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ABC earned a 9.9 final rating and 16.195 million viewers for Game One of the Heat-Thunder NBA Finals on Tuesday night, marking the best NBA Finals opener since Lakers-Nets on NBC in '02. ESPN/ABC acquired NBA rights prior to the '02-03 season, and the net's previous best for an NBA Finals opener was a 9.8 rating and 15.4 million viewers for Pistons-Lakers in '04. Compared to the Mavericks-Heat opener last year, Heat-Thunder is up 10% and 7%, respectively. Game One on Tuesday night also led ABC to a win in primetime among all nets (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Miami, Adam Beasley asks, "Why the heck do they start these NBA Finals games so late?" If the NBA would "schedule the games to begin in the 8 o'clock hour, it would be great for South Florida, but the league would essentially write off Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle for at least the first half." That is an "unacceptable prospect for the suits at ABC." It is "hard to argue with the strategy, considering the results" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/14).
NBA FINAL GAME ONE AUDIENCE TRENDYEARNETMATCHUPDAYRAT.VIEWERS (000)'12ABCHeat-ThunderTues.9.916,195'11ABCMavericks-HeatTues.9.015,171'10ABCLakers-CelticsThur.8.614,091'09ABCLakers-MagicThur.7.813,042'08ABCCeltics-LakersThur.8.713,350'07ABCSpurs-CavaliersThur.6.39,206'06ABCHeat-MavericksThur.7.811,514'05ABCSpurs-PistonsThur.7.210,569'04ABCPistons-LakersSun.9.815,352'03ABCSpurs-NetsWed.6.4n/a'02NBCLakers-NetsWed.10.6n/a'01NBCLakers-76ersWed.12.4n/a'00NBCLakers-PacersWed.10.5n/a
SPREADING THE LOVE: ESPN Deportes' telecast of Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals Game Seven last Saturday night was the net's third-best rating for any NBA Playoff game ever. The net's top two telecasts were Games Five and Four, respectively, from the '09 Lakers-Nuggets Western Conference Finals (ESPN).
PUMP FAKE: In N.Y., Tony Gervino writes the phenomenon of phony Twitter accounts is "nearly as old as social media itself." Sports is a "more difficult theater for such a digital endeavor, as athletes and coaches are prone to offering platitudes instead of insight, and humor is generally left to the professionals or Charles Barkley." To create a "successful Twitter doppelgänger that followers retweet or make a favorite requires a perpetrator with the amount of free time usually associated with a touch of genius or a hint of desperation." Gervino: "Luckily, several members of each camp tuned in to watch the NBA finals, just as they had during each game of the season, including the playoffs." Live-tweeting big sporting events "can provide an entertaining second-screen experience, in which viewers are no longer alone in their homes, should they choose not to be." And observing the "tightrope that the band of fake Twitter brothers must walk -- parody is not easy, after all -- can help salve the sting of a desultory contest." Gervino offers some examples of fake NBA Twitter accounts, including @NotChuckBarkley, @kobemask, @FakeCoachPop and @NotWaltFrazier (N.Y. TIMES, 6/14).
NBA Commissioner David Stern and syndicated radio host Jim Rome for years have had a rapport that allows them to needle each other on certain topics, but the two got into a contentious back-and-forth during Rome's show yesterday. Stern's appearance began in a manner typical of their previous conversations, with Stern saying of his presence in Oklahoma City for the NBA Finals, “I can’t handle it here ... because they’re being too nice to me. I’m just not used to it.” Rome replied, “I’ll tell you what you could do if that bothers you, you can get on a plane and go to Seattle.” The conversation then turned to the league-owned Hornets winning the NBA Draft Lottery, which Rome noted produced the “usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed.”
Rome: “I know you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy. Was the fix in for the lottery?”
Stern: “I have two answers for that. I’ll give you the easy one: No. And a statement: Shame on you for asking.”
Rome: “I understand why you would say that to me, and I wanted to preface it by saying it respectfully. I think it’s my job to ask because I think people wonder.”
Stern, sounding perturbed: “No, it’s ridiculous, but that’s okay.”
Rome: “I know that you think it’s ridiculous. But I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that. ... I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s fair to ask you that.”
Stern: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”
Rome: “I don’t know if that’s fair.”
Stern: “Why is that?”
Rome: “Because I think that -- and I know you read your e-mails and I’m sure you follow things virally on Twitter -- people really do think it, whether it’s fair or not.”
