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The EPL domestic rights beginning with the '13-14 season are up for bidding and industry experts are “predicting new entrants to the market to threaten the dominance of Sky,” according to Ashling O’Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Sky has broadcast games since the EPL was created in ’92, but a “serious rival could be” Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera. An additional 16 EPL games will be “screened live from the start of the 2013-14 season, bringing the total to 154 per season.” The number “proposed in a new three-year deal compares to 138 under the current agreement with Sky and ESPN.” The matches “will be split into seven packages: five packages of 26 matches and two packages of 12.” All packages "will be sold to the highest bidder, but no single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 116 matches.” One broadcaster will be “limited to owning four of the 26-match packages plus one of the 12-match packages.” Sky currently broadcasts 115 live matches per season after it paid US$2.63B for its five packages during the last auction. ESPN “won a single package of 23 matches.” ESPN Managing Dir for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Ross Hair described a bid for domestic EPL rights from Al Jazeera as a “realistic prospect.” O’Connor notes the competition to Sky and ESPN “could maintain the value of Premier League rights against a difficult economic backdrop” (LONDON TIMES, 5/4). An EPL spokesperson said that “there was no intention to have fewer matches kicking off at 3pm on Saturdays, when no live screening is permitted, and that the extra 16 games would come from those matches moved to other kick-off times due to Europa League involvement or police advice” (London INDEPENDENT, 5/4).
INTERNATIONAL APPEAL: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Blitz & Fenton note companies will “be able to bid for the right to show the remaining 226 games of the season as ‘near live,’ beginning at 8.30pm for games played in the afternoon.” The “near-live” games will be “available for traditional ‘linear’ broadcasting and also for on-demand services, to appeal to new media groups such as Google and Apple” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/4). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Tariq Panja noted the current global rights are worth US$2.27B, "more than some rival leagues make from their domestic contracts.” The overseas broadcast sale “will start after the U.K. negotiations conclude around June” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/3).
Fox on Saturday night will air its third UFC primetime broadcast, headlined by the Nate Diaz-Jim Miller bout, and the card is an "exciting show that has failed to capture the public's imagination,” as the fight is “being completely overshadowed by a monstrous boxing match the same night between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto,” according to Matt Bishop of the DETROIT NEWS. Although the UFC event, from “top-to-bottom, is an excellent show that should produce fireworks inside the cage, it hardly has the marquee name value the first two Fox shows had and will likely get crushed by the pay-per-view.” This is not the first time the UFC has “gone head-to-head with a marquee boxing pay-per-view with a Fox show.” The first Fox broadcast last November was “on the same night as the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight, but the UFC featured a strong fight on Fox as Cain Velasquez defended the UFC heavyweight championship against Junior dos Santos in a highly publicized, much anticipated fight.” After drawing “solid numbers for the first two shows, it will be surprising if this one doesn't draw the lowest number of the three” (DETROIT NEWS, 5/4). In Las Vegas, Case Keefer notes "UFC on Fox 2," which “wasn’t held on the same night as a Mayweather or Pacquiao bout, peaked with 6 million viewers.” Airing against Pacquiao-Marquez in November “garnered the inaugural UFC on FOX fight 8.8 million viewers." UFC President Dana White “believes some of the success came from the overlap in fans already in front of a television for boxing” (LAS VEGAS SUN, 5/4).
THE BRIGHT SIDE: MMA WEEKLY’s Damon Martin noted Fox execs four months into their seven-year deal with the UFC “couldn’t be happier with their latest acquisition.” Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said, “I continue to be amazed. You guys all know where it came from 10 years ago, and the fact that the first time on broadcast television almost six million viewers, the second one in that demo of 18-49 we beat all three networks combined.” He added, “The prelims on FX have already beaten 25 out of the 26 prelims on Spike, so it’s amazing.” The UFC “explosion has especially boosted the once woefully low rated” Fuel TV. Shanks: “There’s nothing bad to say about the UFC’s performance on any of the channels” (MMAWEEKLY.com, 5/3).
TUNE IN: DAILY VARIETY’s Jill Goldsmith noted Vice Media Thursday “unveiled a handful of original shows and five new channels on fashion, news, food, shopping and a venture with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.” The channel with UFC “launching in September is dedicated to the culture” of MMA. The network's lineup includes "Little Big Guys," which will show “what it takes for kids to become MMA bruisers” (VARIETY.com, 5/3).
