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Google’s possible purchase of the NFL Sunday Ticket package “is unlikely to happen,” according to sources cited by Claire Atkinson of the N.Y. POST. One source said, “They’re trying to gin up potential bidders; the cable guys have already circled (Sunday Ticket) the last two times. They’ve gotten to the place where it’s not worth it to buy it exclusively.” ESPN President John Skipper yesterday said that leagues “wouldn’t put major events online only.” He said leagues "all love to float the idea because there will be more competition for rights.” The Google-NFL meeting “may have focused on global streaming rights, which would offer the NFL another way to squeeze out more revenue.” Sources said that the NFL has “held back from selling international streaming rights,” valued at around $100M (N.Y. POST, 8/22). In L.A., Joe Flint writes, “An over the top offering of Sunday Ticket could greatly increase the potential audience far beyond DirecTV and Google certainly has deep enough pockets to make the NFL think very seriously about such a bold offer.” However, there are “other things to consider including how CBS and Fox would feel about a Google package.” The concern of the broadcast networks "would primarily be that if enough people were watching football games online that were not available in their town, it could hurt the ratings for their local stations." Even though the ratings for a game watched on Sunday Ticket "count toward CBS and Fox's national rating, a Los Angeles resident watching a game in the Washington market doesn't do their local stations any good." This is the reason the NFL has "resisted the urge to offer Sunday Ticket to cable operators such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast who would be very eager to get the package away from DirecTV." The risk is that it "would ultimately harm CBS and Fox and make them less eager to spend so much on football" (L.A. TIMES, 8/22).
LEAKING TO GAIN LEVERAGE? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Miriam Gottfried writes there is "no indication that Google is anywhere near a deal to offer the package," but the news "raises the possibility of a powerful partnership that could be the magic bullet for Google in its goal of luring traditional TV viewers, and associated advertising dollars, to the Internet." Live sporting events are "among the primary reasons U.S. consumers pay for TV," and bringing them online as a separate subscription "would allow many more people to stop paying for traditional TV." It also would "let the NFL broaden its viewer base by selling to those people who don't pay for TV." It is "possible the NFL may have leaked news of the meeting to gain leverage in negotiations with DirecTV" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/22).
READY FOR THE BIG TIME? Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "thinks the Web, and Google, are capable of delivering NFL games to your TV." Cuban in an e-mail wrote, "Sunday Ticket is a great starting and testing point for Google -- the NBA League Pass would be as well -- simply because the number of out of market simultaneous viewers falls far below what Google can handle at HD quality." Cuban: "They can do Sunday Ticket. But they have to anticipate the fallout, and negative brand impact, from fans who really, really want the best quality picture on their big screen TVs. While Google can handle the technical side of delivery, they’ll have the QOS issues I mentioned above. So DirecTV will blow away the picture quality and continuity of picture and service that Google can offer at this point. And every football fan will thank them if they keep the rights" (ALLTHINGSD.com, 8/21).
ESPN President John Skipper said the company has had "some preliminary discussions" with online companies about distributing ESPN’s original content. The comments came during ESPN's Media Day yesterday and in the wake of reports that Google is in talks with the NFL to purchase the rights for NFL Sunday Ticket. Skipper said the companies that ESPN has spoken to would be purchasing the net’s entire "suite of services." Skipper: "We’re not interested in making our product available as a one-off. If somebody wants to replicate the model of a large collection of video products, we’ll be happy to hear them." He added, "The concept we have insisted upon is we will not advantage you relative to our current partners and distributors. If you’re interested in having a discussion about paying us for our content on a basis similar or greater than what other people pay us, we’ll be happy to have that conversation." Skipper said, "We’re pretty ecumenical about where we offer our content. It has been good for us that there are cable operators who have new competition with satellite companies, who have new competition with telephone companies. Anybody who wants to offer our video products, in whatever way, we’re happy to discuss it with them." Skipper specifically addressed reports of Google and the NFL Sunday Ticket, saying, "My guess would not be that it’ll end up at Google. My guess would be that would end up at DirecTV." He added, "I’ve always been pretty skeptical that rights holders of significant events are going to put those events on digital platforms. The leagues all love to float the idea that that’s a possibility because it creates the sense of more competition and accelerating prices. I don’t believe that’s going to happen. Those sites are not built for appointment viewing. ... YouTube has been doing all these channels, they’re having a tough time getting some traction on those channels." He added, "I don’t think it’s meaningful, I don’t think it’s going to happen" (Adam Harris, Assistant Editor).
