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The Big East's proposed six-year contract with NBC Sports Network for its media rights will "likely be announced within the next two weeks," according to sources cited by Ralph Russo of the AP. Sources said that the deal will "pay the conference" about $20M per year. However, the Big East first has to "go through the process of allowing ESPN, which currently holds the conference's football TV rights, to match the offer." The proposed deal would allow NBCSN to "move some Big East games to other networks." The Big East's current football deal with ESPN "expires after the 2013 season and has paid football members about" $3.1M per year. The deal in the works would pay members about $2M per year, "depending upon whether the league has 11 or 12 members" (AP, 2/12). In a special to USA TODAY, Mark Blaudschun notes although the "initial money from NBC for the Big East is low," the deal would be "only six years in length and open to renegotiation, with the hope that early exposure and success would create a bigger market" (USA TODAY, 2/13).
FANS PAC-KIN' IT IN EARLY? In Seattle, Bud Withers notes there is a chance Pac-12 men's basketball attendance figures are being "affected by the new TV-driven, bizarro-world of Wednesday-night games, 6 p.m. tipoffs and Sunday-night dates." However, it is "difficult to draw sweeping conclusions." Six schools' average attendance numbers are "up over 2011-12, six are down." Withers: "You can spin this in a variety of ways. You could say that given all the new accommodations to TV, and all the conveniences to fans' traditional habits, these are mild shifts" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/13).
MLB’s national TV ratings were down last season, and MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said that getting those numbers “turned around is Job 1 in the office of MLB commissioner Bud Selig," according to Jon Lafayette of BROADCASTING & CABLE. He noted there are a "number of steps that will be taken to reach that goal.” Brosnan recently discussed the league’s “game plan for 2013.” The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:
Q: Last year, baseball ratings were down during the regular season on the national networks, except MLB Network. They were also down during the playoffs and World Series. How will you try to reverse that and make national games more popular?
Brosnan: We continue to work with Fox to present as compelling a schedule as we can produce. Some of this is dependent on the markets that get selected well in advance of the games being televised. Some of this is dependent upon the time of broadcast. We are moving, in our Fox national package, more and more to more primetime.
Q: Moving national games to primetime makes a big difference?
Brosnan: The move to primetime with Fox will boost ratings. (Primetime) ratings have been for the past two years much higher than the regular-season average. And as we go into 2014, and this is across the cable packages, we will move from what we call non-exclusive local blacked-out games to coexclusives and exclusives where the game is national across the cable carrier.
Q: Fox, Turner and ESPN have been experimenting with splitscreen commercial presentations. Could that help?
Brosnan: We've been talking to Fox about that. Our first concern is for the viewer, is for our customer. But hand in glove to that is the sponsors and the commercial advertisers that support the broadcast and make them available, making the economics easier for our customers to see all those games. So it's a combination of continuing to provide the best-produced product on the screen that we can, and we think we have the best production partners in ESPN, and Fox and Turner.
Q: Given the long-term nature of the deals you signed with ESPN and Turner and with the support you want to give your own network, is there still a way to cash in as these new networks roll out in the short- to mid-term?
Brosnan: No. Our national telecast fortunes are basically set (for) 2014-2021. Obviously you're talking about the rumors that some of our partners are rolling out additional platforms during the course of our agreement. We always want to be good partners with our broadcast partners. … We think we've struck the right balance between national and local for the time being, but we're always mindful of what would work for us and what would work for our partners. So we're always open to discussions about new platforms.
Q: So if a partner like Fox came out with a national sports network, there might be a way of them putting baseball on it?
Brosnan: I don't think that's currently contemplated, but Fox has been a terrific … we have a terrific long-term relationship with Fox. We feel like it's been a great home for baseball, so we would always treat them accordingly (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 2/11 issue).
TAKING INVENTORY: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Lafayette notes MLB despite the lower ratings is “maintaining its hold on advertisers, who are familiar with the game and are drawn to sports, where live viewing means commercials are more likely to be seen when they air.” Media planning agency Spark VP & Media Dir Miraj Parikh said, “I don’t see advertisers moving away from baseball. It’s still a valuable place for them to be.” With hundreds of games and “several networks broadcasting nationally, baseball is an efficient buy.” Among those “expected to buy the most TV inventory are Chevrolet, Anheuser-Busch, T-Mobile, Taco Bell and MasterCard.” T-Mobile, new to the MLB lineup, will be the presenting sponsor of ESPN’s “Wednesday Night Baseball” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 2/11 issue).
GETTING STARTED: Fox' MLB regular-season coverage features a 24-week schedule, including eight consecutive weeks of primetime coverage for the second consecutive year. Every U.S.-based team makes at least one appearance this season with at least one at home during the primetime stretch, which begins in late May. Fox' coverage begins Saturday, April 6 (Fox).
MMA statistics firm FightMetric has helped “legitimize mixed martial arts as a sport, giving it statistical leaders that separate it from the public misconception of an unfettered brawl,” according to Melissa Segura of SI.com. FightMetric CEO Rami Genauer in six years "has taken his business from his couch, to a tiny office” to a HQs in DC “three times bigger in the capital's Golden Triangle district." The moves are as “practical as they are poetic -- fitting metaphors for a business with a relative growth rate that might surpass that of the UFC, its chief client." The company, which is the official statistics provider for the UFC, now features a slate of services that “extends beyond its cornerstone data collection." FightMetric has “two new fantasy projects" started in late January. The most basic of the games “centers on" the UFC reality series "The Ultimate Fighter.” The second “fantasy offering is called UFC Pick ‘em.” Genauer said, “The greatest challenge with mixed martial arts fantasy is that you have superstars who fight twice a year.” FightMetric therefore “created a league in which every fight on every fight card is eligible for players to earn points.” Segura wrote for the company to “endure, much less expand its list of services, is no small feat, especially considering the startup’s humble beginnings" (SI.com, 2/11).
Sportsnet yesterday announced it reached a 10-year extension with the Canucks through the '22-23 season, continuing a 14-year relationship as the team's regional TV broadcaster that began in '98. The new agreement begins with the '13-14 season. The 30-minute weekly show "Canucks This Week" will continue as part of the new multimedia package (Sportsnet).
LET’S CHAT: Georgia Tech acting AD Paul Griffin at the recent ACC ADs meeting said that “talk of an ACC cable network was a well-received topic of discussion.” In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura noted with the league “looking for additional revenue sources that can help member schools compete with the other BCS conferences, a network in partnership with ESPN could provide that aid.” Griffin described the conversation as “very preliminary.” Still, he said that it is “conceivable it could be running" by the '14-15 academic year. The ACC’s 15-year contract with ESPN “gives member schools an average" of $16.9M annually. Even without its own network, the ACC is "estimating an additional" $3.5M in annual revenues per school in '14-15 (AJC.com, 2/11).
SURPRISE CALL: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes Fox announcer Joe Buck “had a brief -- unplanned -- foray into hockey play-by-play on Monday night, when he stopped by Fox Sports Midwest’s booth to chat.” He then “ended up calling a few minutes” of the Kings-Blues game, and the result was “an entertaining, albeit choppy, segment.” Buck yesterday said, “It’s really the enactment of every play-by-play announcer’s nightmare -- you show up in the booth and it's a Super Bowl or a World Series and you don’t know the teams, you don’t know anybody’s name and you don’t know who you’re working with and your headset doesn’t work. I got to live it” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/13).