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Radio host Paul Finebaum discussed his new five-year deal with ESPN and the SEC Network with AL.com's Bob Carlton, and he said the decision to relocate to Charlotte after nearly 30 years in Birmingham was "difficult." Finebaum's wife, Linda, is the Chief of Medicine at Birmingham's St. Vincent Hospital, and he said, "She arguably has had a much more successful career in Birmingham than I have, building a tremendous medical practice and climbing the ranks at her hospital. So that was my first concern. ... As the offers were coming in, she said go for it. Without that, I wouldn't have done it." However, he said, from a "purely professional standpoint, it was not a difficult decision." Finebaum: "It was obvious that this was what I wanted to do and this was what I felt like I had to do." He noted SiriusXM Radio approached him "about a year ago," and ESPN "came later." While Finebaum says it is "likely" his show will air on one of ESPN's SiriusXM stations, he hopes it will land on a local station in Birmingham shortly after it debuts on August 1. He said of the market, "It's important to me. And, on Day 1, it's our biggest market, and I hope we can navigate those waters as quickly as possible" (AL.com, 5/28). Finebaum said that he is "not sure as of now which markets will air his radio show at the start of his ESPN tenure." SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted some are "wondering whether the Alabama-ness of the show can be duplicated from Charlotte." Finebaum: "It is a fair question and I heard that from friends and executives in Bristol. I think our show has become unique because we are not like everyone else and it is my hope we can continue going down that path." He added, "I want it to be a better show than it was but still have the flavor and character of what has made it what I think was the most unique caller-driven show in the country. ... No one has ever been able to top us for the craziness and for the callers. We don't want to change that" (SI.com, 5/27).
WANTING FINEBAUM TO BE HIMSELF: In Birmingham, Jon Solomon wonders what will happen if Finebaum "calls for an SEC coach to be canned on an SEC-branded network." Finebaum said, "It's a good question. I would love to tell you that day will never happen, but it will probably happen the first day and I think we'll all find out. That's what I find so interesting about this. We are swimming in unchartered waters." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Justin Connolly said, "We're going to have a dialogue with Paul about content. I think the idea is we're going to have to feel our way through in terms of the editorial voice of the show and the network, and at the same time we have to balance it with Paul being Paul. We're not looking to water down or change Paul. We want Paul to be Paul. We want to be different." Finebaum added that he "thinks he will be walking down 'a little narrower path' with his content and that he embraces that change." Meanwhile, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive yesterday said of Finebaum, "He will provide the network the kind of programming when we don't have games that will attract people to the network" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 5/30).
CAMPUS VISITS: In Florida, Robbie Andreu notes ESPN this summer is going to be visiting the 14 SEC schools "to determine what upgrades need to be made to accommodate what the network plans to do." Florida AD Jeremy Foley said, "We just built a brand new video control room, so Florida right now is good. We've pulled a bunch of wire and cable, and how it all works, I have no idea. But I know our situation is all (good) right now." He added network execs are going to "see what they have and what we need to do and how they can help us." Foley: "Those folks know what they're doing and they'll make sure the production facilities on each campus are what they need to be because this is going to be a big-time network and what people see and how they perceive it is going to be very, very important" (GAINESVILLE SUN, 5/30).
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY: AT&T President of Content & Advertising Sales Jeff Weber cited the company's "decision not to carry Comcast SportsNet Houston" as a reason why it did decide to carry the SEC Network. Weber, regarding CSN Houston, said that it is "very clear that the viewership in that particular market was low," based on AT&T's measurement data. He added that viewership for college sports by contrast was "dramatically higher, which is why AT&T agreed to distribute" the net (CABLEFAX DAILY, 5/30).
NINE LIVES: CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd reported SEC football coaches yesterday voted 13-1 "in favor of keeping an eight-game conference schedule," but the prospect of a nine-game schedule "makes too much sense in terms of inventory for the SEC Network and positioning in the playoff era." The coaches' vote "essentially is nothing more than a straw poll," as when TV and revenue are involved, "their opinions matter little" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/29). Florida coach Will Muschamp said, "My personal opinion (is) you create an SEC Network, at the end of the day, it's going to be driven by the dollar, and having those games is going to be important, and having enough quality games on television promoting a nine-game SEC regular season, in my opinion, will eventually happen" (ESPN.com, 5/29).
College baseball has seen a "surge of interest over the past decade," with the latest example coming this weekend, as "for the first time all 16 of the NCAA Tournament regionals will be televised on one of the ESPN networks," according to Kurt Voigt of the AP. ESPN showed "just six of the regional sites last season" and four in '11, but it is "committed to showing every pitch from every game this season on its various outlets." This year marks the 34th straight season ESPN "has shown the College World Series." However, ESPN Programming & Acquisitions Dir Brent Colborne said that showing regular-season and conference-tournament games "only became more of an option as the network looked to fill programming voids created by the lost 2004-05 NHL season." The steady viewership was "enough after last season for the network to look into showing all of the regionals." Colborne said, "We’ve never done it before, so we don’t know what the results will be, but we do know there’s an audience out there." SEC Consultant and former Mississippi State AD Larry Templeton "credited ESPN taking college baseball 'to another level'" (AP, 5/28).
