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Big 12 Conference presidents have “verbally agreed to a lucrative new media rights agreement” with ESPN and Fox, according to sources cited by Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. The deal, which was first reported by THE DAILY in March, is for 13 years and worth a combined $2.6B. An extension of the league's grant of rights is "expected to be announced along with the new deal." The Big 12 presidents had previously agreed to a six-year grant of rights “that would allow the conference to keep a school’s television rights if it left for a new league.” The expectation is “that the new grant of rights will be 13 years to match the TV deal.” That provision “essentially binds the at-times contentious league together for the term of the agreement.” Dodd wrote the hiring of Bob Bowlsby as the new Big 12 Commissioner "has to be an indication that the TV announcement is near and the league is on stable ground” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/7).
NHL COO John Collins and the league “have reason to feel bullish about the first year of their long-term deal with NBC Universal,” as the move to televise every NHL playoff game on either NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC and NHL Network “has produced dramatic results,” according to Ed Sherman of SHERMANREPORT.com. Ratings have “soared with more than a combined 60 million viewers tuning in to watch first-round games on either national or local outlets.” NBC Sports Net averaged 744,000 viewers for first-round games, up 16% from last year and the "highest numbers for hockey on cable since 2001.” Collins said, “We’re able to show the casual fan how unique the Stanley Cup playoffs are. They can see how tough the road is.” He added of the coverage, “It’s been very satisfying. The ratings are up. We attribute that to the way NBC has embraced these playoffs.” Collins noted one of the reasons the NHL signed with NBC last year and not ESPN was that hockey "would be the centerpiece of their entire programming (for NBC Sports Network)." Collins: "That’s not to say ESPN wouldn’t have devoted more time to hockey than they did in the past. But for (the NBC Sports Network), the Stanley Cup playoffs are their focus. They have dedicated all their time to building this platform.” Sherman wondered how the leagues increases "in the discussion on a national level.” Collins: “An important step was getting all the playoff games on national television. We checked that one off and go from there” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 5/8).
PEAKING EARLY? FORBES' Mike Ozanian wrote the Conference Finals "are going to be a much bigger test" for the NHL than the first two rounds of the postseason, as "most of the teams that generate high ratings will have been eliminated." The Penguins, Sabres, Bruins, Blues and Red Wings "led the league in local television ratings" during the regular-season, but none of the five will be in the Conference Finals. Further hurting the NHL’s "ability to continue to produce impressive television viewership figures" are that the Kings made it to the Western Conference Finals and the Devils "appear headed" to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-1 lead over the Flyers in their series. The Kings "had the 26th-worst television ratings among the league’s 30 teams this season while the Devils were 28th" (FORBES.com, 5/7).
NBC earned a 9.0 final rating and 14.8 million viewers for the race segment of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, up 6% and 2%, respectively, from an 8.5 rating and 14.5 million viewers last year. The race had originally been down in the overnights. The viewership mark is the third-best audience for the race over the last 20 years, behind only Super Saver's win in '10 and Mine That Bird's win in '09. Louisville once again led all local markets with a 31.7 rating, down from a 34.4 rating last year. Cincinnati (18.3) and Ft. Myers-Naples (17.0) ranked second and third, respectively.KENTUCKY DERBY RATINGS TRENDYEARNETRATINGVIEWERS (000)
WINNER'12NBC9.014,800 I'll Have Another'11NBC8.514,540 Animal Kingdom'10NBC9.816,540 Super Saver'09NBC9.816,288 Mine That Bird'08NBC8.814,203 Big Brown'07NBC8.813,745 Street Sense'06NBC8.412,890 Barbaro'05NBC9.013,583 Giacomo'04NBC9.314,568 Smarty Jones'03NBC7.611,759 Funny Cide'02NBC8.312,823 War Emblem'01NBC9.313,478 Monarchos'00ABC5.87,929 Fusiachi Pegasus'99ABC6.38,699 Charismatic'98ABC6.18,264 Real Quiet'97ABC7.110,065 Silver Charm'96ABC7.49,774 Grindstone'95ABC6.08,129 Thunder Gulch'94ABC7.510,581 Go For Gin
ESPN today announced Stephen A. Smith will join "First Take" fulltime on June 4 as a featured commentator on the debate desk opposite Skip Bayless. The first hour of the show will focus on their one-on-one discussion, while the second hour will feature guest analysts, athletes and celebrities. Host Jay Crawford will continue to moderate the debates between Bayless and Smith. "First Take" has seen a ratings jump in '12, with the year-to-date ratings up 34% among all viewers. When comparing year-over-year Q2 ratings, the show is up 58% over '11 (ESPN).
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW: In L.A., Steven Zeitchik reports the idea is for the show to “become a full-on ‘Crossfire.’” ESPN VP/Original Programing & Production Jamie Horowitz said, “Some viewers genuinely hate Skip and Stephen A. But they also watch them.” Show producer Richelle Markazene said, “They know how to push each other’s buttons so much that sometimes we don’t even know what directions they’re going to go off in. Then it’s a question of, ‘OK, do we let them go or do we rein them in?’” Zeitchik notes whether the new format "will allow the pair to turn their notoriety into fame remains to be seen; others have failed at the same game." However, Bayless and Smith contend their "willingness to touch the third rail of sports topics distinguishes their coverage” (L.A. TIMES, 5/8). USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy noted Smith in recent weeks had been "appearing more often in the debate chair opposite Bayless.” Smith and Bayless “already have their shtick down, with Bayless leaping out of his chair at the camera to make a point and Smith declaring he doesn’t want to talk to Bayless any more while pretending to read the paper and sip coffee” (USATODAY.com, 5/1). The pair several years ago brought their differing perspectives to a "SportsCenter" debate segment called "Old School/Nu Skool" (THE DAILY).
USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes nine NBA Playoff games last weekend on ABC, ESPN and TNT "got lower overnight ratings than last years' coverage," due in part to several "lopsided" series. ABC's Heat-Knicks Game Four on Sunday was the only game that "topped last year's ratings." TNT's Lakers-Nuggets Game Four on Sunday drew a 3.4 overnight rating, down 26% from comparable coverage of Lakers-Hornets Game Four last year. Hiestand: "With the Lakers game on ESPN on Friday also down 24% from coverage of a Lakers game last year, is the drawing power of this marquee team slipping?" (USA TODAY, 5/8).
TENNIS, ANYONE? MULTICHANNEL NEWS' John Eggerton cited a source as saying that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski "is proposing that the agency stay enforcement of the Tennis Channel program carriage-complaint against Comcast so the commissioners can put some fresh eyes on it given it's the first such finding." Genachowski "has issues with the decision, and his proposed order says the stay will allow that re-examination of the record while 'avoiding potential disruption to consumers and third-party programmers in the event that the commission subsequently reverses or modifies the (administrative law judge's) remedy'" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 5/7 issue).
REWARDS PROGRAM: Kwarter a S.F.-based mobile application developer, has created the FanCake Rewards Program, a loyalty effort in which users receive tickets, merchandise, and other tangible rewards for users of its FanCake sports-oriented social app. Users receive FanCake credits by checking into games through the free app for Apple's iOS platform, participating in prediction contests, commenting and other activity through the app. Kwarter has partnered with Fanatics.com, Oracle Arena, the O.Co Coliseum, ScoreBig, and Total Hockey, among others, to supply prizes for active users. Sample prizes include gift cards, discounts and credits for tickets and licensed apparel, and T-shirts (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).