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Fox earned a 5.9 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s Rangers-Tigers ALCS Game Three, marking the best LCS rating so far this postseason. Last year’s Giants-Phillies NLCS Game Three on Fox aired in the afternoon window, earning a 3.8 overnight. Last night’s game earned a 29.3 rating in Detroit, which is the market’s best local rating for the ’11 MLB postseason to date. Dallas-Ft. Worth earned a 23.9 local rating, also tops for the market this postseason (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
LONG DIVISION: TBS was the most-viewed cable network primetime for the week ending Oct. 9, marking the net’s first weekly primetime in this year. MLB LDS telecasts accounted for seven of the top 10 most-viewed programs for the week. TBS was also tops in primetime on cable for the week among all adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, as well as males 18-34 and 18-49 (THE DAILY). MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ R. Thomas Umstead noted that TBS was also tops for weekly cable TV total-day audience “for the first time this year” and topped “Nickelodeon -- which finished second -- for the first time since the week of Oct. 5, 2009” (MULTICHANNEL.com, 10/11).INSIDE THE BROADCAST BOOTH: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote he has watched the replay of Rangers RF Nelson Cruz' walkoff grand slam during Game Two of the ALCS "about 20 times, and one of the reasons it is so compelling is the call of play-by-play man Joe Buck." Engel: "This is a man who clearly grasps the medium. ... Buck's last word comes at the eight-second mark of this clip. He does not speak again until the 1:17 mark. His silence allowed the images to speak for themselves." The clip is "what makes Buck the very best TV play-by-play man in the business today -- nobody grasps the visual element of his position any better. ... There is nobody any better at what he does" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 10/11). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes Fox' "experiment" with having former Red Sox manager Terry Francona serve as an analyst for the first two ALCS games "proves what should be obvious: Networks should take more chances." Francona is "familiar with the AL playoff teams," and he exhibited "in his many Fox in-game dugout interviews, he can talk about baseball while miked." Hiestand: "Taking chances on people who don't sound like they've had news media training ... can bring edge to live big-event TV, which too often is predictable" (USA TODAY, 10/12).
SHOW ME THE PLAY: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley wrote one advantage fans have watching an MLB game on TV instead of at the ballpark "is frequency of replays, including close plays and plays that may show an umpire missed a call." Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks in the fifth inning of NLCS Game Two "grounded ruled a double play." Fans "watching the game on TBS had the benefit of several replays after the fact, some in super slow motion, which showed that Weeks had beaten [Cardinals 2B] Nick Punto’s throw to [Cardinals 1B] Albert Pujols at first base," but the Miller Park scoreboard "did not show those moments in replay." Wolfley: "It's clear that MLB does not want stadium scoreboards showing plays where an umpire may have missed a call" (JSONLINE.com, 10/11).
EPL club Liverpool announced that it "would lead a challenge for overseas TV rights to be sold on a club-by-club basis," according to Andy Hunter of the GUARDIAN. The current broadcasting deal is worth US$5B in total to all EPL clubs for '10-13, but Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre has said that the break-up of the deal is "a debate that has to happen." Liverpool is in favor of the La Liga model that "allows Barcelona and Real Madrid to negotiate individual contracts that dwarf their domestic and European rivals." Hunter notes since the EPL's "foundation in 1992 its success has been largely based on the principle of collective selling." Changing this model "would risk revolt from the smaller clubs who stand to lose the most, and thus threatens the league's very structure." The EPL currently "sells domestic and overseas broadcasting rights collectively and more than doubled international revenue in its last negotiations." It is "expected the next deal will show a similar increase, with overseas rights potentially worth more than domestic for the first time." Hunter notes a new commercial agreement "would require 14 of the Premier League's 20 members to vote in favour." Liverpool insists that its "radical proposals are limited to overseas broadcasting, although success on that front could set a precedent domestically in the long term, and the club plans to raise the issue at the next Premier League meeting" (GUARDIAN, 10/12).
