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ESPN today announced that Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer will call the Sept. 10 Chargers-Raiders game as part of the net's "MNF" doubleheader. The game will mark Berman's debut as a play-by-play announcer for an NFL game. The pair will also call the Aug. 23 Cardinals-Titans preseason game. Berman replaces Brad Nessler, who had called the second game of the doubleheader the previous two seasons. The news was first reported last week by blog Sports By Brooks (THE DAILY). AWFUL ANNOUNCING posted on its Twitter feed, "ESPN confirms our fears - Chris Berman will announce MNF season opener." CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote, "Berman calling a Monday Night Football game. Just when this day couldn't get any worse." THE DAILY's John Ourand wrote, "Quick prediction: Berman is such a polarizing figure, I bet ratings for his MNF game will be up (provided the game stays relatively close)."
CHANGES TO THURSDAY NIGHT COLLEGE TEAM: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reports David Pollack will fill the open analyst position on ESPN's Thursday night college football telecasts created when Craig James left the net. Pollack will join Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer in the booth, while Longhorn Network's Samantha Steele "will replace Jenn Brown as sideline reporter." James left ESPN "for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination in Texas." While James "recently talked about returning to TV sports, it won't be at ESPN." ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said, "As we've said all along, he's not coming back" (USA TODAY, 6/27).
NBC extended its TV deal with the Tour de France through '23, a move that will see the network carry two of the event's stages live next month. NBC execs believe this marks the first time the bike race will be carried live on U.S. network television. NBC plans to carry 12 hours of coverage, including the race's opening and closing stages, which will be aired live on NBC Sports Network. The July 7 and 8 stages will be carried live on NBC's flagship network. NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller said, "We've seen continued growth with this sport in this country." Miller would not comment on the amount of NBC's rights fee, saying only that it represents an increase and accounts for the high production costs in covering the event. NBC's current deal for the tour -- cut with Amaury Sport Organisation -- had two more years remaining. The new 10-year deal includes all U.S. digital and mobile rights. As part of the deal, NBC Sports Network will telecast a nightly studio show from 8:00-11:00pm ET. The agreement also includes coverage of other ASO properties, such as the Dakar Rally and Paris Marathon.
The Bills have “sued Cumulus Media, seeking to collect at least $1 million in fees the team says the broadcasting company owes for airing football games on the radio during the 2011 season,” according to Patrick Lakamp of the BUFFALO NEWS. The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court, allegesthat while Cumulus Media “paid a rights fee to the Bills for the 2011 season, the broadcasting company has yet to pay an ‘incentive rights fee.'" The lawsuit claims that the incentive rights fee “equals half the broadcaster's gross revenues from the sale of related programming or advertising in connection with any Bills game, after accounting for certain costs.” Cumulus Media's FM stations, WGRF and WEDG, “carried Bills games from 1998 through 2011.” The Bills in the lawsuit claim that the team's dispute with the broadcaster “stems from 2011, the final year of a three-year deal for exclusive radio broadcast rights.” The lawsuit states that Cumulus Media “acquired Citadel Broadcasting in 2011, and that purchase included the 2011 radio broadcast rights to Bills games.” The Bills claim that Citadel Broadcasting “paid what it owed in incentive rights fees for the 2009 and 2010 football seasons.” The team earlier this year “announced a multiyear radio deal with Entercom Communications to air Bills games" on WGR-AM (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/27).
The Italy-England UEFA Euro 2012 quarterfinal Sunday on ESPN was seen by an average of 2.97 million viewers, bigger than any UEFA championship match since the Euro 2008 Germany-Spain final, which was seen by 3.76 million viewers. The quarterfinal matches drew an average of 1.46 million HHs and 1.92 million viewers, a 31% increase in both measurements. Through the tournament’s first 28 matches, ESPN averaged 889,000 HHs and 1.14 million viewers, increases of 61% and 63%, respectively, versus ’08. The top 10 metered markets through the group stage are: N.Y, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Providence, L.A., DC, S.F., Richmond, Atlanta, Austin and San Diego. Meanwhile, ESPN Deportes’ broadcast of Italy-England was viewed by an average of 424,000 Hispanic HHs, based on an 8.1 rating. The telecast beat the net’s previous high of 357,000 Hispanic HHs for the UEFA Euro 2008 final. Through 24 live matches, ESPN Deportes has delivered an average rating of 3.5 and 184,000 HHs, up 46% and 117%, respectively (ESPN). In N.Y., Jack Bell noted, “As with the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and Euro 2008 … the network has benefited from the relatively benign time differences between Europe and southern Africa, which allow the games to be shown live in North America during daytime hours” (NYTIMES.com, 6/26).
EURO TRIP: DAILY VARIETY’s Steve Clarke noted the Italy-England quarterfinal on BBC1 reached 23.2 million viewers, "easily beating the 19.9 million who tuned in to BBC1 to watch the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.” The match was the “most-watched event on U.K. TV this year” (VARIETY.com, 6/25). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Roxborough & Kemp noted in Italy, the match “became the top-rated game of the tournament to-date as 19.5 million fans tuned.” That “compares to the tournament average of 11.6 million” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 6/25). The GUARDIAN's Louis Taylor noted executives at BBC and ITV are “celebrating unexpectedly excellent tournament viewing figures.” The Italy-England match “attracted 20.3m BBC viewers, representing an impressive 67.8% share of the domestic audience.” No game during the ‘10 World Cup in South Africa was “watched by as many people in the UK.” Of the other quarterfinals, Spain-France “attracted a healthy" 8.8 million, Portugal-Czech Republic 8.7 million and the "potentially dramatic, politically resonant," Germany-Greece match attracted 8.2 million. ITV Controller of Sport Niall Sloane said of the strong interest, “I think the internet's had a lot to do with it. In the past you would have to buy a specialist publication if you were interested in finding out about these teams and their players." He added, “I think the phenomenon of rising audience figures has been around from about Euro 96. I first noticed it during the World Cup in France in 1998 when figures were consistently higher than predictions” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 6/26).
