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The WTA Tour announced Thursday morning a new non-U.S. TV distribution deal with digital sports company Perform for '13-16, which will more than double the revenues the Tour brings in from international TV rights. Currently, the WTA brings in about $10M. North America, which is covered under the current deal with New Regency, was sold as a separate contract to ESPN. Perform will have the international TV and digital rights for the Tour’s top 22 events. Perform will take over all production costs and produce a weekly news magazine show. “Perform comes into the deal knowing our strategic goal is to see if we can do a deal with ATP Media,” said WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster. The ATP had wanted to combine TV rights right away, but the WTA spurned that approach, though it remains possible for '17. Perform will work with IEC, a Lagardere company, to distribute the media. WTA events largely control their domestic rights, with the international rights bundled by the Tour.
Time Warner Cable and MSG "have gone public in their current standoff that threatens the airing of Buffalo Sabres games for Time Warner customers starting Jan. 1," according to Gene Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Tuesday’s Buffalo News "carried a full-page ad, in the sports section, from MSG." The ad included a picture of Sabres G Ryan Miller above a headline that read: "Time Warner Cable Might Cancel Your Sabres Games." The ad "directs readers to a toll-free phone number, 1-888-SABRES3, and a website, KeepMySabres.com, which provide a petition and information on how to switch TV providers -- to FiOS or DirecTV." Time Warner issued a press release late Sunday "pledging not to take MSG off the air through the National Hockey League season." But Warner noted a closer reading of the release "shows there is no guarantee that Sabres games will remain on Time Warner early next year." A source Tuesday said, "These deals normally don’t get done until the 11th hour. I think it will get resolved (in time), and if it doesn’t, maybe it will cost viewers a game or two." The dispute "affects the airing of Sabres and New York Knicks games in Western New York." Downstate, the "contract flap could affect viewers of Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils games" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/21). Meanwhile, Time Warner announced that it has "reached a long-term deal for continued carriage of NESN in its 6-state New England territory." The net is also available "to customers outside New England who receive NESN National or TWC's sports tier" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 12/22).
PACKAGE DEAL: TWC Chair & CEO Glenn Britt Wednesday said that sports channels "should be sold separately from the main cable-TV package of channels." Britt: "What was a minor problem is turning into an astronomical problem. The ultimate solution is to get that programming on some sort of smaller packaging scheme." The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Stewart & Schechner note shifting sports channels to a separate tier “would allow cable operators to shift the cost for sports channels to those sports fans who want the programs -- and cut the cable bills for nonsports fans.” But that idea “faces intense opposition from entertainment companies that own the channels.” Britt said that these “broader issues applied ‘100%’ to the dispute with MSG” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/22).
Two episodes into HBO's "24/7: Flyers-Rangers: Road to the NHL Classic," the contrast between Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and Rangers coach John Tortorella "is evident," according to Sam Donnellon of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Donnellon writes, "Maybe it's provincialism talking here, but Tortorella seems to be playing to the camera, and clearly has a bigger potty mouth. Every night is a panic attack, it seems, and I can only imagine how these guys are going to react to him by Game 60." Two episodes in, he "has mocked several of his players, and called them out as if there were one period left in their season." Laviolette is "reserved in comparison." His message is more about "how good they are and all they have to do is play hard." Maybe his "tirades and calling outs are still to come, but for now, he's a better-sounding coach." But Donnellon notes then there is the "other Tortorella, the ambassador, gentleman and friend to 10-year-old Liam Trainer, a child with cerebral palsy whom he befriended through the Rangers' 'Garden of Dreams' program" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 12/22). In N.Y., Pat Leonard writes seeing "both sides of the coaches was a major highlight of Episode 2, which turned its focus to hockey and the gritty details of the game." Attention was "paid to the concussions of Marc Staal, Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger, plus an inside look at the work of the officials, with referee Tim Peel telling the Rangers: 'I don’t want any ---- after the whistles.'" Leonard: "What we’re waiting for now is more from [Flyers RW Jaromir] Jagr, a personality and star who has played for both teams" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/22).
