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The Browns beginning with the '13 season "will be broadcast" both on CBS Sports Radio 92.3 Cleveland (WKRK) and ESPN Radio 850 Cleveland (WKNR), according to sources cited by Bob Finnan of the Willoughby NEWS-HERALD. The announcement "could be made" tomorrow morning. Such an agreement is "rare, because the two stations are rivals." Several issues will "need to be worked out, including how they'll sell advertising." Clear Channel has "broadcast the Browns since they returned in 1999." The company "managed to retain their rights" to the Indians last year following rumors that WKRK had won them. Clear Channel also "has the rights to the Cavaliers," and things were "getting a bit crowded trying to appease all three franchises." A "bone of contention" for the Browns reportedly was "when they overlapped with the Indians." The Browns "wanted their games on AM and FM." The team's flagship previously was WMMS-FM, and its games would be simulcast on fellow Clear Channel station WTAM-AM when there "was no conflict with the Indians." As many as eight of the Browns' preseason and regular-season games last season "butted heads with Indians' broadcasts, which bumped them off WTAM" (Willoughby NEWS-HERALD, 3/27).
BEHIND THE BIDS: In Cleveland, Tom Reed cites a source as saying that WKRK and WKNR "entered into negotiations with the Browns bidding against each other," but at "some point decided to join forces against Clear Channel." A source said that the Browns are "expected to double their auxiliary programming hours from 500 to 1,000 annually" as part of the agreement. There will be a "Rob Chudzinski coach’s show and the Cleveland Browns Daily Show will expand from one hour to two hours on WKNR." A source said that on game days, WKNR will "host a four-hour pre-game show," while WKRK "follows with a two-hour post-game show." Browns play-by-play man Jim Donovan and analyst Doug Dieken will "continue to anchor the radio broadcasts" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/27).
March Madness Live recorded strong early returns during the first week of the NCAA Tournament, according to data from Turner Sports. MML generated 36.6 million live video streams during the initial rounds, twice last year's comparable total, and 10 million hours of live video streaming, up 198% from '12. The broadband version of MML has seen 4.2 million unique visitors, up 161%, and the mobile version has reached 2.6 million unique visitors, up 121%. The bullish initial numbers for the digital deployment of the tournament mirror improved TV ratings, showing the broad appeal of what has been widely deemed to be a wide-open competition. Turner Sports this year changed the model for MML, removing the fee-based option and basing the distribution on a user-authentication-based structure backstopped by a free four-hour preview. The most popular individual game on MML to date was the Michigan State-Valparaiso contest, which generated 1.84 million video streams. The game's 12:15pm ET tip time marked the beginning of play last Thursday, generally considered the full start of the tournament (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted the MML app "ranked as the top sports app in the App Store and Google Play during the first week of the tournament." It also was the "No. 1 free app across all categories in the App Store during the opening weekend -- March 23-24 -- of the tournament." Mobile usage "grew on the weekend, as people left their offices and work computers behind." Whereas mobile live video consumption "accounted for 43% of live video streams on Thursday March 21, that ratio grew to 48% on Friday, 59% on Saturday and 60% on Sunday." Moreover, live viewing minutes "grew as the week progressed with mobile representing 23% of such on Thursday, 25% on Friday, 30% on Saturday and 32% on Sunday" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 3/26).
GROUND CHUCK? ESPN’s Matt Doherty Monday took a thinly-veiled shot at Charles Barkley's analyst work during the NCAA Tournament. Without ever mentioning Barkley by name, Doherty said, “In my expert opinion, I’d like to see the network broadcasting the NCAA Tournament put on regular-season college analysts to cover the games. I think it disrespects the event, it disrespects the players. I think it’s a ‘turrible’ decision that they made” (“The Experts,” ESPNU, 3/25). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder noted it is “not every day you see a basketball analyst call out another from a rival network so openly, especially someone who works for ESPN.” But it is a “legitimate example of growing resistance within college basketball to Barkley's NCAA analysis.” There are “many folks around college basketball who would wholeheartedly agree with Doherty's assessment.” Some of the things Barkley has said in this year's tournament “have been particularly puzzling” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 3/26).
