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Former NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol is "returning to the sports division as a senior adviser" to his successor, Mark Lazarus, on NBC's "SNF" and '12 London Olympics coverage, according to Sandomir & Carter of the N.Y. TIMES. Ebersol, who resigned from NBC Sports in May, "will contribute ideas to Lazarus about production of the NFL games this season and the London Olympics." Any "further involvement will be up to Lazarus, but Ebersol is expected to attend" the Games next summer. NBC yesterday also appointed "Today" Producer Jim Bell to replace Ebersol as Exec Producer of the network's Olympics coverage, and Bell's "long experience at NBC Sports" was "among the reasons for his hiring." Sandomir & Carter note NBC Sports "had several internal candidates who could have succeeded Ebersol," including Olympics Coordinating Producer Molly Solomon and NBC Sports and Versus Exec Producer Sam Flood. NBCUniversal President & CEO Steve Burke said, "We talked about other people, but we kept coming back to Jim." Bell became a "protege of Ebersol's, much as Ebersol was an acolyte of Roone Arledge." NBC's Bob Costas: "Jim broke in under Dick, and although he's been with the 'Today' show for the past several years, he has a friendship with all the key people involved in NBC Olympics. It's not like he's arriving from another planet" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). Bell will continue his duties with "Today" until the Olympics, "although he will be traveling to the U.K. often over the next 12 months" to prepare for the Games (DAILY VARIETY, 8/31). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote, "It's little wonder Lazarus should look to tap the natural resource that is Ebersol; not only did he negotiate NBC's Olympic deals, but as executive producer, he's put on the most successful TV sportscasts in history" (ADWEEK.com, 8/30). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes having Bell and Ebersol join NBC's coverage for the London Games "suggests NBC, under Comcast, isn't looking at a radical Olympic TV overhaul" (USA TODAY, 8/31).
'ROUND THE CLOCK: The AP's Rachel Cohen reported NBC's coverage of next summer's Olympics, for the first time, will include "every event live in some form -- even if it's just raw video streaming online." NBC's primetime broadcasts "will still use that traditional formula of human-interest features and taped competition." Lazarus believes that the "sports fan of today demands immediacy -- and that doesn't have to be mutually exclusive to highly stylized broadcasts aired when people are most likely to be sitting in front of the TV." Lazarus: "I believe in that, and that will be some philosophical shift from my predecessor." He continued, "You can show things in its rawest form to satisfy the immediacy and then you can package it and make it a bigger story and broader and more inclusive of other elements, and people will watch it again and bring others with them." NBC recently secured U.S. media rights to the four Olympics from '14-20, and "as part of that agreement, the network planned to show every event live starting in 2014." That approach will now "extend to two years earlier in London, as NBC experiments to figure out what works best." At the '96 Atlanta Games, NBC "showed 172 total hours of coverage." Lazarus said that he expects "about 275 hours a day from London" across all NBC platforms (AP, 8/30). USA TODAY's Hiestand noted coverage of all Olympic events is "readily available," since any rightsholder "has access to the Olympic world feed." Hiestand: "It makes sense to finally give viewers live access. Live daytime coverage will build, rather than deflate, buzz for prime-time shows" (USA TODAY, 8/31). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote the "biggest winner in the deal are viewers on the west coast who were routinely shut out of live coverage that was beamed to the east." NBC's decision "was a long time coming," and "time will tell whether this has a positive effect on the network's bottom line." Primetime numbers "may dip slightly for the main network, but the benefit for NBC's cable channels, which will now be picked up by most cable companies, could make up the difference" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/30).
Channel 4 San Diego “formally acknowledged Tuesday that it won’t broadcast Padres games" in '12, and as a result the station "has issued layoff notices to most of its employees involved in baseball programming," according to sources cited by James Riffel of the NORTH COUNTY TIMES. Sam Attisha, VP/Public Affairs in San Diego for Channel 4 owner Cox Communications, said, "Cox will not be the rights-holder next year.” Fox Sports reportedly will "assume the broadcast rights for Padres games next year,” but there has not been an official announcement. Attisha indicated that Channel 4, “which was built around Padres telecasts and expanded over the last 15 years to include high school and college sports events and other local programming, will continue operations.” The station will “increase its coverage of San Diego State University athletics through an agreement to simulcast productions by the Mountain West Conference’s cable outlet” (NCTIMES.com, 8/30). Channel 4 has televised Padres games “since 1997 and has carried more than 140 games annually over the past 11 seasons (SIGNONSANDIEGO.com, 8/30).
