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The NFL's Sunday Ticket package was "among the topics of discussion" yesterday when Google CEO & co-Founder Larry Page, alongside YouTube Head of Content & Business Operations Robert Kyncl, "met with a delegation from the NFL led by commissioner Roger Goodell," according to sources cited by Peter Kafka of ALL THINGS DIGITAL. Sources said that Goodell and other NFL execs are "meeting with multiple Silicon Valley companies on this trip, which is one they make annually." Google "could certainly afford the rights" to the package, which currently costs DirecTV $1B a year. Google has been "playing around the edges of TV without making a substantial dent," but an NFL deal "could certainly change that." The NFL "seems willing to consider an 'over the top' provider for the service, which it views as ancillary to the core TV packages it has sold to CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/20). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai notes, "Google has deep pockets, and its online video site YouTube has been focusing on more professional content, which has meant the companies' names have come up as possible bidders in recent sports rights deals" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/21). CNBC's Jim Cramer said acquiring the rights would "be huge for Google, and they can write the check." Cramer: "This is the story to follow. ... This is remarkable if they'd be willing to do this because it would undercut everybody. Is this the beginning of when Google will charge, because you've got to charge for that product to monetize it?" Cramer said "people will pay for football" and if Google does acquire the rights, "this is going to change our perception of Google" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/21).
GOOGLE HAS A GOOD SHOT: Albert Fried & Company Dir of Research Rich Tullo said Google "has a really good shot" to acquire NFL rights. Tullo: "It's not just about money. It's about building a business plan around the assets ... One thing about Google is they own YouTube. YouTube is all about serial viewing. If you look at Sunday Ticket, what is that? That's serial viewing. Second point is Google and the NFL can really help each other out a lot. The NFL wants to drive ticket sales at the stadiums." Several teams are building fantasy football lounges in their stadiums, and Google "can take over that enterprise and help the NFL fill the stadiums." Tullo added that Google "is in a good position with the Cloud TV" to be able to "resell it to the MSOs and expand the platform," with Google being a "global platform" while DirecTV is not in every market around the world." Tullo: "Ultimately what Google is doing is creating a tent pole for itself to land in TV." CNBC's Julia Boorstin noted the NFL "wants to increase" the rights fee they will paid for the Sunday Ticket package, so it "makes sense for them to talk to everyone right now." Boorstin: "It's an interesting opportunity to talk to a digital distributor like Google, and they're interested in that possibility. But I think this is far from a done deal and I think we have to remember that they are still in talks with DirecTV, and DirecTV does not want to lose this asset. Having NFL Sunday Ticket really did help put DirecTV on the map and I bet they'll fight to keep it" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/21).
IS NETFLIX NEXT? MEDIA POST's P.J. Bednarski wrote, "If Netflix gets into the sports business, at the very least, players will continue to be assured enormous paychecks." Netflix "could and would pay a fortune for rights." Bednarski: "Happily, for leagues, so will ESPN, Fox and all the rest." The online streaming service in the meantime can "niche away, picking off other live sports events that nobody much really cares about, in the very big picture." HBO’s "earliest successes were with boxing" (MEDIAPOST.com, 8/20). ALL THINGS DIGITAL's Ben Elowitz noted, "Live events are what cable and broadcast TV have that Netflix doesn’t: News, talk shows and -- most important -- sports." Netflix "won't need to spend a billion dollars on NFL rights." It "could start organically" instead with "voracious consumers" of Pelé and David Beckham documentaries. They "would certainly be an easy target for a new offering of pro soccer matches." Just as HBO "started with hockey, bowling and wrestling, Netflix could insert the thin edge of the wedge under various niche interests -- and as the audience expands, so can the programming." With TV network ratings "shrinking these days, at what point does Netflix surpass NBC in viewership and become a credible bidder for streaming rights to the Olympics?" If Netflix can "capture an even greater share of viewers’ consumption hours, it’ll be all the more able to justify raising subscription fees in the future." A certain segment of the audience "would surely pay a few extra dollars per month for a live streaming pass to view all NHL games" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/19).
