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Grantland.com Founder Bill Simmons has taken to Twitter to express his feelings about the site being denied credentials to Saturday night's North Carolina-Duke men's basketball game. Simmons Tuesday night posted the following message: "Duke wouldn’t credential Grantland for Saturday’s UNC-Duke game. I already hated Duke but was diplomatic about it… no more. IT IS ON!” Simmons' profile picture on the social media site at presstime features UNC F Harrison Barnes dunking over Duke F Mason Plumlee; it earlier in the week featured the phrase "Duke Sucks" (THE DAILY). A Duke spokesperson indicated that the school "would love to accommodate each legitimate request but because of space issues at Cameron ... they must make some tough decisions for the UNC game." SI.com’s Richard Deitsch noted one of those decisions "is the inability to credential blog sites and websites that do not attempt to cover the team on a regular basis.” ESPN's umbrella of networks, websites and branches "have 10 seats on press row for the game, as well as a photographer spot, multiple camera spots required to air the game, and access for College GameDay" (TWITLONGER.com, 2/28). Duke Associate SID Matt Plizga noted that school has 57 spots "on ‘media row’ to dole out, 27 photo and video spots and 12 seats in an overflow booth.” Plizga said, “I have been able to put another 4-10 media members in ticketed seats. I also have 20-25 media that will be provided postgame access but will have to watch the game from the media room in Cameron Indoor Stadium.” Plizga said that this was “the first occasion on which Grantland has applied for credentials.” He added, “In addition, the request was for a credential for one of their bloggers rather than one of their feature writers such as Bill Simmons.” Grantland blogger Shane Ryan said that the site will still cover the game, but added, “We’re gonna figure out a new angle to do it from.” Ryan was credentialed by UNC for the Feb. 8 game between the teams (POYNTER.org, 2/29).
NO NEED FOR TWEET WAR: AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Andrew Bucholtz wrote Duke's explanation sounds “like a pretty reasonable response." Bucholtz: "It's not like ESPN/Grantland are being locked out here; rather, Duke's saying that they're already giving ESPN a lot of space, and Grantland might not have a better claim to a seat than some other outlets, given that a lot of their writing can be done without access.” Bucholtz added, “That doesn't sound like a huge controversy from here, and certainly not one that justifies an editor-in-chief going on the Twitter warpath” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 2/29).
While NBC this weekend airs traditional live coverage of the third and final rounds of the PGA Tour Honda Classic from 3:00-6:00pm ET, Golf Channel will offer exclusive coverage of holes 15-17, known as the "Bear Trap" at PGA National. NBC Sports Group called the simultaneous coverage of the event a "first-of-its-kind experiment for golf" (THE DAILY). GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann in the magazine's "Inside The Ropes" feature noted it is the latest example of the "synergy" between the two networks. Golf Channel will have "a separate production team in place at PGA National." Producer Glenn Savadski will have “dedicated graphics and a five-man announcing team calling the action from the booth and on the ground.” When the leaders reach No.15 on NBC’s Sunday coverage, Golf Channel “will cut to its ‘Golf Central’ news show.” This is “all part of a dry run for 2013 when the PGA Tour’s new nine-year television deal kicks in.” Aside from the complementary coverage by NBC and Golf Channel, fans next year can "expect to see expanded live tournament coverage on the Internet.” Kaufmann writes, “My hunch ... is that this will be a huge hit because it will give viewers what they really want: dedicated coverage of the most exciting holes or the most compelling playing groups” (GOLFWEEK, 3/2 issue).
MORE GRAPHICS PLEASE: Kaufmann in a separate piece notes NBC “has some cool graphics; I only wish it would use them more.” The net made its '12 PGA Tour debut last week with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and on "precious few occasions, NBC used its PinPoint graphic to illustrate the position of each player’s drive, along with a box listing the driving distance and distance to the pin.” Kaufmann: “I recall seeing it used only once Saturday.” Kaufmann also likes “the PinPoint technology that maps greens,” though that was "used sparingly” (GOLFWEEK, 3/2 issue).
As the rest of the media industry is “seemingly battling to stay in business, some sports-news websites are ramping up, aggressively hiring in a push for growth,” according to Sam Mamudi of MARKETWATCH. Yahoo Sports and CBSSports.com have recently “lured some of the biggest names in the business away from industry stalwarts," with Yahoo hiring Pat Forde from ESPN and CBSSports.com nabbing Jon Heyman and Pat Kirwan from SI and NFL.com, respectively. Sources said that top online sports journalists like Forde “are commanding salaries exceeding $300,000 a year.” CBSSports.com in the past year has also hired college sports writers Bruce Feldman, Jeff Goodman and Brett McMurphy. CBSSports.com VP/Programming & Exec Producer Jeff Gerttula said, "We've made a conscious decision to (lead) in the news-breaking and information sourcing that's crucial to getting traffic and brand building. We wanted guys who break news and can present themselves as insiders." Yahoo Sports on Dec. 8 “broke two huge sports stories" with Albert Pujols' signing with the Angels and a proposed trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers. Yahoo said that traffic that day “drew 21% more unique users than on a typical Thursday.” Mamudi wrote there remains “a question of whether a few big hires, and attention-grabbing scoops, really raise traffic.” According to comScore data, CBSSports.com's traffic is “down 27% year-on-year." However, CBSSports.com “credited the popularity of Heyman's reporting as one reason its Major League Baseball coverage has seen a 51% increase in average weekly users." Additionally, traffic to college football stories -- “boosted by Feldman and McMurphy -- has almost doubled.” At the same time, some of the “fastest-growing sites in the industry are built around inexpensive content -- SB Nation and Bleacher Report, for example, have some name writers but are mostly networks of team- and sport-specific sites run and written by fans for free or for a monthly stipend” (MARKETWATCH.com, 2/29).