Versus plans to launch its weekday afternoon block of studio programming next Thursday as a lead-in to NBC's first NFL game of the year. The channel, which will be renamed NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, will produce studio shows from Monday-Friday, including a Friday night NFL show with SI’s Peter King and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and a Friday night sports business show with CNBC's Darren Rovell. The channel also will roll out a nightly show called "NBC SportsTalk" that will be hosted by Russ Thaler, who was the original "Washington Post Live" studio host for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Thaler's show plans to use NBC and Comcast SportsNet talent to discuss the sports news of the day. "We're giving people a reason to come to us and spend some time with us," said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports and Versus. "These are interesting personalities that we're tapping into." Thaler's show will not try to compete with "SportsCenter," which occupies the same timeslot on ESPN, NBC execs say. Rather than breaking news, the show will look to digest the news. "Our job isn't to break news," Miller said. "It's to tell our audience what's going on in the sports world.” The Monday and Friday versions of "NBC SportsTalk" will be devoted to football, with Florio also slated to appear on Mondays. Also in the works is an hour-long show Monday afternoons at 5:00pm ET called "College Football Talk," which will be hosted by Liam McHugh with Ross Tucker and Roland Williams. Rovell's half-hour show, "CNBC Sports Biz: Game On," will occupy the Friday night 7:00pm timeslot. It will feature interview segments ("The Hot Seat" and "Heavy Hitters"), a "sideline reporter" in Erin Sharoni and will incorporate social media. Miller said the shows' ratings performances would be the clearest indication of success, but said NBC plans to have patience with them. "We know it's going to take some time to develop," Miller said. Versus expects to repeat these shows later in the evening, probably around the 11:00pm window.
PROGRAM HOSTMon.5:00-6:00pm "College Football Talk" Liam McHugh with Ross Tucker,
"NBC SportsTalk/ProFootball Talk" Mike FlorioMon.6:30-7:00pm "NHL Live"** ----Tues.6:00-7:00pm "NBC SportsTalk" Russ ThalerWed.6:00-7:00pm "NBC SportsTalk" Russ ThalerThurs.6:00-7:00pm "NBC SportsTalk" Russ ThalerFri.6:00-7:00pm "NBC SportsTalk" Russ Thaler with Mike Florio,
"CNBC Sports Biz: Game On" Darren Rovell
NOTES: * = Show will air from 6:00-6:30pm beginning Oct. 10. ** = Show begins Oct. 10.
Kansas State Univ. yesterday launched K-StateHD.tv, which will “exclusively feature in high-def some of the school’s athletic contests” available to fans for approximately $10 a month or $80 a year, according to CABLEFAX DAILY. The website is “part of a growing trend in college athletics” where cable operators and networks, conferences and universities “see multiplatform content as an imperative way to drive loyalty and add to their financial playbooks.” LBH Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said, “This is a burgeoning space in college athletics. There are an increasing number of flavors popping up, the interest is there, the fan base is there, and distributors are looking for brand-name content.” While it is “too early to determine usage trends for many of these initiatives, their goal, of course, is to keep passionate sports fans connected wherever they may be” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/31 issue). KSU student newspaper the COLLEGIAN's Sean Frye notes the decision by KSU AD John Currie and his staff “to pursue this network furthers his goal of making K-State a nationally known brand.” K-StateHD.tv is “making news with its coverage of the football team's season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, marking the first time a K-State football game will be available exclusively online.” The website will “primarily feature coverage of all home volleyball matches and baseball games.” The Eastern Kentucky football game is the “only football game slated so far this year for coverage on the network.” No men's or women's basketball games are planned, "but the possibility has not been ruled out.” Frye reports “roughly $400,000 was invested into the equipment necessary to broadcast the content in HD” (Kansas State COLLEGIAN, 8/31).
