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When Al Jazeera's new U.S.-based network beIN Sport acquired the rights to the U.S. men's national soccer team World Cup Qualifier away matches, it "messed up the market for everyone," according to a source cited by Jack Bell of the N.Y. TIMES. The source said that beIN "paid double the $18 million fee GolTV had paid La Liga." The source said, "I think Traffic was looking for $500,000 a game." Brazil-based Traffic Sports Marketing President of Int'l Business Jochen Losch, whose company sold the World Cup qualifier rights to beIN Sport, said, "Are American fans really upset? That would be a big surprise to me. We offered the matches to everyone, but the amount of money we got offered was simply too low." Losch "would not confirm the sale price but did say that Traffic negotiated" with Soccer United Marketing and MLS on behalf of ESPN. A source said that SUM "dropped out of negotiations because of the high price (in excess of $1 million)." Losch said, "I'm a little surprised to hear people moaning about beIN. Everyone should be happy because they want to build a real football channel. No channel in the U.S. thinks they have to pay money for U.S. games. They seem to think there is not a big appeal. If now they are complaining, maybe they underestimated the value" Meanwhile, Comcast on Friday announced it "had picked up" beIN Sport "at a premium in its sports entertainment package." The addition of Comcast "means the game at Jamaica on Sept. 7 could be available in a total of 54 million homes" when combined with distribution from Dish Network and DirecTV (N.Y. TIMES, 8/26).
Rogers Communications bought Score Media Inc. Friday for $167M (all figures C) in a deal that will see the communications giant "take control of the scrappy network’s television properties but give it only a small stake of The Score’s growing mobile apps business,” according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. Rogers said that it "won't own the digital division," but it's 10% stake "would allow it full access to the platforms for use with its own brands” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes “when the sale was confirmed, it ended one of the longest guessing games in Canadian broadcast history,” as the network “was supposedly being pursued by CBC, Rogers, Bell and other communications firms.” Score Media President & CEO John Levy reportedly wanted $200M for the purchase, but “eventually the price was $138-million plus a $12-million investment in The Score’s digital technology.” Rogers will acquire The Score’s 6.6 million subscribers “generating approximately $45-million of annual subscription and advertising revenues” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's Ladurantaye writes Rogers now “must figure out how the edgy television network fits into the company’s broader strategy to expand its sports offerings.” Rogers Media President Keith Pelley: “What we get with The Score is a service that is almost exclusively about sports news and information and has loyal fans in a younger demographic.” Ladurantaye notes that The Score’s license limits it to 15% live content, or about one live game per day, “and those games must be interrupted for sports news updates every 15 minutes.” The Score has "dozens of bloggers who provide content for its website and digital apps," and they will "stay with the company." Rogers convinced Levy to "part with the television network," leaving Levy with 90% of the company's "unprofitable digital division." Score Media will keep The Score's "identity -- including its stable of bloggers and programmers -- and be spun into a separate company that is expected to start trading on the Canadian Venture Exchange by winter” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/27).
The Pac-12 Network begins football coverage on Thursday, but "the conference has yet to secure agreements with the nation's top satellite providers," according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Both sides said that negotiations "are ongoing and remain hopeful a deal can be reached soon." Subscribers to DirecTV and Dish Network "remain out of luck for now." Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse "are still in discussion with the Pac-12 as well." Early reviews of the network, which went on the air Aug. 15, "have been mostly positive, thanks to slick studio sets and replays of popular conference games" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/26). In Seattle, Bud Withers asks, "Will DirecTV get on board with this, a deal that's been reported to be close?" Pac-12 Network President Gary Stevenson said, "I wouldn't characterize it as close or imminent." He added, "when fans want to have (good) content in today's television world, they get it." Withers writes it "makes sense" that as the football season gets nearer, "the heat will be more intense on DirecTV and the Pac-12 to come to some sort of agreement." Until now, "while there have been several live events on the Networks, there hasn't been football, and that will be the big driver" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/27).
LET'S GET IT STARTED: In Portland, Kerry Eggers wrote content through the first week and a half of the Pac-12 Network "has been underwhelming, unless previews of the conference’s field hockey and water polo seasons are what you had in mind." However, "the good stuff is coming." Thursday kicks off "35 football games that are part of 850 live events to be telecast during the network's inaugural year." Stevenson said, “The quality of our games are terrific. The first weekend we have California opening its new stadium versus Nevada." Stevenson added, "In the first four weeks, we have every (Pac-12) team on the air." Eggers wrote the Pac-12 Network "doesn't settle for the crumbs of what is left after ESPN and Fox feast on other games, either" (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 8/24).
Dish Network subscribers "who are expecting to watch Ohio State's opener against Miami University on Saturday could be out of luck if contract negotiations between the satellite television carrier and the Big Ten Network fail," according to Bill Rabinowitz of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The five-year contract "between BTN and Dish signed five years ago when the BTN was launched expires Friday." Dish has "about 14 million" subscribers, and "slightly under 2.5 million of those have the BTN in their coverage package" (DISPATCH.com, 8/27). In Indiana, Mike Carmin noted BTN is "scheduled to televise four games Saturday" (JCONLINE.com, 8/26).
CHANGE IS COMING: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon noted adding Texas A&M and Missouri "figures to increase the SEC's television dollars." ESPN Senior VP/College Programming Burke Magnus said that those discussions "have been rolled into the SEC channel talks." Magnus said, "We've all kind of taken the approach to say it doesn't make sense to talk about that in a vacuum if Project SEC is going to go forward." Solomon noted the "earliest a channel could be launched would be 2014, when ESPN gets back syndication rights it sublicensed" to RSNs operated by Fox Sports and Comcast. An SEC channel "could air 40 to 50 football games a year." Magnus: "If there's a viable business there and we can secure what is a really positive partnership with a very powerful league that we have a great relationship with now, I think there's a lot of underlying reasons to do it" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 8/25).
