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The Dodgers have "invited Fox Sports to take a lesser role in the team's television future," according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. It is "unclear exactly what the Dodgers might propose to Fox" or whether Time Warner Cable's contract for the team's TV rights "would need to be modified in any way." However, the sources said that the Dodgers "could consider pitching Fox on carrying a small number of games" on KTTV-Fox or KCOP-MYT. That would "enable the team to continue providing at least a few games on free local television for the benefit of fans without cable or satellite subscriptions." The sources said that the Dodgers "might be interested in securing spots for their team on the national broadcasts on Fox Sports 1, the soon-to-be-launched Fox rival to ESPN" (LATIMES.com, 1/24). Meanwhile, in L.A., Joe Flint cited sources as saying that TWC "promised the team that it would cover fees from other distributors who don't sign on to carry" the company's proposed Dodgers-owners channel. If DirecTV, for example, "does not sign on to carry the new Dodgers channel, Time Warner Cable will pay the subscription fees until a deal could be reached with the satellite broadcaster." The price for the Dodgers channel is "expected to be in the neighborhood of $5 a subscriber per month." The channel "would likely launch either late this year or early next year after the Dodgers' deal with Prime Ticket ends" (LATIMES.com, 1/24).
MANIFEST DESTINY: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes the reality of a Dodgers' network is that, on the "heels of the TWC SportsNet deal to capture the Lakers' around-the-clock news cycle, this business plan was bound to happen." Santa Monica-based Desser Sports Media President Ed Desser said, "I've little doubt the Dodgers will be able to launch a successful channel. ... What's pretty clear is that folks at Guggenheim are taking a financier's view of the sports business and not a traditionalist's approach, and that creates new, interesting dynamics that are fun to watch." But Hoffarth writes, "Before the Dodgers start printing money, someone's going to have to finance it." Those in the business world "continue to call this Dodger-TWC partnership a tipping point, a bubble-burster, or the last straw breaking the viewers' back." Desser said, "What viewers are starting to expect more with what they see with the Lakers on TWC SportsNet is that you can have a more immersive and complete coverage of your favorite team on a linear TV surface that has really been lacking until recent times." Hoffarth writes, "If that's one of the upsides to a team having its own channel, the downside might come when subscribers can't find the channel on their systems because the company has decided it can't absorb the fees that come with it." Sports Business Group President David Carter said, "Anybody who's a Dodger fan will enjoy all the customer- friendly content, but they may find themselves with a little bit of a hangover with the potential sticker stock as this rolls out" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/25). In California, Michael Lev writes most sports fans are willing to pay for additional RSNs "because TV provides a product we consider valuable." Lev: "If you're a diehard Dodgers fan, you'll pay to see the Dodgers. Whether there's a cap on that -- a point where it's no longer an affordable or justifiable expense -- remains to be seen. Executives with Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers are betting there isn't" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/25).
HOPE FOR THE LITTLE GUY: In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes under the header, "Baseball TV Deals Growing More Lucrative For Teams." While L.A. has the No. 2 TV market in the U.S., a "quick scan of recent local cable television deals in baseball shows some smaller teams have hit paydirt, too." Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist said, "It’s not simply a matter of small market, big market -- it’s also a matter of when contracts expire. ... Teams that signed their contracts three years ago or four years ago, or teams that sign their contracts in another couple of years are not going to benefit from this bubble." Grathoff notes four teams that "struck it rich" recently are the Rangers, Astros, Angels and Padres. Royals Senior VP/Business Kevin Uhlich said that the "good news for the Royals is that the Dodgers, and any other team that signs a monster local TV deal," send 34% of that annual revenue to the league." MLB then distributes the money evenly among all 30 teams (K.C. STAR, 1/25).
The late Jim Valvano’s national championship win and the legendary ’83 NFL Draft will be among the films featured in the latest installment of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, which begins this spring. “Survive and Advance” chronicles the ’82-83 N.C. State men’s basketball team which reeled off 10 straight wins to capture the NCAA title over the Univ. of Houston's “Phi Slamma Jamma” team. It debuts March 17 at 9:00pm ET, just after the NCAA Tournament bracket is unveiled. The documentary was directed by Jonathan Hock, who oversaw other “30 for 30” projects on former NBAer Chris Herren (“Unguarded”) and former NFLer Marcus Dupree (“The Best That Never Was”). ESPN Films VP and Exec Producer Connor Schell said, “He’s just a master at what he does. That team and those guys and what coach Valvano meant to them and how they’ve all stayed together through the years and in many ways carried on Jimmy V’s legacy -- it was a story that we had to tell.” The documentary includes commentary from Dereck Whittenburg, who assisted on the game-winning bucket in the national championship game. Meanwhile, ESPN will also team up with NFL Films and director Ken Rodgers for a glance at the ’83 NFL Draft, which had six QBs taken in the first round, including Pro Football HOFers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Debuting April 23 at 9:00pm ET -- two nights before the ’13 Draft -- “Elway to Marino” focuses not only on the star-studded draft class, but also on its impact on a league that was just coming off a player strike and fending off the emerging USFL. Schell said, “Those guys are as good as anyone in the field at bringing stories like this to life. As excited as I am about ‘Survive and Advance,’ I think ‘Elway to Marino’ will be good, too.”
