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MLB Network "will carry two first-round" playoff games on Sunday and next Wednesday, the first two postseason games to air on the net, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. MLB Network's game Sunday "will include analyst Jim Kaat calling his first postseason action since 1995," while Bob Costas on Oct. 10 "makes his first postseason calls since 2000." The move will "force viewers to find out if they get" MLB Network, and "kvetch to their TV provider if they don't." MLB Network President & CEO Tony Petitti said, "This addition of these games is critical for us." Meanwhile, MLB VP/Business PR Matt Bourne yesterday said that the two Wild Card games "will likely be in East Coast late-afternoon and prime-time TV slots" on Friday. He added those plans are not finalized "because we still don't know what teams will be in" (USA TODAY, 10/3).
GOING NATIONAL: In L.A., Joe Flint notes MLB's new deals with Fox and Turner clear the way for Fox "to use baseball for a new national sports cable channel it is planning to launch in the summer of 2013." Fox' agreement with MLB "allows it to put as many as 40 games on a nationally distributed cable channel starting in 2014." The net also "received broad rights to baseball highlights that could be used for a sports news program similar to ESPN's 'SportsCenter'" (L.A. TIMES, 10/3). As part of the agreement, Fox Deportes "will continue to be the Spanish-language home to MLB, carrying all Fox televised games, including the All-Star Game, Division Series, LCS and World Series" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/3).
SNOWBALL EFFECT? American Cable Association President & CEO Matthew Polka yesterday said that sports rights deals "are out of control and threaten the future of the pay-television industry." Polka: "The plain truth is that these MLB deals will send monthly pay-TV bills streaking skyward." He added MLB's new deal will "make life hard for families whose incomes, hammered by the recession, can’t keep pace with the greed of broadcasters, cable networks and sports leagues" (L.A. TIMES, 10/3).
AMERICA & THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Fox Sports VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill yesterday said soccer is the "next national pastime." The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eriq Gardner notes Mulvihill was "attempting to explain his enthusiasm for the growth of live sports" while speaking as a panelist at the Advertising Week conference in N.Y. Mulvihilll "pointed to a statistic that the last World Cup had a bigger rating in the 18-35 demo than NCAA basketball." He said that TV "at large is skewing older, but that soccer is gaining popularity among younger audiences." Mulvihill also "expressed positive feelings about baseball." He said yesterday's agreement was a "landmark deal." Mulvihill is "high on football as well, particularly the in-roads the sport has made among women" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/2).
ESPN has "signed on to show KHL games featuring locked out NHL players" on ESPN3, a "curious move for a network that has largely shunned hockey ever since ending its broadcast agreement with the NHL nearly a decade ago," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. It is a "sign that there may in fact be some value in showing games featuring its players during the lockout." ESPN3 is "picking up five KHL games in the next two weeks alone." So far, there "hasn't been a similar announcement from either TSN, Sportsnet or CBC" although that appears to "simply be a matter of time." The Canadian nets are "already picking up far more AHL content than ever before and are in negotiations to supplement that with other hockey programming like the KHL." The "biggest issue" with showing KHL games is the "same problem hockey runs into at the Winter Olympics: the time change." A "7 p.m. game in Moscow would be starting at 11 a.m. in Toronto, and that's one of the more favourable time zones in the league." The first five games ESPN plans to show beginning this week "will feature three appearances by Alex Ovechkin with his hometown team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/3).
STAYING POWER? SI.com's Stu Hackel noted the plan is to "have English language commentary for these games, although just who will be sitting in Bristol and calling the game off a monitor has not been announced." It is "really unclear how many fans will actually tune in past their initial curiosity" (SI.com, 10/2). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote the "mere action of ESPN getting involved with a competing pro hockey league has to deepen the concern of [Gary] Bettman and the NHL owners -- no matter how mild it is -- that the hockey consumer is ready for life to go on without the NHL." In the age of "live-streaming video, satellite television and 100 percent coverage of everything under the sun on the Internet along with minor league and college hockey, diehard puck fans will find another outlet while the owners and players prepare for battle over a billion dollars" (CSNNE.com, 10/2).
Today's Astros-Cubs game is the “final game broadcast for the Astros on FS Houston as the team moves with the Rockets from its longtime home" to the newly-created Comcast SportsNet Houston, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Friday is the “final day of employment for FS Houston employees.” The channel will be “reabsorbed" into FS Southwest, "which will have limited Houston-based programming, including two weekly Texans shows, and a full slate of Rangers games airing in Houston next season.” FS Southwest GM Jon Heidtke said, “It will be business as usual for us, other than the fact we don’t have the Astros and Rockets.” Reporter Patti Smith is “expected to remain with Fox to host the Texans programs,” and anchor Kevin Eschenfelder “already has joined the new channel.” Broadcaster Bart Enis “has not disclosed his plans.” CSN Houston officials “have not commented on Astros plans for 2013, but game analyst Jim Deshaies is expected to return, and studio analyst Steve Sparks could join the network.” Play-by-play voice Bill Brown said that he is “uncertain of his plans for 2013.” Barron notes local TV ratings have “declined sharply for Rockets and Astros games as the teams have struggled and Fox has focused on Dallas-Fort Worth teams” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/3).