ESPN has decided on a very simple and straightforward title for Colin Cowherd's new football show, calling it "Colin's New Football Show." The weekly, hour-long show on ESPN2 is set to debut Sept. 8 at 9:00am ET and will be heavy on NFL analysis, but will include some thoughts on college games from the previous day. Cowherd said, "We're just giving college football the respect we think it deserves. It will still be mostly NFL, but we'll have a lot of college football." He added that the show will regularly feature ESPN Radio 1000 Chicago's Tom Waddle, ESPN the Magazine's Chad Millman and ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry. Cowherd suggested that the TV show will have a similar tone to his daily radio program, describing it as loose and quirky. "At nine in the morning on a Sunday, they're not asking you to be '60 Minutes,'" he said. Cowherd also said the show will feature "a little homage to Vegas," with a segment called "Car, Cash, Kids." The segment will present three sure bets for that week's slate of NFL games, with the certainty of each pick categorized by whether he would be willing to wager his money, his car, or his children. Cowherd said he only committed to the new show because it will be a unique and relaxed type of program. "It's a really different show. I would compare it to '3rd Rock From The Sun' entering the sitcom world. It's just different," he said. "We're gonna talk everything that might be slightly uncomfortable. We're going to mock ourselves. We're going to mock pregame shows."
CBSSN yesterday announced its on-air talent lineup for "That Other Pregame Show," its new weekly Sunday morning NFL studio show. The show will be hosted by Adam Schein and will feature former NFLer Bart Scott, former Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask, CBS Sports Radio's Brandon Tierney and CBSSports.com's Nathan Zegura as analysts, with Allie LaForce reporting (CBSSN). In a special to USA TODAY, Ed Sherman notes Trask will be the "first woman to fill an analyst's chair who actually ran an NFL team." But "just as she did with the Raiders, Trask downplayed the notion that she is breaking any barriers." Trask said that the "bigger issue ... will be the mental adjustment that she will have to make." She said that she "always tried to avoid the media during her days with the Raiders," but now she is "part of the media, a prospect she called 'nerve-wracking.'" Trask said that she "wasn't thinking about broadcast possibilities when she left the Raiders." However, some thought she should "give it a try," and CBS agreed, seeking to "get her perspective from the business end of the NFL." Sherman notes Trask "won't be breaking down film and providing scouting reports," but instead her focus will be on "issues that impact important decisions within an organization." Trask's new role "likely will require her to comment on her former team." Trask: "I hope and I believe I would handle that issue in the same manner as I would treat any of the 31 other teams. And that's fairly, directly, and honestly" (USA TODAY, 8/21). NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote he is "intrigued by the addition of Trask." It is "believed Trask was pushed out the door in Oakland" by Raiders Owner Mark Davis, so if Trask "airs dirty laundry, the DVR will be set" (NFL.com, 8/20).
THAT OTHER SHOW: CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said it is "reasonable" to ask if "there's room for another pregame show?" But McManus said the new show will have "a different perspective and a different feel." McManus: "Are we going to challenge ESPN or the NFL Network in ratings? That's not the goal. The goal is to put on a product that people start to talk about and want to find." McManus said the show is "part of the strategic evolution of the CBS Sports Network" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/20).
CBSSN "won’t be stepping in as a substitute for CBS’s presentation" of the U.S. Open "should the broadcaster’s retransmission-consent disconnect with Time Warner Cable continue into Labor Day weekend," according to Mike Reynolds of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. CBS Sports President David Berson said that providing CBS’ feed of the tournament is "not in play as an alternate means to deliver the broadcaster’s coverage to 3 million TWC customers in eight markets." Berson said, "CBS Sports Network is its own national network, with a separate national feed. We don’t have the technical capability to (make a switch). And two, most markets will be getting the CBS feed." The net will "show third- and fourth-round matches not airing on CBS" during the 11:00am-6:00pm ET window on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Labor Day, Sept. 2. CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus said that "from a contractual standpoint CBS Sports Network also could not serve as a substitute outlet for the broadcast network’s coverage of NFL games," which begin on Sept. 8 (MULTICHANNEL.com, 8/20). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Marisa Guthrie reported CBS "took out full-page ads in New York area newspapers this week designed to raise the hackles of football fans." McManus said, "The NFL certainly is a pressure point." He added of the TWC-CBS dispute, "I hope it's resolved so our viewers can watch NFL football" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/20).
