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The Knicks' win over the T’Wolves Saturday scored a season high 4.17 local on MSG Network, the highest-rated Knicks game on the net since F Carmelo Anthony's debut on February 23, 2011 (6.75 rating. Through the four games Knicks G Jeremy Lin has started, the Knicks have gone 4-0 and seen their average rating on MSG increase 70% to a 3.08 rating, compared to a 1.81 average for the previous 20 games. Web traffic on NYKnicks.com and KnicksNow.com increased more than 550% from Feb. 5-12 compared to the week prior, reaching 4.7 million page views, the highest week-to-week increase in the sites' history (MSG). On Long Island, Neil Best notes through 24 games, Knicks games on MSG are averaging a 2.02 local rating in N.Y., up 71% from the same point last season and 85% from two seasons ago. The Knicks' 3.08 average rating in the four games Lin has started "would have been even higher if Friday's upset of the Lakers hadn't also been on ESPN," which attracted a 3.87 local rating in N.Y., compared with a 3.05 rating on MSG. MSG Media President Mike Bair: "The fundamental thing to remember is that this is a basketball city, and if the Knicks look remotely potent, I think there's a real following.” Best notes TV ratings “tell only part of the story.” Replica Lin jerseys, which “didn't exist a week ago, are in heavy demand, with traffic on NYKnicksStore.com up 3,000 percent last week over the previous week.” The Knicks also “added 125,000 Facebook likes and 12,000 Twitter followers last week” (NEWSDAY, 2/14).
COVER BOY: In N.Y., Siemaszko & Dejohn report Lin is “gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated" for the Feb. 27 issue. SI Group Editor Terry McDonell said, “Jeremy Lin has done more in these past five games to captivate a fan base than any player in NBA history -- and not just with his historic statistics. Look at what’s going on in this city." Lin is on the front of SI “everywhere except the Midwest, where the Big 10 gets top billing.” But his cover debut “comes on the same day SI unveils its swimsuit edition, which will no doubt distract the basketball gods” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/14). SI's Phil Taylor wrote on his Twitter account, "#Linsanity about to face its greatest test: We're putting Lin on the cover of SI. Glad there's no such thing as a j--x." With Kate Upton gracing the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue, which comes out today, the N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola wrote, "Admit it, who is hotter at this very minute, Kate Upton or Jeremy Lin?"
MARKET MANIA: In N.Y., Claire Atkinson noted MSG stock yesterday reached “a 52-week high,” closing at $32.32, up 3.8%. It was the “ninth-straight session gain for the stock of Knicks’ parent company, MSG, the longest in over a year.” Miller Tabak media analyst David Joyce estimates that MSG Media “is losing $7 million to $10 million a month in fees due to the lapsed TWC carriage deal.” But even without TWC, the Knicks “reaped a 4.1 household rating on Saturday night, up from their 3.0 average” (N.Y. POST, 2/14). Joyce said, "Rangers and Knicks fans do tend to buy the stock when the teams are doing well" (AP, 2/13). Meanwhile, in Buffalo, T.J. Pignataro reports a proposed New York state law “requiring the Public Service Commission to arbitrate cable television stalemates -- such as the current tussle between Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks -- is under review by the State Senate’s Energy and Telecommunications Committee.” The bill, sponsored by New York state Sen. Tony Avella and co-signed last week by New York state Sen. Mark Grisanti and two others, calls for “amending the state’s Public Service Law to require the negotiation of ‘fair terms’ between cable television franchisees and competing cable channels” (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/14).
