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ESPN Friday morning announced "First Take" panelist Rob Parker "has been suspended until further notice" following comments he made on Thursday's show regarding race and Redskins QB Robert Griffin III. The network in a statement said, "We are conducting a full review." Parker was not on the show Friday, and the net did not mention the controversy surrounding the comments during the first portion of the show (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Bob Raissman reports Parker originally was "scheduled to appear" on Friday's program. Parker on his Twitter feed following Thursday's show "did not apologize" for his comments, but instead "posted tweets either supporting his point of view or his right to say what he said." A source prior to the suspension said, "That might not sit well with ESPN. He might have considered laying low on Twitter while they (ESPN brass) were deciding what they are going to do." Raissman writes Parker's critics "said much of his commentary is designed to draw attention to himself." The source said, "It's a double-edged sword over there (at ESPN). They want these debate shows to be provocative. Then when someone pushes too far, they've got a problem. It's tricky" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 12/14).
WHAT GOT HIM IN THIS SITUATION: The topic of Griffin not wanting to be defined by his race was brought up on the show, and Parker said, “This throws up a red flag when I keep hearing … a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people.” Parker then asked, “Is he a brother or is he a cornball brother?” He explained that Griffin is “black” but he is “not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us. He’s kind of black but he’s not the guy you really want to hang out with.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he does not “judge someone’s blackness” based on whether he wears braids in his hair or the race of his fiancée, which was discussed earlier in the segment. ESPN’s Cari Champion said to Parker, “You can’t take a bit of his comments here and there and put them all together and assert he is distancing himself from being African-American” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 12/13).
CROSSING THE LINE: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder wrote Parker "offered bizarre commentary ... that is unbelievable even by Rob Parker's standards." Yoder asked, "Are we really making judgments and insinuations and raising speculation about people and their character based on how they wear their hair, who they marry, and what their political beliefs might be?" Yoder: "How can ESPN defend their integrity and their brand when Rob Parker, a man they have continued to promote and feature on network airwaves, asks of Robert Griffin III, 'is he a brother or a cornball brother?'" If this is the "present and the future of 'Embrace Debate' then ESPN has some serious soul searching to do" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/13). In Boston, Chad Finn writes Parker is "doing his best to earn an ESPN varsity letter in spewing foolishness as well as any of his counterparts on that shameless abomination of a program." Finn: "I’d apologize for giving space to Parker’s nonsense, but I suspect the only way he gets reprimanded for them is if enough offended viewers with an outlet call him out." Meanwhile, the "mystery continues as to why a show featuring [Skip] Bayless and Parker is one any viewer would want to hang out with" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/14). In DC, Dan Steinberg wrote the whole discussion "reeks of attention-seeking, and repeating it does me no credit" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/13). In K.C., Jenee Osterheldt wrote the blogosphere "isn't buying the typecasting either." There was "plenty of uproar online about Parker's misstep." Parker is "not the keeper of blackness or the mouthpiece for the black community." He is simply "pushing old racist stereotypes disguised as pro-blackness" (KANSASCITY.com, 12/13).
TWITTER REAX: Phoenix-based KTAR-AM host John Gambadoro wrote on his Twitter feed, "I worked with Rob Parker at Newsday for a few years -- without any doubt he deserves to be fired by ESPN for his comments on RGIII." The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi wrote, "Rush Limbaugh gets fired by #ESPN for saying something not even close to being as racist as what Rob Parker and Stephen A. Smith said." SI.com's Jim Trotter said, "If espn were going to fire everyone who has made a dumb statement on first take, well, who would be left? made them myself on that show." Blogger Clay Travis wrote, "Debating whether someone is 'black enough' is so incredibly racist I can't even imagine how it happens. Nice work, ESPN." SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "Looking forward to tomorrow's First Take where they attempt to morph manufactured race-baiting into a manufactured teachable moment."