Stern: “Well, they think it because of people like you.”
After debating the merits of the issue for several minutes, Rome said he can “understand why you’re frustrated" by that line of questioning.
Rome: "I would hope that you would not hold that against me.”
Stern: “I wouldn’t hold out it against you. You and I have been into more contentious discussions than that.”
Rome: “I don’t know. I’d put that one right up there.”
Stern: “Well, it’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills.”
Rome: “I did not do that for a cheap thrill, that’s not what that was.”
Stern: “Well, it sounded like it.”
Rome: “I got no thrill out of that.”
Stern: “It’s a cheap trick.”
Rome: “No, flopping is a cheap trick.”
Stern: “No, no. But listen, you’ve been successful in making a career out of it and I keep coming on.”
Rome, becoming increasingly upset: “Making a career out of what, though? Commissioner, I take great offense to that. Making a career of what?”
Stern: “Are you taking offense?”
Rome: “Now I am.”
Stern: “You spend your time taking on the world and now Jim Rome is pouting. I love it.”
Rome: “I’m not pouting. I take offense.”
Stern: "You want to hang up on me?”
Rome: "I can't hang up on you because we're running out of time. I would never hang up on you."
Stern: "Listen, I gotta go call somebody important like Stephen A. Smith now. He’s up next.”
Rome: “Alright, you go make that call and I’ll go talk to somebody else too myself. Alright Commissioner, have a nice day.”
Following the interview, Rome told his audience, “I would have said to you until today that he and I actually had a level of admiration and respect for one another.” Rome: “I think the guy’s heard it so many times that he just snapped. Or maybe he objected to the way I asked the question. I really don’t know. I don’t think the fix was in. ... A lot of time people that I interview confuse me asking a question with me thinking that’s the answer” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 6/13).
INITIAL REACTION: Rome said of Stern's "beating your wife” comment, “It was a rhetorical device. A lot of people don’t know that phrase, so they didn’t know where he was going. I understood it and I didn’t take great offense to it. I didn’t agree with it, but the fact of the matter is I felt that my question was direct and not a loaded question, so I didn’t think that analogy was appropriate.” Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer said, “I don’t care if it’s an old joke. I don’t care if it’s an old anecdote, the old loaded question. You don’t make a joke about that. … You don’t make a joke about domestic violence.” CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora said of the “fixed lottery” question, “I think there are a lot of PR people at the league probably making a lot of money who have given him a way to handle this situation, and he went off script and went off the rails. I’m sure he probably regrets it because he came off as very petty” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 6/13).
LINE OF QUESTIONING: USA TODAY’s Mike Foss writes Stern took the show “down an uncomfortable road” when he “fired a particularly awkward shot” at Rome. NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said of Stern's reply, "What it is, is a classic unanswerable question, same as the one the Commissioner was asked." Foss: “Regardless, it was a poor comeback that failed to satisfy the question -- loaded or otherwise” (USA TODAY, 6/14). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Devine wrote while Stern's comment was “a bit of lawyerspeak," the interview will “only make it look more like his grip on the wheel's loosened and that he's not making the best decisions anymore” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13). In Houston, David Barron wrote, “In retrospect, Rome probably would have been better served by dropping the topic and moving on” (CHRON.com, 6/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Matt Moore wrote if Stern “wanted the issue to go away, he's done the exact opposite with his responses to it” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/13). SI.com’s Zach Lowe wrote, “With apologies to Rome … he’s asking a dumb question” (SI.com, 6/13).
BSkyB retained the live broadcast TV rights for the EPL in the U.K. in a $4.7B (all figures U.S.) deal, while the landscape of British broadcasting "shifted dramatically" after British Telecom "bought a large slice" of the rights, boosting the total TV deal to a record 71% increase, according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. An "exciting climax to the season," combined with "intense competition" between rival broadcasters fueled the increase in the three-year deal. BSkyB retained the majority of the rights, securing 116 matches a season. But BT "sprung a huge surprise" by winning the rights to 38 live matches per season, including almost half of the "first pick" games. The deal ends ESPN's association with EPL football. The EPL increased its U.K. live TV rights income to $4.6B -- a $1.9B boost on the current deal. EPL CEO Richard Scudamore said BT's securing 18 of the 38 coveted first pick matches is a "game changer." Scudamore: "[BT CEO] Ian Livingstone and his colleagues have hugely ambitious plans. They have not invested in all this [fibre optic cable] for nothing, they want to establish a direct relationship with consumers." He asked that the clubs not use the new deal "to rack up losses and fuel wage inflation." While he said that he "wanted clubs to still invest in the best talent, he also made a plea to invest in infrastructure and youth development." Scudamore: "We are entering a new era with financial fair play [the new Europe-wide regulations of club spending]. I'm hoping it will get invested in things other than playing talent. It should also be able to achieve sustainability." Once internet rights and overseas sales, which brought in $2.2B under the current deals, "are taken into account, the total is likely to easily top" $7.8B over three years (GUARDIAN, 6/13).
