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The cable channel created for the Mountain West Conference -- the Mtn -- is shutting down and will go dark May 31, sources said. The channel's 44 employees were informed of the decision late Thursday afternoon during a meeting at their Denver HQs. Sources indicate that CBS Sports Network and the MWC are close to finalizing a deal for the conference's rights that will wind up increasing national distribution for the league's upcoming football and basketball games. CBS Sports Network is in around 45 million homes. Jointly owned by CBS Sports Network and NBC Universal, the Mtn is in around 13 million homes. Employees were told Thursday that they would get a severance package and will be given priority for open jobs at NBC Sports’ RSNs. The Mtn launched in ‘06 as the first cable channel devoted to a single college conference. Over the years, the channel provided exposure for the conference, producing 38,000 hours of coverage in total. The moves make sense given the uncertainty surrounding the MWC, which is forming some sort of business alliance with Conference USA. Plus, some of the conference's premiere teams -- such as BYU, Utah and TCU -- have left the conference over the past few years (John Ourand, THE DAILY). A source said, “It’s important to realize it’s not the same conference we signed up for in 2006. Teams have left. Some teams are leaving. We’re still trying to find out what this conference is going to look like a year from now. It’s kind of hard to do business when you don’t know what the product is in front of you” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/6). In Las Vegas, Mark Anderson notes distribution issues “cropped up from the beginning” for the Mtn. There also were “complaints about games not being available to a wider audience, but The Mtn. was intended to be more of a regional carrier for games not picked up nationally” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/6).
NEW CHALLENGES: In Colorado Springs, Frank Schwab writes the Mtn's demise “leaves open the possibility that not every Air Force football game will be televised in 2012.” There will almost “assuredly be a steep decline in the number of televised Air Force men’s basketball games next season.” There likely will be an "unselected inventory of games, considering The mtn. broadcast 30 football games last year.” MWC schools will “likely be able to shop the rights to their unselected home games.” For all of the network’s issues, “such as low distribution fueled by the inability to get on all major cable providers, it did provide an outlet for many live games in all sports to be televised” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 4/6). Univ. of Wyoming AD Tom Burman said, “It’s not a complete shocker; we knew these negotiations were occurring.” He added, “We hope there will be some sort of platform for us to have some sort of regional television network going forward. But there are no guarantees.” Burman: “Each of the schools will go out and negotiate their own TV deals for anything that’s not picked up by the other television partners if they want to. Obviously, that’s a little more difficult for us in our market. We’ve got to put our heads together, but we’re ahead of this a little bit” (CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE, 4/6).
HAWAIIAN PUNCH: In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis writes the end of the network is “possibly opening a door for the University of Hawaii to keep its lucrative pay-per-view operations for the 2012 football season.” The Mtn’s “historical reluctance to relinquish local TV rights had been [a] point of contention with MWC members over the years and was viewed as a major road block to UH continuing to sell its pay-per-view TV package locally once it joins the MWC July 1.” UH receives “an average of about $2.5 million a year through its local TV and PPV rights” (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 4/6).
NFL said it has no immediate plans to pursue a traditional magazine
JOINT PUBLISHING EFFORT: In L.A., David Sarno noted five of the "largest magazine publishers -- Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., News Corp. and Meredith Corp. -- jointly released a tablet computer application Wednesday that offers owners of Android-based tablets unlimited access" to 32 of the country's most popular magazines for $14.99 a month. Among the magazines "packaged for the single price are Time, Sports Illustrated, People, the New Yorker, Better Homes and Garden, Car and Driver, Esquire, Fortune, Popular Mechanics and Entertainment Weekly." The publishers will "divvy up the subscription revenue based on which titles users are reading." If a reader "spends half his time on the app with Sports Illustrated and half with the New Yorker, the revenue will be roughly divided between Time Inc. and Conde Nast, the respective publishers of those titles" (L.A. TIMES, 4/5).
N.Y. Times reporter Karen Crouse said that she “does not want to cover the Masters again unless a woman is admitted into Augusta National’s all-male membership,” according to Damon Hack of SI. Crouse Thursday said, “If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I’d probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member. More and more, the lack of a woman member is just a blue elephant in the room.” Crouse also “criticized the PGA Tour for recognizing the Masters as an official event despite Augusta National’s lack of a woman member.” She said, “I find it harder and harder to get past one thing that’s missing. (PGA Tour Commissioner) Tim Finchem is not making a stand. High-ranking players with daughters are not willing to talk about it. Somebody has to make a stand. Why not me in my own little way?” (SI.com, 4/5).
