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The Cubs' media rights negotiations with WGN-TV are "expected to heat up" in the coming months, with the team's "chance to cash in on exploding local TV rights fees" at stake, according to Ed Sherman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The current pact runs through '22, but the Cubs plan on "exercising a clause to opt out after the 2014 season." The value of the Cubs' package with WGN, estimated at $20M annually for 70 games, "feels like utility infielder money." Some projections "have the Cubs receiving" as much as $80M annually for those games. The team's other games will be on Comcast SportsNet Chicago through at least '19. A provision in the current contract "allows WGN to extend the Cubs rights by paying 'fair market value.'" However, that "seems difficult to determine because there isn't a comparable arrangement in baseball." The other recent deals "were for cable, while WGN operates as a free, over-the-air signal in Chicago." Sherman: "Would the Cubs forsake the exposure of being in 75 million homes through WGN America?" Experts believe that the Cubs would "leave WGN if they could get more money elsewhere," as national exposure "won't buy high-priced free agents." TV observers said that the Cubs "have enough of a fan base to follow the lead of the Yankees and Red Sox and start their own network." However, the Cubs "can't go on board with their own network until their CSN deal runs out" in '19 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/31).
Many people in the realm of sports betting are saying that the star of CNBC’s new show "Money Talks" is in fact "a convicted telemarketing fraudster" operating under a different name, according to John Smith of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The show's pilot airs Sept. 10 and a release stated it "takes viewers inside the world of sports betting and Steve Stevens, a well-known handicapper who runs VIP Sports in Las Vegas." But many in the online sports betting and handicapping communities "don’t know any Steve Stevens," and they are "beginning to shout that VIP Sports maven Stevens is none other than Darin Notaro," who was sentenced in '99 to one year in jail for his part in a Las Vegas telemarketing scheme that bilked elderly citizens. Notaro is listed with the Nevada Secretary of State as "the sole principal owner at Executive VIP Services International, which lists its address as 4004 Schiff Drive, the same location as VIP Sports." Stevens and Notaro also "happen to look like twins." Stevens/Notaro "appears to understand that the potential to generate customers to his pay website is great: Increase name and celebrity, increase buzz, increase traffic, increase customers and increase profits." Smith: "What’s not to like? Except that, well, it’s more than a little disingenuous of CNBC to promote a reality TV series starring a convicted fraudster who claims an absurdly high winning percentage. Call me old-fashioned, but the network’s executives owe their viewers more than that." A source said, "If CNBC is familiar with his past and is putting him on TV as a voice for the sports-betting industry, it obviously has an agenda I believe translates into advertising revenue" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/31).
In Akron, George Thomas writes when NBC's Al Michaels is "recognized for a stellar 28-year career of calling football games" with the Rozelle Radio & Television Award tomorrow in Canton, he also "gets to walk in the footsteps of his mentor," broadcaster Curt Gowdy. Michaels has "achieved and perhaps surpassed" Gowdy. Michaels' call of the U.S. men's hockey team's win over the U.S.S.R. in the '80 Lake Placid Games "might be the call by which all others are judged." Michaels said, "In terms of a favorite sport to do right now, it would have to be football." Thomas writes going from baseball to football "has only enhanced his stature" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/1).
WHO DAT? In San Antonio, Tom Orsborn writes former NFLer Dat Nguyen is "working harder than ever to hone his skills as a sports talk radio host." As co-host of ESPN Radio 1250 San Antonio's "The Blitz" with Jason Minnix, Nguyen "will help interview Cowboys coach Jason Garrett weekly during the season and also provide commentary on the club." Nguyen "wants his brand to be all about accuracy, fairness, fun and hard work." Minnix said of Nguyen, "He has come such a long way, and it's because he studies and preps and goes back and listens to shows to get better. He's a perfectionist. He's also very private by nature. But in radio, you have to put yourself out there. That's been a challenge, but he's done really well with it. And his knowledge of the game is unbelievable. He sees things we don't see" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 8/1).
ROYLE PRESENCE: In Boston, Joe Dwinell reports when Boston Herald Radio launches on Monday, broadcaster Jen Royle "will speak with authority," and "she won't hold back." Royle said, "I’m not afraid to say what I think -- and I think that’s a formula for success. I’m proud to say I can back up my opinions. I’ve had so much experience dealing with athletes and I’ve been around general managers and dealing with owners." Royle's show will air weekdays from 3:00-6:00pm ET on bostonherald.com and on the Herald’s news and sports apps. Royle previously covered the Yankees for YES Network, then moved to MLB Network Radio (BOSTON HERALD, 8/1).
TALKING BIRDS: In Omaha, Steven Pivovar reports Creighton Univ. baseball broadcaster John Bishop "has been named" the new play-by-play announcer for the school's men's basketball team. Bishop will team with former Creighton player Nick Bahe on KOZN-AM radio broadcasts for the '13-14 season. Bishop has "been a part of the Bluejay baseball broadcast team since 2006, while Bahe has served as the color analyst on Creighton's radio and locally produced television broadcasts since his playing career ended" in '08 (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 8/1).
MEDIA MOVES: The Texans' Spanish-language radio team this season "will be veteran play-by-play voice Enrique Vasquez and analysts Jose Padron and Pedro Vella." All are "employed by Univision radio, which airs a weekly Texans show on its national radio network." Texans games in Spanish air on KLAT-AM (CHRON.com, 7/31)....Reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas is joining the Baton Rouge Advocate "as a sportswriter covering the Saints." He will be "one of three Advocate staff writers assigned to the Saints, joining Sheldon Mickles and Ted Lewis" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 8/1)....Kipp Adams and Ryan Bartow start today as national recruiting reporters for 247sports.com, the "newest of the industry's four major recruiting services." Adams covered Univ. of Georgia recruiting for ESPN's Dawg Nation for the past two years. Bartow previously worked "at the popular Clemson Rivals website, TigerIllustrated" (AJC.com, 7/30)....Oklahoma City-based KOCO-ABC Sports Dir Bob Irzyk announced that today is his last with the station. Irzyk wrote in an email, "I'm exploring other opportunities right now" (NEWSOK.com, 7/30).
Fox Networks President of Distribution Michael Hopkins during an industry convention in San Diego yesterday indicated that sports is a '"pretty small percentage’ of the overall cable bill after factoring in equipment fees and other charges.” He said, “Set-top box charges are more than ESPN.” However, he added programmers and distributors “have failed” on rising costs. Meanwhile, Pac-12 Networks President Lydia Murphy-Stephans “defended sports pricing as both necessary to fund the ‘extraordinary’ live production costs and to recognize its ‘DVR-proof’ value” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/1).
BLAZING THE SAME TRAIL: In Portland, Suzanne Stevens reported the Trail Blazers have renewed their local broadcast deal with KGW-NBC “for the next three seasons.” The station can air a “minimum of 16 regular season games.” The actual number “is contingent upon the NBA’s national broadcast schedule.” KGW has been the team's flagship station since the ’92-93 season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/31).
INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED: S.F.-based online gaming outfit World Golf Tour has signed a multiyear deal to have noted instructor David Leadbetter be the official virtual golf instructor in WGT's games. Leadbetter will offer club and shot selection advice in the games and write monthly tips for WGT players (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).