HOW IT HAPPENED: The MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS reported the EPL "credited the thrilling last-gasp" title victory by Manchester City for helping to boost the price by $1.935B (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 6/13). In London, Philippe Naughton reported the deal "will give a huge economic boost" to EPL clubs. BT, meanwhile, will "set up its own dedicated channel to run on multiple platforms." Scudamore said BT would “deliver new ways in which fans will be able to follow the competition” (LONDON TIMES, 6/13). In London, Matt Scott notes leading clubs' "annual incomes will grow by more than" $46.6M each, with player "wages and transfer fees likely to soar." Scudamore was "keen to stress his hope that ESPN ... will retain a relationship with the League with deals in overseas territories." Scott notes if similar growth is "achieved in the overall value of overseas rights, the League stands to earn" a total of $2.8B a year from broadcasting, almost 2 1/2 times more than it earned in the '09-10 season (London TELEGRAPH, 6/14).
WHO'S GOING TO PAY? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Jonathan Browning reported BT will pay a $34.2M deposit this month followed by six installments of $187M. The company is current investing $3.9B across the U.K. in fiber broadband, and securing EPL rights "fits naturally with this, as consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider” (BLOOMBERG.com, 6/13). In London, Graham Hiscott noted the "size of the deal, and the scale of the increase, has led to fears armchair fans will foot the bill through higher package prices." Sky said that it was "too early to say how much it would charge for the new football packages from 2013 onwards." The broadcaster is "likely to face the choice of either raising prices or cutting costs elsewhere" (MIRROR.co.uk, 6/13). The BBC's James Pearce notes EPL clubs are "set for a windfall," and players will "no doubt reap the rewards as well." The concern from fans "will be over who's going to fund this dramatic rise in rights fees." Supporters will "fear that it will be them through increased subscriptions" (BBC.co.uk, 6/13).
DEFYING THE RECESSION: The BBC's David Bond wrote, "Once again Premier League football has shown its extraordinary ability to defy financial gravity." Much of the growth "can be explained by the increase in live matches -- up from 138 to 154." But it is also "down to extra competition in the marketplace." Sky remains the EPL's "main media partner but the price of the rights was driven up by interest from other companies such as current partners ESPN and Al Jazeera." The deal is "another reminder of the remarkable financial success story" of the EPL (BBC.co.uk, 6/13). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Paul Sonne notes the jump in rights fee "surprised the market" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/14). In London, Ashling O'Connor notes the EPL "bucked the recession." Scudamore: "There was a gasp in the room when the envelopes were opened. I was as surprised as anyone." Scudamore credited the product for the increase. He added, "It has continued to wow audiences. It's a compelling product. People want it. Broadcasters want to broadcast it" (LONDON TIMES, 6/14).
PAYING TO KEEP ESPN OUT? The GUARDIAN's Dan Sabbagh wrote, "Those who believe that the cost of buying the rights to broadcast Premier League games has reached bubble territory are missing the point. The market price for the matches is no longer in line with the commercial value of the games, but instead in line with the value of keeping other cash rich broadcasters like the Disney-backed ESPN out. ... Football may not have needed BT, but it has turned out that phone giant needed football. Its arrival has hiked up the prices for a league that until Wednesday nobody thought could get richer" (GUARDIAN, 6/13). ESPN in a statement said, "We made a strong bid that reflected the value of the rights to our business, and we thank the Premier League for the chance to participate. We're looking forward to continuing our Premier League coverage next season, and continuing to serve fans with great live sports events and programming including the FA Cup, Europa League, Scottish Premier League, Serie A, Premiership Rugby, Top 14, golf, darts, UFC, NBA and much more" (ESPN).