EARLY DAYS: ESPN Senior VP/Corporate Communications Chris LaPlaca said that talks with alternative TV providers are "exploratory and any new platform would have to offer a package of channels comparable to what other operators provide." RBC Capital analyst David Bank in an e-mail wrote that "to get deals done with ESPN and other networks, the new providers will have to guarantee minimum subscriber numbers and pay the associated fees even if fewer viewers sign up." Bank, who has an outperform rating on Disney shares, wrote, "They have to be 'take or pay' contracts. If you can’t sign that many up, you still have to pay" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/21).
ESPN President John Skipper said the net is intent on remaining a broadcast partner with the NBA and he expects "to be aggressive in doing that.” Skipper said during ESPN's Media Day yesterday, “There are plenty of live sports rights, but the ones that make a difference are scarce.” He called the NBA a "critical product" for ESPN and added there are "not many things that move the needle like that." The net's current rights deal expires after the '15-16 season, and there have been rumors Fox will make a heavy play for the NBA to add content to the new FS1. Skipper addressed speculation that web-based platforms are increasingly competing for major sports rights, saying, “It is incomprehensible to me that the NBA would decide to put their games on a digital platform, and that sports fans are going to make a transformation, saying, ‘I’m going to go to Yahoo to watch my games tonight.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think they have any way to monetize those rights in the same way that traditional (networks can).” Meanwhile, Skipper noted ESPN was outbid by Fox for the FIFA World Cup broadcast rights. “That’s a blind auction,” he said. “You put a number in an envelope, they open up the envelope and the highest number wins. We don’t like that kind of negotiation.”
A LA CARTE NOT PRACTICAL: Skipper addressed several other topics during a 90-minute meeting with the assembled media. He said an a la carte pricing system for cable channels "is not a good solution for whatever the issue is here." Skipper: "It is not particularly beneficial to anybody. Right now there is an issue of price pressure. But the $73 for 200-plus channels kind of works for almost everybody, other than some people for whom it’s a financial burden. It subsidizes a big system of content. There is better content now to consume on video than there’s ever been. There’s a discussion about the golden age of television -- this is the only golden age of television. ... This ecosystem works to provide lots and lots of choice for a very insignificant cost on any sort of metric. If you break it up and charge it on a per-program basis or per-network basis -- which by the way has very little chance of happening, despite there being a couple senators floating this around -- it just won’t work.” Skipper said 83% of households that get ESPN watch the network. He added of a la carte ever becoming a reality: “Because of the rights we hold, we’d be fine. ... But channels 65 through 250 are going to go out business, or start producing inexpensive content, which will be lousy. There won’t be this beautiful content that you have this opportunity to pick from, because they won’t be able to afford it.” Skipper said, “Specialty channels, serving specialty interests, will not survive in an a la carte world. However, we’re talking hypotheticals. That’s just not getting ready to happen.”
COUNTDOWN TO AIR TIME: Skipper said Keith Olbermann’s new 11:00pm ET show on ESPN2 will be “smart, provocative, funny,” and Olbermann will begin each episode with a monologue. He added, “What Jon Stewart does for the news for the day, I think Keith will do for the sports news of the day.” He said of welcoming Olbermann back to the net after an acrimonious departure 16 years ago, “We’re not looking to provide a halfway house for people who’ve had issues here and bring them back in. It’s not about whether they’ve had issues. It’s just like with Nate Silver -- what are the benefits and what are the detriments." He added, "We’re going to judge all those people on their own merits. We don’t have a list of people who can’t come back, we’ve never had that. But there has been some sense in the culture that if you leave, we’re not sure we’re going to bring you back. We probably are turning that a little bit.”
WHITLOCK'S VISION: Jason Whitlock last week said he was excited to rejoin ESPN because of the opportunity to create a "black Grantland." Skipper said while Whitlock’s new site will not have that title, it will be given something that is African-American specific. Skipper: “We are quite comfortable with a title that is connotative. ... We’ll come up with something that will be evocative.” Skipper said ESPN will aim to expand the site’s content across its platforms, building the brand out along the same vein as espnW or Grantland. Whitlock will help the brand with talent acquisition, searching for new African-American writers.