TEXAS HOLD ‘EM: In Austin, Kevin Lyttle notes CSN Houston has “an ambitious live schedule that includes all Astros games, Rockets games, at least 28 regional college football games and six Thursday night high school football games featuring Class 5A teams.” The net’s first live event is tomorrow night, but it "does not have any significant carriage contracts with Central Texas TV providers.” Having Comcast and Time Warner as rivals is “complicating matters.” If no deal is reached before April, the Astros “would begin a new era in the AL without their games being on TV here.” Historically, Central Texas “was Astros’ country.” The lines "have blurred, though, with the changing fortunes” of the Astros and Rangers (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 10/3).
K.C. Star Public Editor Derek Donovan last week "felt the need to explain and defend" the newspaper's policy of avoiding the use of the word "Redskins" in print and online, according to Robert Klemko of USA TODAY. Donovan wrote in response to a reader complaint, "I remain unconvinced by every argument I've ever heard that the name is not a racial epithet, plain and simple. ... I see no compelling reason for any publisher to reprint an egregiously offensive term as a casual matter of course." Klemko noted the newspaper "rarely prints the word, and most of the references to Redskins on its website are found in wire service stories." The Chiefs and Redskins do not play each other this season, but they will "play in Washington next season, providing reason anew to talk about racial epithets and their place in pro sports" (USATODAY.com, 10/2). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "They don't print other racial slurs, why should they print this one? And make no mistake, this is a racial slur." ESPN's Michael Smith said it does not feel like the paper's stance "is going to change anything." Smith: "If the Washington Post has not adopted this stance, if the NFL itself has not adopted this stance, then it's going to take a lot more than the Kansas City Star to exact change when it comes to the name of the Washington Redskins." ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said, "Let's start talking about this with Roger Goodell. Let's go back to the Washington Post and have them answer for this" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/2). Meanwhile, SPORTSGRID.com's Dylan Murphy noted the "Chiefs" nickname is apparently a "reference to former mayor Harold 'The Chief' Bartle," but it is hard to "ignore the smidgen of hypocrisy" (SPORTSGRID.com, 10/2).
A Trail Blazers spokesperson said that the team has "not yet decided" if it will "make games available through the Internet to fans who do not have access to Comcast Sportsnet Northwest this season," according to Mike Tokito of the Portland OREGONIAN. The Blazers during the '11-12 season "made their games on CSN available via live streaming to fans in areas of Southwest Washington and Oregon where CSN is not available through the local cable provider." The spokesperson said that the Blazers "have not decided whether to offer such an arrangement again this season." The spokesperson said a decision will be made in the "next few weeks." The Blazers have 58 games scheduled for CSN Northwest this season (OREGONLIVE.com, 10/2).
NO COMMENT ON NEXT PRESIDENT: Tokito in a separate piece notes Blazers Owner Paul Allen “was short” when asked about the search to replace team President Larry Miller, who resigned in July. Allen said, “We have a process going on there. I’m not going to speak any more about it.” Blazers GM Neil Olshey also “stiff-armed a question about the president opening when asked what qualities he would consider desirable for the position.” Oshley said, “That’s not my role. That’s the business side of the operation” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/3).
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said that he "does not particularly enjoy the experience of wearing a microphone for games but he feels obliged to the league and NFL Films." Rodgers: "NFL and (NFL) Films have the power, I guess you could say, to try and make you do it. ... I love watching it on TV and watching other people do it, but haven’t felt great about doing it personally because I want everything to be authentic" (JSONLINE.com, 10/2).
NAMES & FACES: Former CSN New England anchor and reporter Carolyn Manno has signed a multiyear deal with NBC Sports Group and will serve as a reporter on NBC's "Football Night in America." In addition, she will cover college football and college basketball, host NBC Sports Group's MLS coverage and SportsDesk updates, and serve as a correspondent for action sports coverage, including the Dew Tour. Manno also will have roles with NBC's coverage of the '14 Sochi Games and with NBC Sports Radio Network (NBC)....Media training and crisis counsel firm Everything is on the Record named ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher Partner and Trainer (John Ourand, THE DAILY). Bucher on Twitter feed said, "And for those asking with the @EIOTR announcement: yes, still plan to work for ESPN. Just not as extensively or exclusively" (TWITTER.com, 10/2).
DUST OFF THE SWEATER VEST: Former Ohio State Univ. football coach Jim Tressel has joined Cleveland's WKYC-NBC as a special contributor. WKYC's "A Moment With Jim Tressel" will air each Wednesday during the station's 7:00pm ET newscast. WKYC President & GM Brooke Spectorsky in a statement said Tressel's "motivational speeches and best- selling books will be the basis" of the segments (WKYC).