LOOK WHO'S TALKING: ESPN Exec VP/Affiliate Sales & Marketing David Preschlack said that "talks are continuing with cable and satellite groups" for carriage of the Longhorn Network. Preschlack said that despite "suggestions to the contrary, ESPN is talking 'to everybody,' including Time Warner Cable and Comcast, on adding the UT sports-devoted channel." He also "indicated that the company will continue to hold a firm line regarding pricing and levels of distribution and that ESPN wants any deals with major distributors to be 'in line' with deals already in place with smaller carriers" (CHRON.com, 8/25).
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO...: On Long Island, Greg Logan noted the Big East's "exclusive 60-day window to negotiate with current broadcast partner ESPN opens Saturday." But league officials "believe they will prosper by spreading the product across multiple 'media entities,' possibly including the new NBC Sports Network, in an effort to equal or surpass the recently upgraded ACC deal worth $17.1 million annually to member schools" (NEWSDAY, 8/26).
Baseball HOF broadcaster Vin Scully confirmed "he'll return for an unprecedented 64th season," as the Dodgers announcer next year, according to Jim Peltz of the L.A. TIMES. Scully said that he will "again call only those Dodgers games in California and Arizona." But Peltz noted there "might be one additional stop for the 84-year-old Scully: New York." Scully began his career "calling games for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Dodgers are tentatively scheduled to visit Yankee Stadium next year for an interleague series." Scully yesterday said, "That really gets my imagination stirring." Scully said he decided to return next season because of "that constant love affair I have with the game. Second, I was so impressed by the (team's) new ownership." Scully added, "What they've done is revitalize the city, revitalize the team, the fans and myself" (L.A. TIMES, 8/27). In L.A., J.P. Hoornstra writes Scully's "heart is in the right place and so is his health." He "missed five games in April with a severe cold but hasn't missed a game that he was scheduled to work since" (DAILYNEWS.com, 8/26). In Detroit, Kirkland Crawford writes Scully "might still be the best in the business at making the game relatable to every listener, from the baseball novice to the know-it-all" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/27).
Grace taking leave of absence
following most recent DUI arrest
BRENLY SHOOTS DOWN RUMORS: Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly called speculation he may replace Grace in the D'Backs' booth in '13 was nothing more than "rain delay filler." In Chicago, Paul Sullivan noted Brenly is "nearing the end of his second four-year deal to broadcast Cubs games, and there's no certainty he'll be back" next year. His "outspoken nature has sometimes put him at odds with Cubs players," but that kind of "blunt commentary has endeared Brenly to many Cubs fans who appreciate his candor" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/26). Notably, Brenly was the manager of the '01 D'Backs team that won the World Series; Grace was a 1B on the team (THE DAILY).
In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted Fox NFL football analyst Michael Strahan, who reportedly will become co-host on ABC’s “Live! with Kelly," still “expressed a strong desire to continue with Fox.” A source said, “The Fox guys told Michael the only way it would work is if he shows no signs of slipping on the pregame. He’s got to be the same guy.” Strahan has “shown the potential to be the next great football personality on television,” but that “wasn’t big enough for him.” He now has “other avenues on his mind,” as he is “on his way to significantly expanding his brand.” Fox’ “NFL Sunday” is now “officially his -- very -- secondary gig.” A source said, “I don’t know if he still will be able to contribute anything meaningful to Fox, I don’t think he will. He’s not going to have the same preparation time.” Raissman wrote Fox allowing Strahan to “work for a competing network -- even in a non-football venture -- seems curious” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/26). In Tampa, Tom Jones writes it is “hard to imagine he can keep up the dizzying and tiresome pace of the two shows” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/27).
SUNDAY FUNNIES: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes Fox today will formally announce that comedian Frank Caliendo “will be leaving its top-rated NFL pregame show.” Taking Caliendo's place is Rob Riggle. Fox producer Chris Pizzi said, "Nothing against Frank; we love Frank. But it's been nine years. We wanted something fresh. Rob is on the edge of becoming a huge star.” Pizzi said that Fox was “interested in Riggle before he hosted ESPN's ESPY Award show this summer.” Riggle said, "I truly don't know why they picked me." He said impersonations "aren't in my wheelhouse.” Riggle: “So what is my wheelhouse? We'll discover that along the way" (USA TODAY, 8/27).
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: NFL Network has added Chris Rose as a host for Sunday night’s “NFL GameDay Highlights” and “NFL GameDay Final.” He also will host the postgame edition of "NFL Total Access" following the net’s “Thursday Night Football” telecast. Rose will work alongside Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk and Michael Irvin for "NFL GameDay Final," which airs at 11:30pm ET. Rose, who will stay in an on-air capacity on MLB Network, is leaving Fox after 12 years (NFL Network).
NO ACTION EXPECTED: ESPN CHICAGO’s Scott Powers cited a source as saying that “no action was expected to be taken” against Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s White Sox TV announcer Ken Harrelson for his latest remarks. Harrelson on Saturday “went off” on MLB umpire Lance Barrett after he “ejected White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and manager Robin Ventura for arguing balls and strikes.” Their ejections “were triggered when pitcher Jose Quintana's first delivery to Seattle Mariners hitter Justin Smoak in the third inning was called a ball.” On the TV replay, it “appeared to be a strike.” Harrelson was “reprimanded by commissioner Bud Selig earlier in the season when he voiced his displeasure on air with home-plate umpire Mark Wegner on May 30” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/26).