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The NFL is pushing back on reports that the league is close to renewing its DirecTV deal for NFL Sunday Ticket. The NFL says the two longtime partners still are negotiating, but have not agreed to the framework of any deal. NFL Media Group VP/Communications Alex Riethmiller said, "We do not have an agreement. Any speculation or reports to the contrary are not accurate" (John Ourand, Staff Writer). REUTERS' Grover & Baker had cited sources as saying that the two parties have "agreed on a framework for negotiations to renew" their deal. A source said that the two sides "'are still in material negotiations,' but extended their exclusive negotiating period to work through the remaining issues." However, the talks "might still not result in an agreement." The sources said that any agreement "still needs approval" by DirecTV's BOD and NFL owners, and will "not be announced" until Q1 or Q2 of '14 (REUTERS, 12/12). In N.Y., Claire Atkinson reports DirecTV is "believed to be expecting" a $200M increase in fees on its existing $1B annual contact, though it "may receive new digital rights" (N.Y. POST, 12/13). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Moritz & Sherman note about two million of DirecTV's 20 million U.S. customers last year "paid for 'Sunday Ticket.'" DirecTV "uses the package to attract and keep customers" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/13).
AFTERNOON DELIGHT: ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi noted the 4:25pm ET Sunday NFL national window broadcasts between Sept. 5-Dec. 9 "once again are eclipsing the formidable Sunday night franchise." With eight games "on the books, including an early-afternoon Thanksgiving contest, Fox and its America's Game of the Week broadcast is leading" with a 15.7 final rating and 27.3 million viewers, up 8% and 9% respectively. CBS’ late-afternoon Sunday window also is "putting up huge numbers," averaging a 15.3 rating and 26.7 million total viewers for eight broadcasts, up 7% and 11%, respectively (ADWEEK.com, 12/11). Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 10.2 final rating and 16.2 million viewers for the Cowboys-Bears telecast in Week 14, marking the net's best "MNF" audience this season to date (THE DAILY).
A THREE-HOUR TOUR: The NFL has "announced that the first-ever Pro Bowl draft will be televised" on NFL Network on Wednesday, Jan. 22. PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted the event will come a day after the teams, led by HOFers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, "draft 11 players who play the least interesting positions -- guard, center, fullback, interior defensive linemen, punter, and special teams." Those players will "walk the red carpet at the site of the made-for-TV Wednesday night draft, which should help chew up a few of the 180 minutes devoted to the effort" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/12).
TSN "earned a morale-boosting victory" when studio host James Duthie "spurned an aggressive overture from Rogers" to stay with the net, according to David Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. Duthie has signed a new, long-term contract with TSN "even though the future for hockey on the network is uncertain outside of some regional NHL games." The net also "hung on to two more of its key hockey broadcasters -- Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger -- when their existing long-term contracts were torn up and both men signed new, more lucrative long-term deals." In addition, TSN is "negotiating new contracts with analyst Pierre LeBrun, who is the most prominent figure on the hockey panels after Dreger and McKenzie, as well as play-by-play broadcaster Chris Cuthbert and analyst Aaron Ward." LeBrun and Cuthbert "have told TSN executives they plan to stay." Sources said that Rogers "came at Duthie hard, letting him know money would not be a problem." However, a formal offer "was never presented, likely because Rogers was not in position to do so until its new deal with the NHL was approved" by the NHL BOG this week. Duthie by then "had decided to stay at TSN" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13).
WAITING FOR THE PHONE TO RING: Longtime CBC announcer Bob Cole, who has called "HNIC" broadcasts for 40 years, said "no one has called" him regarding an on-air role for next season. He said, "I thought somebody might call, tell me something, say hello, you know..." In Toronto, Steven Simmons notes when it was announced Rogers will "basically own all NHL national broadcasts in Canada ... Cole was as shook up as anyone in the industry." No one "likes to see change, if major change is what's coming," and Cole has been with the CBC "his entire broadcasting life." He said that he "has no intention of leaving until someone tells him it's over" (TORONTO SUN, 12/13).
