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ESPN has agreed to match NBC's offer for the Big East, agreeing to pay more than $20M per year for a six-year package, according to several well-placed sources. The two sides still are trying to work out various details about how many games ESPN will carry and where they will air. Sources said the Big East will have to take ESPN's offer to conference presidents, who will have to vote to approve the deal. No formal announcement is expected Friday. ESPN released a statement on Thursday afternoon saying, "Discussions with the Big East are ongoing." The conference also acknowledged that discussions are continuing. NBC late last week agreed to a deal that would put Big East football and basketball games primarily on NBC Sports Network, with the ability to move some games to NBC's broadcast network. ESPN had to decide whether to match that deal by Thursday. It matched the rights fee but is not likely to put any games on its broadcast channel, ABC. Sources say ESPN is likely to sublicense a significant amount of games to other networks, such as Fox Sports, which is launching Fox Sports 1 this summer (John Ourand, Staff Writer). ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy reported the deal is for a total of $130M over seven years. Sources said that would include a $10M payment for the '13-14 basketball season, and $20M "starting in 2014-15 for football and men's basketball." The sources added that the deal includes ESPN "annually broadcasting 65 football games, 150-plus basketball games, a conference football championship game and the Big East men's basketball tournament on ESPN's family of networks." Meanwhile, sources confirmed that CBS will "extend it's men's basketball rights" with the conference for about $2M annually (ESPN.com, 2/21).
Fox has had "preliminary discussions" about broadcaster Joe Buck doing play-by-play for a handful of MLB Cardinals games on FS Midwest in a "looser fashion than ever has been done for any big-league regular season telecast," according to Dan Caesar of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Possible roles for Buck include "chatting with players while the game is in progress -- perhaps someone on the bench or in the on-deck circle -- talking to a relief pitcher who wouldn’t play until later in the game, having a microphone on a fielder or other such innovations beyond even what might take place for an All-Star Game." Buck said, "The idea would be to try some fun stuff within a Cardinals game that hasn’t been tried before. ... I think it could be cool. It would kind of loosen the reigns a little, make the broadcasts a little more compelling." Caesar notes the idea first was "broached by Mike Helling, longtime producer of FSM Cards telecasts." FS Midwest Senior VP & GM Jack Donovan "likes the idea of getting Buck ... back on the local airwaves." Buck "firmly emphasizes that he doesn’t want to intrude on existing Dan McLaughlin and Rick Horton, who do play-by-play for FSM, as well as analyst Al Hrabosky." And if the idea "comes to fruition it would be for only a few games." The experiment could be "test ground that could lead to it being expanded to national Fox games if it works, but there are many hurdles to leap" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/22).
NBC Sports Network averaged 901,000 viewers for Wednesday’s Flyers-Penguins matchup, marking the net’s second-best audience on record for an NHL game, while the game's 0.6 U.S. rating marks the net's highest-rated game on record. The telecast earned a 14.5 local rating in Pittsburgh and a 4.8 local rating in Philadelphia, also marking record highs for an NHL game on NBCSN. Four of the net’s top five most-viewed games have now been Wednesday night telecasts from this season. Meanwhile, NBC scored a 1.2 rating and 1.8 million viewers for Kings-Blackhawks last Sunday, which was the late window in the net’s “Hockey Day in America.” Those figures are up 33% and 31%, respectively, from a 0.9 rating and 1.4 million viewers for Bruins-Wild in the same window last year. The early window, which featured Penguins-Sabres, earned a 1.1 rating and 1.7 million viewers, down from a 1.3 rating and 1.9 million viewers for regional coverage last year. Looking locally, Comcast SportsNet Chicago earned a 7.4 rating for Canucks-Blackhawks on Tuesday, marking the net’s best regular-season rating ever. The previous record was for Blackhawks-Red Wings on Jan. 27 (6.3 rating).MOST-VIEWED NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAMES
ON NBC SPORTS NETWORKDATEMATCHUPVIEWERS (000)1/23/13Bruins-Rangers9562/20/13Flyers-Penguins90110/6/11Flyers-Bruins8741/30/13Blackhawks-Wild8272/6/13Bruins-Canadiens771
NBC Sports Group has completed its deal to hire writer Joe Posnanski as a national columnist for NBCSports.com and contributor to the NBC Sports Group's other platforms. Posnanski, most recently with the MLBAM/USA Today Sports Media Group joint venture SportsOnEarth.com, will write three long-form stories per week on NBCSports.com, including a Friday column entitled "The Big Read." He also will contribute to NBC's other various sports sites, including its baseball blog Hardball Talk and the network's TV, radio and regional assets. His first column debuts Friday and is about Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez. News first broke in late January of Posnanski's departure from Sports On Earth, just five months after its formal launch. NBC Sports Group Senior VP and Digital Media GM Rick Cordella in a statement said, "Although Joe excels with the written word, an exciting element of this agreement is that it affords him the ability to communicate … through all the assets in the diverse NBC Sports Group portfolio."
