruits in it and therefore become a very attractive place to that student-athlete.” Patrick then asked, "Are you going to tell other schools they can't do what Texas is doing?" Emmert: "We're going to tell them that they cannot broadcast high school games no matter what their conference network or institutional network is” ("The Dan Patrick Show," 8/23).
BIG MONEY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Vascellaro & Everson note the "prices for collegiate TV rights are rising because the rabid fan bases for such sports are one of the few audiences TV programmers can count on to tune in for live broadcasts." But the "big checks for Texas and other college sports programs have sparked new discussion about how the money should be used and what strings should be attached." UT's share of the $15M "yearly average from the Longhorn network still pales in comparison with the money that flows" to NFL teams. But elsewhere, "some collegiate TV rights are approaching the realm of some professional sports leagues." College athletic officials note that "TV funds are also critical amid university belt-tightening and the escalating arms race for players, who have gotten harder to recruit as more schools are competing for the best talent." UT plans to "allocate around $5 million of the funds from its new TV network to the school each year for the next five years and to contribute the rest to the athletics program's $154 million-a-year budget." UT men's AD DeLoss Dodds said the money "is far more than we expected" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/25). CNBC.com's Darren Rovell noted UT "will receive $10.98 million a year and receive guaranteed three percent bumps" through the life of LHN's contract with ESPN. But the university "will only receive the truly big bucks -- equal to 70 percent of the net revenue -- after ESPN nets $295 million on the project." Rovell wrote, "That might never happen. Carriers will surely come, but at what price will they accept a deal? And how many Longhorn fans will push their local carriers to get something done with one football game and eight men's basketball games?" (CNBC.com, 8/24).
With the start of the NFL regular season, coverage of the Redskins and Ravens becomes "complicated, and fans in the two adjacent television markets don’t always get to choose which team they’re seeing," according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. Both teams on Sept. 18 play games at 1:00pm ET, and Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic viewers "in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County suburbs will get a 90-minute Redskins postgame show." However, viewers in neighboring Howard and Anne Arundel Counties near FedExField "will instead get a 90-minute Ravens postgame show." The Redskins' "traditional dominance" in counties near DC "hasn’t stopped the Ravens from expanding their television reach this year." A preseason deal with DC's WJLA-ABC and a "growing programming arrangement with CSN will bring more Ravens content to more Washington-area viewers, and, the Ravens hope, continue to enlarge their fan base." Ravens President Dick Cass: "What we’re really trying to do is fight for young fans, and fight for new people moving into the (Baltimore-Washington) area. The Redskins have been here forever; right now their brand is stronger than our brand. They have a larger fan base than we do. We’re just fighting to grow our fan base." Steinberg notes to date, the Redskins' "dominance in the Washington market is unchallenged." When the two teams’ preseason broadcasts "went head-to-head last Friday, the Redskins earned a 13.4 rating" in the DC market while the Ravens earned a 1.4, "about the same rating the Redskins achieved in the Baltimore market." Still, Ravens officials "are confident that their efforts to reach fans in Washington are worthwhile." The team's preseason debut against the Eagles this month attracted 170,000 HHs in the DC market, "far bigger than the audiences for most Capitals or Nationals game" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/25).
Rogers Communications is teaming with Quebecor Inc. "to boost its new sports channel, TVA Sports, when it launches in mid-September," according to Susan Krashinsky of the GLOBE & MAIL. The agreement will see Rogers Sportsnet and the French-language TVA Sports "unite for co-productions for both channels, and most importantly, to act as a meaningful bidder against BCE Inc.-owned TSN and its French-language counterpart, RDS, in the fierce competition over the rights to broadcast sports events in Canada." Rogers Media President of Broadcasting Scott Moore said that in Canada, "rights deals are often predicated on the broadcaster being able to offer distribution of the sports events in both languages and a nationwide reach." Krashinsky notes prior to this partnership, the "only broadcaster that was able to offer that was TSN." The deal with Quebecor is a "change in strategy for Sportsnet, which has been working recently to build a sports media empire under a single brand" and was granted a license to start its own French-language sports network. But with TVA Group's "existing market base as the largest broadcast network in Quebec, competing with both RDS and a new TVA-branded sports channel presented a challenge." TVA Sports will broadcast Blue Jays games in French, and the agreement also gives the network "regional rights to Ottawa Senators hockey games in French" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25).
