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NBC and the Cowboys are "partnering on a new 360-degree look at red zone plays for TV viewers and fans attending the game at AT&T Stadium" this season, according to Beth Harris of the AP. The net will "use 24 high-speed cameras -- 12 in each red zone on both sides of the field from the 20-yard line to the goal line and in the back of each end zone -- to produce seamless views of the action." The view will "debut on the Sept. 8 broadcast" of Giants-Cowboys on "SNF." The system, known as FreeD, also will be used for NBC's Arizona State-Notre Dame game on Oct. 5 and the Oct. 13 Redskins-Cowboys "SNF" game -- both at AT&T Stadium. "SNF" Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli "compared the view to what it's like playing a video game." He said that it "takes a month to install the system, so NBC had to put it at a stadium where the network knew it would televise at least twice during the NFL season." Meanwhile, NBC said that a new "SNF" bus will "travel the country during the season visiting the 17 cities where the games originate." The bus will "arrive two or three days before each game." Along for the "ride will be four fans of the week chosen based on their social media activity, team pride and interest in 'SNF.'" The fans also will "receive game tickets" (AP, 7/27).
ESPN earned a 3.4 overnight rating for its coverage of Brickyard 400 yesterday, which was its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series telecast of the '13 season. That figure is up 13% from last year's race, which aired against the opening weekend of the London Olympics. The same race in '11 earned a 3.7 overnight, while the '10 race got a 3.5 overnight. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.3 overnight for the second-ever Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, flat with the first race last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
COMING UP SHORT: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes even with the "new-age car in use and the lowest temperatures in the race’s history, Sunday’s Brickyard ... was largely a snooze-fest." Kravitz: "Nobody here is saying the Brickyard 400 should be dropped from the IMS calendar. Heavens, no. It still draws 70-80,000 people, still pumps money into the local economy. ... NASCAR and IMS are still a good marriage." Somebody "much smarter than me ... has to come up with some way to bring passing back into this race." The novelty of the event "has waned; the vanishing crowds offer a pretty troubling story." The race, "sadly and honestly, was a bore." The event "needs a shot in the arm" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/29).
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY? In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes the "quality of the racing in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races this weekend left a lot to be desired." The "biggest question: Is there anything NASCAR or Goodyear can really do to spice up the racing product on a track never built with stock cars in mind?" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/29).
NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus on Saturday "acknowledged that the network will address the controversy stirred by Russia’s new anti-gay laws" during the net's '14 Sochi Olympics coverage, according to Cynthia Littleton of VARIETY. Lazarus noted that the Olympic Games have "long been affected by social and cultural issues of the day." He said, "We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games, as has always been done by NBC’s coverage." Lazarus emphasized that the IOC has "pressed the Russian government on the new law and has been assured that 'there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the Games.'" He "sought to distance NBC and the Olympics from a broader responsibility to make a statement from a human rights standpoint" (VARIETY.com, 7/27). Lazarus said that both NBC and the IOC "aren't happy with Russia's crackdown on gay rights." Lazarus: "We will again acknowledge that it exists, but I don't know what it's going to mean to us yet. So I cannot tell you how we're going to cover it. ... We don't believe that the Games are in the spirit of the law that they've passed, and we're hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/28). In Baltimore, Michael Gold wrote given NBC's "near-invisible coverage of China's human rights issues" during the '08 Beijing Games, "don't consider me reassured." The net may "consider its primary mission reporting on the results of sporting events that take place in Sochi." But each Olympics is "inextricably linked to its setting, and networks consistently run location-based pieces meant to orient viewers with the event's backdrop." If NBC is "intent on doing fluff pieces about, say, fake snow in Sochi, fine." So long as it "explores the anti-gay attitudes lurking right behind the Olympics' LGBT-friendly Potemkin village" (Baltimore SUN, 7/28).
DUELING DOCS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted NBC on Saturday announced that former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan had "agreed to an exclusive interview with the network as part of an upcoming documentary on Kerrigan and Tonya Harding that will air on NBC during the Sochi Olympics." Kerrigan will "be interviewed by Mary Carillo, who will narrate the NBC documentary." What makes the announcement "interesting is the gamesmanship between ESPN and NBC for Kerrigan." ESPN recently announced a doc on Harding and Kerrigan would be part of its fall "30 for 30" slate. The film's director, Nanette Burstein, said in May said that she "was optimistic Kerrigan would sit down with her for an interview but as of this writing, Kerrigan had declined ESPN's overtures." An NBC Sports spokesperson said that Kerrigan "is not being paid for her interview." But when asked if Kerrigan was being considered for an on-air gig for the Sochi Games, the spokesperson said, "Nancy is among many former Winter Olympic athletes under consideration for an on-air role in Sochi" (SI.com, 7/28).