TREE BRANCHES: Stanford Univ. Athletics has reached a deal with Google and YouTube that includes the launch of The Cardinal Channel, a site that will feature original video content for all 35 of the school's sports programs. The deal was brokered by Cardinal Sports LLC, the school's multimedia/marketing partner. Stanford Athletics will produce features, interviews and content such as the football-themed web series "The Program." The online channel also will telecast a live pregame show 90 minutes before each home football game emanating from the Fan Fest near Stanford Stadium (Stanford Univ.).
Radio host Tim Brando yesterday said that Birmingham sports-talk station WJOX-FM “has banned him from appearing on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network because a new, rival station has picked up Brando's syndicated show,” according to Bob Carlton of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. WNCB-FM, which went on the air in Birmingham yesterday afternoon and began full programming this morning, will carry "The Tim Brando Show" weekdays from 9:00am CT to noon. Speaking on his show yesterday, Brando said Paul Finebaum Radio Network Producer Pat Smith told him last week, "Your services are no longer required on the Finebaum network." Brando "blamed 'petty middle-mismanagers' at Cumulus Media and Citadel Broadcasting for the decision, not Smith or anyone associated with Finebaum's show." Cumulus earlier this year purchased Citadel, which owns WJOX, and Finebaum “filed a breach of contract lawsuit with Citadel that became public Thursday.” Finebaum said, "The bottom line is, this stinks, and I don't care what any of the suits in my company think." But WJOX GM Bill Thomas in an e-mail said, "Tim Brando is welcome as a guest on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network." Meanwhile, Finebaum announced that "he will write a weekly sports column for SI.com” starting tomorrow (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 8/31). In Louisiana, Roy Lang III noted “The Tim Brando Show,” which as been on the radio for more than 10 years, this week began airing on CBS Sports Network and “will be available to another 44 million homes.” The program “will remain in the same time slot and will still be available on satellite radio and Yahoo Sports Radio" (SHREVEPORT TIMES, 8/25).
In Columbus, Aaron Portzline reports FS Ohio will air 79 of the Blue Jackets’ 82 games this season, the “most they’ve aired in the franchise’s 11 NHL seasons.” All games will be broadcast in HD. Two games are slated to appear on NBC Sports Network, leaving the team's only untelevised game this season “against Colorado on Oct. 12” (DISPATCH.com, 8/31).
MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO: The Dodgers have announced that their “entire eight-man broadcast team will return for next season.” Charley Steiner and Rick Monday will return to the radio booth, while TV analyst Steve Lyons and play-by-play man Eric Collins “return for their eighth and fourth seasons, respectively.” Fernando Valenzuela and Pepe Yniguez also “return behind the mic" for Spanish-language broadcasts. It was announced over the weekend that TV announcer Vin Scully and Spanish-language announcer Jamie Jarrin are coming back for the '12 season (MLB.com, 8/30).
THAT BALL'S HIT A MILE HIGH: California-based in-flight entertainment company Row 44 is partnering with MLBAM to deliver live streaming video and audio broadcasts to smartphones, laptop computers and other Wi-Fi enabled devices on airlines. The deal includes live streaming of over 2,400 MLB games annually. Row 44 is partnering with several airlines globally, including Southwest Airlines (Row 44). The deal makes MLB the "first sports league to offer in-flight live streaming video of its games" (LATIMES.com, 8/30).
SPANISH FLAIR: Telemundo and the NFL have extended their TV rights deal through the '13 season, making the network the exclusive Spanish-language broadcaster of "Sunday Night Football." The network will work in conjunction with fellow NBCUniversal property NBC Sports on the telecasts, which include simulcasts of three "SNF" games. Telemundo also gains rights to three TV specials: the "2011 NFL Kickoff" on Sept. 10, an NFL Playoff special on Jan. 7 and a one-hour Super Bowl special on Feb. 4 (NBCUniversal).