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Fox MLB analyst Tim McCarver yesterday announced he will not seek a contract extension once his current deal expires at the end of the '13 season. He noted the decision walk away from the Fox booth was not a tough one at all. He said, “It’s not a sad thing for me. I have neither tired of broadcasting baseball nor in any way lost my interest in the game. I don’t think there was any one event. I just thought, ‘It’s gotta end sometime.’” McCarver has worked a record 23 World Series and 20 All-Star games, including 28 straight MLB postseasons on network TV. The 71-year-old added that health was not a factor in his decision, saying he will work Fox’ entire ’13 schedule. He said, “It’s time to cut back.” McCarver noted that he had been thinking about retiring for two years and informed Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks of his decision in February. Fox' Joe Buck became emotional when talking about McCarver, his booth partner for 17 years, and said, “What he’s meant to me goes beyond professional, in the booth relationship. I’ve said it before, I don’t want to do these games with anyone but Tim.” Shanks left the door open for McCarver to appear on the new Fox Sports 1 channel, saying he would “continue to do what we can to fit into his schedule.” But McCarver said there was not a current plan in place for him at FS1. He said, “I just don’t know. I don’t want to speculate on it” (Josh Carpenter, Staff Writer). McCarver said, “Timing is everything and I wanted to step down while I know I can still do the job and proud of the job I have done.” SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported Fox “considered the idea” of announcing McCarver’s retirement during the All-Star break this season, but McCarver “did not want to drag out the news” McCarver’s “critics -- and he had many of them for his tendency to over-talk in a broadcast -- would concede few were better at first-guessing as a baseball analyst” (SI.com, 3/27).
NOT RETIRING JUST YET: McCarver following his announcement talked with WFAN-AM’s Mike Francesa and said he is “by no means retiring next year." McCarver: "I didn’t announce my retirement. I just said I was stepping away from doing the job I’ve done since 1996. ... I’ve got to do something and I know there’ll be plenty of things out there to do.” Francesa asked, "So you’re not stepping away from doing games, you’re just not going to do the national game anymore?” McCarver said that terminology was “exactly right.” He noted he still has his self-titled TV show, but said, “I don’t know where that’s going to go. There are plenty of things with which to stay busy” (“Mike Francesa,” WFAN-AM, 3/27).
GOING OUT ON HIS TERMS: In L.A., Joe Flint writes McCarver is “occasionally criticized for being long-winded and dwelling on details,” but is “also considered one of the sharpest analysts to have covered the game.” News Corp. Senior Exec VP David Hill: “McCarver lives up to John Madden’s credo for great sports analysis -- the great ones tell you what you’re seeing, but not seeing” (L.A. TIMES, 3/28). MLB.com’s Marty Noble wrote McCarver “knows and shares more about how the game is played and should be played.” His “Memphisonian delivery is so comfortable they may want to mandate a Tennessee upbringing for all future guys behind the mikes.” His “sense of controlled outrage -- when players make foolish decisions -- is genuine, unfiltered and appropriate” (MLB.com, 3/27).
TIME TO LOOK FOR A REPLACEMENT: Fox execs said that the “search for a replacement as their lead analyst has not begun, though one name that constantly surfaces is" SNY and TBS analyst Ron Darling (N.Y. POST, 3/28). USA TODAY’s Paul White lists six possible replacements for McCarver including Fox’ Eric Karros, whose employment by the network “has to make him the favorite.” Karros is “smart, insightful and polished, far enough removed from playing to be critical when necessary” (USA TODAY, 3/28).
The WNBA has signed a six-year extension with ESPN that is separate from the network's NBA deal. Sources said the deal is worth $12M per year, which amounts to about $1M per WNBA team, and runs through the '22 season. An official announcement is planned later this afternoon, coinciding with a relaunch of the WNBA brand. The 16-year-old league is taking the wraps off a new logo, designed in conjunction with the firm OCD (Original Champions of Design) to reflect "the diversity and athleticism of today's WNBA," according to WNBA President Laurel Richie. Looking to add to its WNBA revenues, the NBA decided to open the WNBA part of its package with ESPN early. The new deal will set up a Memorial Day double-header on ESPN2 that will be the WNBA's version of the NBA's Christmas Day games, and will increase the number of WNBA games on ESPN to 30 from 28. Those games will include the teams with the top four draft picks, so ESPN will be able to highlight the three top picks that it has showcased in its "Three to See" campaign all season: Elena Delle Donne (Delaware), Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame), and Brittney Griner (Baylor). "Having a better sense of the athletes and getting to know the athletes is a really important part of building allegiance to a player, a team or a league," Richie said. "So in this extended partnership, we're excited about looking for ways to do that." Like other media rights deals, ESPN picked up TV Everywhere rights that allow it to show WNBA games on ESPN3 and its WatchESPN app. ESPN's current rights deal with the NBA, which was signed in '07 and runs through the '15-16 season, included WNBA rights. ESPN's deal with the NBA is not affected by this deal. ESPN has carried WNBA games dating back to the league's inaugural season in '97.
