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iSport Media and Management CEO Kevin Albrecht, whose company operates curling’s Capital One Grand Slam circuit, Thursday said that the Slam “is close to a deal with expanded coverage from the old CBC arrangement with a new broadcast partner,” according to Allen Cameron of the CALGERY HERALD. Albrecht “declined to name” the potential new partner, though it has been “widely speculated that Rogers Sportsnet will take over the broadcast rights.” Albrecht insisted that next weekend's event "will be available to watch on television, and that the new deal will dramatically increase the amount of Slam curling on the air.” Sportsnet Dir of Communications Jennifer Neziol late Thursday said that “no deal is done.” Cameron reports the CBC “won't be broadcasting curling" after dropping the Grand Slam Wednesday, ending an "uninterrupted streak of coverage dating back to 1962.” Albrecht said that there were “differences between the Slam and the broadcaster over the ‘production value’ of the broadcasts, and that he believed CBC was willing to adjust the fees as a result; as of this week, the sides had not agreed, he said, on a new rate.” But CBC Exec Dir of Sports Properties Jeffrey Orridge said that there “was no such deal made with the Slam and iSport.” Cameron writes the possibility that the Slams will return to Sportsnet, “which was the original broadcaster when the series debuted in 2001, helped ease the tension of the initial reports of doom and gloom in the wake of the CBC decision” (CALGARY HERALD, 1/20). Albrecht said, “We’ve been negotiating with them for nine months now. We have a lot of issues about the quality of the broadcasts and we thought it was getting stale and not up to the standards we’d expect. We’ve talked to them about this for some time.” He added that there "was some dispute about the amount owed to the CBC" (CP, 1/19).
Fox will air the first live EPL game on U.S. broadcast television Sunday when Manchester United visits Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Fox will begin coverage at 10:30am ET with a pregame show featuring Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and Piers Morgan. THE DAILY spoke with Fox Sports Media Group co-President and co-COO Eric Shanks about what to expect.
Q: Fox has been carrying tape-delayed EPL matches through the NFL season. How did you come up with the idea?
Shanks: I've got to give (Fox Soccer Exec VP & GM) David Nathanson all the credit. Every time that there's a Premier League match that could run after an NFL singleheader -- or anytime we could do anything -- David's like, "Hey, how about these 18 matches on the broadcast network?" He's really good. He's always looking for stuff. This year, running matches with NFL singleheaders is good because of our soccer business, in general. We're trying to expose more people to world class soccer. I love soccer. We want to expose it to more people. Once the Fox affiliates said yes, we went for it.
Q: How are ad sales around this game?
Shanks: The demand is good and the demo is good. But this is the first time that we're selling a live match on the broadcast network. It's the first time anybody's doing a live match on the broadcast network. We didn't have this plan in place a year ago, when people were actually making their upfront buys for soccer. But I'd say that this is going to be a good barometer for when we do have the plan in place for next year for what number we should be selling at against the demo.
Q: Fox has been criticized for giving airtime to a non-soccer analyst like Piers Morgan. Why did you make the decision to include him on your telecast?
Shanks: Piers is knowledgeable, obviously well-spoken and his role on Sunday is to provide the voice of the fan as he has done for Fox Soccer Channel several times before. He hasn't been afraid to express his opinion. In August, when Manchester United beat Arsenal 8-2, Piers went on Fox Soccer and said that after watching that match he was ashamed to be an Arsenal fan, and was pretty critical of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager. It was just the kind of commentary you'd want a studio analyst to provide. Hopefully, critics will give him a chance and judge him after they've heard what he has to say on Sunday.
Q: Will we see more EPL matches on Fox next year?
Shanks: You might see one more. I don't think you can do it every week. You want to find the right balance. We have multiple initiatives using NFL singleheaders as a lead-in. Soccer is a big one. But I don't think you would go wall-to-wall soccer every Sunday afternoon on a delayed basis.
Q: Will you carry more live games next year?
Shanks: It's hard to do live because of the timing. It runs right up against the pregame show. The network is doing other things at that time. We have news and local programming.
Q: Are there any other leagues you'd like to put on Fox?
Shanks: The Premier League draws the best ratings, along with the Champions League. Those are the two big ones that we have. We want to be a steward of soccer as we lead up to our World Cup action. We have three years to really become the steward of broadcast soccer in the U.S., as well as the cable steward of soccer in the U.S.
Q: Are you viewing this as a trial run for the World Cup?
Shanks: We're starting to gear up and make people aware of our commitment and our involvement in soccer. There's a really loyal fan base of people who watch Fox Soccer. The whole reason that we're all big believers in soccer is that we think that as more people get exposed to it, it will convert them into fans.
Q: Who's your team?
Shanks: My team has always been AC Milan.
Q: Do you have an EPL team?
Shanks: I don't really have an EPL team. I watch them all.
Boxing trainer Freddie Roach is the subject of a new six-episode documentary series titled "On Freddie Roach" debuting Friday night on HBO, and the series, which is being directed by actor-filmmaker Peter Berg, “is art,” according to Bryan Armen Graham of SI. Rather than “spell things out, Berg allows his subject to bleed through the screen with minimal narration,” and the result “is a gorgeously wrought portrait of an ordinary man at work amid an atmosphere of celebrity.” The narrative is laid out “not with the sound bites and stylistic trappings of 24/7 … but through eavesdropped conversations and spartan, sometimes abstract images that convey the loneliness of a man at the top of his profession.” Graham notes Berg “hopes to continue the series as a brand -- he's already spent a week filming Washington State football coach Mike Leach for a follow-up pitch” (SI, 1/23 issue). The AP’s Greg Beacham wrote the 30-minute episodes “feature no Liev Schreiber narration, no story lines, no stunts -- just cameras silently following Roach through his complicated life training Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., while also running the busy Wild Card Gym and stoically managing" Parkinson's Disease. Berg said, "I thought this would be the right style and it would separate us from '24/7,' which I'm a huge fan of. I think HBO had more of an appetite to do something different. It was just a very emotional experience, and they recognized that we could do something that felt genuine and emotional" (AP, 1/19). In N.Y. Mike Hale wrote the “heart of the show doesn’t lie in exposé or sensationalism. … It’s in observation and vérité technique, explicitly inspired by Frederick Wiseman, whose documentaries have been cited as a model” by Berg. Technically there is “no narration, though extracts from interviews with Mr. Roach, heard in the background, often serve that purpose” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20).
