SBD/August 27, 2013/Media

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  • "Olbermann" Debut Praised For Format, But Criticized For Attack On Reporters

    Olbermann was critical of modern journalists in his opening segment

    "Olbermann" debuted last night on ESPN2, opening with a segment titled "As I Was Saying," in which host Keith Olbermann riffs on one of the day's sports topics. Olbermann in his opening segment referenced N.Y. Daily News reporter Manish Mehta recently tweeting about Jets coach Rex Ryan potentially losing his job, noting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "chimed in" on the topic. Olbermann: "By tomorrow, it could be the president, and 48 seconds into a show I promised wouldn't be about politics, I'm talking about the governor and the president!" He continued, "While I don’t like Rex Ryan, he must be wondering -- even in this time of media madness where controversy has replaced reporting, and at least one dying medium is doing everything short of armed robbery to get a dollar out of you -- Rex Ryan must be wondering what on God's gang-green earth is happening to him." Olbermann: "Reporting is dead. Long live making something out of nothing. If you can instigate controversy, if you can sell just a few more newspapers to a world that no longer wants them, all your sins will be forgiven." He was then joined by fellow returning ESPN talent Jason Whitlock, who said, "As they say on 'The Wire,' you only do two days at ESPN: The day you leave and the day you come back." Laughing, Olbermann said, "Right back at ya." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban also was a guest on the debut episode, telling Olbermann, "Congratulations on the show. Welcome to the Skip Bayless network." The broadcast also included a segment called "Time Marches On," featuring quirky videos from around the world, and a highlights package branded "Keith Lights" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 8/26).

    REVIEWS ARE IN: VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote Olbermann "amused himself with highlights, funny videos, a modified 'Worst Persons of the World' segment featuring sports figures, and a lot of flashbacks to Olbermann’s early bad-mustache days at ESPN." Olbermann "seemed to find largely the right tone, mixing sports and comedy, taking advantage of his writing skills and positioning himself as a sports-inflected counterweight to latenight talk." But there is "room to tinker with the balance -- fewer goofy highlights, say, and more on issues like performance-enhancing drugs, which would capitalize on Olbermann’s journalistic chops without deviating from the basic formula" (, 8/26). THE DAILY BEAST's Lloyd Grove wrote the debut episode was "damned entertaining," and a "jampacked hour of well-produced television." Olbermann has "set expectations pretty high for his five-night-a-week burlesque, satire, and sports-news program." It is "ostensibly a show about sports, but really a journey into its namesake's psyche," and is "nothing if not self-referential" (, 8/27). But wrote the issues Olbermann discussed "mostly were East Coast-specific and not really controversial." Olbermann "didn’t get into any of the recent headline-making stories" involving ESPN. There was a "bare-bones set and no splashy graphics," hinting that ESPN is "content to put the focus solely on" the host. The results were "pretty dull." Whitlock "provided the hour's best moments" (, 8/26).'s Andrea Reiher writes, "We don't think we'll be setting our DVR every night" (, 8/27).'s Richard Deitsch wrote the goal of "Olbermann" was to "provide a significant differentiator" to "SportsCenter" and FS1's "Fox Sports Live." It is that, "for sure." The new program is "as single personality-driven an ESPN show as they've ever done." Deitsch: "You like him, you'll like it. You don't, adios" (, 8/26).

    : The AP's Ralph Russo wrote, "Tough for Olbermann to be railing about news outlets creating news out of pseudo-controversy on his new ESPN show." Newsday's Tom Rock tweeted, "Keith Olbermann rails on reporters for asking the wrong questions on a network that decided it wouldn't ask any. #Frontline."'s Jimmy Traina: "Keith Olbermann starts his show by ripping the Daily News for creating a fake story. Someone alert Keith about Jaworski & Kaepernick." VMW Communications Owner Vince Wladika wrote, "What ESPN producer/'journalist' decided to lead with Olbermann ripping @NYDNsports while ESPN/Frontline story still out there? #espnfail." Sports Media Watch's Paulsen tweeted, "So 'Olbermann' is basically 'Countdown III: This Time with Sports.' It's not bad, but would have been nice to see him do something fresher."'s Jon Heyman: "enjoyed world's worst people in sports @KeithOlbermann. but shouldnt espn execs contend?" Awful Announcing's Matt Yoder tweeted, "It's kinda weird to be reminded that Keith Olbermann was an enjoyable TV personality before he started foaming at the mouth every night." N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch: "I just remembered how much I detest Keith Olbermann. What a gasbag. I give his horrible new show 6 months."

