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NBC Sports and Yahoo Sports have struck a broad digital partnership that will create by far the most highly-trafficked online sports destination in the country and calls for large amounts of content and sales collaboration. Announced by Bob Costas during last night's "Football Night in America" prior to NBC's Lions-Packers game, the deal builds significantly upon a prior alignment in which Yahoo served as a distribution partner for the online stream of "SNF." Yahoo will provide direct access to the NBC Sports Live Extra online video player providing live coverage of "SNF," MLS, EPL and the NHL Game of the Week. The two entities will collaborate on new original online sports video programming that will be distributed on both sites. Editorial content developed by each side will be distributed on the other's site, and Yahoo's investigative team will be featured on NBC TV. Yahoo-owned Rivals.com will power recruiting and college sports content for NBCSports.com, and NBC's RSNs will integrate Yahoo's team pages. Also, deep integration will occur between Yahoo's fantasy sports platform and the NBC-owned Rotoworld fantasy information site, with Yahoo gaining designation as the exclusive fantasy game partner of Rotoworld.
JOINING FORCES: The two sites will combine into a single entity for purposes of monthly reporting in the comScore rankings of U.S. sports sites, and the combined figure will likely have more than 50 million unduplicated unique visitors. To that end, the deal gives NBCSports.com a significant boost in traffic that was not going to be achievable organically. NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "What we have in quality and quantity, we lack in scale outside of major events. Yahoo provides massive scale to our sports group. This is a competitive space, and we believe this will jump start us." For Yahoo, NBC provides a variety of exclusive video assets and TV exposure for its editorial talent not possible in its other various partnerships. Yahoo Head of Entertainment, Sports & Games Ken Fuchs said, "This seems like a real natural to come together like this. We really think one and one can equal three here." Fuchs added in a blog post, "It's better than the '86 Bears, the '93 Bulls, or the … well let's just leave the Cubs out of it for now." Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but revenue sharing is expected to be a major component of the alignment. NBC and Yahoo will each sell against the partnership. Both sites will continue to operate separately, and no significant staff changes are planned. The deal does not include anything relative to the Olympics, an interesting wrinkle given the heated traffic battle the two have had between NBC's exclusive rights and Yahoo's existing online scale. Radio assets also have been excluded from the deal. Yahoo and CNBC struck a similar deal earlier this year for the financial news vertical, and the run of partnerships is part of a broader Yahoo effort to build its brand through other media (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
SO HAPPY TOGETHER: In N.Y., Brian Stelter wrote, "Though stopping far short of an actual merger, the two sides expect their traffic will be measured together in a way that solidly makes them the No. 1 sports Web site in the United States." Lazarus said measuring the two sites as one would "allow our sales force to walk into meetings with the ability to say we're the No. 1 sports site" (NYTIMES.com, 12/9). In Akron, George Thomas writes, "Looking at it from a distance, it's a win-win." The partnership "plays to Yahoo's strength." It is a "shot across ESPN's bow and a savvy move for both parties" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/10).
The death of Cowboys LB Jerry Brown led all NFL pregame shows yesterday morning. CBS’ “The NFL Today,” which garnered widespread criticism for not leading its broadcast last week with the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, began yesterday’s show with a somber opening and host James Brown reading a statement from Cowboys DT Josh Brent, who was arrested Saturday for intoxicated manslaughter. Cowboys radio analyst Babe Laufenberg then appeared from Paul Brown Stadium and discussed the Cowboys players’ reactions and emotions (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 12/9). The Albany Times-Union’s Pete Dougherty on his Twitter account wrote, “CBS learned from its error of last week and led its pregame show with the Dallas Cowboys tragedy.” Deadspin’s Timothy Burke wrote, “Looks like CBS is responding to the criticism of their tone-deaf response to Belcher by doing the first ten minutes about DUIs.” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch wrote, “The NFL Today treated its viewers like adults at the top of its show today. As it should be” (TWITTER.com, 12/9). Meanwhile, ESPN’s Frank Caliendo reported on his Twitter feed that the net would be "pushing back the ESPN comedy segment another week because of tragic NFL news” (TWITTER.com, 12/8). The segment was to feature Caliendo playing ESPN’s Bob Ley and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones (ESPN).