NBC Sports Network’s NHL coverage last night featured a heated exchange between analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick about a hit to the head by Stars F Eric Nystrom on Penguins D Kris Letang. Milbury said Letang was in a “vulnerable position,” but Roenick followed by saying, “He put himself in a vulnerable position.” The following are excerpts of the back and forth.
Milbury: “The whole point is we have to change the way the guys look at it. You’re not supposed to try to decapitate the player who’s got the puck. ... I’m talking about changing the players’ mindset.”
Roenick: “It was a solid bodycheck. ... His head wasn’t hit. His chin might have been grazed, but his head was not hit. The shoulder and the elbow hit the chest. I saw it on five or six different angles.”
Milbury: “He clipped him with the shoulder on the head right here. Whether it’s targeted or not is not for me to say. I’m not in his head.”
Roenick: “You know what, we should just take hitting out of hockey.”
Milbury: “Oh, stop with that, J.R. You accuse me of being soft. I’m accusing you of making a marshmallow look firm.”
At this point, both analysts seemed to be annoyed about the other’s stance on the argument and they began talking over each other in condescending tones.
Roenick: “You’re getting soft.”
Milbury gestured for Roenick to leave and said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, will ya? Consider this the last time you’re on.”
Roenick: “If I get hit in the head, are you going to give that a major penalty too?”
Milbury: “Take a hike.”
Roenick: “This comes from a guy, Mr. Tough Guy over here.” Roenick then looks into the camera and mouths the words softly, “He’s soft.”
Co-host Bill Patrick, who had been signaling for a timeout, chimed in and said, “We’re not going to solve anything here.” He said to Roenick, “Thanks for being a good sport.” Roenick said about Milbury, “I’m going to go get him a Shirley Temple after.” Milbury and Roenick finally settled down and NBC Sports Network’s Keith Jones introduced the next highlight segment and said, “What a beautiful act to follow. See ya, J.R.” At that moment, you can hear Milbury say in the background, “Yeah, go away” (NBC Sports Network, 2/29).
REAX: DEADSPIN's Timothy Burke wrote NBC's Bill Patrick "tried valiantly to cool the pair down, to no avail." With NBC Sports Network's ratings struggling, maybe some "animosity is what the network needs -- if only to get people talking about it" (DEADSPIN.com, 2/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote, "This is what passes for hockey talk in U.S. television" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/29).
The America's Cup sailing race is coming to broadcast television next fall, as NBC committed to air the event's first two days live on Sept. 7-8, 2013. The race's remaining days will be carried live on the broadcaster's all-sports cable channel, NBC Sports Network. Coverage of the race will include on-board HD cameras and 14 microphones on each boat. The 34th America's Cup will be held in S.F. As part of the rights deal, NBC picked up rights to the '13 Louis Vuitton Cup, which determines the challenger for the America's Cup Finals. Comcast SportsNet California will add local coverage around the event.
In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes ESPN has publicly said that it “has no regrets and is committed” to the Longhorn Network. But at the same time, execs “had to believe they would be on far more cable systems now.” What they “didn't realize is the state of Texas market is too fractured.” Carlton: “Not everybody wants to be a Longhorn. A lot of people dislike that brand, and don't want to see their cable bills rise to have burnt orange 24/7.” The Univ. of Texas will “need some kind of catalyst (a major football game or two?) to pressure cable providers next season” (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/1).
KEEPING IT COMPETITIVE? YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole noted he likes what Main Events is “trying to do by putting boxing on the NBC Sports Network.” The idea was to create “competitive matches in which no one knew who was going to win,” but that plan “didn’t last too long.” On the March 24 show, the series “will feature a tripleheader that will open with Tomasz Adamek meeting Nagy Aguilera in a heavyweight match.” Iole: “If you’re going to put Aguilera on the air, then don’t tell us you’re serious about making competitive matches, because Aguilera isn’t competitive against any quality heavyweight” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28).
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS: Broadcasting company Record has “threatened to sue FIFA for awarding rival network Globo the Brazilian rights for the ’18 and ’22 World Cups without a bidding process." Record said yesterday that it was “surprised at the decision because it had been told” by FIFA TV Dir Niclas Ericson that broadcasters “would be allowed to bid” for the ’18-22 rights. Globo has held World Cup broadcast rights since ’70 (AP, 2/29).
NEW PROGRAMMING: The Perform Group is developing new, branded YouTube channels for Livesport.TV, its live sports streaming service, and Goal.com soccer brands. The new channels will largely be advertiser-supported, but certain events will be placed behind a paywall for U.S. viewers. Furthering Perform’s reach into Google-owned properties, the company is also launching a series of Chrome applications for Goal.com and a series of other clients (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).