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ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews has signed a multiyear deal with Fox. Andrews will host a new 30-minute college football pregame show on Fox and will contribute to the net's NFL and MLB coverage (Fox). Andrews, whose contract with ESPN expired at the end of June, said, "This was a difficult move but it was the right move because it's allowing me to do so many things that I probably would not have been able to do had I stayed at ESPN." SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported Andrews "would not say what her specific role is on the NFL (Fox has sideline openings) but that announcement is expected to come this week." She said, "The NFL was a huge thing; it's always been a dream. I always wanted to work in the NFL and they are offering me a role in it." Andrews' agents at IMG told ESPN Friday she would not return to the net, and an ESPN statement said, "She did great work for us and we made an aggressive offer to keep her. We wish her the best on her next chapter." Andrews said that ESPN was "very aggressive in trying to keep her, but there was not one job at the network that would have convinced her to stay." Andrews: "This wasn't easy for me at all. ... They wanted me back and a lot of my co-workers thought it was happening. They were expecting I was coming back." She added that she "would not close out the idea of doing sideline reporting on college games for Fox, though hosting the prime-time show is her priority." Meanwhile, the "possibility exists she could be involved in some entertainment option under the Fox umbrella" (SI.com, 7/1). Andrews said of any non-sports elements, "Nothing has been decided with Fox News. We haven't gotten that far. We wanted to deal with sports first. There are other opportunities we're looking at entertainment-wise. I'm not going to lie, after 'GMA' and 'Dancing,' I'm excited to try other things" (USA TODAY, 7/2).
BIG MOVE FOR FOX: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Fox is "smart to take a gamble" on Andrews, and she is "doing the right thing by making the jump." She otherwise would risk "doing nothing in this business other than sideline reporting." ESPN may have wanted Andrews to stay, but it "might not have been able to offer her anything other than more money." Outside of the "GameDay" hosting gig and several other sideline duties, the net "did not seem to be doing anything to give Andrews a higher profile" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/2). In N.Y., Shemar Woods wrote Andrews "would seem to be a perfect fit" with Fox as it "prepares for its first regular-season college football coverage" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Graham Watson noted Andrews is "another feather in Fox Sports' cap" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/29). NESN.com's Austin Pollack wrote, "This is a sad day not just for ESPN, but for all of its viewers. College football fans welcomed Andrews into their homes on Saturdays for football coverage because she was, and still is, the best reporter on the sidelines" (NESN.com, 6/30).
WHO'S NEXT FOR ESPN? THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre wrote ESPN's Jenn Brown and Tom Rinaldi are the "early, obvious choices" to replace Andrews. Brown currently is a sideline reporter for the net's college football coverage, while Rinaldi "is already a staple on Gameday and a pro in the field." Sources said that a "darkhorse" is Samantha Steele, who has been on the Longhorn Network and last week was moved to ESPN's Thursday night college football team. McIntyre wrote if ESPN is "looking to make a big splash with a talented fresh face, Steele's the right pick." However, the "early guess" is Rinaldi since whoever is chosen "likely will also inherit Andrews' hosting job on the pre-Gameday show on ESPNU" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 6/30).
ESPN earned a 3.0 overnight rating for Spain's 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 Final yesterday, down slightly from the 3.1 overnight the event pulled for ABC in '08. Because of the weekend's storms, overnight information from Baltimore, Columbus, Philadelphia and DC are not included in this figure. Miami-Ft Lauderdale was the top market (6.51), followed by N.Y. (5.82) and L.A. (4.86). The rest of the top 10 were S.F., Austin, San Diego, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Providence, Richmond and Las Vegas (John Ourand, THE DAILY). The AP’s Ronald Blum reported the Spain-Portugal and Italy-Germany semifinals averaged 1.91 million viewers, a 46% "increase from 1.31 million four years ago.” With both semis starting at 2:45pm ET, Spain's win was “seen by 1.95 million on Wednesday," while Italy's win Thursday "drew by 1.85 million the following day.” ESPN said that the semis “averaged 576,000 additional viewers on computers, smart phones, tablets and Xbox.” Blum noted the first 31 matches “averaged 1.2 million viewers on ESPN's networks, up 61 percent from 2008.” Blum: "In an era when many sports struggle to maintain ratings, U.S. viewership of international soccer is increasing at a startling rate" (AP, 7/1).
THE DARKE KNIGHT: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes ESPN play-by-play announcer Ian Darke “remains a great get.” During yesterday’s championship, when a Spanish player “shanked a scoring chance in front -- an irrelevancy given the play was ruled offside -- Darke simply said, ‘Saves him the embarrassment’” (N.Y. POST, 7/2).
BLOWOUT NUMBERS: The Guardian's John Plunkett notes Spain-Italy “averaged 12.3 million viewers on BBC1, with a 15-minute peak of 13.3 million on Sunday night.” Meanwhile, ITV1's coverage of the match “averaged 2 million viewers, with a 15-minute peak of 2.2 million.” Overall BBC1's Match of the Day Live: Euro 2012 Final, “pulled in 10.2 million viewers, a 41.3% share, between 7pm and 10.15pm” London time (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/2).
