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Boxer Floyd Mayweather “rejected a multi-fight deal from longtime television partner HBO to sign with archrival Showtime,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. The first bout under the terms of the six-fight deal “will be on May 4 in Las Vegas on Showtime pay-per-view against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden.” Terms of the deal were not available, but Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said the deal Showtime offered, "from top to bottom, was substantially better than what we received from HBO.” Iole noted the deal is “a coup" for Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza and a "body blow to HBO.” Mayweather had been with HBO “from the beginning of his career,” and he has “averaged over 1 million pay-per-view sales per fight over the last six years.” Ellerbe said that Mayweather "had been loyal to HBO, but suggested that HBO may have been taking its star for granted.” Though Top Rank “took Manny Pacquiao from HBO to Showtime for a 2011 fight with Shane Mosley, this is the biggest defection from HBO since former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson bolted for Showtime in 1990” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/19). On Long Island, Marcus Henry notes former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg "was let go after Manny Pacquiao left HBO for Showtime for one fight." That "doesn't mean" HBO Sports President Ken Hershman is "in any trouble, but he'll probably take some heat for Mayweather jumping ship" (NEWSDAY, 2/20).
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CBS TIES: BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger noted Showtime parent company CBS will allow Mayweather "to hold six fights on Showtime PPV over the next 30 months.” Showtime PPV will “collaborate with CBS Corp. to promote Mayweather's events on the CBS TV network and via the corporation's other media platforms” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 2/19). Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer indicated that the promotion for Mayweather-Guerrero “could include a nationally televised press conference on CBS, extensive promotion during the NCAA tournament and appearances by Guerrero on one or more of CBS's morning shows, in addition to regular ‘All Access’ episodes, Showtime's version” of HBO's “24/7.” Espinoza said that he “expects cameras to be on Mayweather within the next 24 hours” (SI.com, 2/19). Schaefer said, "This will redefine the way boxing press conferences are done." He added, “We are looking at putting together a press conference similar to the way you see a presidential debate -- a moderator, a live audience and journalists can submit questions that will then be read and it will televised nationwide on CBS" (ESPN.com, 2/19).
SURPRISING MOVE: SI.com’s Chris Mannix wrote, "It was no secret that representatives for Mayweather were negotiating with executives at both HBO and Showtime.” While Showtime has “built a strong relationship with shadowy advisor Al Haymon and Golden Boy" since the hiring of Espinoza in November '11, few “expected Mayweather to turn his back on HBO.” Sources said that Mayweather “sought massive guaranteed money from the networks.” The loss of Mayweather is “a body blow for HBO, which has been at war with Showtime since Ken Hershman left the network for HBO in 2011.” But it is “hardly a death sentence.” HBO still has Pacquiao, Andre Ward, Sergio Martinez, Nonito Donaire, Gennady Golovkin and Brandon Rios, among others, "in the rotation.” But with Mayweather gone, HBO “has a decision to make: What to do with Haymon and Golden Boy fighters?” (SI.com, 2/19). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ryan Maquinana noted Schaefer, who “promotes Guerrero, and Mayweather’s adviser Al Haymon have a strong working relationship” with Espinoza. Almost “all of Showtime Championship Boxing’s main events over the past 12 months … have included a Golden Boy or Al Haymon-backed fighter.” Further strengthening ties is “the fact that Espinoza served as lead counsel for Golden Boy before moving to his new post in November of last year” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 2/19).