Former tennis player Andy Roddick was profiled on HBO's "Real Sports" by Mary Carillo, who noted after he retired following last year's U.S. Open, FS1 execs "decided to make Roddick one of their leading men" for their signature "Fox Sports Live" show. Roddick said, "They were hiring me because they understood my personality and they didn't want to rein it in. They just want to make sure that I don't get them kicked off the air." Carillo said the stakes "couldn't be higher" as "billions of dollars are on the line in this clash of sports media titans." However, Roddick indicated that he "doesn't feel the pressure." Roddick: "Talking about sports is what I do, there's just going to be a camera involved and a schedule." Carillo referenced a press conference Roddick gave after getting beat by Roger Federer in the '07 Australian Open in which he was came across as "aggravated and annoyed" to the assembled press. She noted while standing with Roddick on the "Fox Sports Live" set that specific press conference "has done a lot for you." Roddick: "We're standing here probably because of it." Following the taped report, HBO's Bryant Gumbel noted Roddick's role at FS1 has "him doing three hours on-air five days a week." Gumbel: "Normally when guys retire, they don’t want to work that hard. Do you see him staying with this?" Carillo replied, "I do. He wants to be good at it and I think he will be very good at it." She called Roddick's jump to television a "very legitimate career move" ("Real Sports," HBO, 8/20).
MORE FIRST IMPRESSIONS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote of some "early impressions" from "Fox Sports Live" and noted there is a "lot of content about Fox Sports 1 programming" on the show. That likely will "make the marketing and social media departments at Fox Sports happy but it gets very tiring for viewers the seventh time you refer to a joke Regis Philbin made earlier that day." The show's "highlight packaging needs upgrading," and the viewers can "see the difference" when comparing "Fox Sports Live" to ESPN's "SportsCenter." Co-hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole will be an "acquired taste given their sardonic nature and show-within-a-show ethos," but Deitsch wrote he likes them "because they are smart." The pair hosted Sunday without the show's panel of experts and it was "a much smoother broadcast than the Saturday or Monday program." Meanwhile, "Fox Sports Live" has credited "other media outlets by specific name" on its ticker, an "excellent and correct" move (SI.com, 8/20).
Entercom Communications, whose WRKO-AM and WEEI-FM stations in the Boston market have aired Celtics games since '05, will "no longer broadcast the team’s games, as the sides were unable to agree to a new contract," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. It is "uncertain at this time which station will carry Celtics games in the 2013-14 season, but an announcement is expected soon." Sources said that Boston-based WBZ-FM is a "significant player for the Celtics rights." Greater Media, which owns five stations in the Boston market, also has "expressed interest in Celtics broadcasts in the past." But no matter "where on the dial the Celtics land, expect to hear the same broadcast team." Play-by-play voice Sean Grande and analyst Cedric Maxwell were "hired by the team, rather than the station that broadcasts the games." Entercom and the Celtics had a "revenue-sharing agreement in their deal" and it is "uncertain whether a rights fee was involved as well" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/21). In Massachusetts, Nick O'Malley wrote the change comes as "just the latest in a string of drastic moves for WEEI" following the firing of Program Dir Jason Wolfe last week. Moving forward, it "appears WEEI's live game programming will be focused around its Red Sox broadcasts, though there has been no indication as to whether the station's regional college sports broadcasts will be affected" (MASSLIVE.com, 8/20).