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: USA TODAY’s Tom Pedulla wrote this series “is not as much about the shaking and speech problems associated with Parkinson’s as Roach’s ability to overcome them.” Roach said, “Basically the message is, ‘We can work through anything.’” Some of the “most compelling footage" shows Roach "working in the ring with Khan in preparation for a bout with Zab Judah and his meticulousness in wrapping Khan’s hands before the opening bell.” The trainer’s hands “do not shake” (USA TODAY, 1/19). Roach said, “This will show how difficult (Parkinson's) is, but it still doesn't affect what I do. I'm still working … I wrap hands better than anyone, work the mitts. You can overcome anything with hard work and desire, and that's what I wanted to show" (L.A. TIMES, 1/20). On Long Island, Bobby Cassidy wrote in watching the first two episodes, “it’s hard to proclaim that this isn’t about boxing because that is Roach’s identity.” But “it’s not.” It is about “a guy named Freddie Roach who right now happens to be the best trainer in the world” (NEWSDAY.com, 1/18).
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. NFC Divisional Playoffs: Giants-Packers1/15Fox4:30-8:00pm25.3 NFC Divisional Playoffs: Saints-49ers1/14Fox4:30-8:00pm20.5 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Texans-Ravens1/15CBS1:00-4:30pm19.3 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Patriots-Broncos1/14CBS8:17-11:26pm18.5 NCAA Basketball: Indiana-Ohio State1/15CBS4:35-6:34pm1.9 NHL: Blackhawks-Red Wings1/14NBC12:30-3:09pm0.9 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge (taped)1/14NBC5:06-6:00pm0.9 U.S. Olympic Trials: Marathon (taped)1/14NBC3:09-5:06pm0.8 Figure Skating: "Improv Ice Starring Styx" (taped)1/15NBC4:00-6:00pm0.7 Mexico soccer: Club America-Toluca1/15Univ.4:55-7:00pm0.6 NCAA Basketball: Oregon-Arizona1/14CBS3:30-6:00pm0.5 Mexico soccer: UNAM-Monarcas1/15Univ.12:55-3:00pm0.4 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) BCS Nat'l Championship:
NBA: Heat-Clippers1/11ESPN10:43pm-1:48am2.43,469 NBA: Heat-Nuggets1/13ESPN10:38pm-1:13am1.72,748 NBA: Bulls-Celtics1/13ESPN8:00-10:38pm1.72,461 NBA: Mavericks-Celtics1/11ESPN8:06-10:43pm1.72,450 NCAA Basketball:
"College GameDay"1/9ESPN6:00-7:50pm1.62,326 "NFL Countdown"1/15ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.72,308 NCAA Basketball:
North Carolina-Florida State1/14ESPN2:12-4:16pm1.52,068
NOTES: NBA TV averaged 756,000 viewers for the Lakers-Clippers game Jan. 14, marking the net’s most-viewed regular-season telecast ever. The previous record was 722,000 viewers set on Dec. 30 this season for a Bulls-Clippers matchup. Through Jan. 17, the net is averaging 383,000 viewers for its game telecasts, up 68% compared to the same period at the start of last season (THE DAILY)….The Patriots-Broncos AFC Divisional game last Saturday night earned a 44.4 local rating on WBZ-CBS in Boston, marking the third-best local rating for a Patriots Divisional Playoff game. The top rating remains the last year's Jets-Patriots matchup, which earned a 47.9 rating (Patriots)….NBC Sports Network averaged a 4.6 local rating in St. Louis for Monday’s Stars-Blues matchup. That figure is “an increase of 73 percent from what the Blues generated last season, on average, on Versus” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/20).
In N.Y., Marc Berman notes the Nuggets were announced Thursday as the "club that will be followed" on NBA TV's reality-TV show, "The Association." The NBA "approached the Knicks about being the spotlighted team, but an arrangement could not be worked out.” Sources said that the access “required for such a reality program was more than the Garden was willing to allow.” Plus, MSG Network “prides itself on having exclusive inside footage of the Knicks” (N.Y. POST, 1/20).
ALL-STAR PRODUCTION: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic will produce the '12 AHL All-Star Classic, including the skills competition Jan. 29 and the game Jan. 30 from Atlantic City. That means CSN Mid-Atlantic's Joe Beninati will provide play-by-play and Craig Laughlin will be the main analyst. Alan May will be on-air and Bill Bell will be the exec producer. The two-day event will be carried live by Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN America in northern Europe and the Middle East and 25 RSNs in the U.S. (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
TURNING THE LIGHTS BACK ON: In Ft. Lauderdale, Tom Jicha reports WSVN-Fox “decided to lift its blackout in DirecTV homes" so subscribers could see Sunday's Giants-49ers NFC Championship game. The station is “embroiled in a retransmission-consent dispute with DirecTV, which resulted in the local station pulling its link to the satellite program provider at midnight last Friday” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/20).