Sunoco Debuts "Essence Of Racing" Campaign Executive Transactions Isiah Thomas Expected Backlash Over Hiring FanDuel Brings On Most Of Zynga Sports Team Georgia Approves Increased Athletic Budget Kentucky Adding Ribbon Boards At Rupp IndyCar Ponders How To Attract Fans Long Term Jeff Gordon Hired As Full-Time Analyst For Fox Danica's Sponsorship Status To Be Telling For NASCAR Classified Advertisements
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WFAN-AM host Mike Francesa yesterday "knew he had a 'great story' on his hands when he was informed -- on 20 minutes' notice -- that Alex Rodriguez was bound" for his studio, according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. There were times the tone "got a tad chummier than it needed to, but the questions and answers were to the point." Francesa after the show said, "I felt like I asked him every hard question you could possibly ask him. I don't think there's anything I could ask him about that wasn't asked." Francesa knows that he "still will be accused by some of offering Rodriguez an overly friendly forum, but he said he is not bothered by that." Francesa: "When you're the big guy and have been the big guy as long as I have, you're going to get it from every angle; I'm used to that." He added that Rodriguez "presumably chose him because of his large audience, because the two have known each other for many years and because A-Rod believed he would get a fair hearing." Francesa "would not say which of Rodriguez's representatives called to ask whether he would be interested in having him on the show, only that his response was, 'What do you think?'" He said that there "were no preconditions, and that he only preplanned one aspect of the interview in his own mind." Francesa: "If he gave me an opening I was going to go for what I knew was the headline, which is, did you or did you not use performance-enhancing drugs?" (NEWSDAY, 11/21).
TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes under the header, "Alex Rodriguez, Mike Francesa WFAN Interview Is A Pure Love Fest." Rodriguez "landed on the marshmallow Francesa provided, a feather bed befitting a featherweight interview." Francesa "had to be laughing inside." Raissman: "His 'kindness' wound up getting him access to a biggie, one that produced ratings and drove the competition a bit nuts." After the Rodriguez interview, a caller to Francesa said that MLB Network’s Ron Darling and Jon Heyman "were supporting" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Francesa "accused the two of doing what their employers ordered them to do." Heyman "dialed up WFAN." Francesa said that Heyman, who "does work for the station, had breaking news." Heyman told Francesa "no one tells him what to say, pointing out that he once defended Ryan Braun" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).
IAC/InterActiveCorp Chair & Senior Exec Barry Diller, whose company is a financial backer of streaming TV startup Aereo, yesterday said that the NFL is "'just making noise' in its threat to take its games off broadcast TV," according to Liana Baker of REUTERS. Diller, at a Bloomberg conference in Chicago, said that he "doubts the NFL would never pull all of its games and the Super Bowl off free airwaves." Diller: "They are not taking their programming off of broadcast television networks. First of all, they make a fortune." He added that the NFL "has not owned up to being a 'pricy game' that passes along the cost to consumers by asking for billions in fees from broadcasters and media companies" (REUTERS, 11/20).
ROLL WITH THE CHANGES: In N.Y., Jeffrey Goldfarb wrote broadcasters have "garnered support in their Supreme Court bid to shut down" Aereo despite the fact that their arguments "echo those used 30 years ago when networks tried to block the VCR." Courts so far have "favored Aereo, saying its method of using thousands of separate dime-size antennas to stream free-to-air programming to customers over the Internet doesn’t violate copyright law." Even if broadcasters "manage to stifle one upstart, however, they can’t hope to sue their way past all Internet-driven disruption." Goldfarb: "Today’s media chieftains need not take so long to learn there’s less value in beating ‘em than in joining ‘em" (NYTIMES.com, 11/20).