Discovery is making its first significant play in the sports media marketplace by entering into an exclusive negotiating window to buy a 20% stake in the European sports media company Eurosport for cash considerations of $221.6M. Discovery holds an option to take a controlling 51% stake in the company after two years. If Discovery exercises that option, France-based TF1, which co-owns Eurosport, can exercise an option of its own that would give Discovery complete control in the company. "Eurosport is a much more manageable sports programming model with diversified rights fees, as compared to higher and more competitive U.S. sports rights," Discovery President & CEO David Zaslav said during a conference call Friday morning. Zaslav said he was attracted by Eurosports' portfolio of rights, which stayed away from big ticket items like European soccer. "Eurosport is not in the big sports business. It is in the affinity sports business," he said. "The goal is that on a number of days every month -- not every day -- that this is somebody's favorite network, whether it be skiing or tennis or curling. … It's carved out an interesting niche that's a little bit different than traditional sports, where the fees are very high. … It's the only platform where if you having skiing rights and you want to build that sport, it's the only platform where you can go and reach 59 countries." Zaslav said the Eurosport purchase does not make Discovery any more likely to compete for rights in the U.S. market. "The U.S. sports business tends to be dominated by huge checks that you have to spend to buy a big sport, and then you build an asset around it," he said. "I don't see us getting into that business in the U.S. … The attack on sports in the United States is both aggressive and pretty well played. I don't see anything that we bring to the table with sports. The costs are very high. The margins aren't as attractive as our business" (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
ENHANCES DISCOVERY'S STRATEGY: Zaslav said with the acquisition of Eurosport, Discovery will be the “largest programmer in Europe and we'll be the largest pay-TV global programmer outside the U.S.” Zaslav: “It really enhances our overall strategy of taking our great content … and taking it around the world. This helps to supercharge that international story and reinforces the fact that as a global company, we're much stronger and geographically, we're much more stable and positioned for growth.” He notes Eurosport is the “leader in sports all across Europe,” and there is “no platform that even comes close.” Zaslav: “In fact, there is no platform that's really multi-country. So Eurosport is a great brand in 59 countries but more importantly, they're in the sports business without paying a lot of money for sports. … The attraction for us is we're in all 59 of those countries with between six and eight channels of our own. In most of those markets, we're the No. 1 channel for men, and we have a top channel for women. When you put that together with Eurosport, we think that we have some more value to bring to advertisers and distributors” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 12/14).
The Dodgers' "exclusive window of talks with incumbent Fox Sports' Prime Ticket has come and gone, but more discussions have been taking place with Time Warner Cable over the past week and no deal has been reached," according to sources cited by Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Fox will have "until early January to decide if it will accept the Dodgers' proposal, knowing the team continues to discuss its options with TWC at the same time." From the TWC side, the option to "create another Dodger-centric channel has been discussed." Also to be negotiated is "whether the Dodgers would demand some of their games continued to be accessible through a secondary provider -- more specifically," KCAL-CBS. Sources said that discussions of the Dodgers "starting their own TV channel in the meantime have quieted ... because of the risk factors involved in launching such a venture" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell wrote, "If the Dodgers are spending $215 million, which balloons to $235 million with benefits and a luxury tax, how are they doing this when, before all other costs, the team will likely gross an estimated $250 million in 2013?" It "hasn't been easy to figure out because, frankly, the principals at Guggenheim Partners ... haven't been forthcoming with their strategy." While the Dodgers have "every right to be tight-lipped, it certainly hasn't made it easy for the league, the other owners or the fans, who want to be assured that the team isn't loading up debt that would affect the franchise's future." So far, the answer to "rationalizing the $2.15 billion purchase price and recent spending is an upcoming television deal." There are "certainly a lot of nervous people in the industry wondering where this is all leading." They wonder if it is "possible they somehow miscalculated what the Dodgers would net from a TV deal and wondering if this is similar to the overly leveraged Frank McCourt that led to the mess that the new owners inherited" (ESPN.com, 12/13).
MLB has "asked a private investment bank to seek potential new owners for the rights that are now held by the regional sports network controlled by Orioles owner Peter Angelos," according to James Wagner of the WASHINGTON POST. The league is hoping to find a solution to the dispute between the Nationals and Orioles over the "value of the Nationals’ television rights." Sources said that N.Y.-based investment bank Allen & Co. is "seeking buyers to acquire the two franchises’ broadcast rights" from MASN. One source added that Fox Sports and Comcast "are candidates to purchase the rights." However, another source said that the network "has not been approached about a potential sale and that MASN is not for sale." The Nationals and MASN have "been in a disagreement over the size of the Nationals’ TV rights fee since the end of the 2011 season." MLB and the Nationals declined to comment (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).
