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Fox Sports has emerged as the likely winner of UEFA Champions League rights, according to several sources. A decision could be announced as early as today by UEFA, which was considering bids from Fox, NBC Sports Group, Univision and beIN Sport. ESPN did not submit a bid for the rights, though sources said the company would look into sublicensing some of the games from the winner. UEFA accepted bids from the networks on Tuesday. Because the first bids were much lower than the $100M per year it was expecting, UEFA completed a second round of bidding yesterday. Sources said UEFA opted to pick Fox' bid, which still fell substantially short of $100M per year. Sources said Fox' bid is significantly below the $83M per year NBC Sports pays for EPL rights. Fox, which holds the current Champions League rights, will keep the English- and Spanish-language rights as part of a three-year deal that starts in the '15-16 season. Fox plans to use the Champions League programming to help promote the FIFA World Cup, which Fox will carry in '18 and '22. Last season, the 17 Champions League games across Fox Soccer, FX and Fox averaged 334,000 viewers.
Top Rank Chair Bob Arum on Thursday said that boxer Manny Pacquiao's Nov. 23 decision victory over Brandon Rios in Macau "generated in the neighborhood of 500,000 pay-per-view buys," according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. Arum: "We ran all our numbers on something a little less than 500,000 but figuring we'd do around 500,000, and that's what we're going to wind up doing. It means 490,000 or 510,000, something like that." Rafael reported the fight, which was HBO's first PPV card ever done outside the U.S., "generated approximately" $30M in domestic PPV revenue. However, there are "some in the boxing industry who claim the fight didn't crack 400,000 buys." Arum and HBO execs "knew when they made the fight that having it in China would hurt the American PPV numbers." The CotaiArena had "a capacity crowd of 13,101." But the PPV total "paled in comparison" to Pacquiao's previous bout in December '12. That fight, Pacquiao's fourth with Juan Manuel Marquez, "generated 1.15 million PPV buys" (ESPN.com, 12/4). USA TODAY's Bob Velin noted the number of buys "could take months or years to trickle in." HBO PPV President Mark Taffet said that PPV events originating from non-U.S. cities "generally do between 30% and 40% of the buys compared with similar events" that originate from the states. Taffet: "It was an extraordinary effort by everyone involved, and we recognized that anything above 350,000 buys would be a success." Velin notes by comparison, the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez super welterweight title fight in September "registered 2.2 million PPV buys on Showtime" for $150M in PPV revenue, an all-time record (USA TODAY, 12/6).
ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake was in Brazil for Friday's '14 FIFA World Cup draw, overseeing the construction of the net's main set on Copacabana Beach and the build-out of its technical system at the Int'l Broadcast Center a few miles away. THE DAILY caught up with Drake earlier this week as he was traveling to Brazil to get an update on how ESPN's World Cup preparations are going.
Q: What were you hoping for from the World Cup draw?
Drake: There's one scenario that we played out where the U.S. ended up in a group with Switzerland, Cameroon and Greece. That's what I was hoping for. There was another scenario that we played out that had the U.S. with Brazil, Portugal and Russia. That's not quite as advantageous for us. We're hoping for great matchups at every opportunity, and we hope that the U.S. gets a favorable draw.
Q: Will Brazil be ready to host the World Cup?
Drake: How is Brazil in terms of its infrastructure, stadiums and transportation? I would say that it's going to be a big challenge. These are the same things that were asked about South Africa in 2010, and miraculously everything got done to everybody's relative satisfaction. I'm always concerned. The events of last week only heighten that concern. There are only so many things that we can control.
Q: How do your Brazil preparations compare to your South Africa preparations four years ago?
Drake: Our layout for this event is much more complicated than it was in 2010. In 2010, our entire operation was all at the IBC in Johannesburg. Soccer City was adjacent to that. This time around, we determined early on that because the IBC was basically in a big warehouse district, it was not in a place where you would want to host an event of this magnitude. We decided to go onto Copacabana Beach and found a location that is the most beautiful location to host any event that ESPN has ever done. We ended up separating the operation. The engine room is at the IBC, as is a lot of the infrastructure, media management and technical structure.
Q: How will your approach be different in Brazil?
Drake: The word that we used throughout 2010 was 'authentic.' We wanted our coverage of soccer, our coverage of the country, our utilization of storytelling and music to be authentic. We have not forgotten that term. At every turn this time, we are going to make sure that our presentation in Brazil is authentic. That could be in the hiring of a new group of announcers to augment those that will be returning. It could be our fascination, curiosity and desire to better understand the culture of this country. It could be about making sure that we cover soccer from a level that our soccer fans could appreciate.
Q: What changes should viewers expect?
Drake: We will be more integrated with ESPN International. They cover soccer 24 hours a day. We were not nearly as well connected as we should have been in 2010. They were off doing their own thing and we were off doing our own thing. In Brazil, we will be working side-by-side.
Q: What are you most excited about for this tournament?
Drake: What I enjoy most about this event is the challenge of the scope of it 12 venues, 32 teams and what it means to the world. I'm trying to capture that. This is very likely to be my last World Cup. The next time ESPN could acquire the rights would be in 2026. By then, I hope to be concentrating on bonefishing in the Bahamas.
