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BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Thursday "cleared the last remaining hurdle" to purchase a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, according to Vanessa Lu of the TORONTO STAR. The Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission signed off on the C$1.32B deal, "which is expected to close imminently." Bell and Rogers will get a 75% stake in MLSE, which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs, AHL Marlies, and MLS Toronto FC, "as well as real estate and television holdings." However, the CRTC "did reiterate an earlier ruling it made in 2011 that prohibits companies from offering television programs on an exclusive basis to their mobile or Internet subscribers" (TORONTO STAR, 8/17). The GLOBE & MAIL's Rita Trichur writes while this "paves the way for the two rivals to take control of the iconic sports company," the CRTC is "imposing some conditions on the MLSE deal, but stressed Thursday that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive behaviour." Both Bell and Rogers said that they "look forward to the deal closing in short order, although no firm date has been set." The CRTC is "requiring BCE and Rogers to roughly double the amount of money they must spend to support the Canadian broadcast system through the deal." The two companies will have to spend C$7.5M "over the next seven years on the creation of new sports-themed programming by Canadian independent producers -- a pot of money known as 'tangible benefits.'" BCE and Rogers "had originally proposed a tangible-benefits package" worth C$3.8M (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/17).
LOSING MONEY ON LONDON: The FINANCIAL POST's Jamie Sturgeon notes execs for Bell Media, the owner of CTV, which led coverage of the Olympics in Canada, "confirmed Thursday the joint partnership with the broadcast arm of Rogers Communications Inc. will lose 'tens of millions' of dollars on the marquee event, building on losses the two companies took in Vancouver two years earlier." Rogers and Bell partnered in '05 to pay C$153M to the IOC for the broadcast rights to the Games in '10 and '12. Losses for the London Games "weren’t as steep as they were for Vancouver," which cost C$90M compared with C$63M for the '12 rights. However, the "financial toll of the rights combined with production costs was enough to convince both parties to not renew the pact for the 2014 and 2016 events" (FINANCIAL POST, 8/17).
The “sports TV guys are winning -- big time,” as Cablevision “finally caved and agreed to carry the NFL Network and RedZone channel,” according to Claire Atkinson of the N.Y. POST. Under pressure from “both competitive marketing and a vocal subset of sports fans, Cablevision will add two more sports channels to the 15 already available on the same tier.” Although “no financial terms were disclosed, the NFL Network alone is expected to tack on about a buck to customers’ monthly bills” (N.Y. POST, 8/17). NFL Net President Steve Bornstein, discussing the lack of a deal with Time Warner Cable, said, “Unfortunately, we’re nowhere with them. We’ve had no productive conversations with them in months.” In. N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes, “The Cablevision deal, after six years of on-and-off talks, came together over the summer and gives the NFL Network more than 60 million subscribers.” Bornstein said Cablevision CEO James Dolan “decided that the time was right to do a deal” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/17). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Josh Alper noted with TWC yet to add NFL Net, it “leaves a rather sizable market still without the NFL’s television properties and there’s no sign of thawing in the frosty relationship” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/16).
Qatar Media’s Miami-based beIN Sport Thursday announced it will be carried on Dish Network. beIN Sport’s coverage will include games from top European leagues such as Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1. Coverage will also feature South American World Cup Qualifiers and the Copa America '15 tournament. The network on Wednesday also launched its two English- and Spanish-language on DirecTV (THE DAILY).
