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NBC expects the ‘14 Sochi Games to be profitable, a marked reversal from the $223M loss from the '10 Vancouver Games reported by former network owner GE. Speaking during a press conference yesterday, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said Olympic advertising sales are "pacing extremely well." He added, "This will be a very good moment (financially) for our company." Lazarus said the net's ad sales and distribution deals, including a first-ever Winter Olympics deployment of every event live on digital platforms, have made it possible to avoid similar losses in Sochi. NBC's sales team has benefited from having an extra night of primetime programming to sell. The IOC added a dozen new sports events, such as snowboard slopestyle and team figure skating, and needed to expand the Olympics from 17 to 18 days in order to schedule the competitions. As a result, NBC yesterday announced that its primetime coverage of the Sochi Games will begin a day earlier than usual. The network will air team figure skating, women's moguls, and snowboard slopestyle, featuring Shaun White, on Feb. 6. The Opening Ceremony will take place the next day, and NBC execs believe the additional day of broadcasting will help boost viewership for the Sochi Games. NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said, “It’s terrific to have this special added night of primetime Thursday, and to do so with one of these exciting sports the IOC added to the menu (like snowboard slopestyle) … will give us a unique opportunity to kick things off and set up the Opening Ceremony the following night in a big way” (Mickle & Fisher, Staff Writers).
EXTRA NIGHT NOT PART OF RATINGS: Lazarus said that the network's "rating and viewership for the added night would not be included in its cumulative 17-night performance, in part because there were no comparisons to past Olympics." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the Thursday primetime coverage could "draw a favorable rating," but if it is "disappointing, NBC will not have to add it to its overall rating." All the events from Sochi "will be shown live at NBCOlympics.com, and more than half the events, including every United States hockey game and curling match, will be shown live somewhere" on NBC's family of networks. However, the "nine-hour time difference" between Sochi and the east coast of the U.S. "means that the prime-time broadcasts will be shown on a delay" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). It will be similar to the strategy NBC used last summer in covering the ’12 London Games, withholding some marquee events for primetime broadcasts but offering every event live digitally. NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, "The word of this Olympics to me is circulation." He added, "What we validated in London was the more we made Olympic content available across platforms the more ultimately television viewing we realized" (Mickle & Fisher).
NAME THAT TUNE: A major Olympics tune-in/One-Year-Out marketing campaign will begin tonight when NBC airs a 60-second promo spot for the Sochi Games across all 19 of its affiliated broadcast and cable networks. The spot will air in the 8:00pm hour and it also will air on 33 non-NBC channels through Comcast's ad sales division. More than 75,000 tune-in spots will air on cable, satellite and telecommunications networks over the next year. Also planned is a 14 foot-by-56 foot temporary ski slope constructed in Rockefeller Plaza in N.Y. for use on "Today." NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller estimated that every person in the U.S. will see a tune-in spot 25 times between now and the Opening Ceremony next year. He added that NBC research shows that more than 70% of U.S. viewers intend to watch the Olympics. That number is up from the 60% of viewers who intended to watch the London and Vancouver Games, and it is more than 20% higher than the tune-in number for most entertainment programs. Miller said, "That's higher than I've ever seen. I can tell you among people interested in the Olympics that they are really ready for Sochi to come."
HOPEFUL OF NHL PARTICIPATION: The NHL still has not committed to participate in the Olympics, but Lazarus expressed optimism that it would show up. He said that IIHF President Rene Fasel and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were expected to meet in the coming weeks. NBC plans to show the Gold Medal men’s hockey game at 8:00am ET on Feb. 23, 2014. The Vancouver Gold Medal game, which featured Canada beating the U.S. in overtime, delivered a 15.2 final Nielsen rating (27.6 million viewers), marking the highest-rated and most-viewed hockey game of any kind since the U.S.-Finland Gold Medal game from the '80 Lake Placid Games (Mickle & Fisher).