ARUM HAS LEVERAGE WITH HBO: YAHOO SPORTS’ Iole writes the deal “hardly puts HBO out of business, as some have suggested in the immediate aftermath of Mayweather's announcement.” The downside for HBO is that its “biggest source of talent now is Top Rank,” and Top Rank Chair Bob Arum has “always been difficult to appease.” Arum now has “plenty of leverage with HBO, and all of his fighters are on fight-to-fight contracts.” The significance of that is “he can move any of them over to Showtime at the first sign of any trouble with HBO.” Arum has had a “strong working relationship with HBO's new leadership team, particularly HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo, the president of HBO programming, and that has to help HBO's cause.” Still, the knowledge that their boxing business “now depends so heavily upon the mercurial Arum has to make HBO executives more than a little nervous.” HBO could “get burned if it loses Adrien Broner, whom it has been grooming as Mayweather's potential successor the last two years.” Though Schaefer yesterday said that he is “willing to negotiate a long-term deal with HBO for Broner's services, moving him to Showtime would essentially make Schaefer's job easier in that he'd be able to plan long-term better knowing all of his key athletes would then be with Showtime.” Iole notes Mayweather's deal is “essentially a pay-per-view deal." But Espinoza said Showtime could "get creative" and have a Mayweather fight on CBS (YAHOO.SPORTS.com, 2/20).
WILL FLOYD STILL BE MUST-SEE TV? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes Mayweather is “definitely helping his brand in at least one sense by going with the CBS-owned Showtime, given that his fights now can be promoted on the CBS broadcast network.” But Hiestand wonders, “How marketable will Mayweather’s fights be?” Without other “obvious stars in his weight division, Mayweather might not get obviously marquee matchups” (USA TODAY, 2/20). In New Jersey, Keith Idec notes while Mayweather’s switch to Showtime “definitely damages HBO’s boxing brand, it would’ve been worse if Mayweather were in the prime of his career.” The move “shouldn’t impact fight fans all that much.” It will “still cost an additional $60 to $70 to watch Mayweather fight, no matter which cable company produces the telecast” (Bergen RECORD, 2/20).
Heavyweight boxing returns to the air on NBC for the second time in four months on April 20 when Steve Cunningham faces popular Brit Tyson Fury in the main event of a two-hour telecast scheduled for the Theater at MSG that promoter Main Events announced today. Cunningham lost a controversial decision to Tomasz Adamek on NBC in December in what was the first bout to appear on the network since ‘04. The two-hour telecast attracted an average of 1.6 million viewers, peaking at 3.2 million at its conclusion. “The core boxing fan came back,” said NBC VP/Programming & Owned Properties Gary Quinn. “The (average) household rating was pretty solid ... and we built an audience as it went on. That’s a sign of a compelling show.” The fight is part of two-year deal in which Main Events will deliver at least eight fights to NBC Sports Network and two to NBC each year. The next NBC slot is scheduled for November. The selection of Fury makes financial sense for Main Events. The late afternoon time slot allows the promoter to deliver a primetime show in Great Britain, where Fury’s recent fights have aired on terrestrial television. “We’re trying to give the heavyweight division as much exposure as we can,” Quinn said, “Because that’s what we think people want to see” (Bill King, Senior Writer).
ROCKETTES BEWARE: ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael noted Top Rank yesterday announced that junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire will face fellow titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13 in the main event of HBO's "World Championship Boxing" at Radio City Music Hall in N.Y. The fight will be “just the second in the 82-year history of Radio City Music Hall,” after Roy Jones Jr. “defended the light heavyweight world title there” against David Telesco in January '00. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said he "couldn't get" the Theater at Madison Square Garden, so MSG Exec VP/Sports & Arena Renovation Joel Fisher "said maybe he could get Radio City, because the Garden owns it. We said that was a great idea. It's expensive to do a fight there, but it's worth it" (ESPN.com, 2/19).
Turner Sports is shifting its digital coverage of the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament to a complete user authentication/TV Everywhere model, eliminating the $3.99 all-access option that served as a supplement to last year's version of March Madness Live. This year's product will be available for free across PC, smartphone and tablet platforms, but only by authenticating with users' TV service provider information. Those who cannot or will not authenticate will be able to access a free four-hour preview of MML. No registration is required for live streaming of tournament games shown on CBS. Turner began the user authentication structure last year for MML, its first year it rebranded the digital coverage from its prior name March Madness On Demand, and made no secret of its preference for users to do that as opposed to buying the all-access pass. This year's structure for MML represents a further embrace of the TV Everywhere model. The other major change for MML this year is the addition of Bleacher Report, now owned by Turner, as a launch site for the tournament coverage in addition to traditional destinations NCAA.com and CBSSports.com. New MML apps will be released to iTunes App Store and Google Play early next month.