DISAPPEARING ACT: The AP’s Ronald Blum notes beIN, which is taking over broadcasting La Liga, England’s League Championship and League Cup from Fox Soccer, will be available in “only about 8 million homes” through DirecTV and Dish Network. SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, “The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable.” beIN Sports Managing Dir Yousef Al Obaidly said that the net “will not be rated by Nielsen at the start, but hopes to be at some point.” Blum writes, “Looming ahead is bidding for the U.S. rights" to the EPL. Networks "anticipate a request for proposal next month for the package starting in 2013-14 and running for three seasons." Fox "currently holds the rights and sublicenses some to ESPN and ESPN Deportes.” Al Obaidly said, “We might get into it. We might not. We have to look into scheduling and financials.” Blum noted GolTV last season “averaged just 29,000 viewers for 75 La Liga telecasts among its Hispanic audience,” while ESPN Deportes averaged 115,000 for its La Liga audience. Blum writes, “Without La Liga, GolTV's only European league is the German Bundesliga, which had a rating in the network's Hispanic audience that was too low to measure." There has been "speculation that beIN Sport USA would like to take over GolTV, if the price is right” (AP, 8/17).
CONCERT OF EUROPE: The N.Y. TIMES' Tse noted the "ESPNFC Press Pass" global soccer show debuted Wednesday and "will be carried throughout the coming European season.” Because the program will be “shown in 107 countries,” it will “focus primarily on major European competitions” with an emphasis on the EPL. ESPN Int’l Coordinating Producer Steve Palese said on the EPL’s share of coverage on the net, “I would say 60 percent. Champions League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga will also get substantial coverage, and with the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain in France I think we will be talking about Ligue 1 quite a bit” (NYTIMES.com, 8/15).
“Sunday MLB on TBS” this weekend will welcome ESPN softball analyst Michele Smith into the broadcast booth to join Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz to call the Dodgers-Braves game. Smith will be the first female analyst to be part of a full, nationally televised MLB broadcast and said, “Hopefully when the game’s over the folks that have been watching will have garnered a little bit more respect for female athletes.” The opportunity comes shortly after the 40th anniversary of Title IX, and Smith said, “We’re starting to see more women have opportunities to not just be sideline reporters but to be analysts and break down a sport to really give their knowledge back to the games.” Smith this week discussed how she plans to adjust her broadcast style for MLB and how job prospects for women in sports are progressing.
Q: What are you hoping to carry over to MLB coverage that you’ve learned from broadcasting softball?
Smith: There is a lot of the crossover between the diamond sports. The pitching, even though baseball throws overhand and we throw underhand, the mental side of it, the mentality of "how do you attack a hitter." Situational plays -- what are you looking for? Are you trying to induce a double play? Trying to pitch around one hitter to get to another? I think there’s so much overlap in the sports that I think it’s going to be really fun to explore that with Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz. I think from a hitting standpoint there’s been a lot of similarities. Twenty years ago everyone said there was a huge difference between a softball swing and a baseball swing, and today we find out that’s really not the case. You really have to stay on your backside, get good rotation, get great extension, lift your hands, keep your eye on the ball. There’s so much overlap between the sports that I think there’s going to be some really great dialogue during the game.
Q: How familiar are you with Ernie and John’s style, and how do you see yourself fitting in with them?
Smith: Obviously I respect those guys immensely. John with his career and the way he’s been able to analyze the game and see it from a professional athlete’s standpoint. And EJ is great. It doesn’t matter what he is calling, he is a true professional within the broadcast world. I’m just gonna sit by and probably have a smile on my face and add my two cents when I can. We’ll probably ask a lot of questions back and forth and I’m sure give each other a little bit of a hard time and entertain. It is show business, it’s not just about dissecting the sport, it’s about having a really good time and entertaining the folks that are going to be listening to the game.
Q: Are there any other female or MLB announcers that you look up to or might try to emulate on Sunday?
Smith: As far as female announcers, I think the two women who’ve really done a great job calling from a play-by-play standpoint would be Beth Mullins and Pam Ward. They really were true groundbreakers for ESPN. Michele Tafoya has done a lot of great things in her career. There are so many women that have been on the play-by-play side. For me as a softball athlete, there really haven’t been a whole lot of analysts before me. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be one of the leading analysts breaking in when I retired from my softball career. On the guys side, I’m always listening to major league baseball trying to understand what the guys are talking about, their style. I always try to be myself though. I don’t think you should try to be someone else, but you can definitely learn from people’s approaches, the way they view the game. Let’s face it, I was a pre-med major, I wasn’t a communications major, so I had a lot to learn when I first started broadcasting.
