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Fox Sports Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said that “while his company doesn't have direct influence on scheduling decisions," such as the move to postpone last night's scheduled Rangers-Cardinals World Series Game Six, he noted the call "was the logical move,” according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Shanks said, "We always state our preference is that if you don't think you are going to get a full game in, we would prefer not to start. And we'd prefer not to have a trophy presentation to anybody at 2 o'clock in the morning." Caesar notes a lengthy delay "could have led to a possible ratings disaster on Fox and an embarrassment to MLB had the Texas Rangers won late at night to claim the crown.” Shanks: "We're having such a great Series, with so many story lines and so many things to think about you don't want to end up messing with the Series by having a partial game or a game that gets postponed in the middle or a long delay.'' He added, "It's all about the game, you just hope for a close game and that will drive ratings. We'll take a Game 7, we'll play it any day of the week, any time." Caesar notes with the postponement of Game Six to tonight, a Game Seven, if needed, now “would be played Friday instead of Thursday” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/27). MLB.com’s Peter Gammons wrote Fox “pays a lot of money to televise baseball, the network knows entertainment, and what's good for the FOX audience is good for baseball because the game needs to be on in as many households as possible” (MLB.com, 10/26). Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Ray Ratto said MLB is "hypersensitive" about the quality of baseball in the postseason, "especially when Fox is in their ear and whispering, ‘Kill this, kill this, kill this.’" Ratto: "The next time Bud Selig resists a TV network will be the first so I think that had a lot to do with it. They don’t want to televise a rain delay” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 10/26).
FORGET ABOUT THE RATINGS: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes what MLB “doesn’t need is the outdated idea that TV ratings determine interest, which has been one of the steady narratives of this World Series and is wasted energy on a few levels.” MLB “famously drew record crowds through the recession and revenue remains at or near all-time highs.” But the “biggest shame of the hand-wringing over TV ratings isn’t that they’re misleading, but that they’re distracting from what might be the best postseason in the wild-card era and the best World Series in nearly a decade” (K.C. STAR, 10/27). On Long Island, Neil Best writes the low ratings for this World Series are “a shame, because it's been an interesting Series so far.” MLB is “as healthy as ever as a local attraction, but it can't match the NFL or even the NBA in appeal to viewers once their local favorite is knocked out of the competition” (NEWSDAY.com, 10/26). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes the low rating “doesn't seem right.” The five-game average rating for the Series “has been the worst ever so far but a Game 6/7 will help some” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/27). SI.com's Joe Posnanski tweeted, “So World Series ratings are lowest ever AND beating bad NFL games. I guess people have stopped watching sports on TV" (TWITTER.com, 10/26).
FUNNY BALL: The POST-DISPATCH’s Caesar noted Fox during its telecast of Game Five Monday invited Rangers P Derek Holland to “jump in and do a little play-by-play while impersonating comedian Will Ferrell's mimicking of baseball broadcast legend Harry Caray.” The segment in the top of the third inning “began conventionally enough,” as it is “not uncommon for a pitcher who isn't going to be used to have a brief in-game chat with the broadcasters.” Fox’ Joe Buck knew Holland did the Caray imitation and “at the end of the interview said he wanted to hear it.” Caesar: “Purists probably will be aghast, saying Fox turned a Series broadcast into a Ferrell ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. But it was the third inning ... not the bottom of the ninth of Game 7. And what's wrong with a little levity anyway, as the personable Holland added a nice change of pace?” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/25).
THROWING THE CHANGE UP: In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce wrote the "way to inject some life into the 2012 World Series is to make a change in the broadcast booth." Fox’ Tim McCarver after 31 years as a sportscaster has “run out of things to say,” and he “just says the same things over and over again.” There is “nothing he can’t over-analyze,” and there is “nothing he can’t hit on so often that viewers want to hit their heads against the wall.” For McCarver’s “own sake, he ought to bow out gracefully” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 10/26).
