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Maple Leafs owners Rogers Communications and Bell Media are "set to test the friendliness of their partnership as they divvy up the NHL team’s radio broadcasts ahead of a shortened season," according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. The companies already have "agreed to share the games 50/50, which means they’ll have about 25 each to put on their respective radio stations." A lockout-shortened season has "ratcheted up the importance of each regular-season game, however, and the companies are locked in a fierce battle for listeners in the Greater Toronto Area -- which could make the process of selecting who gets what difficult when the NHL schedule is released some time this week." How they handle the radio negotiations will "help set the tone for upcoming discussions on television rights that will eventually arise" when the current broadcast deals expire in '15. The negotiations are "all the trickier because Rogers is already committed to airing Raptors games," and because the NHL season overlaps with the company's coverage of Blue Jays games. Meanwhile, the CBC, which has exclusive NHL rights on Saturday nights with "Hockey Night in Canada," is "considering adding a number of games to its schedule in order to make up for those it lost in the lockout and meet its contractual obligations." The broadcasters also "face a host of other challenges" due to the shortened NHL season (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/10).
DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD: RDS President Gerry Frappier said that the NHL season starting in mid-January "is far from ideal" for the net. Frappier: "The timing, frankly, could not have been worse. To have a truncated season return in the middle of January is just about the worst-case scenario for a broadcaster. ... So in some cases the national advertisers will not have the same money to re-invest in hockey when we come back." He added, "The second reason is that in the course of an 82-game schedule, not every game is in the same period of time that has the same commercial value to advertisers. Games in November and December have a lot more value than games in January or February because of the Christmas/consumer-shopping window." But Frappier continued, "This is a way better situation than if there had been a cancellation of the season. We could’ve maybe had a better financial picture if say hockey had not come back but that’s short-term thinking. You damage the game and you’re invested in this game for the long-term." Frappier said hockey is a "loss leader" for nets like RDS and TSN. In Montreal, Brendan Kelly writes, "But again that’s short-term thinking -- the fact is the NHL generates subscribers and their fees are a huge part of RDS’s financial picture" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/10).
Yahoo Sports in December returned to the top of the monthly comScore reach rankings among U.S. sports sites, continuing a back-and-forth with ESPN for the top spot over the past five months. Yahoo last month led the way with 40.01 million unique visitors. The rest of the list mostly held form compared to November. The rankings still predate the digital content and marketing partnership between Yahoo and NBC Sports that ultimately will create a joint listing in comScore rankings. ESPN again led in consumption among U.S. sports sites with an average of 82 minutes per visitor during the month.
RANK SITEUNIQUES (000) 1) Yahoo Sports*40,092 2) ESPN38,307 3) FoxSports.com on MSN36,958 4) NFL Internet Group23,537 5) USA Today Sports Media Group**20,707 6) Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network***19,307 7) CBS Sports18,191 8) NBC Sports^11,987 9) Sports Illustrated sites10,806 10) SB Nation10,004 11) Sporting News on AOL9,511 12) MLB6,791 13) Big Lead Sports by FSV6,307 14) Stack Media5,813 15) JumpTV/NeuLion4,098
Yesterday's surprise video game licensing deal involving 2K Sports, MLB, MLBAM and the MLBPA to revive the thought-extinct "MLB 2K" franchise is a one-year pact designed to buy time for baseball until the next gaming console cycle. Sony and Microsoft are both said to be working on next-generation advancements to the existing PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and the bridge deal allows baseball to stay fully active in the console gaming space while those projects develop. The extension, in the works since last fall, calls for the March 5 release of "MLB 2K 13" for both consoles. 2K Sports' return to baseball arrives despite a decidedly choppy five-year contract run that included several critically panned games and tens of millions of dollars in fiscal losses. Before yesterday's news, MLB was slated to go without a video game this year for the Xbox 360, with Sony's "MLB: The Show" series available only on Sony platforms. "I think we all recognize this is sort of a gap year coming up in console cycles. But you never want to be dark in the marketplace (with regard to the Xbox 360)," said MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman. "So what we've done is gone back to a trusted partner who knows the space and has a game engine. This will allow us the opportunity to look at the overall gaming landscape and see where it goes."
In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin writes since joining Turner Sports as an NBA analyst in '05, Basketball HOFer Reggie Miller has "analyzed everything in his on-air path, friends and foes alike." Miller has "razzed" colleague Charles Barkley for "not being as tough as his reputation." He also has "chided fellow TNT analyst Kenny Smith for sprouting a belly." Active NBAers "have heard from him, too." Miller said, "I've never been one to hold my tongue." TNT's Kevin Harlan said that Miller "excels at being a student of the moment." Harlan: "He knows body language and can see expressions that none of us (who haven't played) could ever pick up on" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/10).
WHAT A TANGLED WEBB: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote under the header, "ESPN's Brent Musburger Need Not Apologize For Anything." Morrissey: "What part of Musburger's comments required an apology? The part where he said a beauty contest winner was beautiful?" What seems to "bother people most" about Musburger's on-air comments regarding Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, is "the fact that Musburger is 73." For someone to "have those thoughts is creepy, we've been told." Morrissey writes, "To sum up: Sexism is bad, ageism is just fine" (SUNTIMES.com, 1/9).
FANTASY VS. REALITY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Steve Ladurantaye reported the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission has "cleared the way for a speciality station dedicated solely to filling the seemingly insatiable demand for sports statistics." Fight Media "can now develop a channel it will call The League -- Fantasy Sports TV, and make it available as a speciality channel." The company "had to agree that only 10 per cent of its programming could be live sporting events" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 1/9).