SHORT & SWEET: Schell also touched on the five “30 for 30” short films that have debuted on Grantland.com. He said ESPN Films hopes to produce approximately 12-15 shorts this year. “Collectively we love that we have that creative outlet now,” he said. “There’s an incredible reservoir of stories in the sports world and the television format of 50-75 or 100 minutes is not necessarily the right format for every story.”
CNN and Turner Sports Thursday announced that they have hired ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to serve as a sports reporter and anchor a new weekend sports program on CNN beginning later this year. Nichols will cover all major sporting events, including the Olympics, for CNN. Her first assignment will be Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans (CNN/Turner Sports). THE BIG LEAD’s Jason McIntyre reported ESPN employees “privately expressed shock at her departure, which comes on the heels" of losing "SportsCenter" host Cindy Brunson in October and Erin Andrews and Michelle Beadle last summer. One could “argue that after Hannah Storm, Nichols was ESPN’s most prominent female voice.” A source said that Nichols “had two offers from major networks, and one from an all-sports network.” The source said ESPN’s offer was “tremendous.” But it did not “include hosting duties.” The source said that the move “has been in the works since about October” (THEBIGLEAD.com, 1/24). BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger wrote the hire “falls in line with new CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker's comments back in November that CNN needed to broaden its definition of what news is” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 1/24). CNN Senior VP/PR Christa Robinson said, “You can characterize this move as an effort to increase sports programming on CNN” (USA TODAY, 1/25).
BANKING ON IT: In Boston, Chad Finn notes NBC Sports Network’s “The Crossover,” which debuts Monday at 6:00pm ET and will be co-hosted by Beadle and Dave Briggs, will be a "mix of sports, pop culture, and entertainment, with an emphasis on social media.” The net has acknowledged that it is "counting on ‘The Crossover’ to become one of its signature shows.” It is “banking on Beadle,” whose popularity is “as close to a safe bet as NBC Sports Network can make as it tries to establish itself as a destination cable sports network.” Still, nothing is “a guarantee, and the reality is harsh and apparent: The network, which currently receives some of its highest ratings for afternoon hunting programming, needs ‘The Crossover’ to succeed if it is ever going to make the impact it covets.” Beadle said, “There’s not just one place to go anymore, and part of us coming here and doing this show is to bring a fun half-hour, not take yourself too seriously. No contrived arguments where it feels forced or not organic” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/25).
U.S. Figure Skating (USFS) has partnered with Van Wagner Sports and MLBAM, a partner in the NGB's digital venture IceNetwork.com, to acquire the domestic media rights for all Int'l Skating Union events through '18. The acquisition, which is expected to be announced Friday, increases the NGB's media rights by more than 70 hours. USFS will sublicense ISU figure skating events to NBC, which has agreed to show approximately 20 hours annually. Another 50 hours will be shown on Universal Sports. Additional programming will be available on IceNetwork.com. USFS has also signed an extension with NBC that will see the network air 11 hours of USFS events annually through '18. USFS Exec Dir David Raith said, “Figure skating will have a true home you can count on and you’ll know it for the next five years. Our rights and the ISU rights combined are truly a major property in this country.” Van Wagner Sports will sell advertising for the broadcasts. The agency currently sells more than 30 hours of figure skating programming on NBC in the 4th and 1st quarter annually. It is sold out of inventory in the first quarter of this year, and its sales success was part of the reason USFS picked up additional programming from the ISU. Van Wagner President Cliff Kaplan said, “The growth in advertising and sponsorship revenue is a big part of what’s supporting the expansion of these rights. The roster of partners, the sell out we’ve gotten to, what we’re seeing is there’s clearly advertising and sponsorship demand for this programming.” More than anything, Raith said the acquisition was about raising awareness of figure skating. He added, “The large increase in the number of hours we’ll be seen we hope helps with the popularity of figure skating and create new stars, and from a business standpoint, we hope it’s going to generate more revenue.”
CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus on Thursday announced that Packers LB Clay Matthews will “serve as a guest analyst for CBS in its coverage of Super Bowl XLVII," according to Bob Wolfley of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. McManus said that the network was “looking for a current player in the league who played on defense to fill one of its two spots as a guest analyst.” He did not announce “who the other player (or coach) will be in that role.” McManus: "Having a defensive player, and a dominant defensive player, give his perspective on the teams and the Super Bowl is really great for us." He added that the network's Super Bowl production team “had a meeting a few weeks ago and talked ‘about a dozen’ players or coaches who could serve in what McManus called a ‘contributing analyst’ role.” Wolfley notes Packers QB Aaron Rodgers last season was a guest analyst on NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XLVI. However, Rodgers on his radio show this week “was asked if he was going to attend any events during Super Bowl week in New Orleans.” He said while laughing, "I can tell you I won't be working for CBS." Rodgers earlier this season “had a quarrel with the way CBS' ‘60 Minutes’ portrayed him in a feature story” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/25).
