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The Pac-12 will be the first major conference to create a network from its official school websites. The conference's multimedia arm, Pac-12 Enterprises, has selected NeuLion to make the unified digital platform for all 12 of its member schools. Each school site will maintain its own look and feel, but they will use a common video-centric digital platform, enabling the conference to share content among its university sites, aggregate the audience from all the sites, and also sell advertising across all of them. Pac-12 Digital VP & GM David Aufhauser said the digital network will have some similarities to centralized league networks like NBA.com and MLB.com. Aufhauser: "From a back-end standpoint, yes, it will be similar to the professional leagues. From a fan perspective, we don't want all 12 school sites to look the same. But from a functionality and publishing standpoint, it will be a unified platform." There remain some final pieces to put into place. Ten of the 12 schools will be part of the network when it launches in July. However, Utah and USC still have ongoing contracts with CBSSports.com College Network that must expire in the next few years before they can join.
NEULION A WINNER: Aufhauser said Pac-12 Digital issued an RFP and talked to at least eight different potential partners before selecting NeuLion. Aufhauser said the conference was swayed by NeuLion's ability as a content provider, primarily video, across all devices. The Pac-12 said the new agreement will give each member school the tools and resources to build a site rich with videos, photos, articles, schedules, stats and much more. NeuLion Exec VP/Marketplace Strategy & co-Founder Chris Wagner led the talks for the company. He said NeuLion will work with the schools to create unique content, while also accessing content from the Pac-12 TV Networks that can be used across tablet, mobile and online.
Whether the Final Four will be watched "on a mobile app or giant flat-screen TV," CBS Producer Mark Wolff and Director Bob Fishman "will literally decide how you see it," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Wolff and Fishman will sit in a production truck "with feeds from 16-17 cameras -- up from the 7-8 cameras during regular-season action." Fishman said, "I'd like to strap a (tiny) camera to a player's head and an official's head. That would be tremendous. That's a direction we'd like to pursue." But in some areas, the "power of the CBS production team can be absolute -- which was on display when Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered the traumatic leg injury in Sunday's regional final victory against Duke." Fishman said "there was no debate" about showing more than two replays. He added, "Even if we had a closeup with a particularly gory angle, we wouldn't put it up." How CBS will handle Ware in Louisville's game against Wichita State on Saturday "is the big TV question going into Final Four coverage." Wolff said, "We're going to talk to the school to see what we can do with him on the pregame or the game coverage" (USA TODAY, 4/5). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted Ware now is a "huge component of Louisville's story." CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said, "Without getting too graphic, I would not expect to see footage of the leg breaking on CBS in the future. It's not necessary. It's not journalistically important now because we have told the story. I think we will move on from that footage" (JSONLINE.com, 4/4). In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht noted Ware "will be profiled" on CBS' "The Final Four Show" from 3:00-5:00pm ET on Saturday. Wichita State F Carl Hall, who "six years ago was told he would never play basketball again following a diagnosis of neuro-cardiogenic syncope, also is featured" (NEWSOK.com, 4/4).
RIGHT TO WORK: Blogger Ed Sherman conducted a Q&A with CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, who was "about four feet" from Ware when the injury happened. Wolfson said of CBS finding a balance between getting the information and being respectful to the team, "CBS decided not to do any on-camera interview with the coaches at halftime like we normally do. Let's just talk to [Louisville coach Rick Pitino] off-camera. Let him regroup with his team and then see what he wants to say. If he didn't want to say anything, that's OK too." Sherman noted people have questioned the need for sideline reporters and asked, "Did your work Sunday provide a sense of validation?" Wolfson said, "It is in those situations where you need someone. I'm OK being that person who only steps into that role when it is necessary. I'm not someone who needs to be on the air six times a game because you have a reporter there and you have to put them on. We're all a team and I add to the broadcast." Sherman noted CBS does not use sideline reporters for regular-season NFL games and asked, "You work as a sideline reporter for CBS' college football game. How do you feel about that?" Wolfson: "I see the difference between college football and the NFL. Any relevant information, injury reports. In the NFL, a lot of that stuff goes directly to the booth. But you did see in the Super Bowl where you need them" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 4/3).
STORY OF CINDERELLA: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes there is a "wide [public] opinion that having a team from outside the marquee conferences playing in the national semifinals is an automatic television ratings killer for CBS." But two years ago when VCU and Butler met in the Final Four, "instead of killing viewership numbers, it did the opposite." It helped CBS’ rating for the two Saturday games "tie for the highest figure they had drawn in six years." Still, Wichita State "won’t be in the prime-time slot Saturday despite playing top seed Louisville." CBS "set that game for the early slot," while Michigan and Syracuse follow in the "marquee time slot." McManus said, "The Big 10 traditionally brings a lot of television homes into the equation. These are always subjective decisions and subjective calls." He added, "It’s not an exact science but that was the decision we made that we thought would make the most sense from a television standpoint" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5).