LET'S GET TO THE GOLF: In N.Y., Phil Mushnck writes ESPN “went right to live golf yesterday" when its coverage began at 3:00pm ET. There was "no extended, dramatized tribute to the Masters as special, no attempt to encourage viewers to watch what they already had tuned in to watch.” There was a “fabulous mini-feature on the Champions’ Locker Room,” which showed that Arnold Palmer “shared his with Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus shares his with first Masters champ Horton Smith” (N.Y. POST, 4/6). Meanwhile, in Augusta, Billy Byler noted ESPN’s coverage of The Masters “will again include its 3-D network, and the production crew has expanded its broadcasts with more hours, technology and cameras.” Last year’s Masters, the “first aired live in 3-D, had 18 cameras” but this year the crew will “work with 28 cameras covering the entire back nine.” The 3D broadcast “will include all four rounds of the tournament with three hours of daily coverage” (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 4/5).
FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE: In a Q&A with CBS' Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters winner, the Albany TIMES UNION’s Pete Dougherty asked, “Is it difficult for you to come here to Augusta National as a broadcaster rather than as a player?” Faldo said, “I'm very happy, extremely happy to be here in the booth, and I'm happy I'm not on the golf course. I had my day. That was two moons ago. So to be able to still be part of the great tournament and be part of CBS, I'm glad I've got a role to be here to call the Masters." Dougherty asked, “When you call an event like the Masters, how much does your own experience help because you've played this course every year?” Faldo: “I can talk this golf course until I'm blue in the face, and I love doing that. I know every little hump and bump, so I know what's possible. We get shots at times where you know the player has no chance to get up and down, or it looks very difficult and you can say, 'He could do this. It looks possible.' All those sorts of things, the strategy. I know Augusta National backward. That's a big help" (Albany TIMES UNION, 4/6).
LEADING THE WAY? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes The Masters, “even if it’s from some self-anointed royalty, at least provides a lesson for the rest of the sports world: Event organizers don’t have to roll over for TV.” While the event's rights fee from CBS “aren’t public ... it has to be leaving money on the table in allowing CBS to show far fewer commercials than typical TV sports.” Which leads, “perhaps not coincidentally, to the consistently highest-rated golf on TV.” Hiestand: “Other sports could learn something: You really could skip obedience training before your next TV deal” (USA TODAY, 4/6).
"SportsCenter's" most famous pairing -- Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick -- reunited at N.Y.'s Paley Center Thursday night on the 20th anniversary of their debut on what they dubbed "The Big Show." The duo spent 90 minutes retelling tales of their fights with ESPN management, poking fun at their bloopers and reflecting on their departures from the network. Chemistry between the two still was evident on the Paley Center stage. They have worked together on occasion since "SportsCenter," appearing on radio and NBC's NFL pregame show. But they both said it is unlikely they would pair up in the foreseeable future. "I HAVE jobs," Patrick said, drawing laughter. They appeared together on "SportsCenter" from '92-97 before Olbermann left ESPN. During that time, they dubbed their version of "SportsCenter" as "The Big Show." Patrick: "It was a rallying cry for us. It gave us an identity." The problem, Olbermann and Patrick said, was that ESPN did not want its talent to become too popular. "Management said, 'We don't want another Berman,'" Patrick said, referencing Chris Berman. "They didn't want stars and egos. They wanted information." Olbermann referenced a TV Guide magazine list that named his and Patrick's "SportsCenter" as one of the 10 best shows on TV. "That became a problem for management," he said. Reflecting on their popularity, Olbermann said they were guided by the same philosophy on-air. "We tried to make each other laugh," he said. Neither Olbermann nor Patrick left ESPN on good terms, though it was clear that while Patrick still held a grudge, Olbermann did not. When Miller asked if Olbermann was waiting for a phone call from Bristol, Patrick quipped, "He will get it before I do. That's the sad part." Olbermann: "I'm at peace with them." On their "SportsCenter" stint, Patrick called Olbermann "the best teammate I've ever had." Olbermann said, "It was joyous -- like walking a tightrope over a pit of fire for an hour was joyous."
CURRENT EVENTS: Olbermann referenced his recent acrimonious departure from Current TV with several quips, including one where he compared his decision to move to ESPN2 at its launch with his decision to accept a job at Current TV. "As evidenced by my recent employment, I'm easily led," he said. He took another veiled shot at Current TV later, also when he was speaking of his move to ESPN2. Olbermann: "It was crazy that they wanted to move the young people we had over to ESPN2. That never works. You can never move an audience." He said Current TV allegations that he complained about drivers who tried to talk with him were "nonsense." He said he was known for tipping the drivers, adding, "Apparently, I was the only one to do so." Olbermann added that he was not using a driver last night. He took the E train to the event and planned to walk home.