SHAKING THINGS UP: Ayre said, "If you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton, and everyone gets that. Likewise, if you're a Liverpool fan from Liverpool, you subscribe. But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to (rights holders) Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton -- or if they are, it's a very small number -- whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. So is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say, 'Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen.' But isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel?" In London, Ian Herbert notes the EPL "will strongly resist any attempt by its bigger clubs to buck the system of collective bargaining." Chelsea and Arsenal "have been advocates of the Liverpool view in the past." But Ayre's position, which Herbert notes "would not have been put forward without [Fenway Sports Group]'s blessing, reveals the new owners' boldness in trying to shake up Liverpool's commercial fortunes" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/12). Also in London, Ashling O'Connor writes, "Perhaps it is more a reflection of Liverpool’s state of mind that this has come up now." O'Connor: "While they are physically constrained by the limited capacity of Anfield, they have watched [Manchester] United rule the world commercially by dint of a concerted strategy to extract every penny of sponsorship possible out of each individual country." O'Connor notes it is "hard to see other clubs supporting" Liverpool while the league's overseas rights deal "nearly doubles each time the Premier League takes it to market" (LONDON TIMES, 10/12).
IMPACT ON CURRENT BROADCASTERS: In London, Owen Gibson reports most experts "agree that the domestic deal is unlikely to increase much further -- BSkyB and ESPN effectively invest above the market rate at a level they believe maintains the quality of the product on offer." Gibson adds, "It is the huge growth of the Premier League and its teams overseas that will be the engine for future growth" (GUARDIAN, 10/12). Also in London, Dan Sabbagh reports should team rights be sold individually, Sky "could concentrate on buying up a handful of the big clubs and pay less overall by leaving the smaller clubs." That could create an opportunity for other broadcasters "to come and buy up rights held by some smaller teams, but a free to air commercial broadcaster like ITV could only justify paying an absolute maximum of [US$2.4M] a match." With the BBC "cutting back on its sports budget, and given that it has passed on bidding for the FA Cup and England matches, it won't play ball at all" (GUARDIAN, 10/12).
CYCLICAL CHANGE: In London, David Conn wrote it was "only a matter of time before the big clubs would start to challenge this last vestige of sharing, as they did in the 1980s, removing, with the threat of the breakaway they ultimately did anyway, the sharing of gate receipts which had been core to the Football League's competition since it was founded in 1888." Conn: "It is a bitter pill, but not that surprising, that the club which has articulated this appetite is one of the four major clubs owned by American buyers" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 10/11).
With the first two weeks of the NBA season canceled, TNT "will lose six games," but it has a "large library of movies and reruns, as well as original programming that it can use to plug holes," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Media consultant Chris Bevilacqua said, "There is probably a lot more at stake at the regional sports network level than the national level." A Comcast spokesperson said, "We will air a mix of college sports, hockey, original programming and selective classic NBA games in the meantime." Flint noted Comcast "has the local cable rights to seven NBA franchises," including the Celtics and 76ers. RSNs "are often one of the most expensive channels for multichannel video programming distributors" to carry. Bevilacqua said that if enough games "are lost, the distributors will likely seek some sort of discount on the fees they pay to carry local sports channels." Bevilacqua said that it "was likely that at least 50% of the NBA season would have to be canceled before distributors might think of reducing cable bills or offering some sort of rebate to subscribers" (LATIMES.com, 10/11).
BACKUP OPTIONS: ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said the net will air "mostly college football and college basketball in November" to replace the scheduled NBA programming, but execs are "still finalizing it" (USA TODAY, 10/12). Many networks are "maintaining diplomacy while solidifying plans for alternative programming." So far, Turner Sports released a statement that read, "Our schedule will consist of the network's regular primetime entertainment lineup." CABLEFAX DAILY cited a source at an RSN that said the "company doesn't have to pay rights fees when teams aren't playing, and that although NBA advertising contracts vary by party, 'in the short-term it's not an issue.'" But the source added, "As time goes on, the effects become more meaningful" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/12). A spokesperson for YES Network, which carried Nets games, said, "Among the top-shelf programming we could add to our lineup is more soccer (along the lines of our existing Arsenal package) and live college basketball" (N.Y. POST, 10/12).