HBO ringside boxing commentator Larry Merchant this Saturday will end his 35-year role with the season finale of World Championship Boxing, which features the Nonito Donaire-Jorge Arce bout in Houston. The net’s Max Kellerman now will be the full-time ringside commentator and post-fight interviewer (HBO). In L.A., Lance Pugmire noted Merchant’s “two-year deal to provide commentary ends at the calendar year, and HBO can now call upon him for three years … [to] weigh in on boxing news and big fights.” Kellerman will assume the full-time role “alongside play-by-play broadcaster Jim Lampley.” Merchant said, “I’m not retiring. I see myself as a work in progress, and I’m curious about what my next adventure will be in the media: writing, producing, Internet?” (LATIMES.com, 12/13). In N.Y., Bob Raissman cited a source as saying, "Both sides decided it was as good a time as any to do this. They will part company on good terms" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 12/13). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Merchant, who turns 82 in February, is “never shy about telling what he sees to be the truth in the corruptive world of boxing.” Lampley plans to do “a retrospective of Merchant's career during his next episode” of "The Fight Game with Jim Lampley," airing Saturday after the live fight coverage (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael noted Merchant is “known for his no-nonsense approach and often whimsical view of the fight game” (ESPN.com, 12/13).
The NFL for the second straight year is "seeing a slight drop in the number of people who are tuning into its games," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Excluding the first-ever 13-telecast Thursday night package on NFL Network, games are "averaging about 17.4 million viewers per game, down 2% from last year and 3% from 2010." This decline is "far smaller than the precipitous drop the television business has experienced overall." NFL games "account for 24 of the 25 most-watched television shows since Labor Day." NFL audiences also are "a healthy 18% larger than they were in 2008." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said, "The consistency and magnitude of the numbers are very impressive." Fox Sports VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill said, "We can't expect ratings growth year after year ad infinitum. We're very comfortable with where we are." NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp added, "I don't see being off 1% as being a major travesty. That said, we are always tweaking." Among the NFL's TV partners, only ESPN "is showing an increase in its audience size compared with this stage of last season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/14).
THE LOCAL SCENE: In Houston, David Barron noted the Texans-Patriots “MNF” telecast earned a 34.6 combined local rating across ESPN and KHOU-CBS, marking the “largest of the team’s four prime-time audiences this season.” Monday night’s telecast was “slightly higher than the combined 34.4 rating for the Texans’ earlier Monday night win over the Jets” (CHRON.com, 12/11). The Texans-Patriots “MNF” telecast also drew a 39.0 local rating in Boston, marking the third-best audience for a Patriots game this season to date (Patriots).
The Mets and ESPN Deportes N.Y. 1050 on Thursday announced that the radio station will broadcast Mets games in Spanish for the '13 season. Under the agreement, the station will broadcast 150 regular-season games, including select games from spring training and the postseason. Coverage also will include pre- and postgame shows for each game (ESPN). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the deal is "another clear signal the bidding and wooing between CBS Radio Network and ESPN Radio for New Yawk-language Yankees and Mets rights will be intense, as both teams’ deals expire with CBS-owned stations after this season." Due to price re-structuring, WCBS "pays between $12-$15 million per season for Yankees rights." Sources said that it is "a money-losing deal." The Mets receive "roughly half that from WFAN, now fully owned by CBS." A source said, "The New York Hispanic market is large and sports-minded. It can carry its advertising weight. And it’s a largely urban audience, so 1050’s poor night-signal isn’t as harmful.” Mushnick notes beyond that, Citi Field this season "will include a radio booth carrying a sign that identifies its inhabitants as employees of ESPN-NY." To ESPN -- and, "no doubt, to WFAN -- that’s big." Mushnick: "And there’s more where that came from" (N.Y. POST, 12/14).
NeuLion, which supports digital video streaming efforts of numerous pro and college entities including the NFL and NBA, has partnered with WWE to support the live stream Saturday night of the Rolling Stones' concert at Prudential Center. The effort for NeuLion represents what the company hopes will be the beginning of a significant expansion from its core expertise in sports to music and other live entertainment events. "We're definitely hoping this concert opens new markets for us, since we see a lot of skills that easily cross over," said NeuLion Exec VP Chris Wagner, whose first rock concert he attended was the Rolling Stones on their Some Girls tour in '78. "All things we do in terms of multi-platform content delivery we think cross over very well to music, particularly given all the changes in that industry's business model." The company is now in the midst of reaching out to various promoters, artists, management representatives and venue operators in search of more music-based streaming efforts. The $39.99 PPV event will be available on a large array of computer, tablet and smartphone devices and be accessible to purchasers on an on-demand basis for 30 days following the concert.