In Boston, Chad Finn notes Mike Salk is preparing for "his mid-March debut as Michael Holley's cohost and Glenn Ordway's replacement on WEEI." Salk, who worked for the "now-defunct" ESPN Radio 890 Boston from '05-09, has "stayed up on Boston sports by watching Comcast SportsNet New England and NESN on DirecTV and listening to WEEI streaming online, making it easy for him to maintain his knowledge, not to mention that New England edge." Salk said that his approach will be to "focus on doing his own thing rather than consciously trying to make listeners forget about Ordway." He said, "My style is different from Glenn's. It's going to sound so different that ... I don't think people will think of it that way" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/22).
DON'T YOU WORRY: In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd noted some fans are worried that former NFLer Ray Lewis as an analyst on ESPN this fall will "come off either as too intense, too preachy or too rambling." Cowherd: "Personally, I don't see that at all." Lewis will "prepare the same way for life behind the microphone" as he did for games. He will be "well-coached by the network," and he has "all spring and summer to polish his new craft." Some Ravens fans said that they "worry there'll be too much 'God talk' from Lewis on the set." Cowherd: "That strikes me as ridiculous" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 2/21).
CREATING SPACE: Fox Soccer announcer Gus Johnson, asked to evaluate his network debut calling the Manchester United-Real Madrid UEFA Champions League match, said, "It's a process, and it's not a process that will take three games. It's a process where I need 50 games. I will make mistakes, and that happens with every broadcaster, both American and English. But I got a lot of positive feedback." SI.com's Richard Deitch asked if Johnson had a message for world soccer fans watching, and Johnson responded, "I would probably say, just give me a minute. I'm going to become a convert, and once I do, I am going to give you the passion and the commitment to your sport that I do for every other sport that I'm a part of" (SI, 2/25 issue).
CYBER BULLYING: TSN on Wednesday publicly responded to "racist messages targeted at SportsCentre hosts Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim, strongly supporting both on-air personalities." TSN President Stewart Johnston said, "Some, not all, of the comments posted on Twitter about Nabil and Gurdeep, spoke to the worst of social media. It's noteworthy and gratifying, however, that there was significant and rapid pushback on Twitter. Nabil and Gurdeep are two accomplished broadcasters and our viewers can expect to see lots more of them on TSN" (TSN.ca, 2/20).
PASS THE MIC: TSN Radio 1050 drive-time host James Cybulski "has left the network." Cybulski was the "first drive-time host" when the network was launched in April '11. TSN's Dave Naylor on Monday "took over that time slot as part of the station's remake." Sources said that Cybulski will "soon surface at Sportsnet West" (THESTAR.com, 2/20)....Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has "signed to work with SiriusXM NFL Radio." He began "providing analysis Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/20)....Twins TV analyst Bert Blyleven, despite "being back in uniform as pitching coach for the Dutch World Baseball Classic team," said that he has "no ambition to leave the major league broadcast booth for the major league field" (TWINCITIES.com, 2/20)....The Triple-A Int'l League Pawtucket Red Sox on Wednesday announced that Jeff Levering will "take over for the departed Aaron Goldsmith behind the microphone for the 12-station PawSox Radio Network." Levering spent the "last three seasons broadcasting games for" the Double-A Texas League Springfield Cardinals (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 2/20)....Houston's KBME-AM host Dylan Gwinn next week will "move to David Gow's Yahoo! Sports Radio." Gwinn will "host Yahoo!'s weekend shows" from noon to 4:00pm CT, beginning March 2 (CHRON.com, 2/20).
USA Today Sports said that according to internal metrics, its cross-platform digital traffic around Super Bowl XLVII rose 127% compared to a year ago, driven in part by the expanded USA Today Ad Meter that this year featured an online voting platform for Super Bowl ads. The company said it generated 20.2 million total page views in the 48 hours surrounding the game, up 8.9 million in a comparable period last year. Sixty percent of USA Today Sports' Super Bowl traffic this year came from mobile devices, up from 49% in '12. USA Today Sports also reported 6.9 million total page views on Monday, Feb. 4, the day after the game, more than twice its traffic on the day following Super Bowl XLVI and its second-highest single traffic day ever behind Aug. 4, 2012, the day Michael Phelps won his 18th and final Olympic Gold Medal.