OTHER TOPICS: Skipper acknowledges ratings for "SportsCenter" are "down a little bit" this year after its most-viewed year ever in '12. He said, "We’re thinking about that, we’re trying to figure out what that means, and we’re trying to sharpen up because of that.” He added he did not believe FS1 is "going after a different audience." Skipper: "I don’t think there is a different audience. ... I don’t think they’re going to be bringing new people into watching sports, so by definition they have to be looking to siphon off some of our viewers.” Meanwhile, ESPN's carriage agreement with Dish Network expires at the end of September. Skipper said, "You’re never confident until midnight. But we’ve had very constructive discussions with Dish. It’s clear that we’re on a path to get a deal done.”
FS1’s new “Fox Sports Live” studio show showcased slightly more sports properties and highlights compared to last night’s broadcast of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” according to an analysis of the 11:00pm ET 60-minute editions of both shows. During the intro for “Fox Sports Live,” UFC President Dana White said, "Welcome to the ultimate edition of 'Fox Sports Live.'" The show began the broadcast with Charissa Thompson introducing a panel of Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick and Gary Payton and explaining "The Audi Big Board," which "keeps us up-to-date on all the scores throughout the evening." Thompson then sent it over to the "two dreams" of Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole. O'Toole said, "I should advise people that at the Fox cafeteria, don’t get the salmon." Onrait replied, "Dan's a little gassy tonight." Over at ESPN, after the Connecticut team lost at the Little League World Series to the team from California on a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, ESPN's Steve Levy opened “SportsCenter” by saying, "Tears are flowing now all over the great state of Connecticut. Welcome to 'SportsCenter.' … Moments ago we were going to lead with the big leaguers, and then the Little Leaguers played the most interesting baseball game of the evening." Overall, “Fox Sports Live” had more emphasis on the MLB playoff races at the start of the show and touched on more sports -- with highlights or mentions of new NBPA President Chris Paul, Tiger Woods' preparations for The Barclays, int'l soccer, tennis, NASCAR and UFC.
The following gives a breakdown of each show:
FSI's "FOX SPORTS LIVE" ESPN'S "SPORTSCENTER" Braves-Mets Little League World Series highlights and
Dodgers-Marlins Dodgers-Marlins D-Backs-Reds Twins-Tigers Cardinals-Brewers Indians-Angels Pirates-Padres Report on 49ers Rays-Orioles 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick being praised by ESPN's Ron Jaworski Red Sox-Giants Rays-Orioles Blue Jays-Yankees Yankees RF Ichiro reaching
Yankees RF Ichiro reaching 4,000 hits discussion with panel of experts Blue Jays-Yankees Twins-Tigers Red Sox-Giants Mariners-A's Redskins QB Robert Griffin III injury update Stiff neck/back limits Tiger Woods at
Braves-Mets Texans DE Antonio Smith being suspended Braves RF Jason Heyward breaking jaw Bears LB Jon Bostic being fined Report on Titans Maria Sharapova withdraws from U.S. Open Texans RB Arian Foster injury update Clippers G Chris Paul being named
ESPN's Matthew Berry fantasy football news Allen Iverson officially going to
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell injury update Iverson retirement discussion with
panel of experts
Astros-Rangers Braves RF Jason Heyward breaking jaw "SportsCenter My Wish" segment Sharapova withdrawing from U.S. Open "SportsCenter Top Ten" segment Dana White live in-studio Japanese broadcast of Ichiro
reaching 4,000 hits
USC WR Marqise Lee injury update ESPN's Cris Carter discussing NFL issues Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell injury update Texans RB Arian Foster injury update Champions League Fenerbahce-Arsenal Spanish Super Cup Atletico Madrid-Barcelona "Get Me That Stat" segment NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Unoh 200 "The 1" segment Little League World Series LWS highlights Indians-Angels Astros-Rangers White Sox-Royals "#Buzzer" video segment "Best Person In Sports" segment
Time Warner Cable yesterday said that it "would make the independent Tennis Channel free to its digital subscribers in CBS blackout markets who might be miffed that they could miss CBS' coverage of the U.S. Open" beginning next week, according to Meg James of the L.A. TIMES. TWC "tried to mollify tennis fans" by doing so amid the now three-week-long blackout. The MSO said that Tennis Channel would be provided for free during the tournament, which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 9. Tennis Channel will televise 75 hours of live coverage during the tournament, "including prime-time matches over the Labor Day weekend." Still, the "marquee action will be on CBS." Tennis Channel also "plans to replay the men's and women's semifinals and the men's and women's finals after those matches air live on CBS" (L.A. TIMES, 8/22). Tennis Channel PR Exec Dir Eric Abner said that TWC is "taking advantage of an offer" that the cable net has made every year since '09. Abner added that TWC "did not take advantage of the free preview" of Tennis Channel last year, and said that the net "made the same offer to almost all cable and satellite providers." The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Alex Ben Block reported DirecTV and Dish Network also are "offering the Tennis Channel for free during the U.S. Open period" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/21).