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN
  • ESPN Faces Challenges From Cord Cutting, Anti-Bundling Efforts As It Looks To Future

    Bodenheimer met with U.S. senators and other government officials on ESPN issues

    ESPN has "arrived at one of the most precarious moments in its nearly 34-year life," as the company's more than $6B in annual cable fees from almost 100 million homes "is threatened as growing numbers of consumers cut ties with cable providers to avoid rising bills for pay TV, turning instead to video streaming services," according to the final piece in a three-part, front-page special by Sandomir, Miller & Eder of the N.Y. TIMES. But ESPN has "shown over the past decade that it will fight tenaciously and opportunistically to protect [its] empire." With cable bundling "under repeated attack," ESPN and parent company Disney have "gone on the offensive, making it one of their priorities" in DC. Beyond lobbying and campaign donations, ESPN and Disney have "hosted lawmakers in Bristol and in Burbank, Calif." ESPN Exec Chair George Bodenheimer said, "I was proud to call on senators, congressmen, FCC commissioners, staff and talk about ESPN." So "powerful is the ESPN-fueled bundle that one veteran cable operator described negotiations with Disney as 'total surrender.'" Disney has argued that without revenue from bundles, "it would have to increase the monthly fee for viewers who want ESPN to about $15 a month." U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of ESPN’s lobbying effort in '06 to defeat his proposed legislation to break up bundles, "They beat me like a drum."

    KEEPING COLLEGE EDGE: College conferences in '04 "focused their frustrations on the exclusive contracts they signed with ESPN that prohibited them from taking games that ESPN held the rights to, but did not televise, and reselling them to other national networks." Former Western Kentucky Univ. AD Wood Selig said, "We felt that ESPN wanted our rights just to embargo them from other networks. Like, 'If we don’t show them, nobody else could.'" ESPNU was subsequently launched, and nearly a decade later is "a prominent part of the Disney bundle, with more than 75 million subscribers paying an average of 20 cents a month," leading to $180M in annual revenue. ESPN President John Skipper said that the ESPNU story was "not about the Justice Department or warehousing, but about a company that was relentlessly competitive." Skipper: "It was much more a response to CSTV and the fact that we wanted to establish a leading position."

    PUSH-BUTTON FUTURE: Central to ESPN's success has been "a mastery of technology," including two research labs. The company now is "working on an interactive screen project, code-named 2016, that would let viewers simultaneously watch multiple ESPN channels or videos, send social media messages, buy products, watch commercials and summon statistics at the touch of a button." Companies like Google, Sony and Intel are "planning virtual cable services that would be delivered on the Internet." They "could lure consumers from traditional pay television as low-cost alternatives to traditional pay TV while also competing for major sports properties when ESPN’s contracts eventually expire." Skipper said that he "would make deals with these upstarts, but only on ESPN’s terms: they must take all of ESPN’s offerings, not just the ones they want." Skipper described the WatchESPN app as "a significant measure to preserve the current system." He added, "And if you can’t preserve it, it’s our best opportunity convert to something new" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27).

    In Hartford, Dan Haar wrote there are "two ways of looking" at ESPN. The first is that ESPN is "unstoppable, with 4,000 employees in a hometown" that Skipper "spoke about in romantic terms." The other view has the "sprawling ESPN in a powerful but vulnerable position." Layoffs this summer "reminded ESPN that it's a brutal world out there." As a "new generation of fans comes of age with less TV and more digital devices, ESPN's business model could face disruption by losing some of that coerced cable money." Skipper said that ESPN will "remain a growth company, easily meeting the targets it set to add 200 local jobs" between '11-16. Haar noted the "highest-profile ESPN staffers, the anchors, are surprisingly numerous -- 42 of them appear" on the net's programming. With the "technology enabled by the new Digital Center 2, ESPN intends to let those anchors punch up their on-air personalities." Meanwhile, Haar noted Keith Olbermann's new show airs opposite Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with host Jon Stewart, "not to mention one of ESPN's most popular 'SportsCenter' slots." Skipper said that Olbermann "does for sports what Stewart does for news, but that he didn't think the two shows would take many viewers from each other." (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/25).

    CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: In Orlando, Paul Tenorio noted there were "certain snippets" of the N.Y. Times' series on ESPN that UCF and its fans "should pay attention to specifically." The "talk around UCF is about growing the brand and growing the program, and now the school is facing many of the same dilemmas that programs like Boise State, TCU and Louisville once embraced." Tenorio asked, "Is exposure worth upsetting the fanbase in the short term, with the possibility of expanding it to new levels in the longterm?" A key part to the success of midweek football games is TV, "but so is a full stadium." Tenorio: "Is there confidence that UCF could fill up Bright House on a Thursday night?" (, 8/26).

    SPORTS AT A PREMIUM: MEDIA POST's Wayne Friedman cited SNL Kagan data as showing that sports cable networks on average "get 75 cents per subscriber per month -- almost three times that of non-basic cable networks, which average 28 cents a month." This is "largely because of two pricey networks" -- ESPN and NFL Network. ESPN continues to "get the most money of any cable network: $5.54 per sub per month." NFL Net "now gets $1.34 per month, growing threefold from its level of 39 cents" in '12. Sports nets without ESPN and its ESPN 3D network "average 32 cents per sub per month." Pro league networks, including MLB Net, NBA TV, NHL Net, NFL Net, Golf Channel and Tennis Channel, "averaged 47 cents per sub fee." College sports nets "performed at about the same as basic cable overall -- 29 cents per subscriber per month" (, 8/23).

    FUEL TO THE FIRE: THE MMQB's Peter King wrote of ESPN's decision to end a collaboration with PBS' "Frontline" on a documentary covering head injuries in the NFL, "It's unrealistic to think that once the NFL was so strident about its objections to the reporting, that ESPN at a corporate level wasn’t going to do something to smooth things over." It also is "unrealistic to think in a news-gathering organization, this wasn’t going to get out." The NFL was "going to see red over the 'Frontline' documentary anyway." King: "Now the burn will be worse, because thousands more people will watch it. Tens of thousands, probably" (, 8/26).

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN
  • ESPN, Turner Sports In Talks With NASCAR About Early Exit From TV Deal

    ESPN and Turner are willing to sell back their NASCAR rights for compensation

    ESPN and Turner Sports are "talking with NASCAR about getting out of their broadcast rights agreement a year early, a move that could allow Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group to become the sport’s broadcasters next year," according to Mickle & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that it is "unlikely that the four TV companies will be able to reach a deal." For "at least the past decade, no rights holder has exited a major media agreement with a property early." Sources said that NASCAR execs are "open to the switch." However, any deal "faces significant hurdles." Sources said that it "would have to be a complete switch, not a partial one." ESPN and Turner Sports are "willing to sell their rights back to NASCAR for some sort of compensation." Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group are "willing to buy the rights from NASCAR, but they feel they should be compensated for letting ESPN and Turner Sports out of their deals early." By unloading NASCAR rights in '14, ESPN would "be able to eliminate production costs and shed" its roughly $270M annual rights fee. NASCAR-related production costs are a "concern for ESPN executives, particularly during the first half of the season when ESPN has rights only to the Nationwide Series." Sources said that ESPN also has "experienced a difficult ad sales environment around NASCAR" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/26 issue).

    Print | Tags: Media, NASCAR, ESPN
  • DirecTV Exploring Different Pricing Plans For NFL Sunday Ticket

    DirecTV is "considering offering different pricing plans for the NFL Sunday Ticket package and is asking consumers about how much they would pay" for new versions, including a "cheaper Internet-only option," according to Liana Baker of REUTERS. The package, which costs about $300 per year, is "an important tool for DirecTV to attract new subscribers and the company has said about 2 million people receive the service." DirecTV in a consumer survey "offers options as low as $26 per month for the Internet-only version," and also "proposed a 'My Team' package where subscribers would choose their favorite team and just have access to those games every Sunday, paying less than they would for the entire league lineup." BTIG Research Media Analyst Rich Greenfield said that DirecTV is "tinkering with its pricing and examining the business model of its NFL deal to gauge whether it is worth securing a new contract with the league." DirecTV "began offering online packages for Sunday Ticket in 2007, but did not promote them heavily." It also has "allowed customers the option to stream Sunday Ticket through Sony's PlayStation video game console" (REUTERS, 8/23).