When the Northwestern football team takes on Michigan State Saturday, the school’s athletics homepage will again transform into a dynamic social media hub where fans are presented with a live stream of NU-related content from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. SportsBase, a platform provided by S.F.-based social media start-up Sportstream has become the default landing page for anyone accessing the site on game days this season. Traffic to the site during fall Saturdays is 40-50% higher than non-game days, and NU said during its “homepage takeovers,” it has seen users’ website sessions are 59% longer than normal. Sportstream, whose other partners include 11 additional colleges and three pro franchises, began providing NU with the interface this season. The technology utilizes the company’s extensive database to deliver the most relevant and engaging content in real-time. Sportstream co-Founder & CEO Bob Morgan said the company’s data model knows “every sport, league, team, player, coach, exec, everything down to mascots and cheerleaders, and all of the media associated with every sport and every team and their specific roles.” He added, “All of that structured data and knowledge gives us a real leg up, and then we develop algorithms for filtering content for every game, team, player and so on from Twitter or Facebook.” NU Director of Digital & Social Communications Doug Meffley and his staff also have the ability to customize the content that fans see on the stream. Morgan said, “They may want to emphasize certain sources, they may want to dampen certain sources. There may be topics like recruiting that you just really can’t have in their experience, and we built tools and components that allow partners to choose both the nature of the content that flows through their stream and they can also moderate it if they like.” Meffley said, “I think personally that this is kind of the future of sport entities, franchises and brands’ home pages in-game.”
CBS NFL analyst Dan Dierdorf yesterday announced he will retire from the broadcast booth following this season, but the Pro Football HOFer said that he "still feels mentally sharp, a serious concern among retired NFL players," according to Rachel Cohen of the AP. In some ways, the "physical limitations made the decision easy; he really had no choice." Dierdorf "considered retiring after last season." He jokingly said that the "hardest part was 'breaking up' with play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel and their production team." Making the announcement now will allow Dierdorf "to thank all the team personnel who helped him over the years as he calls his final few games." He still may "do some broadcast work" in his hometown of St. Louis or radio that "doesn't require much travel" (AP, 11/20). Dierdorf said, "Physically it’s reached the point where it’s almost too difficult for me to travel. The travel has just gotten to be more than I can do on a consistent basis." In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes Dierdorf has "two artificial knees and two artificial hips, and needs a cane to walk." He said that he officially informed CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus of his decision to retire "a week ago, and CBS made the announcement" yesterday. NBC's Bob Costas said of Dierdorf, "Just on a network basis, he had a tremendous career. And people forget, because it’s been a while, that he was on ‘Monday Night Football’ with Al Michaels and Frank Gifford. I always felt that at that time Dan was at the peak of his broadcasting powers." Thomas notes Dierdorf "moonlighted" for KMOX-AM "during the last seven years of his playing career." Dierdorf's time spent at KMOX "gave him a tremendous head start on others of his ilk" once his NFL career ended (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/21).
Golf Channel is adding to its '14 on-air lineup with Golf HOFer Juli Inkster and LPGA players Paige Mackenzie and Karen Stupples. Inkster will work as an on-course reporter for five LPGA events, while Mackenzie will co-host the net's "Morning Drive" and provide analysis on "Golf Central" while still playing a full Tour schedule. Stupples will work several LPGA events as an on-course reporter and booth analyst. She also will provide studio analysis for the net's news programming (Golf Channel). GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann noted Inkster in addition to the five assignments will be "playing a front-loaded schedule of about 12 events." She said that Golf Channel Exec Producer Jack Graham "worked to accommodate her schedule and has been 'coaching me up.'” Inkster: “There’s so much to learn, so I want to start on the ground and learn the basics (following) one group and get my feet wet." Kaufmann noted Inkster "dabbled in television when her daughters were young, but decided to continue playing." Now she "wants to give TV another try." She said she plans to “shadow” Golf Channel on-course reporters Jerry Foltz, Kay Cockerill and others (GOLFWEEK.com, 11/19).
QUOTH THE RAVEN: ESPN NFL analyst Ray Lewis on Monday volunteered to pay half of a $16,000 fine administered to 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks for a hit on Saints QB Drew Brees, but in Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote under the header, "Someone Needs To Tell Ray Lewis, ESPN It's Wrong For Analyst To Be Participant In Story." Zurawik: "An analyst is not a participant. Look it up, Ray. Look it up, ESPN." Beyond the "impropriety of an analyst becoming a participant in a ruling between the league and a player, there's the loudmouth style in which Lewis is doing it." This is "what blowhards in a bar do when they have had too much to drink -- wave around their credit cards, act like big shots and say crazy, bluster-butt stuff" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 11/20).