Comcast SportsNet Houston this season will air 157 Astros games, along with live pre- and postgame shows, all in HD. The net's first regular-season Astros broadcast will be Tuesday at 7:00pm CT (CSN Houston). In Houston, David Barron notes Bill Brown "returns for a 27th season, working about a hundred games on play-by-play and about 40 on pre- and postgame shows." Alan Ashby will work with Brown on "home games and will share most road duties with former Astros player Geoff Blum, who makes his TV debut." While CSN Houston remains "short on household penetration, it will provide major coverage upgrades" over FS Houston. Former Astros manager Art Howe and former MLBers Eric Young and Mike Stanton will "work as studio analysts for pre- and postgame shows alongside Brown and hosts Marius Payton, Bill Doleman and Cory Hepola." Julia Morales will "work as a roving reporter," and other CSN Houston personnel, including former Padres studio host Leila Rahimi, will "contribute to pre- and postgame shows." CSN Houston Exec Producer & VP/Production Murphy Brown said that home game broadcasts "will feature nine to 10 cameras, up from six last year." Meanwhile, on the Astros radio network, Milo Hamilton's "successor on play-by-play is MLB broadcast rookie Robert Ford, who will be joined by former pitcher Steve Sparks." Ford and Sparks are "less traditional choices," as Ford called MiLB "for seven seasons and spent four years as pre- and postgame host for the Royals' flagship radio station in Kansas City; Sparks' only broadcast experience was as a TV studio analyst." Astros Owner Jim Crane has said that he was the "only voice in Astros management that preferred Ford over a more experienced announcer" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/27).
THIS IS CSN: The CHRONICLE's Barron noted CSN Houston last week launched "yet another carriage ad campaign." This one features CSN Houston President & GM Matt Hutchings "speaking to the camera with a 'you deserve the facts' and 'you deserve the channel' message." One 30-second spot notes that "more than 85,000 viewers have sent messages." Another notes that companies like Time Warner Cable and Fox Sports "continue to invest in new networks, for example, San Diego and Los Angeles, and that DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse have agreed to carry them while refusing to reach an agreement with the Houston network." A third says that "even though Houston area fans lost access to the Rockets and Astros when the teams left Fox Sports Houston for CSN Houston, DirecTV, Dish and U-verse did not lower customers' bills." This campaign features "less noise and less emotion than previous 'I want my CSN Houston' pitches" (CHRON.com, 3/21).
Alabama-based radio host Paul Finebaum has "agreed to a major book deal with publisher HarperCollins to co-write a memoir about his popular call-in show, 'The Paul Finebaum Radio Network,' and its impact on SEC football," according to Bob Carlton of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Finebaum said, "Primarily, it's about the culture of the show and how the culture of the show interacts with the SEC." He added the radio show will be "woven in and out of the book, featuring little vignettes on the callers." A source said that Finebaum will "receive an advance of more than $500,000, which is considered a major deal in the publishing world." The book is scheduled for an August '14 release. The deal with HarperCollins "came about as a result of a lengthy feature story about the Finebaum show that appeared in The New Yorker magazine in December." ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski will "co-write the book with Finebaum." Carlton noted Finebaum and Wojciechowski "have known each other since they worked on the University of Tennessee student newspaper The Daily Beacon together." Finebaum: "My feeling was I wanted to work with someone on the book who had experience" (AL.com, 3/26).
Golden Boy Promotions yesterday announced that it “will work once again with NCM Fathom Events to distribute” Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s welterweight title defense against Robert Guerrero on May 4 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas “to more than 400 theaters around the nation.” ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael noted the showings of the card, which also includes featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon’s defense against Abner Mares, will be “the same as what viewers at home will see on Showtime PPV.” It will be Mayweather’s “fifth consecutive fight to be screened in theaters” (ESPN.com, 3/26).
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT: SportsNet N.Y.’s Chris Carlin said of the Heat’s 27-game winning streak has “become must-see TV.” Carlin: “Think about this: People all over the country were curious if the Miami Heat beat the Orlando Magic last night. Normally, who cares?” The streak is “great for the NBA,” as the Heat have “become something that if you don’t get to see the game, you at least have to check in on.” Carlin: “You’re not turning the channel if the Miami Heat are on television because you want to see what happens” (“Loud Mouths,” SNY, 3/26).
TEXAS TV: FS Southwest said that it “already has sold the majority of this season’s advertising inventory” for MLB Rangers broadcasts. FS Southwest Senior VP & GM Jon Heidtke said, “They have had good on-field success and two World Series appearances that have unlocked the baseball fan in the Metroplex and that's translated into the viewership increases." In Dallas, Candace Carlisle reported FS Southwest “has sold about" 80% of the Rangers' season inventory through the All-Star Game on July 16. The company “expects to see a double-digit increase in advertising rates for the remainder of the inventory” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/25).
GRAND ENTRANCE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote he “thoroughly enjoyed” NBC Sports Network's Leigh Diffey announcing the Izod IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Diffey “caught a few on-track passes that the cameras did not.” The show’s producer said that Diffey “handled several things thrown at him by the madness of live TV.” Cavin: “I thought Leigh was terrific, even better than I expected. I just wish I could tell the difference between the voices of Brian Till from Townsend Bell. They sound the same to me” (INDYSTAR.com, 3/26).