USGA Exec Dir Mike Davis knew his organization "would take plenty of heat" for its announcement on the eve of the PGA Championship that Fox had signed to carry the U.S. Open starting in '15, but "said there was little the governing body could do," according to Michael Whitmer of the BOSTON GLOBE. Davis said, "If the golf world thinks we could have sat on that (news) for five or six days, they’re clueless. The last thing we wanted to do was announce it on the eve of the PGA. ... But we couldn’t sit on it, either." Whitmer notes once the exclusive negotiating window between the USGA and NBC expired, "it created an open market." Davis said that the situation "resulted in three publicly traded companies submitting bids with time deadlines." He added that once a decision was made, the USGA "owed it to the winner -- and the two losers -- to inform them." Whitmer notes the "perception by some was that the announcement on the eve of the PGA was in response to the very public disagreement the USGA and PGA of America have had" over a ban on anchored putting. Davis said that that was "simply not true." Davis: "It was one of those things where it wasn’t ideal, but we were literally wedged into a corner, it was a no-win [situation]. The view was get hold of the PGA ahead of time and apologize, which we did, and then from there you just take your lumps." Davis added the organization "could have done a much better job singing the praises of NBC, Golf Channel, and ESPN, because they have been wonderful to work with." He added, "There were some hurt feelings, and we never meant to insinuate that it was because of the quality" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/22).
TOO GOOD TO TURN DOWN: Davis said of the Fox deal, "We just feel from a qualitative and a quantitative standpoint that this was a deal that was just too good to refuse. We're going to get a lot more promotion and hours for amateur championships, which we really think is important for the game." He added, "There are some exciting things from a digital media standpoint and I think for the game of golf to have it covered now by all the major networks is good for the game." Davis noted that the USGA is "making a good bit more money" from the new deal. He said, "We are a non-profit and our monies have to go back into the game of golf. ... We will have more funds to ultimately do a better job governing, do a better job running our championships." Davis: "Looking back on it, if there's anything we could have done, we would have done. The last thing we wanted to do was [affect] the PGA" (FAIRWAYSOFLIFE.com, 8/20).
TENSION IN THE AIR: GOLFWEEK reports the U.S. Amateur Championship that ended on Sunday was "the first time folks from NBC and the USGA had been face to face" since the announcement of the USGA-Fox deal, and "tense might best describe the mood." What "really hurt" NBC execs was the "public rebuke" by USGA President Glen Nager "over the product NBC has delivered for 14 years" (GOLFWEEK, 8/23 issue).
The Portland Oregonian's Jason Quick on Tuesday announced that he will "no longer cover the Portland Trail Blazers and would instead cover the University of Oregon's football team," according to Ben Golliver of SB NATION. Quick had covered the Blazers "as a beat writer and columnist for 13 years." Quick said he asked off the Blazers beat because "it had become stale." He added, "I think I just lost faith in a lot of the NBA. I've seen a lot of bull----. From putting your heart and soul into a player and believing him when he talks about kissing his kids at night and all that, then you write that, and the next road trip you see him with somebody that's not his wife, basically getting it on. That's disheartening to me. There's a lot of times where you hear a bunch of bull---- from these guys, it's hard to believe anything." Quick continued, "I've seen how money changes players, changes their attitudes, so I think over time it eroded the goodwill that I had, pursuing stories because you want to believe what you're writing, you know? There's just too many instances where I would buy into it and down the road realize it was all bull---." Quick that said the low period was during the tenures of former GMs Steve Patterson and John Nash, "where they started recording our interviews." Quick: "The first time they implemented that policy, they had (director of communications) Mike Hanson tape-record an interview I did with Steve Patterson. Mike Hanson screwed up the transcript, I can't remember exactly what it was. ... I'd have to go back. ... They put it on their website. I went back and fought it, 'No, no, listen to my tape.' They were like, 'Well, yeah, you're right'" (SBNATION.com, 8/20).