The Marlins are convinced that their appearance on Showtime's series "The Franchise" this season will "help their marketing and branding efforts," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. Marlins President David Samson said, "If we want to be dominating in Latin America and be a dominant force in this game, it doesn’t just happen on the field. It has to happen off the field as well. Every time our Q rating increases, it makes being a Marlin cool. It’s been 10 years of struggle in that." Jackson reports the Marlins have "no veto power over what Showtime can use," and there will be "very little sacred or secret" when the cameras are on. Samson said that the net will have "permission to tape closed-door meetings involving himself," manager Ozzie Guillen and team Owner Jeffrey Loria. Samson: "Our franchise has undergone a complete transformation on and off the field. And now it's going to be in front of a national TV audience for them to witness. Samson said he told players, "We made a decision to allow cameras into our life for better or for worse." He added, "When Ozzie is your manager, and the team we have and the new ballpark, we are a walking distraction. It's up to our players and our front office to get past that and realize we need to win" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/14).
PLAYER APPROVAL: In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes the arrangement was "contingent upon the approval of the players' union." Marlins C and player rep John Buck said that he "wasn't thrilled when Showtime first approached the club." But his concerns "faded after he checked with friends" on the Giants, who were featured in the series' first season. Buck said, "It's not like we don't have cameras on us already. I'd rather not have a camera in my face all the time, but it comes with the job, I guess." Samson said, "We were approached and they had me at 'hello.' Any time you can give fans unique access to what we do, we've always said we are in the entertainment business. I think when the cameras roll, it's going to be some kind of interesting" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/14). MLB.com's Joe Frisaro noted cameras will "have access to meetings, the clubhouse and pretty much everyplace the Marlins will be, starting with their arrival at Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 22" (MLB.com, 2/13).
SHOW TIME: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes Showtime "plans to start running its weekly series after the All-Star break, and, unlike a year ago with the Giants, it hopes to continue the series through the pennant race." The Marlins became "appealing to Showtime with the hiring of Guillen, along with the addition of" SS Jose Reyes and Ps Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano (USA TODAY, 2/14). DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell noted though a premiere date "hasn't been announced, it's likely to launch around mid-July." Kissell wrote the Marlins make for an "interesting introspection in 2012." Showtime President of Entertainment David Nevins: "I think we'll end up with a show this year that is about the operation of the club. I want a show about how the team is run. I want to really develop the front office characters as much as the players. 'Moneyball' has come out and has opened people's eyes to the operations of a front office. This will be the real version" (VARIETY.com, 2/13).
SPEAK UP: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk offered some tips for the upcoming season of "The Franchise." Kaduk wrote, "Don't shy away from the ballpark controversy." He added, "I'd like to see the complete picture of opening night, including any and all protests that may surround the debut. Folks in south Florida are angry with the way that owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Samson got their public funding and any unbiased documentary will include coverage of the opposition." Kaduk also wrote, "The more Latin flavor, the better" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13).
There was a "30-plus minute window during" the final round of the PGA Tour AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Sunday when the tournament was not on TV, and CBS' decision to run college basketball coverage "right up to the start of the golf tournament is a problem that needs to be rectified," according to Jonathan Wall of YAHOO SPORTS. Following Golf Channel's early-round coverage, the net "went back to the studio at 2:30 p.m. ET to kill time before CBS came on the air at 3:00 p.m." But the Michigan-Illinois college basketball game went over its allotted time slot on CBS. There were "two minutes left in the contest when 3:00 p.m. rolled around, which meant viewers were stuck wondering what the heck was going on for almost 50 minutes." Golf Channel "gave a couple of live look-ins and some updates, but for almost an hour, viewers were stuck getting updates from the studio and Twitter." Wall wrote, "The big question is why didn't CBS allow the Golf Channel to show coverage right up until the college basketball game was over?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13). GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufman wrote because of its contractual obligation, Golf Channel had to "leave a great story right as it was starting to percolate." It was following a "made-for-TV pairing of Phil Mickelson, who had just reached the par-5 sixth in two, and Tiger Woods, who had an eagle putt." But Golf Channel "had to sign off before viewers saw Mickelson make his eagle and Woods his birdie" (GOLFWEEK.com, 2/13). Golf Channel Senior Dir of PR Dan Higgins said, "We have very specific rights on the weekends, especially when CBS produces the tournament." CBS Sports VP/Communications Jen Sabatelle said, "We can't control the length of the basketball games. We still had over three hours of coverage of golf." She added that the half-hour is "necessary to prepare the transition from Golf Channel to CBS" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 2/13).