LADIES' NIGHT: In New Orleans, Rachel Whittaker conducted a Q&A with ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Tina Thornton about coverage of the upcoming NCAA Women's Final Four. Thornton, on changes to this year's coverage, said, "One thing we are doing from a technology perspective is an art telestration system, which is something we developed here internally. ... We also use virtual hot zones and shot charts that you can put directly onto the court instead of just seeing them in a graphic of some kind." Thornton added, "We worked really hard this year with ESPNW ... and we were really one team this year looking at everything collectively, not two separate units. That was a real win for us" (NOLA.com, 4/3).
Adobe is working with Golf Digest to sponsor a Masters-based online social hub that will aggregate Twitter posts and other social-media commentary. Golf Digest said it is the first time Adobe has stepped out of the tech space to work with a sports outlet. Adobe is providing its real-time analytics to let users see what topics and developments at The Masters are resonating with audiences. There are three core elements to the site: a feed of recent tweets and photos from the @GolfDigestMag handle, as well as the magazine's 31 tweeting editors and 15 golfers; a tool that shows which editor tweets are attracting the most interest; and Adobe analytics that show Twitter trends with commentary from GolfDigest.com Editors Ashley Mayo and Sam Weinman on those trends (Michael Smith, Staff Writer).
NEW DIGS: In West Palm Beach, Brian Biggane noted Golf Channel this week moved into an "expansive new studio” in Orlando, right before next week’s Masters. Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said, “For the sports fan the week of a major championship is about getting exactly what they want, to be able to see what’s going on at any given time. No one can do that like we can.” CBS and ESPN have the broadcast rights to The Masters, but Golf Channel “has become such an integral part of PGA Tour coverage, fans know it’s the one network that will be Masters-intensive 24/7.” Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee said, “You’re never going to be cheated if you’re a golf fan. You’re going to get every single story that pops up” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/4).
Fox' MLB coverage, which starts Saturday, is "in a transition season" with analyst Tim McCarver in his final season and reporter Erin Andrews getting an "expanded role," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Moreover, big-market West Coast teams might have to "step up and become bigger TV draws if the usual national TV attractions -- the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- have less than stellar seasons." Fox' coverage this season will "try to have a more national feel." Meanwhile, ESPN's MLB changes "include trying to assign analysts to games involving teams they played for or managed" (USA TODAY, 4/5). SI's Stephen Cannella writes McCarver is the "gold standard of television baseball analysis." Yet he has "long drawn the ire of viewers who see his wordy style as pedantic at best, condescending at worst." There is "merit to the anti-McCarver movement" because his "love of puns too often leads to tortured wordplay." But the criticism also is a "reminder of how high McCarver raised the bar on what we now expect from a baseball analyst." The ex-jocks in the booth before him were "there to tell folksy stories, play fast and loose with the language and generally lighten the mood." When McCarver "jumped from the field to the booth in 1979, he revolutionized the job." He "complemented his intelligence and behind-the-curtain knowledge with an unabashed love for the game and journalistic instincts that made him incapable of stifling his critical urges." In the latter part of his career, McCarver's "edginess has been blunted by his reluctance to embrace the expanding influence of statistical analysis." Perhaps the game did "pass him by." McCarver's audience may be "smarter now than when he started," and for that, he "has himself to thank" (SI, 4/8 issue).
BIRD FEED: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes Cardinals-Giants on Saturday will be televised regionally by Fox as the "first of eight contests they are scheduled to show on that network -- one fewer the maximum allowed for any team." But the Cards are "not yet scheduled for any appearances in August or September, so if they are in contention for the postseason Fox most likely would snatch another Saturday game away" from FS Midwest. Fox' Justin Kutcher, a "baseball newcomer," has the play-by-play assignment for Cards-Giants, with Eric Karros "providing analysis." Kutcher has "done college football for Fox and also has worked for the Big Ten Network, NCAA Productions, what now is CBS Sports Network and MLB.com." He was with Joe Buck and McCarver "several seasons ago to provide statistical information" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5).
FOOT IN MOUTH: YAHOO SPORTS' David Brown noted Astros broadcaster Alan Ashby "issued a conditional apology Wednesday," a day after he jokingly suggested Rangers P Yu Darvish losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning should "force a guy to learn some of the language here in America" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/4).
STRONG STARTS ON TV: MLB Network's Q1 primetime viewership grew by 149% over the same period in '12, which marks the most growth of any cable network in the first period of this year. March also was the net's most-watched month ever with an average of 254,000 primetime viewers (MLB). Meanwhile, Rogers' Sportsnet had its largest audience ever for a Blue Jays game on Tuesday. The game against the Indians averaged 1.4 million viewers, up 13% jump over the net's previous high of 1.3 million for the opener versus the Red Sox in '12 (Sportsnet).