CLOSING TIME: BSkyB shares closed today on the London Stock Exchange at $10.42, down 3.5% from yesterday's closing price. BT shares closed at $3.13, also down 3.5% (THE DAILY).
Sports Illustrated and Turner Sports no longer have a business partnership for SI.com, but both entities made sizable moves up the charts in the May comScore reach rankings of the most trafficked U.S. sports sites. Despite similar traffic from April, SI moved from 12th place to ninth. And Turner Sports moved from eighth in April to fifth, buttressed in part by strong online traffic to NBA.com stemming from the league's ongoing postseason. Turner Sports also held the fifth spot in March during the heart of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The top four slots on the chart repeated those from most recent months, with Yahoo Sports maintaining its customary No. 1 overall slot by a sizable margin, FoxSports.com on MSN staying at second, ESPN holding third place and USA Today Sports Media Group standing at fourth. ESPN, however, held its typically large lead in time spent among sports sites in consumption with an average of 85 minutes per visitor during the month.TOP SPORTS WEB SITES DURING MAYRANK
WEBSITEUNIQUE VISITORS (000s)1 Yahoo Sports41,3682 FoxSports on MSN33,5113 ESPN31,0584 USA Today Sports Media Group*22,6195 Turner Sports Digital***14,7396 MLB14,5977 NBC Sports**13,8168 CBS Sports11,4699 Sports Illustrated sites9,25510 BleacherReport.com9,24911 Sporting News on AOL8,79712 SB Nation8,76513 NFL Internet Group8,62714 Active.com sites8,07415 Big Lead Sports by FSV5,632
ESPN is shutting down its high school business, a move that will result in nearly 75 people losing their jobs across the country. ESPN launched the division in '08 as a way to get into the high school scene, but sources said that the business proved to be too locally focused and not broad enough. One third of the group's employees were based in Torrance, Calif., one third in Bristol and one third scattered across the country. As of mid-September, ESPN will close ESPNHS.com. Its two high school magazines -- one for boys and one for girls -- will not publish any more issues. ESPN Exec VP/Digital & Print Media John Kosner said, "By focusing our high school efforts around our televised game coverage and multiplatform recruiting content, we can serve the national interests of high school sports fans more effectively while continuing to provide robust content across ESPN media." As part of the move, ESPN no longer will organize its own high school events, but it still plans to cover high school sports. As many as 30 high-school football games are scheduled to run on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU this fall. It still plans to televise events like the Under Armour High School All-America Game (football) and the McDonald’s All-American Game (basketball). ESPNRecruitingNation.com will now handle high school recruiting, while espnW.com will pick up girls’ basketball content. Among the execs losing their positions are ESPN VP/HS Events Andrew Bark and VP/HS Business Strategy & Operations Glenn Rosenbloom.
Time Inc. announced that it will make “all of its magazines available via Apple newsstand,” according to Amy Chozick of the N.Y. TIMES. Time CEO Laura Lang and Apple Senior VP/Internet Software & Services Eddy Cue said that they had “reached an agreement that would allow readers to subscribe to 20 Time Inc. magazines, including People, Sports Illustrated, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, through the newsstand section of Apple’s App Store.” Chozick wrote the move “is a significant shift” for Time Inc. as the company “approached the Apple newsstand with caution, chafing at some of the restrictions Apple wanted to impose.” Apple newsstand “currently sells more than 5,000 magazines and newspapers.” Cue said that including magazines like People, SI and Time, “three of the top five magazines over all in circulation revenue in 2011, was essential” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/14).
Bills execs Tuesday announced WIVB-CBS Sports Dir John Murphy is leaving the station in July "to work full time" for the team, according to Jane Kwiatkowski of the BUFFALO NEWS. Bills-themed talk-show “The John Murphy Show,” will debut on WGR-AM 550 July 26, the first day of open Bills Training Camp, from 7:00-9:00pm ET. It will "air live from the camp at St. John Fisher College in Rochester." Bills Senior VP/Broadcasting & Marketing Marc Honan Sr. said that the two-hour show "will air daily, broadcasting throughout the year from Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park." Murphy will "interview players and other guests, and host a local call-in segment." Murphy has been the Bills’ radio play-by-play announcer since '04. He will "contribute to all of the team’s media properties, including online, radio and television." Longtime Buffalo morning show producer Russ Burton "will be the show’s producer" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/13).