Fox finished with a 3.5 rating (5.7 million viewers) for the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited (formerly the Budweiser Shootout) last Saturday night, marking the lowest rating for the event since ’02, when TNT earned a 3.4. This year’s figures are down 17% and 23%, respectively, from a 4.2 rating and 7.5 million viewers last year, when the NASCAR race did not have to air head-to-head with the NBA All-Star Saturday Night telecast. The race peaked at a 3.8 rating during the final quarter hour of the telecast. Despite the drop, Fox still finished first among all broadcast nets in primetime. Charlotte topped all markets with an 11.0 local rating.AUDIENCE TREND FOR NASCAR'S SPRINT UNLIMITED
(FORMERLY BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT)YEARNETU.S. RATINGVIEWERS (000)'13Fox3.55,722'12Fox4.27,467'11Fox4.57,847'10Fox4.48,187'09Fox4.98,263'08Fox5.18,500'07Fox4.88,441'06*TNT3.76,150'05Fox5.3n/a'04TNT3.6n/a'03Fox5.5n/a'02TNT3.4n/a
STARRY NIGHTS: TNT finished with a 3.3 U.S. rating and 5.9 million viewers for the NBA All-Star Saturday Night telecast, which featured the Sears Shooting Stars competition, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Those figures are down 8% and 5%, respectively, from a 3.6 rating and 6.2 million viewers last year. The net also drew a 1.3 rating and 1.9 million viewers for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, down 24% and 31%, respectively, from a 1.7 rating and 2.7 million viewers last year. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.5 rating and 2.3 million viewers for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game last Friday, flat in rating, but down 4% from 2.4 million viewers last year.TNT AUDIENCE TREND FOR NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHTYEARU.S. RATINGVIEWERS (000)'133.35,898'123.66,237'114.48,130'103.15,441'093.96,554'083.15,206
The charts below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
NASCAR Sprint Cup:
The Sprint Unlimited2/16Fox8:20-9:59pm3.55,722
PGA Tour: Northern Trust Open:
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Daytona 500 qualifying2/17Fox1:00-3:30pm2.03,100 PGA Tour: Northern Trust Open:
NHL: Kings-Blackhawks2/17NBC3:30-6:02pm1.21,810 NHL: Penguins-Sabres2/17NBC12:30-3:15pm1.11,717 NCAA Basketball: (regional)2/16CBS1:00-3:20pm1.0n/a Red Bull Signature Series: Crashed Ice2/16NBC4:00-6:00pm0.71,214 FIS Alpine World Championships2/16NBC3:00-4:00pm0.6944 "75 Years of NCAA March Madness:
Top 10 Buzzer Beaters"2/17CBS12:00-1:00pm0.6n/a
"ESPN Sports Saturday"2/16ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5n/a "75 Years of NCAA March Madness:
Top 10 Championship Runs"2/16CBS12:30-1:00pm0.5n/a
Liga MX: Tigres UANL-Santos Laguna2/16UniMas7:53-10:00pm0.4776 USSA Halfpipe Grand Prix2/16NBC2:00-3:00pm0.4630 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA All-Star Game2/17TNT8:42-11:36pm4.68,020 NBA All-Star Saturday Night2/16TNT8:31-11:18pm3.35,898 "NBA All-Star Pregame"2/17TNT7:00-8:42pm2.54,069 NBA: Heat-Thunder2/14TNT8:16-11:00pm2.23,391 NBA: Clippers-Lakers2/14TNT11:00pm-1:25am1.72,610 NCAA Basketball: Duke-Maryland2/16ESPN6:24-8:31pm1.52,499 NCAA Basketball:
"Sir Charles at 50"2/16TNT11:18pm-12:18am1.42,277 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game2/15ESPN7:00-9:00pm1.52,263 NCAA Basketball:
In L.A., Steve Dilbeck notes the Dodgers' Spring Training broadcast schedule "calls for only seven games to be televised" after 15 games were aired last spring. FS Prime Ticket is broadcasting "only four games," while KCAL-CBS will "air three." The Dodgers' final season with Fox before moving to Time Warner is "apparently playing no small part in the reduction" (L.A. TIMES, 2/22).
OMINOUS SIGN? In New Jersey, Mary Diduch reports Cablevision will "add a monthly surcharge for sports programming." The $2.98 surcharge will "go into effect in April and will apply to cable television customers that subscribe to Family or Value packages or above." Cablevision VP/Video Product Management Bradley Feldman said, "Unfortunately, the rising cost of programming has resulted in this sports surcharge" (Bergen RECORD, 2/22).
SYMPATHY FOR THE SUN DEVILS: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes, "The Pac-12/DirecTV standoff is hurting the Sun Devils more than anybody." Twenty of Arizona State Univ.'s men's basketball games "have been carried by the Pac-12 Network." That translates to 74% of ASU games "not available to DirecTV viewers because the two sides have failed to reach an agreement." ASU is "suffering the most in the conference because it is a dramatically different team from the one that finished 10-21 a year ago" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/22).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Outdoor Channel shareholder UTR Thursday said that "it and deep-pocketed backers are ready to make an all-cash bid that tops the existing offer" of $8 per share for the company. In N.Y., Josh Kosman notes UTR "would not name the investors -- except to say that they are Hollywood heavyweights." The Outdoor Channel in November agreed to a $208M merger with InterMedia Outdoors, "which runs The Sportsman Channel." UTR has been "an outspoken critic" of the merger (N.Y. POST, 2/22).