HITS & MISSES: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun writes the "highlight of Episode 2, for me, has to be John Tortorella's frenetic rant after the first period of a loss" to the Blues. Tortorella "gets it on, steam coming out of his ears." LeBrun notes the lowlight "had to be the way the show dealt with Chris Pronger's bombshell news from last Thursday." LeBrun: "The show dropped the ball in my mind. It's understandable that Pronger wasn't available, but what about showing some kind of behind-the-scenes clip where Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette breaks the news to the team after their win over Montreal?" It is "important to note that both teams have the right to keep material out of the show on final edit." So if it is "indeed the Flyers that didn't want that private chat with the team about Pronger to be included, then you can't blame HBO" (ESPN.com, 12/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski writes "if anything, Episode 2 suffered by focusing too much off the ice." Wyshynksi: "It's not that the material wasn't compelling; it's just that the most candid and honest material is always going to emerge from the action on the ice and in the locker room -- as the episode's two classic coaching rants about effort and officiating (respectively) prove" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/22).
YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole noted UFC will “no longer produce new programming on Spike” next year, but the MMA organization “certainly won’t be forgotten by Spike.” Spike, which retains rights to “The Ultimate Fighter” and “taped fights through next year, is playing hardball with the UFC and on Tuesday announced that beginning on March 2 it would air a series” it’s calling “The Ultimate Fighter Fridays.” Spike will broadcast “three hours of programming from the first 14 seasons” of “TUF” from 9:00pm to midnight ET and PT. The broadcast “will directly conflict with the UFC’s broadcasts of the live version of ‘TUF’ that will begin airing on FX.” Iole wrote countering the UFC’s live programming on Fox’ cable networks “with taped UFC programming it owns the rights to air through the end of 2012 does nothing to build the Bellator brand, though, and further solidifies the UFC as the sport’s de facto brand name.” The decision by Spike execs to air these re-runs “simply helps to promote the UFC,” as they are “simply enhancing a competitor’s product and strengthening its brand” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/20).
BIDDING ADIEU: USA TODAY’s Reid Cherner reports ESPN Radio’s Dan Davis “marches off into retirement this weekend after 19 years” with the network. Davis did sports updates for ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, Dan Patrick and a number of other hosts through the years. Cherner writes Davis will “live on for his call of Doug Flutie’s miracle pass for Boston College that beat the Miami Hurricanes on Nov. 23, 1984” (USA TODAY, 12/22).
NEW ROLES: The Suns named former WNBAer Kayte Christensen the team's new social media sideline reporter, the first position of its kind for the franchise. Christensen will join the team’s home game broadcasts on FS Arizona and KTAR-AM this season to share comments from fan discussions through social media (Suns)….Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia named former NBAer Malik Rose to the 76ers broadcast team, joining Marc Zumoff and Meredith Marakovits. Zumoff and Rose will broadcast all of the team’s games this season. Meanwhile, Eric Snow has retired from his role as 76ers color analyst (Comcast SportsNet).
NOTES: Fox earned a 14.4 final Nielsen rating and 23.4 million viewers for its NFL Week 15 singleheader last Sunday, marking the net's highest-rated singleheader since Week 10 in '98 and most-viewed singleheader ever. Through 15 weeks, Fox remains on pace for its highest-rated NFL season since '95 and most-viewed season ever (Austin Karp, THE DAILY)....The Clippers-Lakers game on Monday was the “most watched preseason game in NBA TV history,” drawing 509,000 viewers. The previous record of 501,000 viewers was set during the Pistons-Heat game on Oct. 5, 2010 in the Heat’s first game with Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining G Dwayne Wade (AP, 12/20)….NESN earned a 7.7 local rating for Monday night’s Canadiens-Bruins game, marking the “second-highest-rated regular-season Bruins telecast in network history” (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/21).