THIS MEANS WAR: The GUARDIAN's Steve Hewlett notes the fact that broadcaster BT originally bid for the whole lot of EPL rights -- "all seven packages -- with board clearance, reportedly, to spend somewhere north of [$3.1B US] if necessary, represents a very clear statement of intent -- one not lost on Sky.” Hewlett wrote, “Had BT succeeded in taking the lion's share of premium soccer as intended then the game, as they say, would have been well and truly changed. Instead BT faces what looks like an uphill battle against the old enemy” (GUARDIAN, 6/27).
IOC President Jacques Rogge has "declared 'everything is possible' when it comes to selling TV rights for the Games after London, raising the prospect of the BBC losing some or all of its coverage of the event," according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. A "wide range of bids from traditional free-to-air broadcasters, pay-TV companies and telecom providers is expected by the IOC when it tears open envelopes containing the bids" on Friday. It will then "decide whether to go to a second round of bidding, as it seeks to maximise broadcasting revenue." The U.K. broadcasting rights, "which are held by the BBC, are protected by listed-events legislation that guarantees it free-to-air coverage." But the IOC "has confirmed that a pay-TV broadcaster such as Sky or a telecom company such as BT, which recently paid" US$1.15B for EPL live rights, "could bid in expectation of the legislation being altered, or to sublease some of the rights back to a free-to-air broadcaster." It is "understood that ITV, Channel 4, Sky and BT have also received the tender documents and are weighing up their options." Channel 4, "which will show the Paralympics this summer and bid for Formula One rights, could be a surprise contender." The government "will review the situation again this year, when the entire analogue TV network had been switched to digital." Sources said that it is "unthinkable that the Olympics will not remain on the list in some form." But it is "possible that they could follow the path taken by the IOC in reserving 200 hours of coverage for free-to-air TV (100 hours for the Winter Games) and broadcasting the rest through pay-TV or another platform." Gibson notes the tender document "calls for bids for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2016 Olympics in Rio but also provides the option for broadcasters to tie up rights until the end of the decade." Sources said that BBC is "desperate to hang on to the Olympics, recognising their value" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).
ON TRACK: The GUARDIAN's Ben Dowell notes the BBC is "introducing a new on-screen device into its Olympics coverage which will allow presenters to point to graphics and move them around the screen." The device, called Kinetrak and devised by London-based Mammoth Graphics, "will be used for the first time on BBC1 and BBC3 during the London Games coverage this summer." BBC London '12 Dir Roger Mosey said that Kinetrak "will be mainly used to illustrate what events can be seen where and when, adding that it will be 'critical' for viewers enjoyment that they are able to find the 36 sports and 304 events featured in the Olympics" (GUARDIAN, 6/27).
Denver-based T3Media, formerly known as Thought Equity Motion, has launched a new self-service platform for licensing digital content called Paya. Functioning somewhat similar to eBay, StubHub, Craigslist or other digital marketplaces, Paya allows users to list videos and photos from their own personal websites or social networking pages, and list prices and entertain offers to license that content. Sellers keep 80% of the proceeds from each transaction, and the platform is expected to be a boon for amateur filmmakers and photographers looking for additional means to expose their work to broader audiences and generate revenue. T3Media additionally has embedded tagging functionality in which users with YouTube and Vimeo videos can place a Paya link directly on their video pages to enable one-click licensing. "Digital goods have been hard to sell in many instances, and we're looking to dig across several industries with this, including sports," said T3Media CEO & Founder Kevin Schaff. "Distribution for digital content isn't keeping up at all with the scale and pace of content creation, particularly on social networks, and this is our move to address that." Specific channels within the Paya platform include sports licensing and citizen journalism. Several existing T3Media commercial clients such as the NCAA are expected to eventually be both buyers and sellers on the Paya platform, Schaff said.
Ratings for Nationals games have posted a 53% increase so far this year on MASN, MASN2 and WDCW, a local over-the-air channel in DC. Sources say Nationals games have earned a 2.22 rating so far this season, up from the 1.45 they posted at the same point last season. The ratings increase comes as MASN and the Nationals approach the deadline to settle their rights fee dispute. By the beginning of July, an ad hoc committee of owners from the Mets, Pirates and Rays is set to make a decision on how much MASN should pay the Nationals. MASN says the Nationals should receive $35M a year, marking a 20% increase. The Nationals are pushing for $120M annually, on par with teams in similar-sized markets. MASN's other team, the Orioles, has posted a 4.55 rating on MASN, MASN2 and WJZ-CBS. That rating is up 3% from last year's 4.43 (Ourand & Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the Nationals "also had games broadcast nationally on ESPN, and regionally on Fox." Fox Sports Senior VP/Communications Lou D'Ermilio "recently tweeted that Saturday night's Orioles-Nats game earned a 3.9 rating in this market, which is the highest ever for a regular season Fox baseball broadcast in Washington" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/26).