WHAT'S THE COVERAGE? In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes CBS during its Super Bowl pregame show “won’t dare play party pooper by airing an in-depth report on the wrongful death suit filed Wednesday by the family of former linebacker Junior Seau.” Mixing “harsh reality” with the Harbaugh brothers’ “feel-good story, or the 99th feature on the final day of Ray Lewis’ career, could damage the product.” Raissman writes, “Here is the real reason this story ain’t seeing the light of day: Any legit report on the lawsuit might actually force CBS to examine its role, and the role of the league’s other TV partners, in ‘glorifying violence,’ leaving fans with the impression that monster hits don’t lead to serious health problems down the road” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/25).
LEWIS LOVE: In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes contrary to “what ESPN and other network sycophants might believe, everybody doesn't love” Ravens LB Ray Lewis. Especially the “extracurricular sideshow that accompanies No. 52 every time he knows a camera or microphone is nearby.” All the “attention given Lewis' theatrics resembles a stage audition.” Not “surprisingly, he will be in somebody's television booth next season.” Win or lose, the “one good thing about this Super Bowl is it'll be Lewis' last ride.” Frenette: “Hopefully his TV gig won't require him to wear eye black, deliver a sermon or dance on the studio set” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/25).
TUNING IN: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported the 16 regular-season Ravens games “earned a 13.1 average household rating in the D.C. market this season, easily the highest in franchise history.” That figure is “equal to about 309,000 households” in the market (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/23).
The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin reports Ottawa-based Mediamiser is "scraping and analyzing the approximately 1.3 million hockey tweets produced since" the NHL lockout began on Sept. 15. Mediamiser’s findings show that the "difference in opinion between negative and positive tweets was remarkably close." Approximately 16% of the messages "recorded about hockey till the Jan. 6, 2013, settlement were negative towards the league and players" versus 12% positive. But by January, with a "settlement imminent, opinion flipped." The breakdown "was 22-per-cent positive and 16-per-cent negative." One thing that "did not move the needle, however, was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s apology to fans in early January for all the damage the labour dispute had caused" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/25).
RATINGS WATCH: NHL Network's inaugural "Wednesday Night Rivalry" game between the Bruins and Rangers drew 956,000 viewers, marking the net's most-watched regular-season game ever. The previous record was set in last season's Flyers-Bruins season-opener, which attracted 874,000 viewers. Wednesday's game also was the most-watched regular-season game on cable in 11 years, when the Sharks-Red Wings drew 1.28 million viewers on ESPN (NHL). In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes the average rating for the Blues' first three games "is strong." The average local rating "was 6.5, more than triple the 2.0 figure at the same point last season." In contrast, the first three Blues' telecasts in the '05-06 season -- the first following the previous lockout ended -- "had an average rating of 2.2" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/25).
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF: SiriusXM's "Hockey Night In Canada" Radio host Gord Stellick "has left" to return to Sportsnet Radio's The Fan 590 in Toronto as host for its Maple Leafs coverage (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/25).
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) AFC Championship: Ravens-Patriots1/20CBS6:45-10:00pm25.547,707 NFC Championship: 49ers-Falcons1/20Fox3:00-6:30pm24.242,000 "The NFL Today"1/20CBS6:00-6:45pm10.8n/a "Fox NFL Sunday"1/20Fox2:00-3:00pmn/an/a NHL: (regional)1/19NBC3:00-6:00pm1.62,770 "NHL Pregame"1/19NBC3:00-3:251.11,800 NHL: Flyers-Sabres1/20NBC12:30-3:00pm1.11,800 NCAA Basketball: (regional)1/19CBS2:00-4:15pm0.9n/a NCAA Basketball: Oregon-UCLA1/19CBS4:15-6:30pm0.8n/a Monster Energy AMA Supercross1/20CBS1:00-2:00pm0.7n/a PBR 15/15 Bucking Battles1/20CBS2:00-3:00pm0.7n/a Liga MX: Club America-Atlante1/19Univ.5:55-8:00pm0.61,187 Liga MX:
CD Guadalajara-Cruz Azul1/20Telem.5:55-8:00pm0.6994
"ESPN Sports Saturday"1/19ABC4:00-6:00pm0.6n/a Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular1/20NBC4:00-6:00pm0.6816 Liga MX: Tigres-Atlas1/19UniMas7:53-10:03pm0.4651 USSA Freestyle Cup1/20NBC3:00-4:00pm0.5640 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA: Heat-Lakers1/17TNT10:39pm-1:20am2.33,547 Oprah Winfrey-Lance Armstrong
interview: Part 11/17OWN9:00-10:30pm2.13,175
Ohio State-Michigan State1/19ESPN6:09-8:18pm1.62,513
"Sunday NFL Countdown"1/20ESPN12:00-3:00pm1.72,432 NCAA Basketball:
NBA: Thunder-Mavericks1/18ESPN11:13pm-12:46am1.42,177 NCAA Basketball:
NBA: Bulls-Celtics1/18ESPN7:00-11:13pm1.31,958 "UFC Fight Night"1/19FX9:00-11:00pm1.11,857 Oprah Winfrey-Lance Armstrong
interview: Part 21/18OWN9:00-10:00pm1.11,779