DUCK COMMANDER: Quick details his time with the team and writes the "balancing act between gaining trust and telling the truth was the most difficult aspect about covering the Blazers." Quick: "I remembered early in my career being pulled aside by [Damon] Stoudamire, who told me that no matter how the players treated me outwardly ... if I told the truth they would respect me. I took that to heart, no matter how difficult it was. And there were some uncomfortable times." Quick continued, "After 13 years, it felt like the right time to let someone else have a voice on the Blazers. I wanted to get away and write longer profiles, more in-depth pieces, maybe some more columns. Do some Timbers. Oregon and Oregon State. High school games. And when it warranted, the Blazers, too. That was the plan, until [UO beat reporter] Aaron Fentress unexpectedly left. I volunteered to fill the void, and now I will follow through and try to give you the best Ducks coverage I can" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/22).
In St. Louis, Derrick Goold reports MLB Cardinals radio voice Mike Shannon is "recovering from heart surgery he had this week." Shannon had his "aortic valve replaced Monday in a procedure that had been previously planned." Shannon plans to "return to the radio booth on Sept. 23, in time for the Cardinals’ final home stand of the regular season." The Cardinals announced that until Shannon returns, FS Midwest "will use a tag team of broadcasters to fill his role, rotating between Al Hrabosky and Rick Horton." Mike Claiborne also will "continue to contribute to the radio broadcast" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/22).
MAYNE STREET: Kenny Mayne's return to "SportsCenter" comes as part of a multiyear extension with ESPN, after his contract was set to expire this month. He will serve as a fill-in host for the L.A.-based "SportsCenter" when regular anchors Stan Verrett or Neil Everett are on vacation. ESPN did not disclose details of Mayne's extension, but said that his deal does not include any additional on-air or online contributions. Previously, ESPN did not have a regular fill-in anchor for the L.A. edition of "SportsCenter," using a number of different Bristol-based anchors (Adam Harris, Assistant Editor).
CHANGE IN THE LINEUP: Good Karma Broadcasting President Craig Karmazin yesterday said the firings of ESPN Radio 850 Cleveland personalities Kenny Roda, Will Burge and T.J. Zuppe were "made for the long term and for our long-term growth." In Akron, George Thomas writes, "That sounds a bit disingenuous when you look at the subsequent moves he and station management made." It "doesn’t appear that Good Karma has plans to replace the three with the way they shuffled their lineup" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/22).
NOTES: Retired tennis player Marion Bartoli has joined Eurosport for the upcoming U.S. Open. She will work with both the French and English broadcasting teams (Eurosport)....Stanford Univ. named Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reporter/anchor Scott Reiss the voice of its football and basketball radio broadcasts beginning this season (Learfield Sports)....Former NFLer and San Diego State Univ. alum Kirk Morrison "will join" the school's radio broadcast team for this season (UTSANDIEGO.com, 8/17)....The ACC Digital Network on Tuesday announced the additions of former NFLers Clinton Portis and Ronaldo Wynn to its broadcast team (ACCDN).
ESPN will add former NFLers Jerome Bettis and Mark Brunell to its roster of analysts for "NFL Live" and "SportsCenter." Bettis worked for two seasons on NBC's "Football Night In America." Meanwhile, Steelers S Ryan Clark will contribute to ESPN NFL programming throughout the season and will appear in-studio during the Steelers' bye week and in the postseason, provided the team is not still playing. Clark will not be paid (Adam Harris, Assistant Editor). In Jacksonville, Justin Barney notes Brunell coaches at a local high school and “will not begin work” with ESPN until after his team’s finishes its season Nov. 8 (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/22).
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED....: In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes former NFLer Torry Holt “finds himself as a color analyst for Rams preseason games." Holt “did draft analysis” for ESPN when he was a player and also has “done studio work for the NFL Network.” However, his “first time in a broadcast booth, serving as a game analyst, didn’t go well.” Holt: “Didn’t have a clue of what I was doing, and it scared the (bleep) out of me. ... I was just all over the place. It was overwhelming.” Holt attended the NFL’s Broadcast Bootcamp over the offseason to "get more practice, more tutelage, and more of an understanding of the broadcast game” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/22).
EARNING THEIR STRIPES: In Cincinnati, Joe Reedy noted the Bengals are “garnering plenty of national attention” with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” at training camp coupled with back-to-back playoff appearances. That will “continue for the first three weeks of the regular season.” The Bengals will have the No. 1 crews for CBS, ESPN and Fox “calling their games the first three weeks, which is likely to be the first time in team history they have hit that trifecta” (CINCINNATI.com, 8/21).