As Angels P Jered Weaver worked his way to a no-hitter against the Twins Wednesday night, Angels TV play-by-play announcer Victor Rojas and analyst Mark Gubicza "decided to stick to the unwritten baseball code that a mere mention of a no-hitter might jinx it," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. Rojas said that Weaver's was the "third no-hitter he's called without actually saying the words." Rojas said, "Some people say jinxes have no place in sports, but that's just how I am." Pucin notes the broadcast team's decision "not to call it as they saw it was supported by the Angels." But Dodgers radio broadcaster Charley Steiner said, "Why are you keeping that a secret from your audience? In the 21st century we have this thing called the Internet. People in Swaziland know a no-hitter is going on." MLB Giants broadcaster Jon Miller said, "I feel like I have a responsibility to my audience, to the station, to the network, to say what's going on" (L.A. TIMES, 5/4). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes like Rojas and Gubicza, Angels radio announcer Terry Smith "was doing the same non-no-hit call" by neglecting to "mention the feat until there was one out in the ninth." Hoffarth writes, "No matter what your superstitions are as a broadcaster, being married to an idea that you can jinx a no-no by merely mentioning it not only lacks in cleverness, but it's far more a disservice to alerting viewers of an historic event." It leaves everything to the "producer and director of the telecast to hope that folks have paid close attention to the graphics that keep flashing on the screen as the way to tell the real story." If there is a "a concern that an equally superstitious viewer would call the broadcasters out for ruining a no-hit bid, perhaps they've never heard [Dodgers TV announcer] Vin Scully -- or practically every other big-league broadcaster -- accurately paint the picture of a gem like this as it's happening" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/4).
SILENCE IS GOLDEN? In California, Jim Carlisle writes, "It is ludicrous and even downright shameful for a broadcaster not to tell his listeners there is a no-hitter going. ... How preposterous for any broadcaster to shield news from his listeners, or to even pretend they could." In this age of 24-hour sports TV and "pervasive Internet coverage, not mentioning a no-hitter in progress is like trying to patch up the Titanic with a Band-Aid." Before coming to the Angels, Rojas had been an anchor and "occasional play-by-play man for MLB Network." Carlisle writes, "I'm sure his former employer would have frowned on Rojas shielding a no-hitter from fans if one was taking place" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 5/4).
BUSINESS INSIDERS’ Jay Yarow reported ESPN's Bill Simmons has “withdrawn his vote of LeBron James as MVP of the NBA due to a conflict of interest involving a bet he made on the award.” Simmons before the NBA season started said on his “B.S. Report” podcast that he “made a bet on James winning the MVP award.” ESPN said that Simmons “withdrew his ballot this week.” ESPN in a statement said, "Bill had never received a ballot before and didn't find out he had one until two-thirds of the season had passed. By that time he had made multiple MVP bets, two of which he had discussed on podcasts. He ended up withdrawing his MVP vote to avoid the perception of any conflict" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 5/3).
MISSING IN ACTION: In Boston, Chad Finn reports Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy will “miss his sixth straight game Friday because of what NESN says is a sinus infection.” He will miss “five more games, with the target date for a return set at next Thursday.” But sources said that they “would be surprised if he returns then.” Dennis Eckersley and Peter Gammons “will fill in alongside” play-by-play voice Don Orsillo in Remy's absence. Finn writes the “reaction to tuning in to a NESN Red Sox telecast and realizing someone other than Jerry Remy is handling the color is practically second nature by now.” The pattern has “become all too familiar in recent seasons,” as Remy has “dealt with health matters that have caused him to miss portions of the schedule.” For the “third April in the past four, Remy is absent because of illness” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/4).
PAR FOR THE COURSE: The BBC's Peter Alliss will be inducted on Monday into the World Golf HOF, and GOLFWEEK’s Alistair Tait notes Alliss sees things "that often elude other commentators.” Alliss “never planned a TV career,” but that changed in ’60 when he “received a letter from the BBC asking Alliss to comment on the 1961 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.” Alliss has “endured because of his unique perspective.” He "offers enlightened doses of hard reality” (GOLFWEEK, 5/4 issue)....USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy reports former CBS golf analyst Lanny Wadkins is “returning to TV after a five-year absence with the Golf Channel.” He will “serve as the lead analyst" for Golf Channel’s coverage of the Champions Tour Insperity Championship in Houston this weekend. Golf Channel Senior Dir of PR Dan Higgins describes Wadkins' role as a “one-time appearance for now.” However, McCarthy writes Wadkins “could go full time” (USA TODAY, 5/4).
SPICING IT UP: In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald noted Fox' Gus Johnson has broadcast a handful of MLS Earthquakes games this season, and when asked how broadcasting soccer compares to broadcasting college football and college basketball, Johnson said, “It’s a lot different. For me, because I didn’t have any experience, and now I have limited experience, it’s almost like learning a new language. But I think some of the same principles apply.” He added, “Some of the same words are applicable, but there’s a lot of different terminology that I’m still trying to get used to, and train my brain to be able to recognize when I see it.” Johnson said he and Fox have “talked about" him potentially broadcasting soccer, but he said that is “not an easy task.” Johnson: “That's not something you just jump into at that level. I think that doing these (Earthquakes) games for the whole summer will show me whether or not I have the right stuff to do it” (PHILLY.com, 4/30).
