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The ACC's newly renegotiated media contract with ESPN will pay $3.6B over the next 15 years, an average of $240M per year, according to industry sources. That is just shy of the record $250M deal the Pac-12 negotiated with Fox and ESPN. The ACC's new deal was the byproduct of conference expansion from 12 to 14 teams with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh last year. The league's 14 teams beginning in '13-14 will receive an average of $17.14M, a sharp 32.9% increase over the $12.9M each of the first 12 schools received under the terms of the previous deal with ESPN, which was in its first year. The renegotiation was prompted by a clause in the contract that permitted the conference to go back to the table if its number of teams changed by two or more (Smith & Ourand, SportsBusiness Journal). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted the deal "covers all of ESPN's various platforms," and "includes additional men's hoops and gridiron action, Olympic sports and sponsorship rights" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/9). The AP's Aaron Beard noted the deal "comes as the league moves to an 18-game schedule in men's and women's basketball despite having just 12 teams next season." ESPN Senior VP/College Programming Burke Magnus said that the net "liked the combination of more teams and more league games instead of lower-profile nonconference matchups" (AP, 5/9).
TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the agreement is a "good sign for leagues looking to jack up their TV fees." The SEC and Big 12 are negotiating extensions to their TV deals, and Univ. of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard said, "Those conferences should be happy to hear the news. It's a feeding frenzy" (USA TODAY, 5/10). In DC, Mark Giannotto notes the SEC last year "paid each of its 12 member schools about $17 million through television agreements signed in 2009 with CBS and ESPN, but SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has indicated he will also try to renegotiate the league’s contract with Missouri and Texas A&M joining the conference next season." Reports indicate that Big Ten schools each receive "at least $20 million per year as part of the league’s television contracts" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/10). SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote, "You may not believe it, but the Big East, even in its depleted state, will fetch a hefty payday when its TV contract comes up this fall." Television networks "covet live sporting events because of the DVR factor, and the Big East stands to provide a lucky network or networks with a massive amount of inventory (with 12 teams in 2013), some very attractive television markets (Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Orlando) and an extremely popular multi-day event, the Big East basketball tournament" (SI.com, 5/9).
SOMETHING TO KEEP AN EYE ON: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon writes the ACC's $4M annual increase per school "isn't bad considering how little football leverage it had," but it is "debatable if the increase insulates the ACC from losing a member if (when?) the next round of realignment occurs" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 5/10). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes the "suggestion that Florida State could be looking at the Big 12 has returned and has now hit the media in a big way." Carlton writes, "Here's the basic premise: the Seminoles are unhappy in the ACC and have money concerns. The new ESPN/ACC television deal ... looks underwhelming, especially with third-tier football rights included." Still, two sources indicated that Florida State's name "has not yet been mentioned in expansion talks among Big 12 athletic directors" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/10).
Time Warner Cable announced its two new L.A.-based RSNs -- Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes -- will launch Oct. 1, and the company "over the next few weeks ... will open negotiations with other distributors," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. TWC also "has to secure distribution deals for SportsNet and Deportes from satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network Corp., as well as from other cable operators serving the region.” The two channels are "being sold as a package." However, some distributors already “are expressing concern about being gouged.” DirecTV Exec VP/Content Strategy & Development Derek Chang said, “We’ve got a big problem in our industry with the rising costs of programming, and sports is probably the biggest driver. Any time you introduce a new pricey channel, that’s probably not a good thing for subscribers.” Flint notes TWC “isn’t saying how much it wants from distributors," but financial firm ISI Group analyst Vijay Jayant “put the price at $2.50 per month per subscriber.” Industry sources said that the estimate "is low and that the company will demand $3.50 for the two services.” The channels have the rights to the Lakers, MLS Galaxy and WNBA Sparks, and Flint notes it is "unlikely a distributor would risk not having the Lakers for long.” The team averaged more than 300,000 viewers on FS West and KCAL-CBS for the ’11-12 regular season, “more than the Dodgers, Angels, Clippers, Kings and Ducks combined.” Meanwhile, TWC Deportes “will have its own identity and not just be a dubbed version of the English network.” The channel will "have its own production teams for live sports and will carry boxing wrestling and international soccer” (L.A. TIMES, 5/10).