The Izod IndyCar Series has averaged 813,000 viewers for it first two races (one on ABC, one on NBC Sports Network), down 27% compared to the same races at the start of the ’11 season. Last Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on NBCSN averaged 218,000 viewers, marking the lowest viewership for the race since it was added to the IndyCar schedule in ’10. The season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg averaged 1.3 million viewers on ABC on March 25, down 30% from the opener last year.
KICK IT: For the week of March 26-April 1, the EPL Manchester United-Fulham match on March 26 on ESPN2 was the most-viewed English-language soccer match on cable TV. Only one MLS match -- the March 31 Revolution-Galaxy match on NBCSN -- made the top 10. Meanwhile, Telemundo’s Mexico-Honduras Olympic soccer qualifier averaged 1.9 million viewers on April 2, marking the net’s most-viewed match of seven CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
NOTES: ABC’s Bulls-Thunder game last Sunday earned a 12.1 local rating in Oklahoma City, becoming the highest-rated NBA regular-season game ever in the market. The Thunder’s four telecasts last week averaged out to be the team’s best week ever of regular-season ratings (OKLAHOMAN, 4/4)….Golf Channel averaged 507,000 viewers for the first round of the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship on March 29, marking the most-viewed opening round for the event in 19 years (Golf Channel)….YES Network earned a 1.3 local rating in N.Y. for the Mets-Yankees game on Wednesday, marking the highest-rated weekday, daytime Spring Training ever on a N.Y. RSN (YES Network)….The three games of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four drew 20.6 million radio listeners for the matchups on March 31 and April 2. By comparison, Super Bowl XLVI drew 23.1 million and the combined AFC/NFC Championships drew 22.9 million listeners (Dial Global).
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures Fox were unavailable at presstime.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. NCAA Final Four: Kansas-Ohio State3/31CBS8:30-10:30pm9.6 NCAA Final Four: Kentucky-Louisville3/31CBS6:00-8:00pm8.4 NBA: Heat-Celtics4/1ABC3:30-6:00pm2.7 PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open: Final Round4/1NBC3:00-6:00pm2.4 PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open: Third Round3/31NBC3:00-6:00pm1.9 NBA: Bulls-Thunder4/1ABC1:00-3:30pm1.9 "Final Four Show"3/31CBS4:00-6:00pm1.4 NHL: Flyers-Penguins4/1NBC12:30-3:00pm1.0 "NBA Countdown"4/1ABC12:30-1:00pm0.9 ATP World Tour: Sony Ericsson Open Final:
Djokovic d. Murray4/1CBS1:00-3:30pm0.8
Olympic soccer qualifier: Mexico-Canada3/31Telem.9:00-11:07pm0.8 Monster Energy AMA Supercross (taped)4/1CBS12:00-1:00pm0.7 WTA Tour: Sony Ericsson Open Final:
Radwanska d. Sharapova3/31CBS12:00-3:00pm0.6
"Human Highlight Reel"3/31CBS3:30-4:00pm0.6 "ESPN Sports Saturday"3/31ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5 "Big Dance in the Big Easy"3/31CBS3:00-3:30pm0.5 Red Bull Signature Series: Super Natural (taped)3/31NBC1:00-3:00pm0.5 National High School Slam Dunk, 3-Point Contest4/1CBS4:30-6:00pm0.5 Mexico Primera Division:
Estudiantes Tecos-Chivas de Guadalajara3/31Telef.6:55-9:00pm0.4
"Kings of the Court" (taped)4/1CBS3:30-4:30pm0.4 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NCAA Women's Final Four:
NBA: Thunder-Lakers3/29TNT10:38pm-1:12am2.33,486 NCAA Women's Final Four:
NBA: Mavericks-Heat3/29TNT8:00-10:38pm1.92,799 NCAA Women's Tournament:
Regional Final: Baylor-Tennessee3/26ESPN7:00-9:11pm1.11,654
NBA: Trail Blazers-Clippers3/30ESPN10:41pm-1:14am1.11,604 NBA: Magic-Knicks3/28ESPN7:00-9:30pm1.01,382 NCAA Women's Tournament:
Regional Final: UConn-Kentucky3/27ESPN7:00-9:19pm0.91,339
NCAA Women's Tournament:
Regional Final: Stanford-Duke3/26ESPN9:11-11:06pm0.91,263