VONN WITH THE WIND? Gold Medal-winning U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee and broke her right leg following a crash during a race in Austria yesterday, putting her participation in the Sochi Games in doubt. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said Vonn missing the Olympics "hurts the American viewing audience and it hurts Lindsay Vonn and all the corporate sponsors who invest in her because she is maybe the greatest Winter Olympic athlete America has right now.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser added, “She’s certainly the only one anybody’s ever heard of right now.” But Wilbon said the loss of Vonn “is not like Usain Bolt being out of the Olympics, where literally something happens to the dynamic of the competition." Kornheiser said if Vonn misses Sochi, it is "not going to hurt the ratings at all because people watch the Winter Olympics and they root for the flag, they don’t root for the people” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/5). NBC’s Chris Jansing noted the U.S. Olympic Team “believes she will make a comeback in time” for Sochi ("Nightly News,” NBC, 2/5). Last night’s editions of ABC’s “World News,” CBS’ “Evening News” and NBC’s “Nightly News” all aired short reports on Vonn’s crash (THE DAILY).
CBSSports.com said it drew 3 million viewers to its live stream of Super Bowl XLVII, 43% above the 2.1 million NBCSports.com had for last year's Super Bowl and a new U.S. single-game record for the most watched live sports stream. Super Bowl XLVII also generated 114.4 million total minutes of streaming, up 46% from a year ago. CBSSports.com Senior VP & GM Jason Kint said, "We were definitely thinking and planning for growth, but it was hard to know going in exactly what to expect. But this is obviously a very gratifying result, and one that supports our aim to have the live stream be additive to the TV broadcast." Traffic patterns for the live stream roughly mirrored the broadcast, with online audiences peaking at the end of the game as the 49ers attempted their comeback. As expected, the live All-22 coaches' angle was the most popular of the four alternate views beyond the repurposed TV feed, both quantitatively in audience size and qualitatively with regard to social media buzz. But Kint said the fan's choice angle, which changed several times in game based on viewer sentiment, could be particularly applicable to future streaming efforts in other sports. Kint added, "That quickly became such a powerful element of storytelling. For example, as the 49ers fell behind, there was a push to show (backup 49ers QB) Alex Smith. So we did, and you immediately saw on social media the buzz that generated. The product was able to add to the narrative of the game. So that was very exciting." Super Bowl XLVII during the day on Sunday also generated 52.5 million comments on social media according to BlueFin Labs, Social Guide and Trendrr, far and away the most social event in television history (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
DELAY OF GAME: In DC, Lisa De Moraes notes Nielsen has “broken out Sunday’s 34-minute game shutdown in New Orleans as a separate show and given it the name ‘Super Bowl XLVII Delay.’” Those 107 million viewers who “sat through a whole lot of nothing and ad breaks is a bigger crowd than watched the Super Bowl in 2009 and all Super Bowls before that.” It is “nearly 70 million more people than watched last year’s Grammy Awards.” Toyota sponsored CBS’ Super Bowl postgame coverage and "snagged an average of 63 million viewers Sunday” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6). In N.Y., David Hinckley noted there “isn't much doubt that the third quarter power outage produced the most-watched dead air ever” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/5).