Perform Group and American City Business Journals have struck a major joint venture to combine Perform's U.S. sports assets, including its popular ePlayer sports video service, with ACBJ's Sporting News brand. The new company, Perform Sporting News Limited, will operate under the brand name Sporting News Media and likely become one of the top five digital sports media properties in the U.S., blending the ePlayer video syndication that provides highlights to more than 250 news outlets and soccer portal Goal.com with the Sporting News portfolio of assets, including SportingNews.com. U.K.-based Perform will own 65% of the new entity and serve as majority owner, with ACBJ holding a 35% share. The deal will further solidify Perform in the U.S. Perform's ePlayer, in less than four years of domestic operation after an initial run in England, has assembled online highlight rights to nearly every major U.S. pro sports property including the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, and distributes the content to news outlets including Gannett, the N.Y. Daily News and L.A. Times, among many others. The addition of Sporting News provides a large array of news and sports data, as well as a mainstream consumer brand. "We've basically gone from nowhere in 2009 with our U.S. business to now the No. 1 digital video provider in the country. But we still had a missing piece in a standout brand since the ePlayer is a white-label product," said Perform joint CEO Oliver Slipper. "We were on the lookout for the right destination, and Sporting News represents that standout brand. We see a big opportunity to put together what we see as a lot of very complementary assets and push that North American business forward. This combination we believe was the step we needed to get to the next level."
INSIDE THE DEAL: Slipper said no money changed hands in the creation of the new company, but Perform will supply $1.4M in loans and cash to the venture for working capital, and ACBJ will contribute $4.2M. Perform and ACBJ hold options over the next four years to purchase the other side's equity. Perform has a pre-set price of $65M to buy out ACBJ's stake if it exercises the option, ultimately rising over time to $85M. As a result, the new venture carries a value of about $200M. With the deal, both groups hope to achieve greater scale and compete more vigorously against outlets such as Yahoo and ESPN for a greater share of the growing digital advertising market. For ACBJ, the deal represents another significant step in the ongoing transformation of Sporting News, which it purchased in '06. Since that deal, the 127-year-old brand has brought in veteran media exec Jeff Price to serve as president and publisher, released several new digital products, took control of the AOL Fanhouse brand name, and last December ceased publishing the print magazine. Perform Americas Managing Dir Juan Delgado will become Sporting News Media Managing Dir, with Price reporting to him as President. The new company's corporate, sales, marketing and business operations will be based in N.Y., with editorial operations continuing to be headquartered in Charlotte. "The critical thing in a joint venture like this is the relationships and people you're working with," said ACBJ CEO Whitney Shaw. "We've identified a set of common goals in a very logical way, and this is a very comfortable and exciting step in the future of Sporting News. These are the right guys with which to take the next step."
SN YEARBOOKS/NASCAR ILLUSTRATED NOT PART OF DEAL: Shaw and Slipper did not disclose specifics around projected staff headcounts. However, sources said close to a dozen employees were informed that there would not be a role for them in the new set up. Staff of the various assets included in the deal will now become employees of the new Perform Sporting News Limited joint venture. Sporting News staffing had already been in a state of change amid its transition to a digitally focused outfit. The change to the new brand will begin immediately. Sporting News Media will represent the name taken to the business and ad market, while Sporting News will be the consumer-facing brand. The deal also marks an outgrowth of a prior relationship in which Perform was providing video content for Sporting News over the past two years, in part through its Total College Sports venture with Silver Chalice New Media. Intensive negotiations toward the joint venture began late last fall. Remaining print assets under the Sporting News umbrella, including its annual sports yearbooks and NASCAR Illustrated, are not part of the deal with Perform.