GETTING READY FOR RUSSIA: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Andrea Morabito noted Lazarus "defended NBC's tape-delay strategy to feature marquee events in primetime, pointing to 2012's record ratings as proof the audience was on board with it." He said, "What we learned in London is people who streamed events live during [the] day tended to watch our packaged show in primetime. With the addition of each device they added more viewing." Morabito wrote there was "one thing NBC wasn't willing to defend though -- its cutting away from the Closing Ceremony" to show an episode of the now-canceled "Animal Practice," which "drew major backlash last summer." Lazarus: "We learned some things along the way. You don't make [the] same decisions twice. I don't think we would put ourselves in position to do that again" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 7/27). Meanwhile, NBC Sports announced the roles for Al Michaels and Apolo Anton Ohno during its Sochi coverage. Michaels will host daytime coverage on NBC Sports Network on weekdays and NBC during weekends. Ohno will serve as an analyst for short track speedskating, while also working on features and offering studio commentary. NBC will begin its primetime coverage of the Sochi Games on Feb. 6 -- one night before the net provides coverage of the Opening Ceremony (NBC Sports).
The NFL has "started renewal talks" with DirecTV around the out-of-market "Sunday Ticket" package, marking "the final major media deal the league has not redone in recent years but perhaps the most controversial and most complicated," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. DirecTV pays the NFL $1B annually for "exclusive rights to out-of-market games through a deal that runs for two more seasons." But the value of the "most recent contract has been chipped away at since it was signed" in '09. More options are "open to fans seeking to see more than just the local team in their market." And now talk "within league circles is there could be some sort of hybrid model to replace the DirecTV exclusive arrangement for its Sunday Ticket package." Sources said that the talks with DirecTV, which "began fairly recently, remain in the early stages." The NFL in June "redid its Verizon deal for a 40 percent increase, with streaming of network games part of that package." One source said that the NFL is "already in its exclusive negotiating window with DirecTV and said that period will extend through the end of the year" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/29 issue).
MLBAM said that it has surpassed one million downloads of its new mobile gaming app, Home Run Derby. The app achieved the milestone just two months after its debut on iTunes and is the third MLBAM app to hit the one-million download mark following MLB.com At Bat and At The Ballpark. The Home Run Derby app, developed internally, is a key part of a heightened gaming initiative this year by MLBAM. The game is set at Citi Field, site of this year's All-Star Game, and features participants from the last three Home Run Derbies. During the broadcast window of this year's real-life Home Run Derby, users logged nearly a half-million minutes of gameplay on the app.
WE'RE GOING STREAMING! MLBAM also has expanded its existing relationship with Colorado-based Level 3 Communications, which supports MLBAM's video streaming efforts. The enlarged contract in part will allow MLBAM to take advantage of Level 3's state-of-the-art data center in Omaha, Neb., that opened last year.
AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Ben Koo wrote L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers “now finds himself in what amounts to paid suspension purgatory.” The leave “came in the wake of a viral video” featuring Simers, his daughter and Rockets C Dwight Howard. The video “was produced by Mandalay Sports Entertainment, who would subsequently announce their plans to base a sitcom around the Simers family a week after the video was released.” A source said that “while the involvement with Mandalay is the issue in question, the motivation to potentially part ways with Simers dates back several years.” A source said that Simers left a meeting with L.A. Times Editor Davan Maharaj “believing that he would need legal representation.” There is a meeting scheduled for this week “where Simers will likely learn his fate” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 7/27).
A SUNDAY KIND OF SHOW: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote "speculation" about SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein becoming "host of CBS Sports Network’s 'The Other Pregame Show' is becoming a reality, which is a strong move by the network." A source said that Schein will be the "man fronting the four-hour Sunday morning NFL studio show" on CBSSN. The move means Schein will "no longer be a panelist" on SNY's Jets postgame show, but will "retain his featured role on SNY’s 'Loud Mouths'” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/28).
HEADED TO BRISTOL: POYNTER’s Andrew Beaujon notes that Washington Post Redskins beat writer John Keim, who joined the paper on July 1, announced this morning “he is leaving for ESPN.” Keim said, “ESPN made an offer that The Post couldn’t match.” Beaujon notes Keim came to the Post from the Washington Examiner (POYNTER.org, 7/29)….Indianapolis Star writer Mike Wells wrote on his Twitter feed that he is joining ESPN where he will cover the Colts beginning the week of Aug. 5 (TWITTER.com, 7/26).
In San Diego, Kevin Acee reports the Chargers are "considering appearing" on HBO's "Hard Knocks" in '14. Chargers Exec VP & CEO A.G. Spanos said that the team "has not been officially asked to do the show next year." However, sources indicated that the team "is considered a favorite." Spanos "clearly is in favor of participating -- for the effect it can have on ticket sales and brand recognition." Spanos: “We’ve talked to other teams that have done the show and gotten feedback on how it’s helped them. Business-wise, every team has been helped by being on the show" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/29).
SHOW ME THE MONEY: DEADLINE.com noted the pilot for CNBC's "Money Talks" series will premiere Tuesday, Sept. 10. The one-hour show "takes viewers inside the world of sports betting and Steve Stevens, a handicapper who runs VIP Sports in Las Vegas." The show is produced by All3 Media America in association with Turn Left Productions and Lost Tribe Productions (DEADLINE.com, 7/27).
BOMBS AWAY: In N.Y., Fred Kerber notes replays during yesterday's Rays-Yankees game "made it sound" as if YES Network color commentator David Cone "dropped an F-bomb during the second inning." But Cone "steadfastly maintained he did not use the obscenity." The "fuss began when Cone and YES play-by-play man Michael Kay were discussing David Ortiz’s eruption in the Red Sox’s dugout in Baltimore on Saturday" (N.Y. POST, 7/29).