FIFA announced today that it has “finished its bumper week of World Cup business with broadcast deals worth $1.85 billion for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments,” according to Graham Dunbar of the AP. The deals include “an estimated $1.2 billion from United States broadcast right sales to Fox, Telemundo and Futbol de Primera Radio.” FIFA said that it also “sold rights to SBS in Australia, Bell Media in Canada and IMC across the Caribbean.” Bell Media, which includes CTV, TSN and RDS, "took rights to soccer's biggest asset away from incumbent holder public broadcaster CBC.” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said, "FIFA is delighted with the progress of our media rights sales to date which, coming amid austere economic times, more than confirm the strength and appeal of our competitions." Dunbar notes the deals also “confirm the lure and enduring value of FIFA's signature event after a year of financial and election scandals and negative headlines” (AP, 10/27). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Tariq Panja reports FIFA has hired Switzerland-based Infront Sports & Media AG "to sell rights in China and India among other Asian countries” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/27).
DONE DEALS: Bell Media as part of its deal with FIFA will broadcast World Cup coverage in both English and French, with the English language coverage on CTV, TSN, TSN2, TSN Radio, TSN.ca and TSN Mobile TV. French language coverage will air on RDS, RDS2, RDS.ca, and RDS Mobile TV. CTV President of Sports & Exec VP/Programming Phil King said, “This is a historic day for Bell Media and sports broadcasting in Canada.” The deal also includes rights to the '15 Women's World Cup, which is being held in Canada (TSN). Meanwhile, SBS securing the World Cup rights in Australia continues its stretch of broadcasting “every World Cup since 1990.” SBS broadcasted the ’10 men’s World Cup “on free-to-air in standard definition, high definition and 3D, aired it in 11 languages on SBS Radio and streamed it live online and in cinemas.” SBS Head of Sport Ken Shipp said, "We can only build on this in future years and expand into new areas including using our World Game app" (THEAUSTRALIAN.com.au, 10/27).
Univ. of Oklahoma President David Boren yesterday said that OU "still plans to form its own network and that he was surprised the Big 12 went public with the consideration of a conference network," according to Jeff Latzke of the AP. The third-tier TV rights "control what would be aired on either a school's channel or a conference channel." OU "intends to keep those rights -- just as Texas has in creating its Longhorn Network." Latzke asks, "How could the Big 12 form a network without its two most powerful programs?" Boren said, "I don't know because I don't see quite how the conference network would work. I'm confused by that myself." OU AD Joe Castiglione added that he also "was caught off-guard" by the Big 12's announcement. Noting conference ADs were not part of Monday's Big 12 BOD meeting when the TV net was discussed, Castiglione said, "I really don't have the information to support why they made that statement. It has not been broached, or at least not recently." Boren said that Big 12 schools "are in the process this week of signing and sending in their agreements to provide the conference their grant of television rights -- a move that would allow the league to keep a school's television revenue even if it leaves for another conference" (AP, 10/26). Oklahoma State Univ. booster T. Boone Pickens said, "A conference network would offset the Longhorn Network. But the Sooners, I saw where they wanted to do their own network, so I don't know. I don't know how this thing's going to turn out. But as long as things are not the same, you're going to waste a lot of time talking about it, so you just get the same contract for everybody" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/27).
MORE NET TALK: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Smith & Ourand report with the SEC adding Texas A&M and possibly Missouri, the "concept of a conference channel is back on the table." Several sources said that the SEC and ESPN are "expected to explore such a channel over the next year or two as they modify their media rights deal to account for the addition" of A&M and Missouri. Conference expansion "enables either side, the conference or the network, to negotiate changes to their media contract." Neither the SEC nor ESPN would comment, but sources said that the launch of "any channel still is years away because the SEC has deals in place to distribute games to Fox Sports Net, Comcast SportsNet and over-the-air channels via the syndicated package." The conference "needs those games to start a channel" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/24 issue).