COMPANY TIES: ACBJ is the parent company of THE DAILY and SportsBusiness Journal. Perform is a publicly listed company on the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of nearly £1.2B, and is the fastest growing listed media business in Europe.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker in her first extended public comments on the carriage dispute involving Comcast SportsNet Houston yesterday said that the impasse between the net and "major cable and satellite providers was 'intolerable,'" according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Parker said, "It’s a real shame that we can’t reach a businesslike resolution to a problem that keeps Houstonians -- who have paid for the venues that these teams play in -- from watching their hometown teams." She added, "It is about dollars. I respect the fact that a cable provider has to provide what they consider the best value for their shareholders and for their customers but, again, the taxpayers of Houston paid for these venues, we want the opportunity to watch the major league teams that we support play." Barron notes CSN Houston accounts for "about 40 percent of the 2.2 million television households in the Houston area." The comments come "less than a week before the Astros’ broadcast schedule launches" on the net. Parker also said that she was "concerned that Astros games on radio are moving" to 5,000-watt KBME-AM from 50,000-watt KTRH-AM. Parker: "These are business decisions by big league teams, and big league teams have to recognize that fans are part of the equation, just as the cable providers have to recognize that they are not just providing programming, they’re providing a service to the fans in the community. I find both sides, their stubbornness is problematic" (CHRON.com, 3/27).
WHERE IN THE WORLD? In San Diego, Matthew Hall noted city officials held their "second hearing in two weeks Tuesday to pressure Fox Sports San Diego and Time Warner Cable to end a yearlong impasse that leaves 185,000 county households without Padres telecasts." But TV execs offered "no hint that a deal was imminent." FS San Diego President & GM Henry Ford said that he was "unable to characterize the status of recently resumed negotiations." TWC VP/Corporate Relations & Communications Deane Leavenworth "echoed those remarks" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/27).
Tuesday night's U.S.-Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifying match, a 0-0 tie from Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, averaged 2.39 million viewers and earned a 1.4 Nielsen rating, making it ESPN's most-watched and highest-rated qualifying match on record. Birmingham was the highest-rated local rating, with a 2.9. It was followed by Austin (2.6), Seattle-Tacoma (2.4), Columbus (2.4), L.A. (2.3), San Diego (2.3) and Hartford-New Haven (2.3) (ESPN).MOST-VIEWED WORLD CUP QUALIFYING/INT'L FRIENDLY MATCHES ON ESPN
DATE MATCHNETWORKRATINGVIEWERS March 26, 2013 Mexico vs. USA (WCQ)ESPN1.42,385,000 Feb. 11, 2009 USA vs. Mexico (WCQ)ESPN20.71,191,000 May 30, 2012 USA vs. Brazil (Friendly)ESPN20.61,128,000 Feb. 7, 2007 USA vs. Mexico (Friendly)ESPN20.61,091,000 Oct. 14, 2009 USA vs. Costa Rica (WCQ)ESPN20.61,090,000
HEAR ME ROAR: The United States Soccer Federation last week announced the U.S. men's national soccer team will play Germany on June 2 at RFK Stadium in the "Centennial Celebration Match" to recognize 100 years of organized soccer in the U.S. In DC, Steven Goff wrote, "Great matchup, terrific event, historic venue. Well done." But he asked, "What about the women?" There are "no plans at the moment for a women's home game tied directly to the USSF's centennial." The organization "dropped the ball on the centennial planning." It is not like USSF President Sunil Gulati was "taken by surprise." The women "deserve a stand-alone game to honor their wealth of achievements." Goff: "At the very least, they deserved to be part of a doubleheader" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/22).
Rogers Media President Keith Pelley yesterday said that the Blue Jays “could draw twice as many TV viewers as last season if they play to their potential,” according to Michael Oliveira of the CP. The team in '12 “attracted an average of 507,000 over the course of the year." That was up 7% from '11, but Pelley said, “When we looked at (the payroll boost) we said, ‘This will do a tremendous amount for Rogers, the Blue Jays are ready to pop in terms of not only on the field, but as far as being a fashionable brand now in Toronto.’” He added the team's decision to "add money and payroll was not in isolation." Pelley: "It was done in a decision that, if we can play meaningful games in September, what that will do to Sportsnet. Those numbers of 507,000 would creep up to in the neighbourhood of a million viewers.” Oliveira noted some fans will be “disappointed that Rogers is again shifting some Blue Jays broadcasts to Sportsnet One, a channel that’s typically bundled into the pricier TV packages.” This season’s games will “only be available to stream on the web and mobile devices by Rogers TV customers.” But Rogers Media Senior VP/Content David Purdy “hinted that’s expected to change and customers with other TV providers should get the same digital access eventually” (CP, 3/27). Pelley said, “If we start winning, we’re doing a million viewers a night. Ratings are nothing more than a form of currency” (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/28).