Time Warner Cable's SportsChannel carrying five Xavier Univ. men's basketball games this season could be a "precursor to the New York-based media giant vying to become a major player in the Cincinnati sports TV scene and bidding against Fox Sports Ohio" for rights to Reds games, according to sources cited by Steve Watkins of the CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER. The Xavier games represent the "highest-profile programming Time Warner has carried on its SportsChannel, which launched in Cincinnati last fall." FS Ohio currently holds TV rights for the Reds, Xavier and Univ. of Cincinnati basketball, but any of those "could be fair game for Time Warner once the contract come up for bid within a few years." Fox' contract with the Reds reportedly pays the team $30M per year, but sources said that it could "rise as high as" $75M when the deal expires in '16. The sources added that it is "possible the deal could be reopened sooner." Desser Sports Media President Ed Desser said, "Time Warner recognized what's considered must-have content, and Reds baseball would be included in that, and their view is to buy that directly. I presume they'd be interested, given the relative strength of the Reds" (CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER, 2/15 issue).
ESPN Digital Audio is “unveiling a dynamic cloud-based ad insertion program with the hope of targeting listeners by device, location, age and gender in real time across live national broadcasts,” according to Charlie Warzel of ADWEEK. The new technology, developed with online radio provider Abacast, is “a departure from the standard, static ad insertion platforms available to online radio providers where ads must undergo somewhat cumbersome coding and delivery processes.” This means that “during large radio broadcast events" like the BCS Championship game, ESPN will be able to “serve individual ads to each one of those listeners during live breaks.” For online radio it is a “first-of-its-kind technology for an industry largely behind the times in digital ad technology.” ESPN Digital Audio Senior Manager Blair Cullen said, "This was a huge hole in the radio industry. Before, it was one stream to thousands of people, and it didn't make sense that we were targeting women with a lot of the ads that were running. Now, hundreds of thousands of people are going to get different ad breaks.” Warzel noted the “ripple effects may be slow across the radio industry.” ESPN is in a “very small class in terms of scale, with large listenership and four physical radio properties” in N.Y., L.A., Chicago and Dallas (ADWEEK.com, 2/19).
ESPN Films and espnW yesterday announced the film slate for "Nine for IX," a docu-series focused on stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmakers. "Nine for IX" topics include Tennessee women's basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summitt, former German figure skater Katarina Witt and the focus of sex in the marketing of female athletes. The series will premiere July 2 on ESPN and the films will air over consecutive Tuesday evenings at 8:00pm ET (ESPN). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie reported the inaugural film is "likely to be director Ava DuVernay's 'Venus Vs.' about Venus Williams' 2005 petition for financial parity at Wimbledon and the French Open." ESPN President John Skipper noted that 30% of the ESPN audience "is women," and "Nine for IX" will not only mark the 40th anniversary of Title IX, but also is "a way to bring more female filmmakers to ESPN." Skipper: "Part of the point of this was to form more relationships with women filmmakers." He added that the series "may not become an ongoing franchise like '30 for 30'" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/19). Skipper said, "I am very proud of our company. We want to continue to forge ahead and be leaders in this field." "SportsCenter" anchor Hannah Storm will produce a documentary on basketball player Sheryl Swoopes, while ESPN's Julie Foudy and Erin Leyden will produce a documentary on the '99 Women's World Cup-winning U.S. soccer team called "The '99ers." ESPN Senior VP/Global Strategy, Business Development & Business Affairs Marie Donaghue said, "We want to give viewers the sense of how women in sports have evolved over the past 40 years" (John Ourand, Staff Writer). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes the series "looks terrific" (SI.com, 2/20).
Former Chicago Tribune and Crain's sports journalist Ed Sherman, who has been “blogging about sports media for 10 months now” at ShermanReport.com, recently sat for a Q&A with media writer Jim Romenesko. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: At what point did you say, “I’m going to start The Sherman Report?" And what niche in the sports blogosphere did you see it filling?