Gus Johnson will call the first in a series of broadcasts for Fox Soccer on Feb. 13 for a Manchester United-Real Madrid Champions League match, and if everything “goes well, Johnson will be Fox's lead announcer for the 2015 Women's World Cup as well as its lead voice for the 2018 World Cup,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Other "high-profile" soccer assignments for Johnson include a Bayern Munich-Arsenal Champions League match Feb. 19 and a Chelsea-Manchester City EPL game Feb. 24. Johnson will call “additional Premier League and Champions League matches and is scheduled to call the FA Cup final on Fox on May 11 and the Champions League final on Fox on May 25.” Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks and Johnson both “emphasized repeatedly” that Johnson as a soccer announcer is “a long-term work in progress.” Deitsch noted Johnson's “preparation began last fall,” as he called 12 MLS Earthquakes radio broadcasts. Johnson "admits he had little exposure to the sport” before his discussions with Shanks “about the possibility of calling world soccer." Given Johnson's broadcasting “inexperience for a sport with a rabid, intelligent fan base that demands expertise in the booth, Fox Sports knows it will get skepticism (if not serious criticism) for the move.” Shanks: "We would not be doing this if we did not think that Gus was putting the time, effort and energy into doing a broadcast that appeals to the people listening to Martin Tyler and Ian Darke. We will work to be as good as those guys but by no means does Gus think he is Martin Tyler or Ian Darke at this point.” Shanks said that he and Fox Sports execs will “search globally to staff up the 2015 Women's World Cup and 2018 World Cup, so expect some veteran soccer announcers to join Johnson at some point.” Johnson will have “different analysts for each of his initial matches this month” (SI.com, 2/5).
NOT A GRAND PLAN: Shanks said having Johnson call soccer matches "wasn’t a grand plan from the beginning and it was kind of off-the-cuff." Shanks: "It’s a tough assignment, but he pours himself in his work. It took awhile and took some coercing. But he’s a unique sports voice, and there’s a first time for everything.” Johnson said he wants to “tap into the passion of the world’s game and understand why it’s almost more than a religious experience for some of these fans” (USA TODAY, 2/6).
TIME TO RISE AND FIRE? ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said fans should give Johnson a "chance," as he is "going to spend six years practicing this" prior to the '18 World Cup. In addition to calling Earthquakes games, Johnson is also “actually playing pick-up soccer to learn the game." MacMullan: "That’s dedication." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “I like the idea of bringing in a familiar face and a familiar voice, but the problem is the ball doesn’t go ‘forward’ enough in soccer. And he’s going to have to work on getting some new topics to throw out as the game drags along.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, “He’d make a great voice of American soccer, but he’s got to work on those ‘Goals!’ He’s got to extend the words a lot longer” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/5).
Today is National Signing Day in college football, and it "essentially is ESPNU's draft day," as the net will have 11.5 hours of coverage, according to Jonathan Jones of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley and former Auburn coach Gene Chizik are appearing in studio, while ESPNU has put reporters "at 13 colleges to get reactions from some of the nation's top coaches." The net originally planned to start its coverage at 9:00am ET and have a 10-hour special, but execs "decided to bump the special up by 90 minutes to fit in the nation’s top recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche." ESPNU began its coverage today with Nkemdiche announcing he will attend Ole Miss. ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said that he "is not surprised by the growth." Luginbill: "The medium now to where everyone has access to that information, we’re essentially a byproduct of that. ... You can’t run from it, you can’t hide from it because it’s everywhere. It’s something people want to know more about because they’re fascinated." Jones noted ESPNU is "not aware of the athlete’s college choice until he announces it." Producers work with high school administrators and coaches "to arrange the logistics," but the "big decision rests with whomever the athlete tells beforehand." ESPNU Senior Coordinating Producer Shawn Murphy said that he "usually sets parameters and works in concert with school officials to make sure a recruit doesn’t disrespect a potential suitor." ESPNU will show "six announcements, hoping to fit all inside narrow time frames" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/5). Meanwhile, Fox Sports' National Signing Day coverage will be featured on both Scout.com and its FSN regional networks. Scout.com will have a team of 35 recruiting reporters offering live coverage throughout the day from schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and UCLA. Scout.com recruiting experts also will participate in live televised specials and end-of-day recaps produced by several RSNs, including FS Southwest, FS South, FS West and FS Arizona (Fox).
