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Fox Sports Media Group completed its acquisition of Cleveland-based RSN SportsTime Ohio Friday. As part of the deal, Fox signed the Indians to a long-term media rights deal that will keep Indians games with Fox well into the next decade. Specific deal terms were not released, but sources say Fox Sports is paying more than $235M for the RSN. Fox and the Indians wanted the deal to close in '12 because of various tax issues associated with it. Fox has not decided whether it will keep SportsTime Ohio up and running, bring the Indians' rights back to FS Ohio or create a second Fox Sports-branded channel for the market. SportsTime Ohio launched in '06 with most of its programming centered on Indians games. But the channel was stuck in poor cable carriage deals that hampered future growth. SportsTime Ohio has had several discussions over the years about selling its network, including some with Time Warner Cable, which is the biggest cable operator in the area. Last season, viewership for Indians games averaged 61,000 homes on SportsTime Ohio, a big drop of 36% from '11.
YES NETWORK DEAL CLOSES: Fox' parent, News Corp., quietly closed its deal to buy 49% of YES Network early last week. The deal, which values the network at $3B, was announced last month but did not close officially until just before Christmas. Similar with the Indians' situation, both News Corp. and the Yankees wanted the deal to close in '12 because of various tax issues. As part of the deal, News Corp. has an option to increase its stake to 80% within three years. If News Corp. exercises that option, the network's valuation would climb to $3.8B. As part of the deal, YES Network will keep the Yankees' rights through '42.
PLAYING KEEP-AWAY FROM TWC: A source said Fox aggressively pursued these deals after Time Warner Cable picked up the Lakers rights and began negotiating with the Dodgers in L.A. Fox execs believe that the Lakers deal, in particular, re-set the RSN market. TWC is the dominant cable operator in N.Y. and Cleveland, the home markets of Fox' two most recent acquisitions.
There is a "fun theory" that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft might have "pulled a few strings to make sure the Texans played before the Patriots so his team would have a better sense of what it was playing for before taking the field" Sunday, but NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Dan Masonson said that there is "nothing to it," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Patriots will play the Dolphins at 4:25pm ET Sunday after the Cowboys-Redskins game was flexed to NBC's "SNF." The Pats and the Texans are still battling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Texans-Colts game is scheduled for 1:00pm. Masonson said that the decision "wasn’t about prioritizing the Patriots or Texans, and certainly not about giving one of them a small tactical advantage." It was to "ensure that the Broncos-Chiefs game, also slated for 4:25 p.m. and not a candidate to be flexed because of its Mountain Time kickoff, matters as much as possible." Masonson in an e-mail wrote, “The games are scheduled sequentially to have the most impact on the playoff race/seeding. The Patriots are playing at 4:25 p.m. because that’s when the Broncos are playing. (Even if the Texans win), both teams are playing for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.” Finn writes, "In other words, the league is emphasizing the drama of having three teams scrambling to lock up the two first-round byes over everything else." Had the Patriots "remained at 1 p.m. and lost to the Dolphins, the Texans and Broncos would be locked in as the top two seeds, with the order dependent on the outcome of their games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/28).
WAITING ALL WEEK: In California, Jim Carlisle writes since "SNF" made its debut on NBC in '06, the NFL has "spoiled it as if it were an only child." The league has "given NBC all the prime-time perks and privileges it never gave ABC when it had 'Monday Night Football.'" The NFL "makes sure NBC has a dynamite matchup each week." The net has to "be very happy with the arrangement it has with the NFL." Fox and CBS are "generally happy too, but right around Christmastime each year, they often do some teeth-gnashing about their situation" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 12/28).