Sherman: I had done a sports media column for 12 years at the Tribune, and really enjoyed it. I had been kicking around the idea of bringing it back in the form of my own web site. To be honest, I was influenced by your site. I wanted to see if I could do it for sports. There are a few sites that cover sports media, and they are quite popular. I felt I could be a bit different by doing more Q/As with people in the industry. I also want to explore the process of how sports news gets reported.
Q: How was the launch of The Sherman Report -- easier or more difficult than you imagined it would be? Biggest challenges?
Sherman: Twitter has been a big challenge from several different angles. I now understand the importance of getting people to tweet out your posts so they get into that huge Twitter Mixmaster. It’s not an easy process, and you have to rely on the kindness of strangers. Also, I was under the mistaken impression that if I did a Q/A with a network personality or executive, that network would tweet out the interview to millions of its followers. That hasn’t occurred. The networks have various rules for what they will send out on their main Twitter accounts. Even though they promote themselves like crazy, they won’t promote a Q/A on my site even though it may be of interest to their followers. I pounded my head against the wall pleading my case. All it got me was a huge bump in my head. That’s been the most frustrating part of launching the site. I know if the networks tweet my stuff on main feeds (not just on PR feeds), it will generate page views.
Q: You don’t have any ads or a “tip jar” seeking donations. Why?
Sherman: My goal from the beginning was to try to build the site, attract a following, and then see about monetizing. I decided to wait until I’m finished with the book ["Called Shot," scheduled to publish in '14] before I jump into that pool. There’s only so much I can take on at one time.
Q: Do you closely monitor your traffic? What posts have attracted the most visitors? Care to share numbers?
Sherman: Yes, I am constantly monitoring traffic. It’s probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I can’t help myself. ... I’ve been told I need to be patient. I still haven’t been out there for a year. I am starting to see some growth. I am hovering around 100,000 page views per month, which I am told is good for a new site (JIMROMENESKO.com, 2/19).
In Hartford, Paul Doyle writes of the Big East's negotiations for a new media-rights deal, "Exposure, perhaps more than revenue, is what the new Big East is after." The conference will be "looking for as much air time as possible over the next six years, with an eye on increasing revenue with ensuing deals." Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said, "The focus has been to get as much revenue as we obviously could, especially after what happened over the past three or four months (with realignment). But also to make sure we had really significant exposure on a lot of platforms, national exposure. We're going to get that with this deal." He added, "The conference is certainly financially very sound. And again, if we perform and we do what we think we can do with our teams in football and basketball and women's sports and Olympic sports, we think down the road we'll be talking to our TV partners about the future and we'll do better the next time around" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/20).
GET ON THE MIC, MIKE: In Boston, Chad Finn notes WEEI yesterday officially announced that Mike Salk will "join Michael Holley on the station's afternoon drive program," replacing longtime host Glenn Ordway. Salk previously worked for ESPN Radio 890 Boston from '05-09. He will "debut on WEEI in mid-March," and will contribute to WEEI.com (BOSTON.com, 2/19).
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi notes about 357,000 people on average "have watched Penguins games broadcast on Root Sports Pittsburgh since the NHL returned in late January." No U.S. NHL market has "done better with its local club." The Penguins' overall regional TV rating "generated an 11.9 average." The Sabres "were also off to a strong regional TV ratings start this season, with an average of 10.1." Rounding out Nielsen's "top five: Boston (7.0), St. Louis (5.0) and Chicago (4.9)." The Penguins have "produced a double-digit rating in 12 consecutive games broadcast on Root Sports Pittsburgh" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/20).
COVERING THE BASES: MLB Network yesterday announced that former MLBer Darryl Hamilton has joined the net as an analyst. Hamilton will make his debut Saturday. Meanwhile, ESPN yesterday announced that former MLBer Alex Cora has joined the net and ESPN Deportes as an analyst (THE DAILY). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote Cora "should be great" at ESPN (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/17).