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: In Indianapolis, Mark Ambrogi noted Notre Dame today will have "seven hours of programming," starting at 7:00am ET at UND.com. Last year's webcast "drew more than 48,000 page views and the goal is to top 50,000 on Wednesday." Notre Dame has "added a digital media studio to direct the coverage from remotes at the football center as well as collecting social media chatter on Twitter and Facebook." Fighting Irish Digital Media Associate Producer Ryan Camden will host the show and basketball radio play-by-play broadcaster Jack Nolan will "conduct interviews with coach Brian Kelly and the assistants." A noon press conference also was scheduled to be "streamed live." The goal is to have "more programming when the flow of letters of intent slows and have significantly less time off the air" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/5).
SOMEBODY'S MISSING: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman writes under the header, "Signing Day Loses Its Voice." For the first time in more than 25 years, Alabama-based college football talk-show host Paul Finebaum will have "no show on the biggest off-season day of the year, which he described as 'different.'" Finebaum has been "off the air since Jan. 21, when his contract expired" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/6).
NOT FOR EVERYONE: In Miami, Michelle Kaufman notes through the recruiting process, some players "get wrapped up in the hype." Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said, "Some kids flip schools three or four times, or hold out until the last minute even if they know where they're going because they love the attention from the media and recruiting websites. The Internet makes money off uncommitted kids because they're creating news and drama about their announcements" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/6). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti wrote National Signing Day is about boosters and media "obsessed with the hourly whims of teenagers." It involves "bright lights and center stage that seem so early." Or the "hyper-hype, which is like chocolate." Too much of it "can't be good for kids." This is "not to deny the day is often interesting, occasionally fascinating and invariably necessary." The phenomenon "only grows more torrid each February with social media now the booster rocket." It is big-time college football "in all its many tones; lively, loud -- and sometimes overheated" (USA TODAY, 2/5).
HAVING SOME FUN: The beginning of today's “The Dan Patrick Show” broadcast featured host Dan Patrick seated at a desk with a Georgia, Notre Dame and Dayton football helmet in front of him, while the “Danettes,” his production crew, were standing behind him in spoof of National Signing Day. Patrick said, “I want to thank everybody for coming out today. It’s a big day, big moment for me. I did not happen upon this decision overnight. I’d like to first thank my teachers for allowing me to be average. I’d like to thank my teammates for being below average to make me look even better. I’d like to thank my parents, my drama teacher, debate, my math teacher so I could count up my stats during the game. And I’d like to thank the big man for making this all possible. I narrowed this down to three.” Patrick became emotional and announced he “was taking my talent” to Dayton because the Notre Dame and Georgia helmets would not fit his head (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 2/6).
Al Jazeera-owned beIN Sport's initial reach and programming slate “pale compared to giants like ESPN and NBC Sports Network,” but the “newbie is betting that smart marketing can help it compete,” according to Andrew McMains of ADWEEK. beIN has hired TBWA\Chiat\Day, N.Y., “to create ads in the U.S.” The ad agency’s challenge is “formidable: create a brand identity in a crowded field of national sports nets.” Beyond that core branding challenge, beIN also has “a significant disadvantage in reach.” ESPN has distribution to more than 98 million U.S. homes, followed by Golf Channel with 84 million and NBC Sports Network with 78 million. When Fox Sports 1 launches later this year, "it will likely become the new No. 2.” A source estimated that beIN, which is not tracked by Nielsen, reaches “no more than 10 million homes.” Nomura Equity Research analyst Michael Nathanson said that the “reach disparity is beIN’s greatest challenge.” Another “potential obstacle” for beIN is “soccer saturation.” While the growing U.S. Hispanic population has “fueled demand for soccer on TV, that demand already is served by sports nets and broadcasters like Telemundo, Univision and Fox Soccer Channel” (ADWEEK.com, 2/5). In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote for today's U.S.-Honduras match, the "only way Americans can watch their national soccer team play a big World Cup qualifier is on beIN Sport." Bondy: "Good luck finding it. That’s one reason I wanted to cover this match. It’s a throwback to a time when readers hadn’t watched the event and relied on sportswriters to describe the games. I can offer any absurd opinion and you can’t argue" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 2/5).
