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Sportsnet is filling the programming gap left by the NHL lockout “with Canadian Hockey League action from the Ontario, Quebec and Western Hockey Leagues,” according to Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. There will be a “weekly Friday night national game" on the net beginning Oct. 12, and games will "rotate among the three major Junior leagues.” If the NHL “decides to wipe out an entire season, Sportsnet will look at expanding its junior coverage.” Sportsnet additionally is adding AHL games “on a national, not regional, basis.” Meanwhile, TSN Communications Dir Greg McIsaac said the net has no plans to show KHL games, “although we'll look at highlights when appropriate for ‘That's Hockey’ and ‘SportsCentre’” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4).
CALLED FOR OFFSIDES: SI.com's Stu Hackel reported the KHL's announcement Tuesday of a deal with ESPN "was, to say the least, a bit premature." No listings of the games "have appeared on any of ESPN's webpages," and there was "no quote from anyone at ESPN in the KHL's press release." ESPN said in a statement, "We can confirm that we have reached an agreement in principle to bring some KHL coverage to fans in the U.K. (on ESPN) and in the U.S. (on ESPN3). However, details of a deal and specific coverage plans are not yet solidified. We will share more schedule details as soon as possible" (SI.com, 10/3).
DON'T FEAR THE REAPER: In Nashville, Josh Cooper reports former NHLer Stu Grimson "will provide analysis during Predators games, whenever the season begins.” Grimson is “slated to join play-by-play man Tom Callahan for all home and road games after the NHL lockout.” Grimson last year called “most home games,” and the “full-time move to the broadcast booth should go smoothly” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/4).
The latest round in the "apparently never-ending battle for sports-radio supremacy in the Boston market belongs to" WBZ-FM, which "finished second among men 25-54 in the quarterly Arbitron ratings for the summer," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. But WEEI-FM "wasn’t far behind, finishing tied for third despite a dismal season for the Red Sox, for whom it is the flagship station." WBZ earned "a 6.8 share in the summer quarterly, which covers the period from June 21-Sept. 12." WEEI, which "finished second in the spring book, two spots ahead of" WBZ, earned "a 6.4 share this time around." WBZ, the flagship for Patriots broadcasts, "benefited from the anticipation and start of the football season, surging in September with a 7.8 share to WEEI’s 5.8 in the month." The “Toucher and Rich’’ morning drive program on WBZ was "first in the 6-10 a.m. window with an 8.6 share," while WEEI's “Dennis and Callahan” program was "tied for third at 7.2." Despite the Red Sox’ struggles, WEEI was "first in the evenings (8.9)," while WBZ was "fifth (5.6) in that 7 p.m.-midnight window" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/3).
HOT-LANTA: ESPN Deportes Radio has returned to the Atlanta market. Clear Channel's WGST-AM has flipped from its talk lineup to the Spanish-language sports network. ESPN Deportes Radio previously aired in the market on Beasley's talk/sports WWWE-AM from August '10 until June (David Broughton, SportsBusiness Journal).
The success of Bleacher Report is profiled by S.F. WEEKLY's Joe Eskenazi, who notes the company is an “aggressively growing online giant, tapping the oceanic labor pool of thousands of unpaid sports fanatics typing on thousands of keyboards." Launched in '08, Bleacher Report “meteorically rose to become one of the nation's most popular websites, and one of the three most-visited sports sites.” The success came “via valuing site growth and pageviews over any semblance of journalistic ‘quality’ or even readability.” The site “churns out around 800 articles a day penned by 2,000 ‘core contributors’" and is “as polarizing as it is popular.” In August alone, “some 14.2 million users visited it.” The page view numbers have “translated into loads of advertising revenue -- media reports peg the site as on pace to gross” $30-40M this year. The site's use of search engine optimization (SEO) has placed it on “equal footing with original work created by established journalistic outlets.” It is a “rare sports-related Google search that doesn't feature a Bleacher Report article among the top results.” The site has “a ‘blanket policy’ forbidding its writers from seeking out and breaking news," as it is instead “designed to engage in the far more lucrative practice of pouncing on news broken by others, deploying its legions of writers to craft articles -- or better yet, multi-page slideshows -- linking to its own voluminous archives, and supplanting original stories on the Google rankings.” Breaking a story is “no longer valuable: owning it is.”
IMPROVING THE SITE: The site in the last two years has “worked to rehabilitate its image: Would-be writers must gain admittance via a process that rejects 17 out of every 20 applicants.” Lead writers and “knowledgeable featured columnists have been added to the roster,” and many of the site's early contributors “have been bounced.” It is “hard to argue Bleacher Report hasn't improved -- but it's impossible to say it hasn't improved its curb appeal.” That enabled its acquisition by Turner this summer for $175M and will possibly enable the "amalgamated entity to strip the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ mantle from ESPN.” Turner, unlike ESPN, Fox Sports or Comcast, “lacked a major sports web destination.” Now it owns the “No. 3 sports website in the realm.” And with a “hulking new digital platform on which to sell ads, Turner has a new method of making money,” providing a “leg up in bidding for whatever comes next” (S.F. WEEKLY, 10/3 issue).
USA Today Sports Media Group and digital media outfit Perform have struck a partnership in which more than 100 local Gannett outlets will gain access to video highlights from more than a dozen sports properties. The local Gannett newspaper and TV station sites will gain access to Perform's ePlayer, which features news and highlights from MLB, NBA, NHL, the PGA Tour, MLS and a variety of pro tennis tours and college conferences. USA Today and Perform will also collaborate on newly created college sports programming to be distributed through the ePlayer, including through a new branded USA Today Sports channel. "This partnership allows us to continue to deliver on our mission to provide sports fans throughout the U.S. with the best content in the world, regardless of format," said USA Today Sports Media Group President Tom Beusse.
In L.A., Mark Medina noted Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss "conceded that she doesn't have" Time Warner Cable SportsNet, which launched on Monday. Buss said, "Certainly we hope we'll be able to reach every single person living in Los Angeles and Southern California." Medina wrote Buss "sounded mindful of the potential short-term repercussions over the new network." Still, she "hopes Laker fans understand the positive benefits the channel arrangement will bring the organization." If not for the Lakers' cable deal with Time Warner, the deals with C Dwight Howard and G Steve Nash "might not have happened" (LATIMES.com, 10/3).
NET GAINS: Al Jazeera's U.S.-based network beIN Sport Managing Dir Yousef Al Obaidly on Tuesday said that the network "expects to add a fourth big distributor soon." Al Obaidly: "There is an operator that will be signing beIN Sport soon." However, Al Obaidly "would not name the distributor, saying the negotiations were confidential" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 10/3).
BEHIND THE CURTAIN: CBS Sports Radio Network's Doug Gottlieb yesterday said of his previous position as an ESPN Radio host, "I was told specifically, ‘You can’t talk enough [Jets QB Tim] Tebow.’ So I would jokingly throw it into a segment.” Gottlieb said he “wants Tebow to play" in next week's Texans-Jets game on ESPN's "MNF." Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick replied, “And so does ESPN.” Patrick asked, “Is ESPN creating news or are they covering news?” Gottlieb: “Both” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 10/3).