LOCAL LOVE FOR MICKELSON: In San Diego, Tod Leonard notes the ratings in San Diego for the Pebble Beach tournament were "even higher than those nationally for the 40th career win by Mickelson, an area native and Rancho Santa Fe resident." KFMB-CBS saw a 7.2 local rating for Sunday's final round, compared to KGTV-ABC earning a 1.9 for the Bulls-Celtics game. In contrast, this year’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines "drew a 2.9 local rating against the NBA, which garnered a 3.1" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/14).
The NHL yesterday formally announced that Verizon agreed to a three-year renewal of its partnership with the league, NHLPA and NBC Sports Group. The deal includes exclusive content via the Verizon edition of the "NHL GameCenter" apps for smartphones and tablets. The NHL will offer customers of the "Verizon NHL GameCenter Premium App" the ability to stream programming. In addition, all NHL games airing on NBC will be available to Verizon customers using both basic and premium editions of the app (NHL). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Eric Fisher noted the result of the deal between Verizon, the NHL and NBC Sports "was two versions" of the NHL GameCenter app. The Verizon version "will contain live feeds of the weekly NBC coverage, typically blacked out to mobile devices; NBC's 'Inside the Glass' analysis; bonus camera angles; on-demand plays of the week; and other material." The version "available to everyone else still carries scores, standings, photo galleries and other features." In-app upgrades, "carrying additional fees, provide live game audio, in-game highlights and live game video." Additionally, the NHLPA struck a "companion deal with Verizon, extending the carrier's sponsorship rights to the players as well." Financial terms "were not disclosed, but when including total commitments to both the league and member clubs, planned media spending and other activations, the deal is thought to be worth an eight-figure sum annually" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/13 issue).
MORE EUROPEAN TV DEALS: The NHL today announced the addition of two broadcast agreements that will provide live game coverage in Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Ukrainian “Hockey” TV channel has secured the rights to show up to 15 live NHL games per week for the next five seasons. Meanwhile, Arena Sports has secured the rights to air multiple live NHL games per week in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina for the next five seasons. Through this deal, live NHL games also will be made available in Slovenia through Sport TV (NHL).
The Colonial Athletic Association has signed a five-year deal with NBC Sports Group beginning with the ’12-13 season. NBC Sports Network will provide national coverage of CAA men’s basketball and football games and regional coverage of men’s and women’s basketball and football through Comcast SportsNet regional networks. The CAA is the first conference to sign a deal with NBCSN since it changed its name from Versus on Jan. 2. NBCSN will cover a minimum of 12 men’s basketball games each year including the semifinals and finals of the CAA men’s basketball tournament. It will additionally televise a minimum of five CAA football games annually (NBC). Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said, “It is a significant enhancement of our position from where we’ve been.” In DC, Patrick Stevens reports the CAA had "eight men’s basketball games shown nationally each season under its expiring deal with ESPN.” The “most curious impact of the deal could be if there are any changes to the CAA tournament.” The Richmond-based event “is played the Friday through Monday before most power conference tournaments, and Yeager said no decisions have been made on the event’s format" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 2/13). On Long Island, Greg Logan noted the CAA men's tournament previously only had the “basketball tournament title game on ESPN2.” Hofstra AD Jack Hayes: "It's going to lead to more opportunities to be on TV and, hopefully, more opportunities to be on TV in New York. We're getting in on ground level with NBC to help it grow. They have the Olympics this summer to increase visibility, so, the timing was very favorable for the CAA" (NEWSDAY, 2/14).