Q: What is the toughest part about being a female in the sports world?
Smith: I think still continuing to garner some respect in different areas. I take a lot of pride in this opportunity because I think I’m going to be representing a whole group of professional broadcasters that have made their career out of this, not just as a retired professional athlete. I think definitely continuing to fight for opportunities for women, and change the mindset of America that female broadcasters are more than just a pretty face on camera. There are some women in the industry that truly are talented and deserve to have the opportunities to call a game, break down and analyze a game and contribute. Or even behind the scenes, the non-talent part of broadcasting -- women producing games, women in corporate America, in TBS, in ESPN, women that are working their way through those great companies, we’re really working to continue to have opportunities for them to climb the ladder.
In Seattle, Bud Withers wrote the Pac-12 Networks debut Wednesday was “all over the place.” There is “no minimizing the ingenuity involved in brainstorming the Networks, and ultimately, executing its launch in less than 13 months from the birth announcement.” The first hour of the debut “was simply disjointed,” but it “settled down in hours 2 and 3.” If there “was a star of the first couple of hours, it was Neuheisel.” However, Ronnie Lott “clearly has some ground to make up.” The show “morphed in a second football-only hour” with Mike Yam, Neuheisel and Glenn Parker. Withers: “Elsewhere, there were some sound issues early, as several times, volume rose and fell. Notwithstanding the herky-jerky first hour, it was a big day for the conference” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 8/16).
SOME WEST COAST LOVE: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes ESPN “is invested in the Pac-12, having signed a rights deal in partnership with Fox Sports that covers 12 years and $3 billion for the conference,” but Pac-12 Networks football analyst Rick Neuheisel “still isn't convinced that's enough to make a network like ESPN change its focus” from the SEC. Neuheisel said, “You wonder how the SEC became so powerful? It's a direct correlation to how ESPN has been talking them up over the years, because they have a financial interest in them. So all the sudden, it's a monster conference." But even though ESPN has a relationship with the Pac-12, he's not sure the net will change its focus on the conference, adding, "I think they just want to be competitive in all the time zones, but we're still not given the same amount of attention as the SEC or the Big Ten. Watch '(College) Game Day,' and the Pac-12 will get one block, and it's usually just about USC or Oregon" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/17).
SO HAPPY TOGETHER: BYU AD Tom Holmoe said of the school’s relationship with ESPN, “They've been fantastic to us. I can honestly say that I never thought it would be this good. … It's been better than expected. There were only five teams ahead of us in college football that played more national TV games.” When asked whether ESPN determines when BYU football plays, Holmoe said, “When we play on Thursday and Friday, the ratings for those games are off-the-charts. We have so many people watching them. It's not just our fans now. There are people all over the country that turn on ESPN and watch, no matter who's playing. And we get some of those games. … The double-edged sword is, so we get the big TV games, but it's hard for the fans” (DESERETNEWS.com, 8/16).
CBS finished with a 3.4 rating and 4.9 million viewers for the final round of the PGA Championship last Sunday afternoon, which saw Rory McIlroy’s victory go head-to-head with the final day of London Games competition. Those figures are down from a 4.1 rating and 6.1 million viewers for Keegan Bradley’s win last year. Compared to '08 final round, which aired up against the Beijing Games, the final this year was up from a 2.8 rating and 4.0 million viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
AROUND THE BELTWAY: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted MASN, MASN2 and over-the-air station WDCW-CW are combining to average a 2.4 local rating for Nationals games through Aug. 7, up 62.2% over last year’s numbers at the same point. The gains mark “the biggest increase in baseball.” The Nationals are “averaging as many households in the DC market as the Caps and Wizards did last season combined.” Through the same period, Orioles games on MASN, MASN2 and over-the-air station WJZ-CBS are averaging a 4.3 rating in Baltimore, up 36.4% (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/15)….Meanwhile, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic earned a 9.15 local rating in DC for the Redskins-Bills preseason game on Aug. 9, marking the highest-rated program in the net’s history. The telecast, which featured the debut of Redskins Q Robert Griffin III, peaked at a 10.75 rating during the first quarter. The net’s previous high was an 8.1 rating for the '10 Capitals-Canadiens NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game Seven (CSN Mid-Atlantic).