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: The GLOBE & MAIL's Shoalts noted the Maple Leafs abstained this week from the NHL BOG vote to approve the new Rogers TV contract "due to an obvious conflict of interest -- not because of a face-saving intervention by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman." MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum "did not vote" because the Maple Leafs’ parent company is co-owned by Rogers and BCE, with each holding a 37.5% stake. It was deemed "not proper for MLSE to vote to approve an NHL deal of benefit to one of its owners." MLSE and NHL sources said that Tanenbaum, who owns the remaining 25% of MLSE, "acted on the advice of his lawyer and fellow MLSE board member, Dale Lastman, and Bettman did not play a role in the decision" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13).
Chicago-based media reporter Robert Feder cited sources as confirming that former MLBer Ron Coomer "will succeed Keith Moreland in the Cubs radio booth alongside play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes." Coomer has "agreed to a two-year contract as color analyst" for WGN-AM. Coomer most recently worked with the Twins' pre- and postgame shows for FS North (ROBERTFEDER.com, 12/12). In Chicago, Sherman & Gonzales cite sources as saying that Coomer "became the clear front-runner as the other reported finalist, Todd Hollandsworth, took a full-time position with the MLB Radio Network." Hollandsworth "will be part of a Monday-through-Friday morning show on the MLB Radio Network," and it also is "likely he will make TV appearances on MLB Network." It is expected that Hollandsworth "will continue in his role as a pre- and postgame analyst for Cubs games" on CSN Chicago (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/13).
END-OF-THE-YEAR AWARDS: SI's Richard Deitsch names ESPN's Jay Bilas "Broadcaster of the Year," writing Bilas "is one of the most thoughtful and prepared voices in any sport, a broadcaster who can move seamlessly from the studio to a game site." He "proves smart can be successful in television." Meanwhile, Deitsch picks NBCSN's Rebecca Lowe as the "Rookie of the Year," as she has "already vaulted to the top echelon of studio hosts thanks to her intellect and knowledge" of the EPL. Lowe is the "rare ego-free host who makes a studio show about the panelists." Finally, Deitsch names Auburn IMG Sports Network's Rod Bramblett the "Play-by-Play Announcer of the Year." Bramblett "was given two once-in-a-lifetime plays this year, and he delivered on both." Though his call of Auburn CB Chris Davis' 109-yard return in the Iron Bowl "will be played for eternity, even better was his description" of team WR Ricardo Louis' 73-yard catch of a tipped ball that gave the school a 43-38 win over Georgia last month (SI, 12/16 issue).
NO CORPORATE SCHILL: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes despite ESPN's Curt Schilling moving from the studio to the broadcast booth to replace Orel Hershiser on the net's "Sunday Night Baseball" broadcasts, he is "not suddenly going to change himself for the gig." Schilling "sounds like a guy who firmly believes he can reinvent the way pitching is analyzed on TV." He has "already outlined a 26-week plan on presenting the art of pitching during a broadcast." Meanwhile, Schilling has his "own idea where the boundaries lie when it comes to criticizing players." Schilling: "The only time you are going to hear me criticize a player is when he doesn't give effort. Or when he doesn't respect the game" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 12/13).
A SAN FRANCISCO TREAT: ESPN.com's Bill Williamson reported ESPN has "switched its game plan to ensure" Chris Berman will be part of the coverage at Candlestick Park for the Dec. 23 Falcons-49ers "MNF" matchup, which will mark the stadium's final game. The net is "switching Berman and Stuart Scott, making Berman the on-sight host, while Scott will be in Bristol" hosting "Monday Night Countdown" (ESPN.com, 12/12).
KID'S GOT CHOPS: In Boston, Chad Finn writes no "promising youngster generated more buzz this week at baseball’s Winter Meetings" than 18-year-old SB Nation writer Chris Cotillo. The senior at Algonquin Regional High School is "making a habit of breaking major baseball news, the kind that usually comes from national writers with years of experience and a couple of iPhones’ worth of contacts." He was "first to report a deal that no one saw coming: the Tigers’ swap of pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals for three modest players." Meanwhile, Finn notes NESN has hired Elle Duncan as an anchor, host and reporter beginning in February. She currently serves as the Philips Arena in-house reporter for Hawks games (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/13).