NOTES: Former Univ. of Florida QB Chris Leak has joined SiriusXM’s 24/7 college sports channel. Leak will host “College Sports Coast-to-Coast” multiple nights each week with Chris Childers (TAMPABAY.com, 4/2)....ESPN college basketball analyst Hubert Davis has left the network to become an assistant coach with the Univ. of North Carolina men's basketball team (ESPN.com, 4/2).
NBC Sports Network earned a 1.1 U.S. rating and 1.85 million viewers for the Rangers triple OT win over the Capitals Wednesday in Game Three of Eastern Conference Semifinals, which marked the longest of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs so far. That figure is up from a 0.8 rating and 1.23 million viewers for the comparable Bruins-Flyers Game Three last year. NBCSN also earned a 4.0 local rating in N.Y. for the game, marking the net's highest NHL rating ever in the market. That figure is up 93% from the local average for the net's Penguins-Rangers series in '08, which was the last time the club made the Conference Semifinals. In DC, the game earned a 6.8 local rating, making NBCSN the top-rated cable net in the market from 7:30pm-12:30am ET. Meanwhile, unique visits to NHL.com were up 24% over the playoff average from 11:00pm-1:00am. During the marathon game, there were 40,651 mentions of the NHL on Twitter (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
ON COURSE: Golf Channel averaged 115,000 total-day viewers during the month of April, up 14% from the same period last year. The net was fueled by its most-viewed Masters week ever. Among ad-supported cable nets which have a U.S. distribution of over 80 million homes, Golf Channel is the fastest-growing network, with viewership up 36% over the last five quarters. The net has seen growth during each of those quarters, which date back to it becoming part of NBC Sports Group. Meanwhile, CBS last weekend finished with a 2.0 final Nielsen rating for the final round of the PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans, up slightly from a 1.9 rating last year (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
AROUND THE HORN: MLB Network was the beneficiary Wednesday night of a no-hitter from Angels P Jered Weaver. The net aired live coverage of the finish of Twins-Angels during its scheduled “MLB Tonight” broadcast, with ratings up 82% in the quarter hour compared to the previous quarter hour. Additionally on Wednesday night, games decided by walk-off home runs led the Braves (SportSouth), Phillies (Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia) and Nationals (MASN) to each register the best ratings for a Wednesday night MLB game so far this season on their respective RSNs (MLB).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for NBC were not available at presstime.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. NASCAR Sprint Cup: Capital City 400 (Richmond)4/28Fox7:51-10:44pm3.6 NBA Western Conference First Round:
Nuggets-Lakers: Game One4/29ABC3:30-6:00pm3.3
NBA Eastern Conference First Round:
Knicks-Heat: Game One4/28ABC3:30-6:00pm3.1
PGA Tour: Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Final Round4/29CBS3:00-6:37pm2.0 PGA Tour: Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Third Round4/28CBS3:00-6:00pm1.2 "NBA Countdown"4/28ABC3:00-3:30pm0.7 "NBA Countdown"4/29ABC3:00-3:30pm0.7 Monster Energy AMA Supercross (taped)4/29CBS1:00-2:00pm0.6 PBR 15/15 Bucking Battles (taped)4/28CBS2:00-3:00pm0.5 PGA special: "Get Golf Ready"4/29CBS2:00-3:00pm0.5 NCAA Winter Highlight Show4/28CBS1:00-2:00pm0.3 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NFL Draft: Round One4/26ESPN8:00-11:13pm4.46,661 NBA Western Conference First Round: Mavericks-Thunder: Game One4/28ESPN9:41pm-12:21am2.74,115 NBA Western Conference First Round:
Clippers-Grizzlies: Game One4/29TNT9:44pm-12:27am2.63,982
NBA Eastern Conference First Round:
Celtics-Hawks: Game One4/29TNT7:09-9:44pm2.63,971
NBA Western Conference First Round:
Jazz-Spurs: Game One4/29ESPN12:58-3:44pm2.23,197
NFL Draft: Rounds Two, Three4/27ESPN7:00-11:04pm1.92,679 NBA Eastern Conference First Round:
Magic-Pacers: Game One4/28ESPN6:58-9:41pm1.72,551
NBA Eastern Conference First Round
: 76ers-Bulls: Game One4/28TNT1:09-3:51pm1.62,475
NBA: Heat-Celtics4/24TNT8:16-10:44pm1.42,220 NBA: Clippers-Knicks4/25ESPN8:05-10:44pm1.42,046