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ESPN yesterday formally announced an eight-year, $5.6B deal to extend its MLB rights through ’21. The deal, which goes into effect in ’14, includes TV, digital, int'l and radio rights. ESPN President John Skipper said, “We did one deal across everything, which was our preference.” The net will retain its rights to "Sunday Night Baseball," and will be able to increase the maximum number of team appearances in that window from five to six per season. ESPN also will maintain its Monday and Wednesday night games, per the deal, an increased number of ESPN telecasts will "co-exist" with local telecasts, virtually eliminating blackouts in clubs' home markets. Each of MLB's 30 teams will be featured at least once per season in a live telecast. Skipper said, “We’ve made a commitment to show every team.” He added, "We want to continue for the game to have a national presence for all teams and build the national audience and this agreement allows us to do that." In addition, ESPN will get the rights to one Wild Card playoff game annually, six holiday games across Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, and increased footage and highlights rights for all platforms as well as the ability to show in-progress highlights. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, “This is really a very historic day for MLB in many ways, and a very happy one. We look forward to many more years now of partnership with ESPN. This deal underscores how popular the sport is today” (Jillian Fay, THE DAILY).
ROOM FOR MORE? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the deal "could irk the local TV outlets -- primarily regional sports networks -- that carry the teams’ games," because the RSNs "could lose one game to ESPN’s Sunday night showcase." Also, the net's "new right to choose a team for a combined fourth appearance on Monday and Wednesday nights means local stations carrying the game will not have an exclusive in the team’s markets and must share the audience with ESPN." Sandomir also notes MLB is "still talking with Fox, a TBS-CBS alliance and the NBC Sports Group about other deals." Fox and TBS "are eager to keep what they have." Fox is "using the promise of starting an all-sports cable network to keep or even expand its regular-season and postseason rights." CBS would "most likely want only the All-Star Game and World Series if it and TBS were successful in supplanting Fox." Meanwhile, NBC is "looking to return to baseball, its former domain, in part to add compelling live events to its evolving cable channel, the NBC Sports Network" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/29).
SUPPLY AND DEMAND: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes MLB's "timing, whether or not it's an accident, is impeccable." It is the "last major sport/event not already locked into long-term TV deals." Selig said MLB was in a "golden age." Hiestand: "Maybe. But even if the sport was in a funk, it still faces a prospect any seller would relish: Demand outstripping supply." The number of outlets "wanting to get TV rights, including its MLB Network, outstrips the number of MLB TV packages." Selig was asked if MLB might increase the number of TV packages to let everybody in and said, "Overall, it will be essentially the same thing, with some minor changes as there were (with ESPN)" (USA TODAY, 8/29).
MONEY BALL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes the deal is "the latest in a string of high-priced media contracts in which sports organizations have increased the guaranteed revenues they will receive from their television partners by 60% to 100%." Industry experts said that the value of sports rights "is continuing to grow because they can reliably draw the young male demographic advertisers crave." Also, because sports fans "value live programming, the sector has remained largely immune from a media world that grows more reliant on digital recording devices and online video services that allow viewers to watch their favorite shows when they want to and skip commercials" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/29). In N.Y., Claire Atkinson notes the new deal "will surely result in more accusations of a 'sports tax,' as Liberty Media boss Greg Maffei called it, since costs must be passed along and all consumers pay whether they watch or not." A source said, "It’s another example of sports rights getting too high to support" (N.Y. POST, 8/29).
Cal AD Sandy Barbour is "leading a campaign on Twitter to encourage DirecTV to add the Pac-12 Networks to its lineup," according to John Crumpacker of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Barbour, who resides in Oakland, is "threatening to cancel her DTV subscription and is encouraging her fellow Cal fans with the service to do the same." Barbour said, "I've been a DirecTV customer since 1996. I'd hate to lose it, but I want to get the Pac-12 Networks. DirecTV has been phenomenal in their customer service up until now. This is a nonstarter for me. If DirecTV can't figure out how to carry the Pac-12 Networks by the first football game (on Thursday), I'm done." Crumpacker notes the Pac-12 and DirecTV "are in negotiations but no agreement has been reached." DirecTV "is not alone, however, as neither Dish Network nor AT&T carries the Pac-12 Networks." Barbour said Pac-12 Commissoner Larry Scott "called last Tuesday and asked what I thought. I had to say, 'Well, Larry, I haven't been able to watch it.' Now you understand why I'm leading the charge on Twitter" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/29).