ESPN Radio analyst Jack Ramsay on Wednesday said that he told network officials he "likely will not return next season," according to Chris Tomasson of FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com. Ramsay has been an NBA analyst for ESPN Radio since the mid-'90s, but the "time finally has come that Ramsay, 88, is likely to step away." He said that his health "is generally good and his decision to step away is not yet final," but he likely "will do so because of no longer being able to work with play-by-play man Jim Durham, who died in November at 65." Ramsay said of Durham, "It’s not quite the same. ... We had a great rapport and I really enjoyed working with him, and working with him is really why I extended my tour of duty." Ramsay added, "He was not only a great broadcaster but a great friend, and it was very difficult." Announcers Ramsay has been paired with this season "include Kevin Calabro, Marc Kestecher and Dave Flemming." While he "respects all of them, Ramsay long has called Durham the best basketball radio play-by-play man ever." He is "committed to continue his radio work at least through the NBA Finals in June," and "does a few games each week." There "figure to be a lot of finalities for Ramsay" as the season winds down. He has "been grateful at being able to get into broadcasting and extend his NBA career well into his 80s." Ramsay: "It’s been a great ride" (FOXSPORTSFLORIDA.com, 4/3).
Golf Channel had its most-watched quarter ever during Q1 this year with 129,000 average viewers on a 24-hour basis. That figure is up 10% from Q1 last year (Golf Channel)….Telemundo averaged 2.6 million viewers for the Chivas de Guadalajara-Club Amèrica match last Sunday night, marking the highest-rated Liga MX telecast on the net this year. The audience was up 22% from the same “Superclàsico” matchup last year (Telemundo)….HBO averaged 1.2 million viewers for “Boxing After Dark” last Saturday, which featured a rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. That audience is up 45% from the first bout between the fighters last October (HBO)….Fox Deportes finished the month of March as the No. 1 Spanish sports cable network in total viewers across all day parts (Fox).
The charts below list final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NCAA Tournament: Regional Final:
NCAA Tournament: Regional Final:
Wichita State-Ohio State3/30CBS7:00-9:41pm6.811,292
NCAA Tournament: Regional Final:
NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
NCAA Tournament: Regional Final:
NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
FIFA World Cup Qualifier:
"Road to the Final Four"3/30CBS2:30-4:15pm1.3n/a PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open:
PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open:
CD Guadalajara-Club America3/31Telem.9:55pm-12:05am1.22,571
ATP: Sony Open Final:
Andy Murray-David Ferrer3/31CBS11:30am-2:15pm1.1n/a
WTA: Sony Open Final:
Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova3/30CBS12:00-2:30pm1.0n/a
NHL: Blackhawks-Red Wings3/31NBC12:30-3:00pm0.81,100 Red Bull Signature Series3/30NBC1:30-2:30pm0.3473 Global Golf Adventure3/30NBC2:30-3:00pm0.3319
NOTE: * = Final round suspended at 5:00pm ET due to rain. Ended on Golf Channel from 7:25-8:27pm, averaging 543,000 viewers.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
Florida-Florida Gulf Coast3/29TBS10:30pm-12:50am4.16,739
NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
NBA: Heat-Bulls3/27ESPN8:05-10:57pm2.53,896 FIFA World Cup Qualifier:
NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16:
Wichita State-La Salle3/28TBS10:25pm-12:35am1.52,336
MLB: Rangers-Astros3/31ESPN7:50-11:09pm1.42,268 NBA: Heat-Magic3/25ESPN7:00-9:36pm1.31,921 NBA: Nets-Mavericks3/27ESPN10:57pm-1:02am1.11,516 Women's NCAA Tournament:
Regional Final: Louisville-Baylor3/31ESPN26:57-9:20pm0.91,511
In San Jose, Jon Wilner spoke with Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson about “the prospects for a Pac-12 Networks distribution deal -- with DirecTV and/or other carriers -- sometime between now and the start of football.” Stevenson said, "I'm confident we'll make a lot of progress in the next 60-90 days." Wilner noted he “didn't get the sense that he was necessarily referring to DirecTV.” But given how “close-to-the-vest Stevenson plays carriage negotiations for the past year, his expression of confidence qualifies as significant.” Wilner: “If the Pac12Nets are on the verge of a deal, my guess is that it's not with DTV. (Feels too early: If DTV is going to sign up, it won't be until mid-to-late August)" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/4).
ACROSS THE POND: In St. Paul, Ben Goessling noted the Vikings will have “a regular presence on British TV between now and September, as Sky Sports kicks off a biweekly show introducing fans” to the team. Sky Sports NFL broadcaster Neil Reynolds said that the program will “feature everything from profiles of Adrian Peterson and Leslie Frazier to footage of classic Vikings games” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/4).
FRESH PERSPECTIVE: In Charlotte, Jim Utter reports Motor Racing Network’s “NASCAR Live” has a new format that will “include discussion and opinions from NASCAR insiders on the issues of the day, and in-depth interviews with the top drivers.” Host Eli Gold said, “We did not have to reinvent the wheel. We just needed to freshen it up” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/5).