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Turner Sports is preparing to announce this afternoon it has purchased S.F.-based online sports destination Bleacher Report, according to industry sources. Confirming several months of industry speculation, Turner's purchase of the six-year-old site adds a prominent, general-interest property to the media giant's online portfolio, particularly after the recently announced departures of NASCAR, SI and the PGA Tour to pursue more self-controlled digital strategies. Sources said Turner paid around $175M for Bleacher Report, a figure below the oft-rumored $200M but still far above the $98M Yahoo paid in '07 for Rivals.com that had been the industry record for the acquisition of an American pure-play online sports site. Nearly $39M has been invested in Bleacher Report through various venture capital rounds, including a massive $22M round nearly a year ago. Bleacher Report ranked ninth in the June comScore rankings of U.S. online sports sites, the most recent figures available, with 10.1 million unique visitors. Turner Sports Digital ranked sixth with 14.8 million uniques.
NBC Sports and the French Tennis Federation yesterday announced a multiyear, multi-platform extension for the French Open that includes 10 more hours of live coverage for the Grand Slam event through '24. NBC will air the opening Sunday of the tournament, as it did for the first time this year, as well as middle weekend tennis, the men’s and women’s semifinals and the men’s and women’s finals. The extension brings more days to the net including Memorial Day coverage and the women’s semifinals rounding out the championship weekend (NBC). In L.A., Meg James wrote the extension “was a comeback of sorts for NBC, which last year lost the rights to the most coveted event of the tennis year -- Wimbledon." ESPN triumphed over NBC, in large part, “because tennis fans were increasingly frustrated by NBC's coverage of late tournament matches.” The network "refused to preempt its lucrative morning program ‘Today’ to provide live coverage of Wimbledon semifinals, spoiling the thrill for hard-core tennis fans” (LATIMES.com, 8/5).
The Hornets have signed a multiyear radio deal with Entercom Communications to broadcast all Hornets games live on WWL-AM beginning with the '12-13 season. Play-by-play announcer Sean Kelley will be joined by first-year color analyst John DeShazier (Hornets). In New Orleans, Dave Walker noted the team and WWL have "signed a three-season deal," uniting Saints and Hornets Owner Tom Benson's "local sports properties on one signal." Hornets games "aired for several years" on KMEZ-FM before moving last season to WMTI-FM. Entercom New Orleans VP & GM Chris Claus on Friday said that the deal "became possible when Benson bought the NBA team earlier this year." Claus noted, "Prior to that, WWL's contract with the Saints precluded the station from broadcasting another local professional sports team's games" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 8/4).
Fox earned a 1.7 overnight Nielsen rating for “UFC on Fox 4” on Saturday night from 8:00-10:15pm ET, which featured Mauricio Rua’s defeat of Brandon Vera. Despite competition from Olympic coverage, that figure is flat compared to the outfit’s third telecast in May, which featured Nate Diaz’ win over Jim Miller. Saturday night’s telecast peaked at a 2.4 rating in the 10:00pm window. Las Vegas led all U.S. markets with a 4.6 local rating. The 1.7 is down 37% from the second iteration in January, which featured Rashad Evans' defeat of Nate Davis. Fox’ first UFC broadcast on Nov. 12, which was a one-hour telecast featuring Junior Dos Santos’ defeat of Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title, earned a 3.5 overnight (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).A WORK IN PROGRESS: In Las Vegas, Adam Hill wrote, “Year one of a seven-year deal with Fox has been a learning process for the organization and the network as they try to figure out what will work best for attracting viewers.” The UFC is “still a pay-per-view business first, and the elite draws are not going to be shown on free television.” It appears as if the organization is “trying to go in the direction of having name fighters with fan-friendly styles compete for top contender spots.” UFC President Dana White said, “You're always going up against something. If it's not on television, it's a movie or it's this or it's that” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/4). MMAJUNKIE.com wrote Ref Cam, the innovation which the UFC and Fox announced last week would be used during Saturday’s telecast, “never made it to the live telecast.” UFC Senior VP/Operations & Production Craig Borsari said that Ref Cam is a “work in progress that will be used again.” Borsari said, “There were some good looks, but not good enough to put in the live telecast. We're going to keep making tweaks” (MMAJUNKIE.com, 8/5).
SOCIAL BUTTERFLY: FOXSPORTS.com’s Peter Schrager wrote, “There has been no shortage of growing pains and lessons along the way, but the UFC and its fighters are truly on the front line when it comes to maximization of Twitter.” UFC is, “at last, flying smoothly with the blue bird.” White said, “Social media has been huge for us. Twitter is the greatest marketing tool in the history of the world, and it is free. You can talk directly to your fans instantly. There's no filter or delay; it is all real time. It’s incredible” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/3).
UFC HELPS FUEL TO RECORD MONTH: Thanks to UFC programming and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Fuel TV posted its most-watched month in July. Fuel averaged 29,000 viewers in total day and 46,000 viewers during primetime, according to Nielsen. The July 11 "UFC Fight Night" was the net's most-watched program with 211,000 viewers -- making it the channel's third most-viewed program in its history (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
Sports TV and radio host Dan Patrick will help Wisconsin-based online gaming company Cover5 "roll out a national promotion for its fantasy sports alternative,” according to Kathleen Gallagher of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Cover5 is a “was designed for fans who are tired of spending endless hours contemplating trades, scouring injury reports and worrying about weather conditions.” Instead of drafting individual players, Cover5 football league participants “choose five favorite teams.” The more points their teams score “above a spread that is set every Tuesday, the more points the participants score.” When a team “doesn't beat the spread, the participant loses points.” Patrick’s agent, Bryan Le Monds, said that his client was "approached by" and will be a "business partner" with Craction Founder & CEO Scott Schmidt in the venture. Le Monds said, "I really believe Dan wants to change the world of how we experience sports." Cover5 CFO Roger Orlady said that the company has “raised $300,000 from Schmidt's friends and family and an additional $200,000 from outside investors.” He added that it “will need to raise more outside funding to realize its potential.” Orlady said that Cover5 “plans to unveil a smartphone app by mid-August and is in discussions with a number of restaurants and bars to run sports leagues for them.” Schmidt said that the company also “will earn revenue from selling special features packages to participants and soliciting sponsors and advertisements for its site.” Orlady said that Cover5 will offer “professional and college football and basketball this year, but its unique format could support rugby, horse racing and even the Lumberjack World Championships” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/5).