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride noted amid the ongoing college realignment, many "fans, bloggers and other journalists have questioned whether ESPN's influence over this process is appropriate." It is "easy to see why they'd ask," as a "lot of money is changing hands in college sports and it's safe to say that ESPN is the biggest player, by its own design." McBride wrote, "ESPN is acting like the big business it is, strategically locking up its market whenever it makes financial sense. Could that be a problem for the network's credibility as its reporters independently gather information about schools and conferences? Yes." ESPN's role in the recent "unprecedented reshaping of athletic conferences epitomizes why even some of the network's executives call the company 'a walking conflict of interest.'" Given the "high-stakes money involved, how ESPN navigates this particular conflict of interest will have a profound impact on its credibility with its audience." ESPN is "hardly a bystander in this process," and the increasingly "huge amounts of money the network spends on college rights are a primary driver of the domino effect in conference realignment." McBride asked, "Is that inappropriate? Only if you think ESPN should be responsible for preserving the traditional values of collegiate athletics." Transylvania Univ. Accounting Dir Dan Fulks: "I don't fault ESPN, they're in the business to make money. I don't fault the conferences, they're in the business to make money for their schools. But when I look at Longhorn Network, I think that's the worst of it, because all that money goes to one school at the expense of other schools."
A DELICATE RELATIONSHIP: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and ESPN Exec VP/Programming Acquisitions & Strategy John Wildhack described the relationship between the Pac-12 and ESPN, and McBride noted it "seems reasonable that members of the ACC expansion committee were routinely bouncing information" off the net regarding the recent move to accept Pittsburgh and Syracuse as members. But the "dangerous conflict of interest is not that ESPN is inappropriately throwing around its money and weight." It is that while "journalists at ESPN are ferreting out the latest tip about conference realignment, the network's programming people are sitting in another part of the Bristol campus with inside information -- details of which they must keep to themselves in order to honor the business relationships." McBride: "It's a tenuous balance, reinforced every time ESPN's journalists prove their loyalty to the audience -- but undermined every time the veil is pulled back on the contractual process" (ESPN.com, 10/25).
REAX: SI's Richard Deitsch wrote the majority of responses he received regarding the Poynter article "believed the piece was incomplete." SI's Stewart Mandel wrote in an e-mail, "I kept waiting for her to get to the journalism/credibility issues ... and it never happened, other than a weak one-graf conclusion." Deitsch wrote, "Clearly, this piece could have used the voices of Pat Forde, Bruce Feldman, Joe Schad, Mark Schlabach or (ACC reporter) Heather Dinich, reporters who live in the news-gathering arena and have to deal with this inherent conflict between the business and editorial sides" (TWITTER.com, 10/26). BLOGUIN.com's Allen Kenney writes McBride "seemingly goes above and beyond the call of duty in attempting to absolve ESPN of blame in all the conference-swapping and bitter break-ups witnessed in the last two years." Kenney: "The truth is that while ESPN gives bitter fans a convenient bogeyman when their favorite team ends up on the short end of the realignment stick, ESPN's role in the neverending realignment drama wouldn't exist if the universities themselves weren't tripping over themselves to mine every dollar possible out of college athletics." Kenney adds the Poynter critique "falls woefully short, though, in addressing any internal mechanisms or policies in place at ESPN intended to assure its audience that its employees are encouraged to do their jobs in an objective or unbiased manner, let alone that they're free to do so" (BLOGUIN.com, 10/27). THE BIG LEAD's Ty Duffy writes of ESPN, "Like YES or NESN, it can be entrusted to televise games and present salient information for those games and present most innocuous news items. However, there will be incidents where a conflict and, regardless of the hard work and earnest intent of those involved, ESPN can’t be trusted as a disinterested broker of information" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 10/27).
Wimbledon will "continue to be broadcast on the BBC until at least 2017" after the net's deal as the U.K. rights holder of the tournament "was extended by three years," according to the PA. The BBC has held rights to the tournament since '27. BBC Sport Dir Barbara Slater said, "The BBC's first ever live sport broadcast was from Wimbledon and we are proud that our new deal means the longest partnership in sports broadcasting continues" (PA, 10/27).
CLEAR SKY: In London, Charles Sale reports "strong fears that Sky Sports were having second thoughts about spending [US$312.3M] on Football League rights have finally been allayed by the signing of the contract six months after the deal was struck." The price is US$36.8M-per-year "less than the current Sky contract." But the "lack of competition -- with neither the BBC nor ESPN bidding -- meant Sky could have picked up the content for considerably less and that has caused angst at their Isleworth headquarters" (London DAILY MAIL, 10/27).