NATIONAL ANTHEM: In N.Y., Jack Bell reported a "new digital magazine, Anthem, an app initially for the iPhone and iPad with an Android version in the works, will be 'published' before each men’s and women’s national team game, with a special issue planned for the Gold Cup this summer." U.S. Soccer said that the first issue, available for today's game, is "free, while future issues will carry a nominal fee" (NYTIMES.com, 2/5).
Fox Sports has been in talks with veteran TV host Regis Philbin to host a show for its planned Fox Sports 1 channel, according to several sources. Fox and Philbin have not agreed on a deal yet, but sources say talks are serious and an agreement could be close at hand. Fox declined to comment on the rumors, but sources say Philbin would serve as the main host of a show that would look like a sports version of "The View," with Philbin serving in the Barbara Walters-role as the part-time host. Philbin is a known sports fan, and sources said the show would be a sports show, as opposed to a hybrid entertainment-and-sports show. Sources also said that Fox has been looking into having a Jay Mohr show on Fox Sports 1. Last month, Mohr launched "Jay Mohr Sports" on Fox Sports Radio. It is not clear whether Fox is considering simulcasting Mohr's radio show or having him host his own show. Fox Sports still has not officially announced its plans for Fox Sports 1. Sources say Fox will rebrand its motorsports channel Speed as the multi-sport Fox Sports 1 this August. Around the same time, it will rebrand its action sports channel Fuel into the multi-sport Fox Sports 2, sources said (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
TWITTER REAX: Fox' talks with Philbin created some waves on Twitter, with NASCAR blogger John Daly writing, "And so it begins." Former ESPN anchor Cindy Brunson wrote, "Could be hilarious." Taylor Strategy’s Zack Smith wrote, "I'm intrigued by Fox's ESPN-killer, Fox Sports 1, hiring Regis. Knowing his affiliation, the new network might have more ND talk than NBC!" Turnkey Intelligence Senior VP Steve Seiferheld wrote, "Because nothing says 18-49 quite like Regis. Betty White to cohost?"
ESPN yesterday announced that analyst Dick Vitale will call Final Four games this year for ESPN Int'l, working with play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler. Vitale will work one semifinal and the championship game telecast, which will be broadcast in 150 countries and territories outside the U.S. Jay Bilas will be the analyst on the other semifinal. The assignment marks the first time Vitale has called the Final Four (ESPN). Vitale said, "I'm on cloud nine. It's the last chapter of my life, or my career. They just called me ... and it blew me away" (USA TODAY, 2/6).
ON SECOND THOUGHT: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote Ravens LB Ray Lewis "won't be good on television in the role executives will want him to play." Lewis speaks the "language of inspiration, not the language of coach-speak." Freeman: "Diagramming the cover-two isn't what Lewis does. Talking about Green Bay covering the spread isn't Lewis." Lewis also "isn't a polished speaker, he's a raw one." What Lewis "can do, more than anything, is save football careers. Maybe even save lives." The NFL should "hire Lewis, not a network." Freeman: "Give him a position in the league office" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/5).
BLUE SKIES: Former MLBer Jack Morris will be an analyst for Rogers Sportsnet's Blue Jays broadcasts in '13. Morris will join CJCL-AM for radio broadcasts and also will make appearances on Sportsnet game telecasts and "Blue Jays Central" (Sportsnet). In Toronto, Brendan Kennedy notes Morris will "replace Alan Ashby" in the booth. Sportsnet also announced that it will be "broadcasting all of the Jays' spring-training games by one medium or another, including six telecasts" (TORONTO STAR, 2/6).
SMOOTH OPERATORS: The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh said it is a "good sign" that White Sox announcers Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone are working out their differences, as viewers "did sense some uncomfortable moments and there ... was some sort of friction there." Comcast SportsNet's David Kaplan said, “If you’re doing one game a week you’ll get through it because you call the game. ... If you are doing 150, you better really get along” ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/5).