STARTING TO TALK TO DISTRIBUTORS: TWC Sports President David Rone said that he, Senior VP & GM Mark Shuken and Senior VP Dan Finnerty "recently began discussions with potential distributors." Rone: "We have not had many of them, they literally began last week. In between now and the NCTA Cable Show (which starts May 21 in Boston), we will have gotten in front of all the MVPDs that we need to speak to." MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds notes with 35 people on board, TWC Sports is "in the process of hiring and expects to have some 120 staffers in place for the two RSN's by the end of August." Rone said that filming is "underway for ancillary programming tied to the Galaxy and Sparks -- the teams' games have been sublicensed to L.A.-area stations this season prior to the RSNs' launch." However, consumer marketing has not begun because TWC Sports "doesn't officially acquire the Lakers rights until after the club finishes its 2011-12 NBA season" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/10).
The CBC's Ron MacLean "stirred up controversy" during the net's coverage of the Rangers-Capitals Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals Game Six "by referencing the terrorist attacks" of Sept. 11, 2001, according to QMI AGENCY. MacLean at the beginning of the "HNIC" broadcast said, "It's New York and Washington, the economic and political engines of America. United in the birth of the country, they're also linked in tragedy. They were the twin targets of the coordinated attacks on 9-11. It's crazy to compare what the emergency respondents did at that time." However, MacLean "might have crossed that very line by drawing similarities between what emergency personnel went through on that day and what NHLers go through during the Stanley Cup playoffs" (QMI AGENCY, 5/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted despite "immediate backlash from viewers on Twitter and other social media, MacLean didn't address the speech between the first and second period." Wyshynski: "MacLean's heart was in the right place, as you can tell from that closing line. And he added 'this is crazy' caveat, but then went ahead with the comparison anyway." Wyshynski added, "But this was a tragedy on an epic scale, and an event that simply can't be minimized by comparison to entertainers having long nights. Apology forthcoming, we imagine" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/9). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes MacLean "was trending and taking it on the chin on twitter" for the comparison. Garrioch: "Let’s put it this way: It didn’t work" (OTTAWA SUN, 5/10). CJCL-AM’s Greg Brady wrote on his Twitter feed, “I like Ron MacLean but can't possibly understand how neither he, nor others, couldn't figure how inappropriate a 9/11 comparison was.”
CANADIAN RATINGS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin noted the Stanley Cup Playoffs have "racked up good ratings in local U.S. markets with a team in the hunt," but since the Canucks and Senators "lost in Round 1, Canadian hockey fans have found other things to do." For the Western Conference games, TSN "saw respectable audiences over a million for most games when not up against overtime in the Eastern games, which are CBC’s purview this Round." However, those Eastern Conference games "drove TSN’s average audience for Round 2 to 774,000 viewers over nine games." The CBC is "declining to release ratings numbers till the end of Round 2" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/9). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged the lack of a Canadian team still playing "has impact on our viewership in Canada." Bettman: "Last year when the Vancouver Canucks had a spectacular run to the Stanley Cup Final, the ratings were obviously higher than they are this year" ("Fox Business After The Bell," Fox Business, 5/9).
The April comScore reach rankings of the most-trafficked U.S. sports sites included several notable shifts from March, continuing a period of marked change within the industry. Yahoo held its typical slot atop the list with a total of 47.6 million unique visitors. But MLB jumped from 12th in the March rankings to fifth during April with the start of the '12 baseball season, posting 16.2 million uniques, up 66% from the prior month. Turner Sports Digital conversely fell from fifth in March to eighth in April without the traffic push of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. ESPN, which again fell to third in the rankings amid a continuing neck-and-neck reach battle with FoxSports.com on MSN, maintained its typical, large lead among sports sites in consumption with an average of 84.2 minutes per visitor during the month.