Memphis currently has five sports radio stations, and though it is “hard for the listener to find a downside with all the options, the crowded market has raised eyebrows inside the business, with whispers about just who will survive and how they'll do it,” according to Kyle Veazey of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The number grew to five following "last week's switch of WMC-AM 790 from a classic country format to carrying Fox Sports Radio programming and some spillover in live events from WMFS-AM/FM's growing portfolio.” Memphis is the nation's 51st-largest market “with just shy of 1.1 million listeners 12 and over,” and WHBQ-AM host George Lapides said, "It's absurd. There's not room for more than two." KQPN-AM host Chris Vernon, whose station held the Fox Sports Radio affiliation until last week, “hopes the originality of his program will stand out.” Vernon: "Of course there is too much sports radio, but what I have always counted on is that there's not enough good sports radio." Veazey reported WMFS-FM, which “has been broadcasting as the local ESPN Radio affiliate for about two years and simulcasting on WMFS-AM 680, won the sports ratings battle in September,” edging WHBQ. Veazey wondered, “Could all five survive and thrive? Those in charge hope so.” But Lapides “isn't so sure,” and he “doesn't think companies can make money selling national programming and doesn't think Memphis will be a five-station market in another 12-18 months” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/26).
In Jacksonville, Garry Smits reported Advance Digital, the parent company of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, is "paying five players for the Saints -- Drew Brees, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter, Pierre Thomas and Jonathan Vilma -- to send Twitter messages encouraging their followers to visit the newspaper’s Saints website." The players have "already tweeted praise for the website’s redesign, including a link to the site." Advance Digital VP/Content John Hassell said that "because the paper is up front about the fact that the players are getting paid, there is no conflict of interest." The tweets are "preceded by hashtag symbols to indicate the messages are advertisements." Hassell said, "There’s full transparency. There’s no suggestion that the act of paid endorsement by a player reflects on the coverage of The Times-Picayune" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 10/26).TAKING A STAND: CABLEFAX DAILY noted DirecTV may be the first distributor "to stand up to a major programmer by saying it will take down their channels unless there is real progress on price, but its decision to fire the 1st public shot isn't winning any Web popularity contests." With subscribers facing the "loss of FX, Speed, Fox RSNs and many other cable nets in less than a week, most leaving comments on DirecTV's OurPromisetoYou.com site and Facebook page are taking aim at the DBS provider and threatening to cancel service." That is "not terribly surprising." By standing up and "being the one to threaten to suspend channels, DirecTV has put itself in the position of not being able to fall back on the popular" multichannel video programming distributor stance of, "we offered to continue [to] carry the channels under our existing terms while we negotiated, but the big, bad programmer said no" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/26).
TRACKING MOBILE ON MOBILE: In N.Y., Ken Belson reports the N.Y. Road Runners, "in conjunction with MapMyRun, have expanded their Mobile Spectator App" for the ING N.Y. Marathon on Nov. 6. Fans will be able to "download the app for free." For "premium content, which includes the ability to track up to 10 nonelite runners, they have to pay $2.99." Fans also can pay $2.99 to have text alerts "sent to their cellphones that let them know the whereabouts of up to three runners." NYRR VP Ken Winell said that carriers like Verizon "will be deploying more cellphone towers to ensure that spectators along the route get their alerts in a timely manner." Winell "expects about 100,000 people to download it this year, twice as many as in 2010." The NYRR "must pay Apple 30 percent of the sales of the application" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/27).
GOING DUTCH: Stats LLC has struck a deal to embed its SportVu motion tracking technology into coaching software products produced by Inmotio, a Dutch outfit. Inmotion software measures tactical and physical performance of players, allowing for a logical fit with the SportVu products that measure player and ball motion in real time. "Stats believes that the analysis of our player tracking data next to video and through Inmotio's 3D imaging in real-time is a changer in [soccer]," said Roy Clements, managing director of Stats Europe. "We are eager to introduce Inmotio to new markets" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).