CRITIQUING THE COVERAGE: SI.com’s Deitsch writes CBS “thankfully rebounded this week with the appropriate editorial sensibilities" regarding Brown's death and Brent's arrest. The coverage is “what adults should expect from a pregame show when an NFL player is involved in the death of another NFL player.” The net's pregame show was at its “most impactful during a roundtable discussion with its analysts.” It was “compelling and thoughtful television and what the show should aim to be weekly” (SI.com, 12/10). In Dallas, Barry Horn writes CBS’ pregame show “learned from its blunder last week when it opened with its crew talking football gibberish while relegating the murder-suicide by Kansas Chief linebacker Jovan Belcher to an afterthought.” This time, CBS “went almost 11 minutes coupling the back-to-back Saturday tragedies.” The net's “strongest words came from" former NFLer Shannon Sharpe, the panelist who "most recently retired as a player." Meanwhile, Fox’ pregame show and Cowboys-Bengals game coverage “can be described as appropriate and responsible.” Fox “smartly” let co-host and former NFLer Michael Strahan “stand out" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/10). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes CBS’ tone, “unlike a week earlier, was appropriately somber but more judgmental." Sharpe called Brent’s behavior “careless and reckless” (USA TODAY, 12/10).
Fox led all NFL game telecasts yesterday with a 17.0 overnight Nielsen rating for its national window, which featured Saints-Giants in 91% of markets. Despite a blowout win by the Giants, that figure is up 33% from a 12.8 overnight for CBS’ Week 14 national window last year, which featured Patriots-Bears. Meanwhile, NBC earned a 13.6 overnight for the Lions-Packers “SNF” telecast last night, down 16% from the comparable Eagles-Cowboys in Week 14 last year. Despite the drop, “SNF” was the top-rated program last night and led NBC to a win in primetime. “SNF” also has now topped the 13.5 overnight mark 10 times this season, which is a record for the net through 14 weeks. Lions-Packers earned a 52.7 local rating in Milwaukee and a 27.6 rating in Detroit. Figures for CBS’ singleheader and Fox’ regional window were not available at presstime (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).CAPTAIN OBVIOUS: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote CBS' coverage of Ravens-Redskins yesterday was "lousy." Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert at the start of OT "said one of the most obvious and, yes, dumbest things I have heard an announcer say all year: 'The word on Robert Griffin III is that he appeared to suffer a right knee injury.'" Zurawik: "We would have to have been in a coma for the last 10 minutes of real time at the end of the game not to know as much or more than you told us. I didn’t hear anything from CBS Sports about the hip pointer Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in his postgame interview that [RB] Ray Rice suffered." But on a "cold, gray and wet day, the images were outstanding." As fog started to "shroud the field late in the game, it felt as if the cameras were moving closer and closer to the action." Viewers were given "the kind of tight, field levels shots that made you feel as if you could almost reach out and touch the white plumes of breath emanating from the mouths of the exhausted players on the field" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 12/9).
MISSING MIC: In Tampa, Tom Jones notes during Fox' Eagles-Buccaneers coverage yesterday, which "included the 10th anniversary reunion of the Bucs' Super Bowl team, former players Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp swung by the broadcast booth to see Fox analyst and former teammate John Lynch." Play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton said that there were "no microphones for the ex-players, so Lynch would have to speak for them." Jones: "You would think Fox would have one microphone around in case anyone ever stopped by the booth. And in this case, you're better off not even acknowledging the players are there if you're not going to let the audience hear directly from them." Jones also writes ESPN and NFL Network made "classy moves" by allowing analysts Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp, respectively, to "skip their pregame duties" to participate in the reunion (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/10).
SPREADING THE LOVE: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes CBS today will announce that after its usual Super Bowl trophy presentation, the net "will direct viewers to its CBS Sports Network cable channel for a show scheduled to last at least an hour." For CBSSN, "only in roughly 50 million of the USA's 116 million households, to draw a small fraction of a Super Bowl audience for a cable post-game show would be a huge hit for a channel that still isn't measured for national TV ratings." CBSSN will have "50 hours from New Orleans; the channel didn't air anything from on-site when CBS carried the Super Bowl three years ago." CBS Sports Exec VP and CBSSN President David Berson said, "This has received a lot of support internally. CBSSN is an increasing priority for us" (USA TODAY, 12/10).