OFF TO A STRONG START: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote ESPNU aired an "outstanding tournament selection show Monday at noon and a 'Road to Omaha' production" at 6:00pm ET. Monday's selection followed "strong coverage Sunday of the SEC championship game between Vanderbilt and LSU." There was "great extra innings baseball, and ESPN had it all the way." Zurawik wrote what "impressed me most about ESPN's selection show was the breadth of knowledge" from analysts Ben McDonald and Kyle Peterson (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/27).
The Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports digital alliance retained its top position in comScore traffic reports for April, ranking first in Media Metrix Multi-Platform rankings among U.S. sports sites. But the rest of the list showed continued changes in the new reach metrics blending online, digital video and mobile measurement data. The newly formed entity of Sporting News Media, a joint venture between Perform Sports and American City Business Journals (parent company of SportsBusiness Journal and The Daily), ranked fifth with 30.7 million unique visitors during the month. Perform also appears in the ninth slot by itself, but that was deemed to be an erroneous, remnant ranking based on incomplete data. MLB, fueled in part by its record-setting download pace for its MLB.com At Bat mobile application and the beginning of the '13 regular season, surged from 17.6 million uniques and ninth place in March to 28.8 million uniques and sixth place in April. ESPN, as has been customary, held a dominant lead in consumption metrics, posting an average of 101.9 million minutes per user during the month, far above the 42.9 minutes per user for Yahoo and 22.5 minutes per user for Fox.RANK
SITEUNIQUES (000)1 Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network*57,4482 ESPN52,0843 FoxSports.com on MSN36,4404 Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network**36,0305 Sporting News Media/Perform Sports30,7196 MLB28,7617 USA Today Sports Media Group***28,2128 CBS Sports23,7869 Perform Sports23,04910 SB Nation21,63211 NFL Internet Group20,59412 Sports Illustrated sites15,54613 PilatesForLive.TV13,41714 Active.com sites11,26515 Stack Media7,949
NOTES: * = Includes Rivals.com and ThePostGame.com. ** = Sites include NBA.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com and WNBA.com. *** = Includes 81 local Gannett newspaper sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV station sites, USA Today High School Sports and BNQT Media Group.
In Columbus, Aaron Portzline reports Blue Jackets play-by-play voice George Matthews yesterday "stepped down" from his full-time role to move back home to Prince Edward Island. Matthews said that he will broadcast "10 to 12 games per season for the Blue Jackets ... but hopes to stay active by calling games" for the QMJHL Charlottetown Islanders. He added that this is a move he "has mulled for at least 'three to four years.'" The Blue Jackets indicated that Bob McElligott, who has "worked with Matthews for the past four seasons, will handle play-by-play duties without an analyst for the foreseeable future" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/30).
YOUTH MOVEMENT? The Magic last week decided "not to renew the contract" of TV analyst Matt Guokas, and in Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote it makes "little sense for the Magic to replace an analyst who was respected not only by Central Floridians but by national media members thousands of miles away." The Magic "aren't saying why they decided to make the move." Since neither party is "saying what happened, all we can do is speculate." Bianchi: "Maybe Guokas, 69, was having health issues like he's had in the past ... Or maybe, more likely, the organization just wanted a younger voice" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/29).
TURN UP THE HEAT: With the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals tied at 2-2, the Bergen RECORD's John Rowe writes a Pacers-Spurs NBA Finals is "not what ABC had in mind when it bid zillions of dollars for the rights to televise pro basketball’s ultimate showcase." ABC needs the Heat and F LeBron James "if it is to buck the trend of declining NBA audiences." Without the "best player in the game, the interest in the NBA Finals sinks to the level of Arena Football." The networks want to "capture the young audience, which is more consumed with James" than Pacers C Roy Hibbert or F Paul George (Bergen RECORD, 5/30).
WINNING COLORS: USA Today's new social media-oriented sports news destination For The Win has generated more than 5.2 million unique visitors and 20.1 million page views in its first 30 days, according to internal metrics. The total represents the most successful digital product launch in the history of USA Today Sports, and was far above internal expectations. The destination generated more than 70% of its total traffic through mobile devices, and 20% through social referrals. For The Win began on April 22 (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
LOCAL PARTNER: In Buffalo, Alan Pergament cites sources as saying that WBBZ-Ind. is "expected to be awarded the broadcast rights" to the Bills-Browns game on NFL Network on Thursday, Oct. 3., after "bidding more than twice what rival stations bid for the game." WBBZ also carried last year's Dolphins-Bills NFL Network game. NFL Net and ESPN "both sell the broadcast rights to games so they can be seen by people without cable, satellite dishes or FiOS" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 5/30).