CBS earned a 4.6 overnight rating from 3:00-6:45pm ET yesterday for the final round of the PGA Tour AT&T National, which Tiger Woods won by two shots over Bo Van Pelt. The rating is up 188% over a 1.6 overnight for last year's tournament, which was won by Nick Watney. Woods did not play in that tournament due to injury. Yesterday's ratings do not include DC, where the tournament was played, as well as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Columbus because of severe weather (THE DAILY). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes CBS yesterday did "spectacular work" during the tournament. Woods' second shot at the 12th hole "had to be hit while he stood against a tree." Before Woods hit the shot, CBS microphones "picked up him telling spectators to be mindful that his 9-iron might snap and flay at them when it hit the tree." Woods hit a "great shot, and CBS's super-slow motion replays captured how the 9-iron flexed almost into the letter U and rode up the side of the tree." Meanwhile, Jones notes because of the severe storm and resulting debris prior to Saturday's third round, spectators "were kept away, leaving the players playing in front of almost no one." It was "weird listening to just a smattering of applause when someone hit a superb shot or sank a long putt." Jones: "Know what was welcome, however? Not hearing a numbskull yell 'Get in the hole!' as soon as a golfer hit his tee shot on a long par 5" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/2). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "Watching golf Saturday from Congressional on CBS was kinda neat." Mushnick: "No fools screaming 'Get in the hole!', 'You da man!' or 'Ty-grrrrrr!'" (N.Y. POST, 7/2).
The Big 12 conference "disputed a report Sunday that conference schools had formally agreed to a 13-year grant of media rights," according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was quoted by the Charleston Gazette-Mail as saying that the anticipated deal "has been extended to 13 years and it has been signed.” But a Big 12 spokesperson said, “The grant of rights has not been executed. What (Bowlsby) told the reporter is, it will be executed upon completion of current television negotiations.” Dodd noted the current grant of rights agreement is for six years and the prospect of an extension "is thought to have been key to luring Bowlsby to the league from Stanford." While such news "has been expected for months, the finalization of the deal would be nonetheless monumental." The deal would "virtually guarantee the once-fractious league solidarity over the term of the agreement." Big 12 consultant and former interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas said, "So that we're clear, I think they drafted a new 13-year grant but it's not necessary to sign it until the TV contract is done. The TV deal is still a work in progress." The three parties "continue to haggle over what are termed minor issues in the TV deal not related to legal or monetary points." Multiple sources said that the major hang-ups "continue to be the split of games between Fox and ESPN" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/1).
The London Games could be the “first Social Media Olympics,” and even the Olympic movement “has warily accepted the idea,” according to Eric Pfanner of the N.Y. TIMES. The use of social media in the four years since the ’08 Beijing Games “has surged.” Facebook has gone from “about 100 million active users to about 900 million, Twitter from six million to about 150 million.” Also, many more people “now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen” at a sporting event. Pfanner wrote, “Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics. All of this has created opportunities for the Olympic organizers, sponsors, participants and spectators.” Olympic organizers for the London Games have created an “Olympic Athletes’ Hub,” to help fans “find and follow competitors’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages.” The IOC also has “its own Twitter account and Facebook page, as well as separate areas for the public and the news media.” Olympic sponsors are “perhaps even more active” than the athletes competing. IOC TOP sponsor P&G has “unleashed a far-ranging social media initiative, as part of a broader marketing campaign” called “Thank You, Mom.” While the campaign “began with a television advertisement, it quickly developed into a social media phenomenon.” P&G said that the video of the ad has been “watched 25 million times on YouTube and other online video sites.” All the sharing and connecting has also “created some new headaches.” There is “grumbling ... about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.” Local Olympic organizing committees “always go to great lengths to protect sponsors” from ambush marketing “by companies that try to get free rides.” Sometimes, as “in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted.” The guidelines “include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers may and may not do.” Among the banned actions are “the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try putting, say, ‘twenty-twelve’ and ‘gold’ in the same tweet” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/2).
NBC Sports Group and the Time Inc. Sports Group have struck a partnership to create a new televised, monthly newsmagazine show, to be called, "Sports Illustrated," and shown on the NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com. The hour-long program will debut July 24 on NBCSN, and feature reporting and commentary from SI reporters. The show, representing a major venture for SI into television following numerous prior efforts around its Swimsuit franchise, will carry a presenting sponsorship from Lexus and be produced by Red Line Films. Future episodes will vary in whether they originate on NBC Sports' cable or broadcast outlets. "This is an exciting opportunity for further expand Sports Illustrated storytelling beyond the magazine and our digital offerings," said Time Inc. Exec VP and Sports Group President Mark Ford. For NBC, the deal represents additional programming as it seeks to bulk its stable of assets. "This programming fits incredibly well with our rich history of storytelling, and partnering with Sports Illustrated for this show adds even more quality programming to NBC Sports Group's growing portfolio," said NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller. SI plans significant integration between the new TV program and the magazine, as at least one featured subject in the show will be part of a SI edition publishing around that time. The two entities also plan substantial digital support for "Sports Illustrated," with additional material appearing on both SI.com and NBCSports.com.