CHOOSING SIDES: In Denver, Dusty Saunders asks the question, "Who is the better NFL cable analyst -- ESPN's Jon Gruden or the NFL Network's Mike Mayock?" Saunders: "My vote goes to the latter." Gruden, who "overanalyzes every play, has an annoying habit of being too praiseworthy." Gruden is "too positive" (DENVER POST, 12/10).
MUST SEE THURSDAYS: NFL Network averaged 6.8 million viewers for the Broncos-Raiders "Thursday Night Football" game last week, making it the most-watched cable TV program that night. The game viewership was up 3% from last year's Week 14 Browns-Steelers matchup (NFL).
ESPN is devoting less coverage to Jets QB Tim Tebow because ESPN President John Skipper told producers to dial it back. In an interview last week at his N.Y. office, Skipper said, "I said, 'Guys, we didn't handle this very well.' Going to training camp wasn't a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long." Skipper was particularly affected by an interview former ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb gave to "The Dan Patrick Show" in October, where he said, "I was told specifically, 'You can't talk enough Tebow.'" Skipper: "The quote that I hated was from Doug Gottlieb. ... I didn't love that. I want people to think about what works for the next 10 minutes might not be the best thing for us for three years. That one hit home with me." While the network was roundly criticized for sending multiple reporters to Jets training camp this summer, Skipper said he did not mind that coverage. "Training camp was fine. The guy's very popular. In our business, we do want to drive ratings. You've just got to keep long-term, short-term in mind." And when ESPN even mentioned Tebow, ratings would increase immediately. That caused producers to try to work Tebow stories into their shows to push ratings higher. But Skipper said he recently told ESPN producers not to be seduced by the short-term ratings fix that mentioning Tebow produced. "We've had some good discussions internally about trying to be careful. In some ways, the more difficult internal conflict is between long-term story telling and ratings. We all know that if you focus on the Tebow story, for the next 10 minutes you're going to do better. But the question is trying to take a long-term perspective and saying, 'Guys, let's not get over excited about one story and hyping it.'"
CBS earned a 4.1 overnight Nielsen rating for the Army-Navy game on Saturday afternoon, up slightly from a 4.0 overnight last year. The 4.1 is the best overnight since a 4.2 rating in '09. The audience for the game has benefited from a move to its own weekend in '09, as the overnight for the matchup has not dipped below a 3.5 rating in the time frame. Army-Navy only hit that 3.5 overnight rating mark once from '00-08 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
ANCHORS AWAY: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Army-Navy "is one of sports' greatest traditions." When you "watch the pregame pageantry, you can't help but acknowledge just how special this game is." CBS did its "usual splendid job covering Army-Navy more as an 'event' than a 'game.'" The result of the game "certainly matters to the teams and those who are and were in the military, but for the rest of us, Army-Navy is about those serving this country" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/10). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick notes with three seconds left in the first half and Army "about to try a field goal, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo called timeout, not one, but two -- consecutively -- that dubious strategy designed to 'ice' the kicker." CBS' Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson "giggled, uneasily." Mushnick: "I would have preferred to hear what each thought about it. After all, up until then we were told how 'the spirit' and all-that's-right about college football is displayed in this game." Mushnick writes, "Had a feeling Lundquist and Danielson didn't approve. Wish they would have told us how they felt." Following the game, CBS analyst Aaron Taylor added a "nice touch." Taylor addressed "despondent Army QB Trent Steelman, 0-for-4 vs. Navy and whose fumbled handoff killed his and Army’s last chance." Taylor said, "Life is 10 percent what happens to you, 90 percent what you do about it" (N.Y. POST, 12/10).