NOTES: Monday night’s Cowboys-Raiders game earned a 5.1 local rating on ESPN in Dallas-Ft. Worth and a 12.0 rating on KTVT-CBS. The Rangers-Yankees game on the same night earned a 4.3 local rating on FS Southwest (DALLASNEWS.com, 8/14)….The Charlotte market ranked last among all U.S. markets for NBC’s primetime Olympic telecasts with an average of 159,000 homes. By comparison, NFL Panthers telecasts averaged 268,000 homes during the ’11 season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/16).
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) London Olympics (Closing Ceremony)8/12NBC8:30-10:58pm17.031,011 London Olympics (primetime)8/10NBC9:00-11:14pm13.222,494 London Olympics (primetime)8/11NBC9:00-11:25pm12.621,792 PGA Championship: Final Round8/12CBS2:00-7:00pm3.44,884 PGA Championship: Third Round*8/11CBS2:00-7:00pm2.02,801 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Zippo 200 at The Glen8/11ABC2:30-5:00pm1.21,723
The Alt Games: College Action
Liga MX: CD Guadalajara-Monarcas8/12Telem.6:55-9:08pm0.3610 TD Ameritrade College
Home Run Derby (repeat)8/11CBS1:00-2:00pm0.3n/a
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup:
Finger Lakes 355 (Watkins Glen)8/12ESPN1:00-4:00pm2.84,473
NFL Preseason: Packers-Chargers8/9ESPN8:00-11:13pm2.13,386 London Olympics8/9NBCSN12:00-8:00pm1.52,244 London Olympics8/6NBCSN12:00-8:00pm1.42,155 "NASCAR Countdown"8/12ESPN12:00-1:00pm0.91,399 PGA Championship: Second Round8/10TNT1:00-8:00pm1.01,389 London Olympics8/8NBCSN12:00-8:00pm0.91,381 London Olympics8/10NBCSN12:00-8:00pm0.91,313 "Monday Night Countdown"8/9ESPN7:00-8:00pm0.81,264 PGA Championship:
Final Round (early)8/12TNT11:00am-2:00pm1.01,261
In N.Y., Bob Raissman wonders if the recent suspension of MLB Giants LF Melky Cabrera for PED use could impact negotiations for a new TV deal. Raissman cites a source saying, "If all of a sudden guys were dropping left and right, big stars from big teams, it could give you pause (on spending heavily on MLB TV rights). But in the long run the sport already survived the worst. It’s a huge stretch to think one positive (drug) test is going to weigh heavily on negotiations that are already going on" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/17).
BEHIND THE CURTAIN: In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes the Rays and Angels "are being filmed this week" for an episode of NBC Sports Network's "Caught Looking." While the Rays "are cooperating to a degree," manager Joe Maddon on Thursday said that they "are not offering unfettered access." Maddon: "All the esoteric stuff remains such. We don't unfetter anybody." The show planned to follow Rays 3B Evan Longoria and 2B Ben Zobrist "for some off-field activities" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/17).
JOCKS ON THE MIC: Hockey HOFer Patrick Roy will join French-language Canadian net RDS for its sports talk show "L'antichambre" (Montreal GAZETTE, 8/16)....Former NFLer and CBS analyst Boomer Esiason will serve as Senior NFL Analyst for the CBS Sports Radio Network when it launches next month (CBS).