“UFC on Fox 5” finished with a 2.5 rating and 4.4 million viewers on Saturday from 8:00-10:40pm ET, up 79% and 80%, respectively, from a 1.4 rating and 2.4 million viewers for “UFC on Fox 4” in early August. The audience from Saturday night ranks third among Fox’ five UFC telecasts to date. “UFC on Fox 5” began with a 2.0 rating (3.6 million viewers) for the Mike Swick-Matt Brown bout, with the audience then growing throughout the telecast, peaking at a 3.3 rating (5.7 million viewers) for the Benson Henderson-Nate Diaz main event. The telecast ranked third for the week among males 18-34, behind only NBC’s “SNF” and Fox’ “The Simpsons.” Through five telecasts, "UFC on Fox" is averaging a 2.1 rating and 3.7 million viewers. Meanwhile, FX earned a 0.8 rating and 1.2 million viewers for the UFC prelims on Saturday from 5:00-8:00pm."UFC ON FOX" AUDIENCE TO DATEDATE
HEADLINE FIGHTRATINGVIEWERS (000)11/12/11 Junior Dos Santos-Cain Velasquez3.15,6751/28/12 Rashad Evans-Phil Davis2.64,6615/5/12 Nate Diaz-Jim Miller1.52,4188/4/12 Shogan Rua-Mauricio Vera1.42,43612/8/12 Benson Henderson-Nate Diaz2.54,392HEISMAN TROPHY CEREMONY AUDIENCE TREND ON ESPNYEAR WINNERRATINGVIEWERS (000)'12 Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel3.14,902'11 Baylor QB Robert Griffin III2.94,603'10 Auburn QB Cam Newton2.33,784'09 Alabama RB Mark Ingram3.55,990'08 Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford2.74,151MOST-VIEWED DOCUMENTARIES ON ESPNDATE FILMRATINGVIEWERS (000)12/8/12 "You Don't Know Bo"2.33,6023/13/11 "The Fab Five"1.82,74610/2/12 "Broke"1.72,52812/11/10 "Pony Excess"1.62,51712/12/09 "The U"1.62,368
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on Fox": Saints-Giants (91%)12/9Fox4:15-7:43pm14.824,500 "Sunday Night Football":
"NFL on Fox": (regional)12/9Fox1:00-4:15pm10.316,300 "NFL on CBS": (single)12/9CBS1:00-4:05pm10.2n/a "The OT"12/9Fox7:43-8:00pm7.111,450 "Football Night in America"12/9NBC7:30-8:15pm5.18,324 NCAA Football: Army-Navy12/8CBS3:00-7:00pm3.8n/a "Fox NFL Sunday"12/9Fox12:00-1:00pm3.45,000 "UFC on Fox 5"12/8Fox8:00-10:40pm2.54,392 "The NFL Today"12/9CBS12:00-1:00pm2.5n/a "College Football Today"12/8CBS2:30-3:00pm1.1n/a NCAA Basketball:
Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest12/9CBS5:00-6:00pm1.0n/a "ESPN Sports Saturday"12/8ABC4:00-6:00pm0.7n/a Golf: Franklin Templeton
Shootout: Third Round12/8NBC4:00-6:00pm0.7n/a
ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating12/9NBC1:00-3:00pm0.6n/a Golf: Franklin Templeton
Shootout: Final Round12/9NBC3:00-6:00pm0.6n/a
"ESPN All America Team Show"12/8ABC3:00-4:00pm0.5n/a Red Bull Signature Series: Rampage12/8NBC2:00-4:00pm0.5n/a TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football":
"Thursday Night Football":
Heisman Trophy Ceremony12/8ESPN8:00-9:08pm3.14,902 30 for 30: "You Don't Know Bo"12/8ESPN9:08-10:38pm2.33,602 "Thursday Night Football Pre-Kick"12/6NFLN8:00-8:30pm2.23,453 "Monday Night Countdown"12/3ESPN6:30-8:30pm1.92,859 NBA: Knicks-Heat12/6TNT8:15-10:50pm1.82,696 NBA: Lakers-Thunder12/7ESPN9:58pm-12:21am1.82,660 "Sunday NFL Countdown"12/9ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.31,924 FCS Quarterfinal:
Georgia Southern-Old Dominion12/8ESPN12:00-3:32pm1.11,566