    Print | Tags: Media, NFL, DirecTV
  • CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show" Producer Discusses Format, Talent Plans

    CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show" Producer Shawn Robbins said that the show is "using 'every aspect of CBS' and talent may number in the 20s each week," according to Steve Lepore of SB NATION. CBS Sports "seems to know that it's entering a crowded field," but Robbins "has a ton of energy, which is a good sign for a man about to run a four-hour pregame show every Sunday." Robbins said, "It's a four-hour show so I'd better bring something different. The plan of the show is, really, to service the football fan. There's really a need there, to give the fan the setup of the day, and that's what TOPS is gonna be." He added, "At 9 a.m., anything goes for us as far as what we cover. Sure, we have a format, we have a routine, you know what we're going to cover. But if something happens on the field, and we can cover it right then and there, yeah, that's a story. That's what we're going after, that's what were gonna give the fan. Before, that information probably had to get held until the noon-time hour." Robbins said of bringing former Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask on the show, "It's funny, we didn't even talk about that first female thing. ... We're all thrilled to have her at CBS. What she can bring us, as far as the insight of the GM, and a different perspective of the game itself" (, 8/23). 

    CAN'T WAIT! In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote CBS Sports should have used former NFLer Bart Scott "to replace one of the stiffs sitting at the big boys’ table on 'The NFL Today' rather than relegating him to the kiddies table" on CBSSN's "That Other Pregame Show." Raissman: "That's how good Scott could be." But the move still "is understandable," as Scott's presence will "produce desperately needed buzz, giving CBSSN a fighting chance." Scott will have "plenty of ways to channel the aggression he once displayed on the football field," but will need "all the inspiration he can get." Scott is "coming into this gig with the bar set high and great expectations" (, 8/24).

    SPREADING THE WORD: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted CBS and CBSSN are "running a trio of spots" from L.A.-based Stun Creative "touting 'Lead Off,' the late-night show starring Doug Gottlieb and Allie LaForce." The promos "emphasize their personalities and on-air chemistry." In a spot titled “About the Show,” the hosts "engage in a battle of verbal one-upmanship with sports clichés, with LaForce getting in the final word." Gottlieb "fares better in 'Fantasy,' where he dispenses some fantasy football league misdirection to LaForce." The final spot, "Advice," features LaForce "providing a little playbook acumen to a pro football coach of some renown, while Gottlieb tries to get her off the line as their show duties call." The "Lead Off" promos are set to air on CBSSN and CBS this week, and "will ramp up" during the NFL and SEC football seasons. Promos for the "sophomore campaign of NFL Monday QB," which premieres Sept. 9 at 5:00pm ET, are "still in production." The first spot will "center on CBS analysts and the series' signal-callers Phil Simms, Rich Gannon and Steve Beuerlein attempting to get host Adam Schein ready for the show’s debut by teaching him how to throw a pass" (, 8/25).

    Print | Tags: Media, CBS, NFL
  • SportsWatch: Comparing Monday Night's "Fox Sports Live" Versus "SportsCenter"

    Both FS1's new "Fox Sports Live" studio show and ESPN's "SportsCenter" last night went heavy with coverage of MLB's playoff races leading their respective broadcasts, which accounted for nearly one-third of FS1's 34 news reports that aired, according to a continuing analysis of the 11:00pm ET editions of the two programs. Both broadcasts went about 11 minutes before their first non-MLB report, but FS1's reports were shorter and aired more highlights than ESPN in the same time span. FS1 once again had a more diverse lineup of sports covered, including MLB, the U.S. Open, NASCAR, NBA, NFL and int'l soccer. ESPN had more NFL and college football coverage. The intro to "SportsCenter" featured co-anchors Steve Levy and Linda Cohn sitting quietly looking off-camera to the side of the studio, with Levy finally saying after an awkward pause, "Oh, hi there, sorry. We too were watching the debut of 'Olbermann' over on ESPN2." After about 45 minutes, Levy said, "I know what you're thinking: Why are we showing you the Astros and the White Sox? Craziest game of the night maybe." FS1 began its broadcast with Charissa Thompson introducing viewers to the "The Audi Big Board," which was "keeping track of all the night's scores." Thompson then introduced a panel of Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick, Ephraim Salaam and Gabe Kapler. FS1's Dan O'Toole said of the Bills likely starting rookie QB Jeff Tuel -- pronounced "Tool" -- to open the season, "We will not be using any 'Home Improvement' sound effects because Tim 'Tool Time' Taylor, that is not a Fox show." FS1's Jay Onrait joked about reports of EPL club Manchester United F Wayne Rooney possibly being transferred to rival club Chelsea. Onrait: "By that measure we'd like our friends at other networks to sell us the rights to broadcast NBA games so we can continue to make American sports TV the best."

