SBD/September 5, 2013/MediaPrint All
Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill said that the company "expects to make a major push to acquire Big Ten media rights when the league’s television contract expires" after the '16 football season, according to Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids GAZETTE. Mulvihill: "I think when the time comes, we will certainly be an active participant in next round of Big Ten rights talks. ... I expect that we’ll be a very active participant in those discussions." Dochterman notes Fox "airs the Big Ten football championship game" through '16, and owns 51% of the Big Ten Network. The Big Ten's current $1B deal with ESPN/ABC "for first-tier rights" expires after the '16 football season. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany recently said that he has "no plans to start negotiations for the league’s next deal" until the fall of '15. Fox' package "would involve" FS1, Fox RSNs and the Big Ten Network. With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers next year, the Big Ten’s footprint will "include 11 of the 29 largest metro areas, including three of the top four" in N.Y., Chicago and DC/Baltimore (Cedar Rapids GAZETTE, 9/5).
CBS President & CEO Les Moonves yesterday discussed the carriage deal between CBS and Time Warner Cable, saying, "I'm sure the public resents both sides and feels like it's two big companies fighting it out. However, it was important that we take a stand." Appearing on CNBC's "Squawk Box," he added the start of the NFL season "had a lot to do with our settling." Moonves: "It's not just ironic that we settled six days before the NFL season began. We sort of knew that would happen and the power of the NFL is great." Moonves said CBS pays the NFL a "huge amount of money, but we get great return for that because it is the most popular entertainment on television and they're great partners to have" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 9/4).
BACK TO THE BARGAINING TABLE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharma & Ramachandran write Dish Network Chair & CEO Charlie Ergen "has long railed against the high cost of sports on TV," and now he "has a chance to do something about it." Dish's agreement to carry ESPN "expires at the end of September," and Dish and the Walt Disney Co. now are "in negotiations on a renewal for the agreement, which dates back" to '05. But Ergen last month "hinted at his willingness to use what some might see as the nuclear option -- going without Disney's channels permanently." Ergen said that "taking a 'really long-term view,' a pay-TV provider could offer TV service without sports channels." Ergen: "We're prepared to go either way." Dropping ESPN "would be a tough call" for Ergen. Lazard Capital Markets senior analyst Barton Crockett said, "No one is going to be a meaningful player in this industry without carrying ESPN" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/5).
OTHER FEATURES: Among other notable features is Trendcast, a dynamic heat index displaying the top five trending topics on Twitter. With sponsors in mind, the USTA smartly includes pre-populated hashtags #AmexTennis and #USOpen in this feature. Nice touch. By noon yesterday, @RafaelNadal crept into fifth position as fans and news outlets anticipated his 7:00pm ET quarterfinals match. Coolness aside, TrendCast is a nice-to-have, not a must-see. It feels more like a social media experiment than a practical feature. For fans at the event, the final standout in this app is the interactive map of the venue. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center can be a sprawling and crowded experience, and the USTA nails it with this feature. The map actually tells you which live matches are being played, on which courts and -- get this -- the live scorecard and serving player are included. It does not get much better than this.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The '13 U.S. Open app’s home screen contains a timeline with tournament events, promotions and Twitter chatter. This feature feels like wasted real estate. It does not meet a practical need for fans and is more of a jumble of information. A dedicated live scores section, upcoming matches or live video are better suited for this prominent position in the app. Other features include:
* Fans can opt to receive push notifications by player. I signed up for alerts on Serena Williams and received pre-match tune-in reminders and final scores each time she played. A nice, usable bonus feature.
* USOpen.org Radio delivers a crisp listening experience within the app that remains on until paused. This is code for: listen while you work. A nice add-on for those who cannot watch.
* A bracket-style draw section outlines tournament play. This is fun for looking at the tournament in the big picture.
* Highlights, interviews and on-demand mini-series are available within the video section. Here you will find plenty of advertising.
* While not available in-app, event tickets are offered for purchase through a link to Ticketmaster. Good, but bringing these transactions into the app would be better.
BOTTOM LINE: U.S. Open '13 for iPhone is very well done. While some features provide greater value than others, each piece of the puzzle works. During my time with this app, I did not run into a single bug. No waiting for feeds to render and no trouble navigating through the sections. Where other apps stumble, this app soars. Nice work, IBM.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer in Philadelphia.