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A “nearly 2-month-old matchup” was aired Sunday night in Cuba, the first MLB game broadcast seen there in its entirety on the open airwaves “in more than half a century,” according to Anne-Marie Garcia of the AP. But the “early reviews were not overly enthusiastic.” The game was “between two teams that boast none of the defected Cuban stars.” Around 9:30pm ET, "Baseball International" cut to a full replay of the May 2 Nationals-Braves game. It was “unlike a normal U.S. broadcast, stripped of commercials and lasting just an hour and a half or so.” Cuban commentators “provided color and play-by-play over the original English, which could be heard faintly in the background.” Cuban TV “sometimes carries MLB highlights and last month showed several games” of the Heat-Spurs NBA Finals “days after they were played.” Sunday's broadcast is “the first time since 1961 that a full MLB game has been seen on the open airwaves, which is what most Cubans have access to.” It was "not clear if Cuba got permission" from MLB to broadcast the game. "Baseball International" launched about “four months ago and has shown professional play from leagues in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and other Latin American nations” (AP, 7/1).
MIC CHECK: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote he has “had a lot of pleasure watching” the Orioles this year on MASN. But he added, “I have to say the direction and camera work Saturday night for the Fox telecast featuring Joe Buck on play-by-play and Tim McCarver as analyst were outstanding. Fox made me feel as if I was practically on the field with its crisp, tight close-up shots that captured the mood and the moment time and again throughout the game” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 6/29). Zurawik wrote of ESPN’s Sunday Yankees-Orioles broadcast, “I'm not all that crazy about the three-guys-in-booth broadcast team of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and John Kruk. But I loved the sound, look and feel of Sunday night's production.” Zurawik wrote ESPN anchored the telecast with “some of the most eloquent and evocative panorama shots of Camden Yards that I have ever seen.” Shulman "does not have the sense of authority or commanding vocal rhythms" of Buck. But he did a "solid job of keeping the broadcast on track and maintaining control of the conversation." Hershiser is "a strong analyst." He is "not Jim Palmer, but he's close enough." Zurawik wrote, "I am not sure what Kruk's role is. He's supposed to be a bit of comic relief, I think, but he simply felt extraneous to me all night" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 6/30).
CNBC's Jim Cramer yesterday morning said Wall Street analysts are "very excited" about the launch of FS1 and its potential for 21st Century Fox' stock. Cramer said, "I think ESPN has so much momentum right now this may not be as exciting as people think, but it's incredibly well run. These companies spew a lot of cash. I would never bet against (News Corp. Chair & CEO Rupert) Murdoch." But Cramer said he "believes very strongly this is the one," that FS1 will work and "even though I think ESPN is going to be triumphant, you're going to get a lot of money into this" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 7/1). THESTREET.com's Robert Arenella reported 21st Century Fox yesterday "gained in its first trading day as a separately-owned company" after separating from parent company News Corp. Credit Suisse analysts said the company's expanded sports programming "will accelerate sales," with Fox "expected to outperform its peers ... as Fox Sports 1 and FXX take advantage of expanded international networks and the acquisition of programming." These investments will "weaken earnings before some costs growth by about 10% this year." However, the Credit Suisse analysts "expect these investments to yield solid long term returns, driving mid-teens total EBITDA growth in FY15-16E.'" 21st Century Fox is "forecast to offset current revenue weakness" with Fox' broadcast of the World Series and Super Bowl. Sports offerings are "expected to bring in 21% growth." Meanwhile, Fox execs see "lower costs and growth at their European sports broadcasting network; Sky Italia and SkyD" (THESTREET.com, 7/1).
The CFL's five-year extension with TSN in March is "the latest in a flurry of announcements from the country’s highest-rated all-sports TV network and its rival, Sportsnet, as the broadcasters scramble to lock up the rights they need to draw viewers" in Canada, according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. TSN and Sportsnet "combined for about" C$500M in revenue last year, and made C$55M in profits. As viewers "turn away from paid TV in bigger numbers, the stations and their owners are looking to their sports holdings to keep subscribers from cutting the cord." There are 12 million households in Canada that have "traditional TV subscriptions, but the pace of growth has slowed and the numbers are expected to start falling off in the next year as more turn to options" such as Netflix. TSN has "led the Canadian market since making its debut almost 30 years ago." Both TSN and Sportsnet "insist they will hold the No. 1 spot two years from now." Sportsnet, which has among its holdings "specifically targeted sports channels, radio stations and a sports magazine, beat TSN in audience share in April, and appears set to do it again in June." It is a "small win, but it would have been unimaginable even 2 1/2 years ago, when new management was brought in and promised to take over [the] top spot within five years" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/2).
RING THE BELL: VARIETY's Brendan Kelly reported Bell Canada is "finally getting its hands on rival broadcaster Astral Media." Bell following an offer rejected last fall made a second offer "to please" federal regulator Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission, and "the final deal includes a lot fewer assets." The takeover "radically revamps the TV landscape in Canada and makes Bell easily the top player." It will have "a 35.8% market share in English-Canada and will be the second-biggest TV owner in French Canada, with 22.6%" (VARIETY.com, 6/28).
The American Athletic Conference yesterday launched its "fully-functioning website" at www.theamerican.org (COURANT.com, 7/1). Meanwhile, SI.com's Stewart Mandel noted starting college football opening weekend, viewers "tuning into a televised game from an American school's home stadium -- say, Purdue-Cincinnati on ESPNU -- will get a visual initiation to the new conference." Expect the "A" logo to be "featured prominently on the field and on the players' uniforms." In a "cool twist, the logo can be color-customized for each school" (SI.com, 7/1).
SPLIT DECISION: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted TNT will "not have its traditional split-screen coverage for" the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 race Saturday night at Daytona Int'l Speedway. The TNT coverage in the past has "featured advertisements on half the screen during all national breaks, allowing the network to miss very few green-flag laps." But TNT "won’t be doing that this year." Instead, it will have "only the final 30 laps of the 160-lap race commercial free" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/1).
HOSTESS WITH THIS MOSTEST? The ESPY Awards on July 17 celebrate their 20th anniversary, and Exec Producer Maura Mandt said that there are "still people on the ESPYs wish list" when it comes to the show's host, including comedian Chris Rock. The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie noted Mandt and ESPN President John Skipper have "yet to find the right woman to host the show." Invitations in the past have "been extended to" Rosie O'Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres. Mandt said of actress Melissa McCarthy as a possibility, "She's someone who I definitely think would make a great host in the future. I would love to see a woman take on the show. And that's really what the host's role is, to help us get a certain take on the year. But it needs to be authentic" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 7/1).