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A federal jury on Thursday found ESPN "liable for only one breach-of-contract claim" out of the four made by Dish Network and awarded the satellite TV provider $4.86M, a "mere fraction of the more than $152 million it had sought," according to Raymond & Baker of REUTERS. The 10-member jury in Manhattan in a unanimous vote found ESPN liable for "breaching a 2005 licensing agreement by allowing rivals to pay lower rates for ESPN Deportes, a Spanish language channel, without extending the same offer to Dish." But the jury "rejected most of Dish's central claims that ESPN ... had breached its contract by giving better deals to rival distributors." The lawsuit "centered on the terms of distribution agreements that ESPN had negotiated with Dish and its competitors for channels that included ESPN Classic ... and ESPN Deportes." The trial "may have an impact on future negotiations between the two companies, whose distribution agreement is to expire this year" (REUTERS, 2/28). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eriq Gardner noted the trial "was marked by intense detail of contracts that typically are closely guarded secrets." Dish also "showcased internal ESPN emails that calculated how licensing negotiations with other MVPDs impacted the money that was owed to Dish and how to 'finesse' the obligations for financial advantage" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/28).
IT'S NOT PERSONAL: On Long Island, Neil Best writes ESPN, when it matched NBC's offer last week for Big East TV rights, was "merely ... doing what made business sense." ESPN played "defense against a competitor while holding on to another sliver of the most valuable programming in television: live sports." The "lack of supply has run into a mushrooming demand for hours to fill," which has created "increasingly desperate high-stakes bidding for sports rights -- both nationally and even more so locally." ESPN is in an "enviable position, having locked up rights to a lot of major stuff for years." ESPN President John Skipper said, "What we have to do, of course, is build upon that, start new businesses, make sure our mobile works, grow in Latin America, so that we continue to have the money it will take to buy that marquee product" (NEWSDAY, 3/1).
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner in a "tough-sounding letter" to Time Warner Cable execs is "urging them to end a yearlong impasse with Fox Sports San Diego that prevents about 22 percent of the county's pay TV households from watching Padres games," according to Matthew Hall of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. But it is "unclear from the letter or the mayor's response to questions about it exactly what the repercussions might be" if TWC ignores the mayor. Filner on Feb. 11 wrote, "I strongly urge you to reconsider your current decision not to provide your customers with Padres baseball this season, and act in a manner deserving of your customers' trust and continued business. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation and am prepared to take the steps necessary to bring about a resolution prior to the 2013 baseball season." Filner's letter "expresses how 'closely' he has been following the TV impasse and his 'great disappointment' with Time Warner, especially that it is 'no closer to reaching an agreement with Fox Sports' after all this time." Filner wrote, "As Mayor, I will do everything in my power to ensure San Diegans around the region are able to follow and support our hometown baseball team." Hall writes, "So should San Diego be skeptical or stoked about the mayor's stated intention to get more involved in this TV tussle?" Hall: "I'm not sure yet, but I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I hope he has something up his sleeve as he's previously suggested" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/1).
Boxing analyst Larry Merchant “is coming out of retirement for at least one fight card," as he will team with George Foreman to “call Top Rank's excellent slate of fights that will take place on April 6 in Macau,” according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. Tim Ryan, who called fights “for many years on CBS, will serve as the blow-by-blow man on the broadcast.” Top Rank is “producing the show and responsible for hiring the on-air talent, but it made a deal with HBO to carry the card in the United States on its HBO2 service beginning at 2 p.m. ET/PT," meaning Merchant and Foreman "will be reunited on HBO.” When Merchant and Foreman worked together on HBO's "World Championship Boxing," their “chemistry and often heated on-air disagreements … made a must-see show regardless of who was fighting in the ring.” Top Rank President Todd duBoef said, "Larry and George are like Abbot and Costello, they work so well together." Although HBO is “paying a small license fee” for the Roman Martinez-Diego Magdaleno card, duBoef said that he “wanted the HBO brand name behind the show more than money, as well as Merchant, Foreman and Ryan" (ESPN.com, 2/28).
Wizards play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz on Thursday tried to explain his call at the end of Wednesday's Pistons-Wizards game when he mistakenly exclaimed "Dagger!" after it appeared to him that Wizards F Trevor Ariza hit a game-winning three-pointer, noting the broadcast crew sits in a "little different location this year than we have the last 15 years," according to Sarah Kogod of the WASHINGTON POST. Buckhantz appeared on ESPN Radio 980 DC Thursday, and he said, "We’re up in one of the sections, Section 110, so we are now pretty much ... across from the Wizards bench, about 20 rows up. So it’s a little different perspective for us." Kogod noted the Pistons broadcasters, who were located next to Buckhantz and analyst Phil Chenier, "also got the call wrong, so it’s not unreasonable to blame a bad angle here." Buckhantz "went on to talk about the positives and negatives of no longer being courtside." He said, "It helps in the sense that you’re elevated. When you’re on the court, you’re right down there. You’re low. So the positive is that you’re elevated. Where you’re at a disadvantage are certain angles, and also the disassociation with the game." Buckhantz added, "What I’m learning is, which I didn’t offer very much [Wednesday] night, is you have to try to be a little bit more patient, because there are times when you see something that you thought you saw but you didn’t see it." Kogod noted Buckhantz is "taking it in stride, and promises that this incident won’t make him shy with any future 'daggers'" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/28).