Five Democratic U.S. senators "filed comments with the FCC Monday urging it to reform the sports blackout rule," according to Frederic Frommer of the AP. Yesterday was the deadline for "public comments on a petition by the Sports Fans Coalition to rescind the rule." The NFL said in its filing yesterday the sports blackout rule supports "contractual provisions that are fundamental to broadcast television and thereby enable universal distribution of high quality content, including NFL football, to all Americans and to our fans -- all at no cost to those fans" (AP, 2/13). BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Eggerton notes the NFL "summarized its points succinctly." It said that the blackout rule is "in the public interest because it supports broadcast TV in general and the broad distribution of games -- what the FCC has called must-have programming -- via free over-the-air TV; that the same result could not be practically achieved through private contact; that Congress in the sports Broadcasting Act said promoting attendance at the game helps the sport and fans, and that repeal of the FCC's blackout rule would not end blackouts." The last point is "arguably a key to the NFL's argument." The league "suggested it was not dropping its contractual blackout policy." If the FCC "dropped its policy, cable and satellite operators would be able to air the games, but not broadcasters" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 2/14).
Television rights to Ivy League schools’ home games in the past “have been controlled by the individual member institutions,” but there have been “some major changes in how the Ivy League has handled getting basketball on TV since Robin Harris succeeded Jeff Orleans as the Ivy League’s executive director in 2009,” according to Jonathan Tannenwald of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Harris has made “increasing television exposure a priority throughout her time overseeing” the conference. A “significant change in how the rights negotiations are handled” came before the ‘10-11 season, when the eight Ivy League ADs "agreed to give Harris and her staff a stronger remit to go out and find a national broadcast outlet.” Penn AD Steve Bilsky said, "The old leadership in the league, I didn’t have that confidence in. Robin has made a concerted effort to make television one of her priorities, and has been very successful with a football package." Tannenwald noted the decision to “give rights to the conference office did not override existing contracts,” nor did it “preclude schools from pursuing their own deals if national deals were not agreed.” Princeton's deal with ESPNU and Yale's deal with YES Network “exist concurrently with the league's ability to shop the rights to games on a leaguewide basis.” Harris said, "We’re not signing a deal that is going to require us to play Wednesday games." Bilsky said that the league “won’t go for a deal that doesn’t get the level of exposure right.” Bilsky: “If it’s not in 50-plus million homes, it wouldn’t make sense to me. ... We can get on television, that’s not an issue. The issue is getting on national television, and I think that’s the goal.” Tannenwald noted Harris’ goal “is, and has been for some time, to have a national television deal in place for men’s basketball for the 2012-13 season” (PHILLY.com, 2/10).
In San Diego, Bill Center reports Mark Grant has "signed a multiyear contract with the Padres to remain as the club's primary color analyst and Andy Masur will alternate between the radio and television booths, handling television play-by-play when Dick Enberg is off." Grant has been with the Padres since '96, but his past contracts have "always been with the network carrying the Padres." With Bob Scanlan "joining the radio booth as analyst, the team of Ted Leitner and Masur will be working fewer games in tandem" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/14).
COMING TO NETWORK SOON? YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole writes fans should not be "surprised if boxing winds up on CBS at some point" in '12. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer did not identify a network, but recently said of getting boxing on network TV in the near future, "I am optimistic, very optimistic." Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza said that he "thought boxing could come to network television this year." But Iole notes there is "no fight lined up, there's no date, and there's not even a deal" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/14).
BREAKING GROUND: The Pac-12 "held the groundbreaking for the Pac-12 networks" yesterday in S.F., about six months "before it will hit the air with a national cable-television network, six regional networks and a digital network." Conference Commissioner Larry Scott said, "It's truly a seminal moment for the conference." About 100 more employees "need to be hired, infrastructure needs to be put in place to allow events to be broadcast from the campuses and a library of historic footage needs to be created" (AP, 2/14).
GOING BACK HOME: Deadspin Founding Editor Will Leitch “will be writing for the Gawker Media sports site on a regular basis once again" with his "The Projector" film blog. The blog had been part of Yahoo put was shut down in December. The “resurrected Projector will take the form of four to five film reviews or essays per week, to be posted to Deadspin and cross-posted to Gawker.com” (OBSERVER.com, 2/13).