NBA TV will carry the "USA Basketball Selection Show presented by Burger King" Saturday at 7:00pm ET. The 60-minute show will announce the 12 players that will make up the U.S. team competing in the London Games. Matt Winer will host the show, with Grant Hill and Steve Smith providing analysis. The show will include interviews with coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo. The channel also will carry the USA Basketball press conference from the Wynn Las Vegas. Other Olympic programming on the channel includes "NBA Real Training Camp: USA Basketball presented by Jeep," a behind-the-scenes look at practice (July 11, 3:00pm); an exhibition game against Argentina (July 22, 3:30pm); and the semifinals and finals of the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament on July 7-8. Winer and Smith will call the FIBA games (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
TRIAL PERIOD: In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes NBC's coverage of the Olympic Trials has "caught the attention of viewers." Nielsen data states NBC's Saturday primetime viewing "was up 20 percent nationally over similar coverage in 2008." And that figure does not include "overnight ratings in Northeast households impacted by severe storms." Saturday's track & field trials, "also missing some viewing reports from the East Coast, were up 73% from four years ago." Friday night's swimming competition "was 54 percent higher over similar coverage in 2008" (DENVER POST, 7/2).
N.Y.'s WFAN-AM yesterday marked its 25th year on the air, and the station is still "ruling the roost as perhaps the most successful sports-talk radio station in the nation as far as popularity and financial success," according to Ken McMillan of the Middletown TIMES HERALD-RECORD. WFAN's John Minko said, "There were definitely skeptics in the beginning, and there were skeptics in the building amongst us. We didn't know whether it would work or not after the first few months because no one had ever done anything like this.'' McMillian noted prior to WFAN, there was "limited sports-talk programming on the air," and the creation of a 24-hour sports-talk station "made it easier for the fans." WFAN's anniversary "arrives at a time when ESPN Radio rules the nation with 750 affiliates, competing with the likes of Fox Sports Radio and Yahoo! Sports Radio." In the past month, NBC Sports Radio "announced a September startup and CBS Sports Radio will have a huge jump right after New Year's" (Middletown TIMES HERALD-RECORD, 7/1). In Albany, Pete Dougherty noted sports talk, while it "didn't originate on the station, certainly spread across the nation once WFAN established that a sports format could work" (Albany TIMES UNION, 6/30). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote, "Forget whatever else WFAN ushered in when it was born 25 years ago; that’s what it’s greatest public service is, as a great electronic gathering place, a radio Town Hall, for sports fans." One thing WFAN "always will have: It was first." It gave fans "a voice, and an outlet, and an opportunity to cheer together and cry together and argue with each other and enjoy sport and sports in ways that never seemed remotely possible" before the summer of '87 (N.Y. POST, 7/1).
SPORTS ELEVATED BY GENRE: SportsNet N.Y.’s Jonas Schwartz said WFAN has “elevated the importance of sports in general." Schwartz: "When this came about, people said nobody wanted to hear about sports 24 hours a day. Look at how wrong that was.” The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said of sports talk radio, “You look what fans started when you see the growth of this. Now it is getting bigger, one of the formats in radio that is spreading quicker than anything." WFAN's Joe Benigno: “Sports talk radio is now everywhere in this country. ... People never thought it would work. But I think that sports has become such big business now, there’s so much money in sports, and I think that is part of the explosion.” Benigno added a big part of the station's success is “the interaction with the fans” and how “you build almost relationships with these people.” Raissman: “You have your callers that you hear them all the time. It’s one big family. When something happens to a host, they want to know. ... It is a real different feel than any other sports media has where there’s one-to-one family relationship and intimacy” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 6/29).
MIKE & THE MAD DOG REUNION? The DAILY NEWS' Raissman noted there was "only one seismic occurence" in the radio station’s history, the '08 split of longtime on-air partners Chris Russo and Mike Francesa. Russo currently has one year left on his contract with Sirius/XM Radio and said of a possible reunion with Francesa, "You never want to say never. You know how the radio business is. So, you never say never, but I haven’t thought about it in my crystal ball, let’s put it that way. But I’ll tell you right now, if Mike and I did shows together we would have no trouble picking right up where we left off" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/1). Meanwhile, former WFAN exec Joel Hollander said of Francesa, "Love Mike or hate him, he’s the standard for sports-talk radio. When he and Chris started, there was no competition, really. Today there’s ESPN and hundreds of radio stations, and Mike is still No. 1" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/29).