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For the first time in years, DirecTV subscribers will have access to Padres games this season. Sources say both DirecTV and Cox have agreed to carry FS San Diego, which is in the process of picking up rights to the team's games from Cox' Channel 4 this season. Cox has around 450,000 cable subscribers in the market. The companies are holding off on making a formal announcement until MLB approves the team's TV deal with FS San Diego, which is for a reported 20 years and averages out to $50M per year. As part of that deal, the Padres would take a 20% equity stake in the network. Time Warner Cable, which controls around 30% of the market, still has not cut a deal for FS San Diego, though sources said the two sides still are talking. In recent years, Padres games were carried by Cox Channel 4, which was not available to DirecTV, due to a federal regulation known as the "terrestrial loophole." The regulation, which was closed officially in '10, has also kept Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia off of DirecTV.
NFL Network Dir of Communications Dennis Johnson said it was a network "programming decision," and not a league directive, to pull the scheduled airing of the '10 Saints-Vikings NFC Championship game off the air Monday amid the Saints' bounty scandal, according to Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com. Johnson said, "NFL Network has extensively aired video clips of plays related to the Saints bounty investigation on NFL Total Access and during other news reports that are available on NFL.com. At this time, we decided not to air the complete three-hour game and will reschedule the program for a future date." Easterbrook notes like any other station, NFL Network "seeks eyeballs on its product." Right now there is "a lot of interest in seeing what really happened in the Saints-Vikings game, compared to zero interest in Cowboys replays from the Jimmy Johnson era." Yet the network "pulled a hot product off the air, substituting a stone-cold product." Easterbrook: "Knuckleheaded business judgments do happen." However, unless the people running NFL Network "are knuckleheads, there may have been an agenda here." Perhaps the league "did not want viewers to see for themselves how many vicious late hits went uncalled in the game that put the Saints into the Super Bowl" (ESPN.com, 3/6).
Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith will not appear on CBS' "NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show" from 6:00-7:00pm ET Sunday after appearing on the special last year. CBS and Turner Sports yesterday announced that the show will feature Greg Anthony, Seth Davis, Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr, Jim Nantz and an appearance by D-I Men's Basketball Committee Chair Jeff Hathaway. Barkley and Smith will appear on truTV's "Infiniti NCAA Hardcore Brackets" show at 7:00pm ET the same night (THE DAILY). CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that there “isn’t any lack of faith in Barkley, who'll return as an NCAA studio analyst.” McManus: “He says what’s on his mind and gets attention. I’m not worried about him saying anything that will embarrass himself, CBS or the NCAA” (USA TODAY, 3/7). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote judging from promos, the "most important element to this month’s CBS/Turner-shared NCAA tournament coverage will be the studio inclusions and intrusions of Charles Barkley.” Everybody is “supposed to love Barkley and salute his contributions to basketball, TV and society," and he “can be funny.” But Mushnick wrote, “Without live games attached to Barkley’s appearances … I’m not sure a whole lot of folks would be moved to tune in” (N.Y. POST, 3/4).
MLB Network President & CEO Tony Petitti said today's enhanced audio game between the D'Backs and Indians ideally will be a forerunner to more such efforts in the regular season. "This is not a small thing to do, and there are a number of key stakeholders with whom we need to work with on this," Petitti said. "But, yes, the hope is that we learn a lot here and that it sparks more discussion. We're confident the fans are going to like it, and a lot of what's being done can theoretically be applied in the regular season." Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the D'Backs' Spring Training home, as well as a large selection of players, coaches and umpires will be specially wired for today's 3:00pm ET telecast on MLB Network in an effort to capture live natural sounds of the game generally lost in baseball telecasts. Up to six players at any given time will be wired, but given the frequent substitutions of exhibition games, dozens of players potentially will be participating in the experiment. Pitchers have been exempted from the effort, in part due to strategic concerns over revealed communications about pitch selection. And profanity will be screened by two separate seven-second delays -- one in the production truck in Arizona and another at MLB Network HQs in Secaucus, N.J. Monitors operating the delays will have fluency in both English and Spanish. The broadcast has been more than two years in the making. "Enhancements in audio, particularly live audio, is still an untapped, unchartered area in our business," Petitti said. "We think the sky is the limit, and it's going to open up a whole new look into the game." Asked to compare the potential effect of the enhanced live audio to 3D TV, which has seen only limited applications to date in baseball, Petitti said, "This is potentially more like a first-down line, a cable cam, or some other production enhancement. You're not asking the consumer to get or buy anything different. This is something anybody can access" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
GOING INSIDE THE GAME: MLB Network’s Mitch Williams said of today's game, “It’s great because the fans at home, sitting there, watching the game on MLB Network can actually hear the camaraderie on the field. And I think that’s a great thing for the fans” (“MLB Tonight Live,” MLB Network, 3/6).
Penguins C Sidney Crosby "has once again been cleared for contact and could be returning" as soon as Sunday. Crosby said, "I'll give myself days with contact. We have two more practices this week. No sooner than Sunday, I would say, but I'm not going to sit here and put a date on it." CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote if Crosby "does make his return on Sunday it will come against the Boston Bruins -- NBC already has it scheduled to be the national game of the week" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/6).
DIAL TONE: In Toronto, Michael Woods notes Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke "hung up on a radio host during a live interview Tuesday after being asked about his job security, but said he had good reason to do it." Burke said, “The producer asked if I would do an interview regarding two issues. When I became convinced a coaching change was needed, and what I thought our chances were of making the playoffs." CFRB-AM host John Moore said on his blog that Burke was "invited on the show to talk about hockey and the Leafs." Moore wrote, "He knew there were going to be questions about whether the Leafs can pull things out of the fire and make the playoffs. Asking Burke if he thinks he could face the axe is a completely fair question" (TORONTO STAR, 3/7).
TRANSFORMING DIGITAL: BBC Dir of Future Media Ralph Rivera said that the London Games will "transform the British media landscape by ushering in a new age of 'connected TV.'" He said, "Our aspiration is that 2012 will do for digital and connected televisions what the coronation did for TV. ... We will be on all the major television platforms, set-top box platforms, video game consoles and mobile and tablet platforms. We are getting to the point where it is ubiquitous." The FINANCIAL TIMES' Tim Bradshaw notes though the BBC iPlayer is "used by 40 per cent of online adults in the UK every month," Rivera is hoping that the "wider range of coverage that online video and mobile apps can provide during the Olympics will push it fully into the mainstream" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/7).
SAME AS IT EVER WAS: KNRB-AM and the MLB Giants have agreed to terms on a new seven-year contract that will keep Giants games on the station through the '18 season (Giants).