The Canucks are still "considering their options" following the Toronto Star including a "bogus quote stolen from Wikipedia and attributed" to team President & GM Mike Gillis as part of a story about the late Rick Rypien, according to Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. Toronto Star intern reporter Michael Woods found the false quotation that had Gillis saying Rypien, who suffered from depression, was "crazy." The Globe & Mail on Friday reported Wikipedia "was indeed the source of the quote," and the Star "admitted the goof, which it called 'an egregious error.'" Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English said, "This was a rookie's mistake, but one I know even experienced journalists at other news organizations have made in recent years." Dowbiggin reports Friday's edition of the Star included a note that said the 23-year-old intern was "devastated by his error," and the paper "reached out to the Canucks to apologize." Star Sports Editor Jon Filson said he was "horrified" by the mistake. Star Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke "sent out a note to staff warning about trusting the veracity of the Internet and new information platforms." Dowbiggin notes the story "shows that with exit portals for information now multiplied to the nth degree, the chances of invalid information escaping have increased exponentially." Another concern is that cutbacks "on staff and resources at many mainstream media outlets also pulls the safety net further back" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25).
The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes some bloggers believe that the CBC's "anti-Western bias is on display again in its 2011-12 NHL broadcast schedule," as they have pointed to a "disproportionate number of games for teams in the East or Central Canada." Dowbiggin writes, "The problem lies with Canadian teams in the West not having as many Saturday dates as Eastern teams do. For various reasons (8 p.m. starts in Alberta, concert dates), Western teams aren't as fixated on Saturdays. In the East, Saturday is iconic in Toronto and Montreal. Hence, more dates for CBC to choose from." Meanwhile, CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" Exec Producer Trevor Pilling said that with the "addition of a seventh Canadian team in Winnipeg, 'HNIC' is adding a fifth broadcast crew" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25).
SMARTER PHONES: StubHub has updated its iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile applications to allow purchasers to download moblie tickets directly to their mobile devices. The functionality will allow fans to avoid printing or mailing tickets at any venue that has scanners able to scan the ticket barcodes, and already is in place at AT&T Park for the MLB Giants. The mobile barcodes are designed to be a further boon to last-minute ticket purchasing on the secondary market (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
COMING TO YOU LIVE: In K.C., Kellis Robinett noted Kansas State Univ. freshman WR Stanton Weber "plans on occasionally taking his talents off the field and into the press box as a member of the Wildcats' radio team." Weber will "still suit up and stand on the sideline during home games, but as a walk-on stepping in at a deep position, it's unlikely he will make the Wildcats' traveling roster." Rather than staying home for road games, Weber will "continue helping play-by-play man Wyatt Thompson as an extra set of eyes that identifies opposing tacklers and other players on the field." Weber's father, Stan, is an analyst for K-State (K.C. STAR, 8/24).
ROOT, ROOT, ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM: MLB Network's "MLB Tonight Live" discussed Phillies announcer Gary Matthews calling the Mets a "bunch of crybabies" and Mets manager Terry Collins' angry reaction to the comment. MLB Net's Eric Byrnes said of announcers, "We're going to give our opinions. At the end of the day, who really cares? What we say doesn't affect what goes on out there." Byrnes added, "I love the broadcasters that are the ‘homers.' I think you should be a homer! If you’re broadcasting for a team, go ahead and be Hawk Harrelson. I love Hawk Harrelson! Root for your team. That’s what the fans want to hear, that’s your listening audience” (“MLB Tonight Live,” MLB Network, 8/24).