As the NHL lockout has “dragged on, sports channels that usually show NHL games have had to scramble to fill their lineups,” according to Micheline Maynard of the N.Y. TIMES. In an effort to fill the vacancies left by canceled games, FS Detroit has “shifted telecasts of the Pistons from its high-definition channel to the main FoxSports channel.” The net also is “planning to run more college hockey games, and it is talking with the Red Wings about showing games played” by the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. The RSN is “leaning on its video library of past Red Wings games and those played by the Detroit Tigers.” Comcast SportsNet Chicago “plans to show the Hockey City Classic, a four-team college tournament in February at Soldier Field.” But in Chicago, college hockey “cannot compete with the Blackhawks.” CSN Chicago VP & GM Phil Bedella “has a multitude of options in the future ... because the network carries the Bulls, the White Sox and the Cubs as well as the Blackhawks.” Bedella said one plan if the NHL cancels the season is to run “a more robust spring training schedule.” Bedella added that so far, the Blackhawks’ “major advertisers have kept with the amended schedule.” He “expects they will return when play resumes, whether this winter or next fall.” But Bedella “lost advertisers who place one-time spots throughout the season, according to their needs” and “cannot blame them for leaving.” The CBC until last weekend “ran a contest called Your Pick, in which fans voted for the classic games they wanted to view.” CBC Head of Media Relations Chuck Thompson said that “nonhockey programming would be shown until it was clear whether a settlement would be reached” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/9).
LOSING EYES & EARS: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Simon Houpt reported an audience in Canada “the size of Edmonton has stopped watching TV at home on Saturday night.” BBM Canada data shows that viewership between 7:00-10:00pm ET is down year-over-year about 7.6%, which “represents a drop of roughly 800,000, to approximately 11.6 million viewers in an average minute.” The change in viewing habits is “felt most sharply by the CBC, which last year pulled in more than two million viewers on average” for its flagship edition of "Hockey Night In Canada" in October and November, making it “the only regularly scheduled Saturday broadcast to land in the top 20 of weekly programs.” Without any NHL games, the CBC has “aired old hockey matches for the past two months, which drew only about 10 per cent of its usual Saturday night audience; it is now airing holiday-themed programming in that time slot” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the “sports-talk results for the fall Bureau of Broadcast Measurement rating period (males 25-54) have reflected the ennui of hockey fans who are fed up and can’t take more lockout talk.” CTV President of Sports & Exec VP/Programming Phil King wrote in an e-mail, “All sports radio including ours is down because of no NHL. Even those networks without NHL (play-by-play) are down because no one wants to listen to (contract) talk any more.” Dowbiggin wrote the ratings in Canadian NHL cities are “not cataclysmic.” Dowbiggin: “At least, not yet.” Making the situation “more disappointing for programmers, any declines come after a period of ratings success earlier this year for the NHL host broadcasters in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, among others.” Many had “record numbers last spring” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8).
ESPN again rose to the top of the monthly comScore reach rankings among U.S. sports sites in November, supplanting usual leader Yahoo Sports for the second time in three months. This marks ESPN's third trip to the top of the list since '08. Yahoo dropped to second with 40.4 million uniques in November. The new comScore list also carries a new name for the Turner listing, with "Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network" more overtly highlighting combined traffic following Turner's acquisition of Bleacher Report earlier this year. In addition to the reach win, ESPN retained its usual large lead in consumption with an average of 101.9 minutes per visitor during the month. The November list predates the recent completion of the large digital content and marketing alliance between Yahoo and NBC Sports, a partnership that will create a joint listing for future comScore lists, and far and away the most trafficked destination among U.S. sports sites.RANK
SITE UNIQUES (000)1) ESPN 42,0512) Yahoo Sports* 40,4363) FoxSports.com on MSN 35,3194) NFL Internet Group 23,5015) Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network** 21,4496) CBS Sports 21,4157) USA Today Sports Media Group*** 20,2628) NBC Sports^ 11,3019) Sports Illustrated sites 10,41110) Sporting News on AOL 9,44511) SB Nation 9,01912) MLB 6,20413) Big Lead Sports by FSV 5,40614) JumpTV NeuLion 5,36315) Stack Media 5,332
The NBA has surpassed 1 billion video views on its official YouTube channel, making it the first pro sports channel on YouTube to reach the mark. The NBA first teamed with YouTube in late '05, launched the dedicated channel two years later, and recently expanded the relationship to show more than 350 NBA D-League games live. "This is a real rubber stamp of how our content, and this means of delivery, is resonating with fans," said NBA Entertainment Exec VP and Exec Producer of Production, Programming & Broadcasting Danny Meiseles. To mark the milestone, the league uploaded a thank-you video featuring highlights of several of the most-viewed clips in the channel's history.