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs will have "little privacy for the next month, as crews of about 10 people will be with both teams" to capture footage for HBO's "24/7: Road To The Winter Classic," according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. The cameras "were all over" the Red Wings locker room after Thursday's practice. Microphones "extended every which way, all over, capturing every sound, be it a laugh or a curse word." Players and coaches are "eager to be a part of it -- but admit it will be an adjustment." Red Wings C Stephen Weiss said, "There's a quiet time before the game and you're getting yourself ready and there's a guy in front of you while you're tying your skates. That's kind of different. You're not kind of used to that during the course of a season." D Jonathan Ericsson said that he was having a conversation with D Brendan Smith on Thursday "when he cut short talking because he could sense cameras peering in." Ericsson: "As soon as there are cameras in the locker room everyone gets real quiet and they aren't themselves anymore." But Olympia Entertainment President & CEO Tom Wilson said, "You get a glimpse of the people. That's what makes this entire series come alive." Kulfan notes the series will begin Dec. 14 and "continue for the next four Saturdays until the finale" on Jan. 4. This will be the third installment of "24/7" and "has the potential to be one of the most popular" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/6). Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: "They believe it's a big seller for the game. So, if it's good for the game, I'm all about the game" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/6).
ESPN's Lee Corso said that retirement "isn't a consideration at the moment." He said his role on "College GameDay" is "like 'stealing.'" Corso: "I get on a plane. I fly first class. I stay in a first-class hotel, eat first-class food and watch the top game of the week. I'll stay as long as I can. I'm like an old vaudeville act. They'll have to pull me off the stage with a hook." The 78-year-old Corso suffered a stroke four years ago, and said that he "has made some concessions to age in recent years." He said that ESPN "gives him the first hour of the three-hour show off so he can rest his voice." Corso: "You can't buy the loyalty that ESPN has showed to me" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/6).
MUSIC TO MY EARS: USA TODAY's Dan Wolken profiles composer Lloyd Landesman, whose theme song, which was "never given a name, has opened every college football broadcast on CBS and become an anthem of sorts for the SEC" since '87. The familiarity between the music and the SEC brand is "so strong" that CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that the network had "concluded several times over the years that changing it would be a mistake." McManus: "The way it's composed, it sounds like college football" (USA TODAY, 12/6).
SCREEN SAVER: VARIETY's Brian Steinberg noted CBS Sports will "stream select games" from its '13-14 college basketball schedule "on CBSSports.com and the CBSSports mobile app." CBS Sports will "feature 28 games over the course of the season," beginning with UCLA-Missouri on Dec. 7. New features for this season include "an updated user interface, more access to social streams and expert commentary around the game, and live game updates directly in the video player" (VARIETY.com, 12/4).
FS1 averaged 2.18 million viewers for the Oregon State-Oregon football game last Friday, marking the most-viewed program since the net launched Aug. 17. The game marks the second time in three weeks that FS1 has broken its own audience record. Oregon State-Oregon surpasses the previous audience record of 2.11 million viewers for Oklahoma-Baylor on Nov. 7. FS1 also had its most-viewed month on record in November, as well it’s most-viewed week yet (Thanksgiving week from Nov. 25-Dec. 1).
ALL THE LADIES: LPGA telecasts averaged 179,000 viewers on Golf Channel during the '13 season, marking the second-best season on the net since '09 (also a Solheim Cup year). This year's audience was up 14% from '12, when Golf Channel averaged 157,000 viewers. Golf Channel saw nine of its LPGA events have year-over-year gains, including its best audience yet for the three-year-old, season-ending CME Group Titleholders.
FIRST TURN: NBCSN, CNBC and NBC combined to average 366,000 viewers for NBC Sports Group's first season of live F1 races, down 12% from the audience on Fox and Speed last season. The decline was mostly due to a slow start for the cable TV telecasts. NBCSN began gaining audience after the Grand Prix of Monaco on Memorial Day weekend. Looking at the four races on broadcast TV (different events in '12 and '13), NBC’s average was 1.13 million viewers this season compared to 1.04 million for Fox last year. The top race on NBCSN this season was its last telecast of the season -- 354,000 viewers for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The same race last season on Speed drew 326,000 viewers.
In St. Louis, Dan Caesar cites sources as saying that there "have been discussions" about former Fox broadcaster Tim McCarver being a part of the MLB Cardinals' broadcasts next season, "probably in a limited role." McCarver on Thursday said, "As I (said) this past summer I was not retiring -- I never used that word. ... So we'll see. I just don't want to crawl in a hole some place for the rest of my life. That's unrealistic" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/6).
STALKING THE MAMBA: In L.A., Eric Pincus wrote Lakers G Kobe Bryant "seems indirectly to be directing programming for NBA TV." With the "possibility that Bryant might return Friday in Sacramento from his Achilles' tendon injury, the Lakers-Kings game was added Wednesday to NBA TV's national broadcast." With Bryant not playing after all, the NBA on Thursday "predictably" announced that it is "dropping the just-added Kings game from the national broadcast -- instead, the Lakers-Raptors game will now be aired on NBA TV" on Sunday (LATIMES.com, 12/5).
POLITICAL JUNKIES: In DC, Dan Steinberg looks at how WJFK-FM's "The Sports Junkies" landed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and writes the show's four hosts have "never been accused of excessive maturity, or of rigorous journalism, but they've earned a loyal following among Washington area sports fans for their lively, irreverent chatter." On Thursday they "briefly became international newsmakers." Ford staff members "anticipated a two- or three-minute segment," but it "wound up lasting nearly 24, plowing through a scheduled commercial break." After the interview, the show's hosts "were discussed on NBC’s 'Today' show, fielding interview requests from CNN, and mentioned by virtually every major Canadian news publication" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/6).
BEST FOOT FORWARD: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Helliker noted MLS and ESPN last year decided to move the MLS Cup Final to Saturday afternoon to "avoid competing against the NFL." However, the move "placed the MLS Cup in competition with the SEC title game." Both the Real Salt Lake-Sporting KC MLS Cup Final and the Missouri-Auburn SEC Championship game begin at 4:00pm ET on Saturday, and MLS is "accustomed to futbol getting kicked around by football" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/5).