TOP SPORTS SITES FOR APRIL, RANKED BY UNIQUE VISITORSRK
SITEUNIQUES (000)RK SITEUNIQUES (000)1 Yahoo Sports47,6249 NFL Internet Group13,0732 FoxSports.com on MSN34,36410 SB Nation9,6613 ESPN34,33811 BleacherReport.com9,6474 USA Today Sports
Sports Illustrated sites9,1835 MLB16,22813 Sporting News on AOL9,0316 CBS Sports15,12914 Active.com sites7,1347 NBC Sports**14,81615 Big Lead Sports by FSV5,9328 Turner Sports Digital***13,556
NOTES: All numbers do not include wireless traffic. * = Sites include 81 local Gannett newspaper sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV station sites, HighSchoolSports.net and BNQT Media Group. USA Today also continues to fold in traffic assignments from various affiliates in the Big Lead Sports network following the January purchase of Big Lead Sports, resulting in the two separate listings. ** = Includes NHL.com. *** = Sites include NBA.com, NASCAR.com, PGATour.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com and WNBA.com.
NBA TV on June 13 will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ‘92 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team with the debut of “The Dream Team," presented by Right Guard. The 90-minute documentary, produced by NBA Entertainment and narrated by actor Edward Burns, will include unseen footage and interviews with all 12 members of the team. The film will also look into the the selection of the team, the personalities of the players and the team-building experiences in training camp and exhibition games (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted the footage used in the documentary "shows the Dream Team doing something they never did at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona: losing.” A “never-before-seen coaches’ tape” shows a scrimmage the team lost to a "group of top college players.” Although NBA Entertainment covered the Dream Team with its own cameras, the scrimmage tape "was made by USA Basketball.” NBA Entertainment VP/Original Production Dion Cocoros said, “A couple of years ago, when we were starting this project, we asked them ‘What do you have?’” Sandomir noted the documentary also has tape “of a far more famous pre-Olympic scrimmage: Michael Jordan’s team against Magic Johnson’s in Monte Carlo.” Sandomir: “Twenty years is a long time to wait to make a documentary about a major sports event like the Dream Team’s easy ride to a gold medal, especially with so much footage sitting in the league vault.” NBA Entertainment Exec Producer for Production, Programming & Broadcasting Danny Meiseles said, “We never knew when it would air. We just knew we had to document the history” (NYTIMES.com, 5/9).
The Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout "will return to national television" after a five-year absence, as CBS Sports Network has signed a contract to televise the event "for three years with options to renew," according to Jeremy Peters of the ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS. The Shootout is the "longest running regular-season tournament in men's college basketball." Univ. of Alaska-Anchorage AD Steve Cobb announced that CBS Sports will "start by carrying seven games from this fall's Shootout -- three first-round match ups, both semifinals, the third place game and championship game." Peters noted the broadcast will be "produced locally and distributed nationally, with UAA and CBSSN splitting commercial time 50-50 and no advanced fees being paid by either party." Cobb said that when ESPN last televised the event in '07, the net "paid UAA around $100,000." Peters wrote the "biggest advantage to the current deal is gaining national exposure, which Cobb expects will attract higher level teams for a tournament field that has lacked star power in recent years." Cobb: "It's just extraordinarily important when trying to schedule national teams. When teams know they are going to be on TV, it makes the field that much stronger" (ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 5/9).
Jason La Canfora will replace Charley Casserly as CBS’ NFL insider on its “The NFL Today” pregame show for the ’12 season. La Canfora will also begin writing for CBSSports.com in July. Prior to joining CBS, La Canfora worked for NFL Network for four years (THE DAILY).
NOT WORRIED RIGHT NOW: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole reported UFC co-Owner Lorenzo Fertitta said that it is important to remember the organization's TV deal with Fox "is a long-term proposition for the company" after "UFC on Fox 3" drew just a 1.5 final rating. Fertitta said, "Would we like to see the numbers be trending differently? Yes, of course. But we're not concerned and we don't think it's an overall reflection of our business." He added that UFC was competing with the Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto PPV fight, the "Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the opening of 'The Avengers' movie and NBA playoff games" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/9).
FIRST ON BOARD: In S.F., John Crumpacker notes the Pac-12 Network has made its first on-air hires, signing Ronnie Lott, Rick Neuheisel and Summer Sanders to give the net some "immediate name recognition." Lott and Neuheisel will serve as football analysts, while Sanders will "fill a variety of roles as host and analyst for a number of shows and events." Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson said that the network's "scheduling grid will be announced in June" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/10).