Mavericks Owner and HDNet Founder Mark Cuban is “trying to make a winner out of HDNet, one of the few independent cable networks around,” according to a cover story by Umstead & Robichaux of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. Cuban is “putting stock in live-event programming, ranging from concerts featuring such groups as rock bands New Found Glory and Widespread Panic to hard-punching mixed martial arts events.” Cuban sat for an extensive Q&A, an excerpt of which can be found here.
Q: You’re now airing mixed martial arts fights -- are you betting on this growing bigger?
Cuban: Yeah, it’s the fastest growing sport among men. I just love it. I mean you see it in fashion, not so much in New York but in middle America, you see it everywhere, the Tom Hardy stuff, the TapouT stuff, all that kind of stuff. It’s huge. And you see it in the UFC buys.
Q: Are you concerned at all about the image?
Cuban: Oh no, because it’s so mainstream right now. Boxing has got bigger image problems.
Q: What do you think of the UFC-Fox deal? Does that help you?
Cuban: Yeah, it helps us because there are very, very few live fights. They might put one or two a year on, at most, and anything that builds popularity of mixed martial arts is good for us.
Q: The Lakers are now going to have a new channel. Do you ever consider one for the Mavericks?
Cuban: Yeah of course, when my deal is up. Absolutely. I think Time Warner (Cable) is kind of our incumbent (in the Dallas area) and HD Net is not on Time Warner. So will I package the two to get one? Absolutely.
Q: Has the cost of sports networks gone too high for consumers’ cable bills?
Cuban: I don’t think it’s the cost of sports that’s the issue. It’s providers having to take networks that are just placeholders.
Q: As the economy goes down and prices go up, do you think a la carte pricing of channels is coming?
Cuban: I don’t think a la carte is going to happen simply because it’s too hard to market. If every network sold a la carte, then you’ve got the issue of taking orders, changing packages. And it’s gonna get a lot more expensive real quick and, in essence, that’s gonna drive people to the Internet faster. You’re gonna drive piracy through the roof. And then nobody makes money.
Q: What about sports tiers?
Cuban: It’ll save something, but it will cost other people a lot of money. In fact, if you’re a big TV watcher, it would cost you a lot more money (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 10/10 issue).
ESPN.com has broken a 41-month hold by Yahoo Sports atop comScore’s monthly rankings of online reach among U.S. sports sites. ESPN.com returned to the top slot for the first time since '08 with a company-record 52.2 million unique visitors in September. Yahoo Sports is now in the second slot with 49.4 million uniques. ESPN.com also set all-time comScore sports category records with 4.7 billion minutes of online consumption, and an average audience of 107,878 in any given minute during the month. "It is inspiring for us to see this clear digital sports leadership in every metric across the board," said ESPN Senior VP/Digital & Print Media John Kosner, in a statement. Since ESPN.com last led the comScore monthly rankings, many sites including both ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports have implemented comScore's new unified digital measurement technology.TOP 15 SPORTS SITES FOR SEPTEMBER '11
(RANKED BY UNIQUE VISITORS)RANKSITEUNIQUE VISITORS (000)1ESPN.com52,1982Yahoo Sports49,3693FoxSports.com34,3174NFL.com28,1975CBSSports.com23,2006Big Lead Sports20,8377Turner-SI Digital*18,9338MLB.com16,8539NBCSports.com14,63910USA Today sports12,67611SBNation.com9,88712BleacherReport.com8,68913SportingNews.com7,78314Jump TV/NeuLion6,56815HuffingtonPost.com sports5,011
NOTE: * = Includes NBA.com, SI.com, NASCAR.com, PGATour.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com and WNBA.com.