LIFE IMITATING ART: DAILY VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein notes DirecTV is "teaming with 20th Century Fox's digital studio to produce 'Suit Up,' a scripted comedy in which the satcaster, via a brand integration deal, is inserted into the narrative as coming to the rescue of a scandal-ridden athletic department that loses its valuable TV deal with a fictional cable company." The eight-episode "shortform series will get an exclusive two-week run on Yahoo beginning Sept. 12 before moving on to DirecTV's Audience Network next January." While the show "recalls the high-profile negotiations currently playing out between DirecTV and a certain real-life collegiate conference, DirecTV greenlit the project roughly 18 months ago" (VARIETY.com, 8/28).
San Diego State, UNLV and Fresno State will have football and basketball games appear on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, which "launches in October and is already home to the Lakers and the Galaxy,” but to get the rights, TWC had to “do a little wheeling and dealing with CBS,” according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Sources said that CBS Sports Network “agreed to swap the rights to the games in return for greater distribution on Time Warner Cable systems.” As a result of the agreement, CBSSN is “expected to add 1 million subscribers, which would bring its national reach to almost 50 million homes.” The deal gives TWC “one more selling point with distributors, which it needs.” TWC SportsNet is “yet to close distribution deals with satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish, both of which have a big presence” in L.A. (LATIMES.com, 8/28).
FEELING ANTSY: In California, Kevin Ding writes TWC is the “only cable or satellite distributor we know right now [that] will have Lakers games” when TWC SportsNet launches on Oct. 1. In addition to DirecTV and Dish, subs with AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, Cox Cable, Charter Communications or other providers “could rightly feel antsy.” Lakers VP/PR John Black said, “We would hope the fans have confidence in our new broadcast partner -- as we do -- that they will get the deals done and everyone enjoys what will be a better product than ever before” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/29).
NFL Network hired former NFLer LaDainian Tomlinson for its "First on the Field" Sunday morning show, which launches at 7:00am ET on Sept. 9. Tomlinson, who retired during the offseason, will join hosts Melissa Stark and Sterling Sharpe and NFL Insider Michael Lombardi on the two-hour show, which is purported to be the earliest NFL pregame show on game days. NFL Films will produce the show from its Mt. Laurel, N.J., studio. The program, which will feature live reports from game sites, will be streamed to Verizon subscribers via NFL Mobile and will feature companion programming on NFL.com.
In DC, J.P. Finlay noted ESPN Radio 980 DC Redskins analyst Sam Huff's workload will be “cut back” this season and Huff is “not happy about it.” At the Redskins annual welcome lunch last Friday, Huff “spoke candidly about his demotion” and said that he “doesn’t understand why his work is being reduced.” He also said that he “questioned if his honest critiques no longer play well on the radio.” Huff even gestured toward Redskins and station Owner Dan Snyder, “who sat just a few seats down from Huff on the dais.” While Huff made comments to the crowd, Snyder “noticeably did not look" at him (WASHINGTONIAN.com, 8/27).
COMING SOON: NBC Sports Radio yesterday announced it has hired former NFLer Amani Toomer -- along with radio analysts Eytan Shander, Dan Schwartzman and Kay Adams -- as show hosts and update announcers ahead of the radio network's launch on Sept. 4. Toomer and Shander will host “Amani and Eytan” in the 10:00pm-1:00am ET timeslot (Monday-Friday). “The Dan Schwartzman Show” will air live Tuesday-Saturday between 1:00am-5:00am. Adams will anchor national updates between 5:00pm-10:00pm (Monday-Friday) and will also be appearing regularly on “The Erik Kuselias Show” (Monday-Friday) between 7:00pm-10:00pm (NBC).
SWING OF THINGS: Swing coach and TV host Hank Haney will host “The Hank Haney Show” on Fox Sports Radio starting Sept. 8. The show will air 8:00-10:00am ET and will feature Haney’s analysis, interviews and golf tips (Fox Sports Radio).