PLAYING DODGEBALL: THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre reported the Dodgers are "targeting" ESPN MLB analyst Orel Hershiser to "be the face" of the team's new RSN. Hershiser is "one of the most beloved Dodgers over the last 40 years." A source said that Hershiser’s contract is "almost up, and he is currently in negotiations with ESPN." McIntyre: "Obviously, ESPN is trying to retain Hershiser, who is an analyst on Sunday Night Baseball games and on Baseball Tonight" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 11/20).
BEHIND THE MIC: SI's Richard Deitsch wondered if Patriots QB Tom Brady or Broncos QB Peyton Manning "would make the better broadcaster?" Every network with an NFL contract "has a list of players and coaches who would make ideal broadcasters, and Manning ranks near the top of every one, based on his comfort in front of the camera, his ease in discussing X's and O's, and his sense of humor." Brady "does radio in Boston and has a guest spot" on Westwood One's "MNF" pregame show. Brady is "engaging and occasionally sneaky-funny -- but Manning's on another level." "SNF" Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli said, "The market for either would be very hot." Gaudelli "imagines Brady and Manning excelling as analysts or in studio roles, though the latter would demand firing off opinion after opinion." Gaudelli: "I don't think either one wants to be that guy" (SI, 11/25 issue).
NOTES: NBC's Bob Costas will serve as host for primetime and late-night telecasts of the '14 Sochi Games coverage. Costas has anchored every Olympics that NBC has broadcast since '92 (NBC)....LSU Sports Radio Network analyst Doug Moreau last week said that he will "return to the booth for the Tigers final two games." He "missed the first 10 games this season with undisclosed health issues" (NOLA.com, 11/20)....Marquette Univ. men's basketball radio announcer Steve True yesterday "returned to his afternoon talk show" on Milwaukee-based WAUK-AM after being struck by a car last week (JSONLINE.com, 11/20)....A source said that MASN Nationals color analyst F.P. Santangelo has "signed a contract to return" for the '14 season, his fourth in DC (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/20). Santangelo wrote, "Thank you to #MASN & the #Nats for believing in me and thank you to the best fans in baseball. Looking forward to the Nat Williams era!" (TWITTER.com, 11/20)....Former NBAer Jerry Stackhouse will join FS Detroit as a studio analyst for "Pistons Live" this season (FS Detroit).
Astros Owner Jim Crane said that "'something doesn't add up' in the more than year-long effort to craft a profitable business plan" for CSN Houston, which is the subject of a bankruptcy court hearing today "involving the network's three partners -- the Astros, Rockets and Comcast/NBC." In Houston, David Barron writes getting distribution deals with larger carriers "remains a problem that perplexes Crane." He said, "It continues to puzzle me why this market can't get a deal done when you look at things that happened in Los Angeles and some of the press on Philadelphia signing a $180 million rights deal with Comcast, and we can't get a deal done in the fifties here and make the network viable." He added, "Something just doesn't add up, and eventually that will come out in the wash. We continue to believe the rights fee (is fair) and that this market is a good market and we should be paid fairly and we should get the games on TV and everyone should be happy. We're working on it" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/21).
BUMPING UP: Time Warner CFO John Martin today said that for the company's TV networks unit, '12 programming costs "were up only" 2%, and they will be up 2-5% in '13, "both at the low end or below management's goal of mid to high single digit percentage growth." Martin said, "Next year we will be at the higher end." The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai notes Martin "cited the first year of a new Major League Baseball contract and an acceleration of amortization of NCAA costs" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/21).
WISE MOVE: VARIETY reports Fox has partnered with non-profit Women in Sports & Events "in an effort to open doors for women in the world of sports production and broadcasting." Fox' work with WISE "stems from its Fox Audience Strategy unit, which is focused on increasing gender and ethnic diversity at all levels of parent company 21st Century Fox" (VARIETY.com, 11/21).