BINOCULARS NEEDED: ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, “You know why his angle is a bad angle? Because his owner, Ted Leonsis, who I like very much, sold the seats. So the broadcast seats are up where Bob Uecker used to sit in that commercial in the ‘70s and they can’t even see it.” There “better not be any complaints” from Leonsis, since he "put them there.” ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the announcers “don’t need a seeing-eye dog,” because while “they’re bad seats, they ain’t that bad” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/28). The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said, “This is what happens when some little rich kid eating ice cream sits in the front row and the announcer has to sit 25 rows up and he can’t even see the game. This is what the NBA has brought you.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Pablo Torre gave a “pass” to the announcers for their missed call on the last shot, saying, “I watched this three times and I couldn’t tell myself" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/28). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the missed call “would have happened to any of us” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 2/28). TNT’s Kenny Smith said, “He had to be looking at the monitor and not the game” (“Inside the NBA,” TNT, 3/1).
MLS and Long Island-based technology company NeuLion have signed a new multiyear agreement for MLS Live, the subscription-based service providing access to live and archived matches on Internet-connected devices. Terms were not disclosed. NeuLion begins its fourth year with MLS Live as the '13 season begins this weekend. NeuLion co-Founder & Exec VP/Marketplace Strategy Chris Wagner said that subscriptions have doubled each year his company has produced MLS Live, adding that smartphone and tablet development has played a key role. “We’re seeing that smartphones and tablets represent more than 30% of our traffic,” Wagner said. MLS Digital VP Chris Schlosser said the MLS Live service “is a crucial product for us, especially because it’s so popular with the 18-30-year-old demographic.” MLS Live this season is available on Android smartphones and tablets for the first time. Matches will be delivered in HD streaming at 4.5 mbps -- “the highest quality we’ve ever had,” said Wagner -- and also feature key play markers, slow motion viewing, real-time live stats, DVR fan controls and social media integration. “It’s not just streaming matches,” said Wagner. “We know it’s the experience we’ve created with all the data, resources and tools that drives engagement.” MLS Live can be utilized on multiple devices with one login. “The ability to be on MLS Live and them move from a PC to an iPad or iPhone or Roku or any device has come a long way,” Wagner said. “It’s seamless now.”
German software giant SAP at the seventh MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday announced the creation of a new football scouting solution designed to aid teams in identifying and acquiring talent. The 49ers, who already have signed SAP as a founding partner for the team's new stadium in Santa Clara, are the debut client of SAP Scouting with the team using it to help prepare for next month's draft. SAP Scouting leverages the company's HANA in-memory computing platform that also is the foundation of the NBA's immersive new online statistical database at NBA.com. "This effort into scouting and analytics came sort of as a byproduct of some deep thinking and business conversations we were doing with the 49ers in regard to marketing and our initial relationship," said SAP Senior VP & GM for Cloud Mike Morini. "A need was identified and we immediately went after it. But we see this evolving into other sports, certainly baseball, basketball and hockey in addition to football. There's a big downstream opportunity. And we think this is something that can also help humanize the (SAP) brand."
The opening week for NASCAR races was a mixed bag on the TV front. The Daytona 500 on Fox saw its best audience since ’08. Earlier in the week, Speed earned a 1.3 rating and 2.0 million viewers for the Budweiser Duels, up from last year. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 2.2 U.S. rating and 3.4 million viewers for the NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener last Saturday, which featured a multicar crash at the conclusion of the race that resulted in several fans being injured. Those figures were down from last year’s audience, which marked the most-viewed NNS race ever on cable TV. Danica Patrick was on the pole for last year's race. Despite the drop, the audience this year marked the third-best viewership for the race at Daytona since ESPN re-acquired NASCAR rights prior to the ’07 season. The crash led to an increase for Speed as well, as the net’s “Speed Center” news program cut in for coverage from Daytona. The cut-in averaged 1.1 million viewers, marking the show’s best audience yet. Speed also earned a 0.9 rating and 1.4 million viewers for the season-opening Camping World Truck Series race last Friday, down from last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).YEAR-OVER-YEAR AUDIENCE FOR OPENING WEEK OF NASCAR RACESDATENETRACERAT.% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-2/21SpeedBudweiser Duels1.38.3%1,9689.6%2/22SpeedCamping World Truck Series0.9-25.0%1,402-28.5%2/23ESPNNationwide Series2.2-24.1%3,360-24.2%2/24FoxSprint Cup Series*9.923.8%16,70022.2%
CHART NOTE: * = Race aired on a Monday in primetime last year.