    A's-Tigers Reds-Cardinals
    Reds-Cardinals N.L. Central standings
    Injury update on Mets P Matt Harvey Cubs-Dodgers
    Analysis from Barry Larkin on Harvey A's-Tigers
    Jets QB issues Race for AL Triple Crown between Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera
    and Orioles 1B Chris Davis
    Bills starting rookie QB Jeff Tuel Rangers-Mariners
    Injury update on Bills QB E.J. Manuel Yankees SS Derek Jeter returning to the line-up
    U.S. Open highlights Yankees-Blue Jays
    Yankees SS Derek Jeter returning to the lineup Rays-Royals
    Yankees-Blue Jays AL Wild Card and AL East standings
    Rays-Royals Injury update on Mets P Matt Harvey
    AL Wild Card standings Phillies-Mets
    NFL injury updates U.S. Open highlights
    Who will start at quarterback for the Raiders American tennis player James Blake announcing his retirement
    Recap of the rookie season for Mets P Matt Harvey Andy Roddick discussing "life after tennis"
    Phillies-Mets The show's panel discussing the state of the Jets
    Cubs-Dodgers Kurt Busch signing with Stewart-Haas Racing
    Padres-D-Backs G Tracy McGrady announcing his retirement
    Rangers-Mariners F Antawn Jamison signs with Clippers
    Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel expected to start season opener NFLPA filing grievance against the Patriots on behalf
    of Aaron Hernandez for unpaid workout bonus money
    Astros-White Sox Bills starting rookie QB Jeff Tuel to open the season
    More U.S. Open highlights Jets cut WR Braylon Edwards and RB Joe McKnight
    Preview of Alabama-Virginia Tech and a lineup of SEC games on ESPN opening weekend Injury update on Patriots WR Danny Amendola
    Preview of the season for Ohio State NFL news and notes
    "Top Plays" segment Gabe Kapler discussing the pennant races
    Promo for ESPN's documentary "RG III: The Will to Win" Transfer rumors involving Manchester United F Wayne Rooney
    More U.S. Open highlights EPL: Chelsea-ManU
      La Liga: Granada-Real Madrid
      The panel members discuss various issues
      Excerpt from FS1 interview with Ravens QB Joe Flacco
      The panel discusses Flacco's new role in the offense and the Ravens chances of repeating as Super Bowl champs
      "The One" highlight segment
      "#Buzzer" segment of video and pictures from the Internet
      "Best Person in Sports" segment

    Print | Tags: Media, ESPN, Fox
  • Media Notes

    CABLEFAX DAILY notes Tennis Channel teamed with distribution partners Verizon FiOS and NCTC to "launch its 1st" TV Everywhere app yesterday, the opening day of the U.S. Open. The Tennis Channel Everywhere app, "free to all Apple and Android users regardless of whether they currently subscribe to the net, will have a new authentication feature that allows subs of distribution partners to access the net's linear stream." The net expects to "expand the feature to additional distributors in a few months" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/27).

    BAD NEWS BEAR? In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes of former NFLer Brian Urlacher becoming an analyst for FS1, "I thought I must have heard wrong. ... I never got the feeling he would have reached for a bucket if a reporter's hair were on fire." Morrissey: "Maybe he will be great on TV." When he was "in a good mood with the local media, which wasn't often, he could be entertaining and illuminating." But most of the time he "grunted one-word answers." As time goes on, "very few people will recall how Urlacher treated the media in Chicago" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/27).

    FINDING A NICHE: In Chicago, Danny Ecker cited a source as saying that Silver Chalice Ventures, though "not profitable, is on pace to generate" $100M in revenue this year. The company was formed in '09 to help clients such as the ACC, Mountain West and others "monetize a small but growing part of their media business: digital rights." Silver Chalice has "pursued a different model apart from the television set: producing part of a conference's sports content for the Web only, then selling ads for it and distributing it to smartphones, tablets, laptops and anywhere else that mobile users might watch or read a story." Silver Chalice "signs contracts with conferences to share sponsorship revenue" (, 8/26).

    HARD KNOCK LIFE: THE MMQB's Peter King wrote, "I think I'm just not feeling Hard Knocks: Return to Bengaldom this year. No buzz. No real excitement. I do like the inside stuff, and the control I see Marvin Lewis showing over his team, but there's not a story that tugs at me" (, 8/26).

    Print | Tags: Media
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