DirecTV next year will implement a "price hike that will increase customer bills an average of 4.5%," claiming that the fees "it pays broadcasters and cable networks will rise by about 8% next year," according to Todd Spangler of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. DirecTV's Xtra package -- currently called Choice Xtra, "which the operator says is its most popular package -- will go up $2 monthly," from $68.99 to $70.99. DirecTV said that it also is "levying a $2 per month regional sports fee 'in select ZIP codes where DirecTV is contractually obligated to distribute multiple Regional Sports Networks.'" New standard-definition and HD channels it has added include "beIN Sport, Time Warner Cable SportsNet and TWC Deportes" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/27). DirecTV Chair, President & CEO Mike White, who was named Multichannel News' Exec of the Year, said, "I believe the industry made a mistake in not having the regional sports networks be an a la carte service 10 years ago. But am I going to be able to force that to happen? I don't know. I'm pretty realistic about that. ... At some point we're all going to have to look at if it's all a la carte options, whether it is surcharges on a consumer's bill for certain services, because there is no other way to start passing it through." He said of DirecTV's deal with the NFL, "We value the relationship and we want to continue the relationship, but it has to be somewhat sensible economics for the product as it is, unless they choose they want to change the product to something nonexclusive. If they did, we'd still be interested in carrying it" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 12/24 issue).
In Louisville, Tim Sullivan reports ESPN Radio host and college basketball analyst Bob Valvano is recovering from a heart attack he suffered last week. Outside of a "precautionary two-week absence from air travel, and a planned reduction from five days a week to four on his local talk show, Valvano is making no meaningful career concessions to the delicacy of his condition." He expects to call Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville game and "resume accepting ESPN assignments early in the new year" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/28).
WHEN IN ROME...: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie reported Jim Rome's show on Showtime will "get a second season on the premium network." The show, entitled "Jim Rome on Showtime," has been "airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m." Rome noted in a tweet his show will return "in 2013 as a monthly." Currently, new episodes of the show "air weekly" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 12/21). Meanwhile, in L.A., Tom Hoffarth named Rome his "sports media person of the year" and writes after 16 years at the Premiere Radio Network, Rome was "ready for a new challenge, and CBS provided that on many platforms with the most intriguing talent deal of the year" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/28).
GOTTLIEB LEADING OFF: In California, Michael Lev profiles CBS' Doug Gottlieb and notes when Gottlieb signed with the network, it "offered him everything he ever wanted: his own TV show, involvement in the NCAA Tournament and the chance to live and raise his kids where he grew up." Gottlieb's TV show, entitled "Lead Off," airs at 12:00am ET, and he will "continue to have his own radio show on the CBS Sports Radio Network, which launches Wednesday." He also is "already a prominent figure in CBS' college basketball coverage, taking Friday-night red-eyes to New York to work in the studio." CBS Sports Exec VP and CBS Sports Network President David Berson said, "As we continue to build CBS Sports Network, having recognizable personalities was really important. Doug was on our short list. His skill set is perfect for what we want to do" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/28).
PATRIOTS PRAISE: ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss reported the Patriots will "honor longtime radio broadcasters Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti at Sunday's regular-season finale against the Dolphins." Cappelletti, who retired this year, also will "call the opening drive of the game with Santos, who is retiring at the end of the 2012 season" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 12/26).
In Baltimore, Jill Rosen noted the NFL has "introduced a collectible it's calling the Keepr" that allows people to plug into their computer and "revel in 45 minutes" of photos, interviews and stats of some NFL legends. The NFL has Keeprs for Johnny Unitas, Mike Ditka, Sonny Jurgensen, Howie Long, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Deion Sanders, Phil Simms, Roger Staubach and Franco Harris. They cost $59.95 each, and some proceeds "will benefit the NFL Player Care Foundation and other non-profits that help retired NFL players through medical and financial hardships" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 12/24).
TWITTER WARS: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder reported ESPN's Michael Smith and NFL Network's Dave Dameshek "became involved in a holiday slugfest over Dameshek's insinuation that 'Numbers Never Lie' stole the animations bits of the 'N if L.'" Yoder wrote it was "one of the better waged Twitter fights we've seen" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/24).
NEW ADDITION: In Charlotte, Mark Washburn notes CBS Radio's WBCN-AM next Wednesday will "drop its talk-show format and carry the lineup of the new CBS Sports Radio." It will "be a sister station" to WFNZ-AM. Operations Manager D.J. Stout said that the new station "will complement rather than compete with WFNZ" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/28).
PUT ON HOLD: CABLEFAX DAILY reported Common Sense Media "called for a moratorium on violent video game ads during professional and college sports broadcasts." ESPN said that it has "worked with advertisers" since last Friday to "respond appropriately." Fox Sports "declined to comment, and other nets didn't respond by deadline" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 12/26).