NOTES: Rogers Sportsnet averaged 456,000 viewers for the Blue Jays' first Spring Training game last Saturday, marking the net’s largest audience for a Sprint Training game on record. The audience was 20% higher than the previous record, set on March 23, 2011 (Sportsnet)....Golf Channel continued its best start to a year ever with the net's most-viewed month of February. The net's "Morning Drive," which relaunched on Feb. 4, averaged 119,000 viewers last Saturday, marking the show's most-watched hour yet. Meanwhile, the season premiere of "The Haney Project: Michael Phelps" drew 205,000 viewers on Monday, up 153% from last season's premiere when the show featured a foursome of Adam Levine, Sugar Ray Leonard, Angie Everhart and Mario Batali (Golf Channel)....NFL Network totaled 7.25 million viewers for live and replay telecasts of the NFL Combine from Feb. 23-26, up 11% from 6.51 million viewers last year (NFLN)....FS Midwest is averaging a 5.0 local rating in St. Louis through 14 Blues games to date, up 144% over the same number of contests last year. The Blues drew a 3.5 rating for the '11-12 season, "which was their highest ever" on the net (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/1).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NASCAR Sprint Cup: Daytona 5002/24Fox1:00-5:00pm9.916,700 NBA: Lakers-Mavericks2/24ABC12:56-3:32pm2.0n/a NCAA Basketball:
Michigan State-Ohio State2/24CBS4:00-6:00pm1.9n/a
WGC: Accenture Match Play: Final2/24NBC2:00-6:00pm1.82,560 NCAA Basketball:
WGC: Accenture Match Play: Semis2/23NBC2:00-6:00pm1.31,860 "NBA Countdown"2/24ABC12:30-12:56pm0.8n/a Liga MX: CD Guadalajara-Leon2/24Telem.5:55-8:01pm0.61,023 "ESPN Sports Saturday"2/23ABC4:00-6:00pm0.6n/a "75 Years of March Madness:
Champs That Never Were"2/23CBS1:30-2:00pm0.6n/a
AMA Supercross Midseason Review2/24CBS12:00-1:00pm0.6n/a PBR 15/15 Bucking Battle2/24CBS1:00-2:00pm0.6n/a "75 Years of March Madness:
Top 10 Upsets"2/23CBS1:00-1:30pm0.5n/a
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NCAA Basketball:
NASCAR Nationwide Series:
NBA: Heat-Bulls2/21TNT8:16-10:43pm1.72,448 NBA: Celtics-Lakers2/20ESPN10:42pm-1:13am1.62,253 NCAA Basketball: Missouri-Kentucky2/23ESPN9:00-11:32pm1.42,043 NCAA Basketball:
NC State-North Carolina2/23ESPN4:41-5:52pm1.31,993
NBA: Spurs-Clippers2/21TNT10:43pm-1:21am1.31,972 NASCAR Sprint Cup:
NCAA Basketball: Florida-Missouri2/19ESPN9:25-11:12pm1.11,649 NBA: Spurs-Warriors2/22ESPN10:35pm-1:23am1.11,590
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Chandran & Launder wonder what will happen to cable TV operators when bundled packages "begins to unravel." The question is "taking on intense importance for the cable-TV business, which for decades has forced customers to subscribe to groups, or bundles, of channels -- whether they wanted them or not." SNL Kagan data shows that Disney draws more than $10B in "such fee revenue, mostly from its majority-owned ESPN group of channels." That is "about a third" of the $31.6B expected to be generated industrywide by such fees this year, excluding premium services like HBO and broadcast outlets. ESPN "gets $5.54 per subscriber a month, while Viacom's MTV gets 41 cents per subscriber" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/1).
SUBSTANCE AND STYLE: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes MSG Network analyst Walt Frazier's performance during Wednesday's Warriors-Knicks game "was one of his most memorable." It provided "another reason as to why he needs to be taken seriously as a pure analyst, not a Gulag sideshow." It is often easier remembering what Frazier "wore than what he said" during a broadcast. It is always "more about the persona of Clyde than Walt Frazier the analyst," but it "should not be that way." ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said of Frazier, "Going back I didn’t think he was very well-prepared or very good. Now, I think he’s gotten very, very good. It’s gone beyond the rhyming" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/1).
PEOPLE & PERSONALITIES: In St. Louis, Derrick Goold noted former MLBer So Taguchi "has been hired by NHK in Toyko as a studio commentator for almost a third of the 300 major-league games that will be televised back in Japan." The attention "will be mostly focused on Japanese players" (STLTODAY.com, 2/26)....In DC, Dan Steinberg reported MASN's Nationals sideline reporter Kristina Akra, who started in the position before last season, "will not be returning" this year. Akra is "leaving for another as-yet-unannounced on-air opportunity" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/25)....Former Pro Football Weekly Senior Editor Mike Wilkening has joined Pro Football Talk as "a part-time scribe" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/27).