Youth sports digital programmer The Whistle has continued its recent courting of league partnerships, signing a multiyear agreement with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association to develop a series of original video programming. The alignment bears similarity to other pacts The Whistle has struck in the past two years with the NFL, PGA Tour, NASCAR, U.S. Soccer, MLL and others, but the ski deal is strictly focused on creating new content as opposed to in part repurposing legacy material. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the USSA will acquire an equity stake in the company, similar to shares the other properties hold. The Whistle will also supply an undisclosed upfront investment to build up video infrastructure for the deal, and there is also a revenue sharing component. Content will appear on The Whistle's various distribution platforms, including online, mobile, YouTube and via connected gaming consoles. "We are particularly enthused about the commitment to original material here," said The Whistle co-Founder & CMO Jeff Urban. "This will enable us to particularly tailor the content and showcase the personalities of these talented athletes." Content will also veer into sport science, and nutrition and wellness. The USSA historically has not spent much time directly targeting The Whistle's target demo of youth aged 8-14, despite a large population of kids among its participant membership base. "This organization has never targeted this age group like we will through this deal," said USSA CMO Mike Jaquet.
UniMás averaged 517,000 viewers for the Sporting KC-Real Salt Lake MLS Cup final on Saturday afternoon, compared to 505,000 viewers for the match on ESPN. The average on ESPN was an all-time low for the MLS finale and was down 37% from 797,000 viewers for the Galaxy-Dynamo matchup last year. Meanwhile, the MLS regular season on ESPN/ESPN2 and NBCSN saw a decline from ’12. ESPN/ESPN2 averaged 220,000 viewers for 20 matches in ’13, down 20% from 311,000 in ’12. The decline comes one season after ESPN had its best numbers since MLS’ inception in ‘96. NBCSN averaged 112,000 viewers for 37 MLS regular-season games, down 8% from ‘12. After NBCSN’s EPL matches began in August, the net averaged 132,000 viewers for its MLS games.MLS CUP FINAL AUDIENCE TREND ON ESPNYEAR
MATCHUPVIEWERS (000)'13 Sporting KC-Real Salt Lake505'12 Galaxy-Dynamo797'11 Galaxy-Dynamo1,039'10 Rapids-FC Dallas748'09 Real Salt Lake-Galaxy1,141
PICK 'EM: Univision averaged 1.1 million viewers for the ’14 FIFA World Cup draw last Friday, which compared to 489,000 viewers on ESPN2. The mark on ESPN2 was a record for the net, topping the 364,000 viewers for the ’94 draw.
The charts below list final ratings from recent telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "NFL on Fox": Seahawks-49ers (78%)12/8Fox4:25-7:15pm16.227,647 "NFL on CBS": (single)12/8CBS1:03-4:23pm12.020,235 "Sunday Night Football": Panthers-Saints12/8NBC8:31-11:18pm11.319,065 "NFL on Fox": (regional)12/8Fox1:00-4:25pm10.016,432 SEC Championship: Auburn-Missouri12/7CBS4:00-8:10pm8.614,354 Big Ten Championship: Ohio State-Michigan State12/7Fox8:20pm-12:21am7.913,900 "Football Night in America"12/8NBC7:30-8:15pm4.87,964 College Football: Oklahoma-Oklahoma State12/7ABC12:01-3:43pm4.77,284 ACC Championship: Florida State-Duke12/7ABC8:07-11:41pm3.45,659 "Fox NFL Sunday"12/8Fox12:00-1:00pm3.45,133 "The NFL Today"12/8CBS12:00-1:00pm2.63,813 College Football: Texas-Baylor12/7Fox3:45-7:15pm2.33,756 "College Football Today"12/7CBS3:30-4:00pm2.33,459 Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest12/8CBS5:00-6:00pm1.72,449 Liga MX: Club America-Toluca12/8Univ.5:50-8:00pm1.22,222 Golf: Northwestern Mutual World Challenge: Second Round12/8NBC3:00-6:00pm1.42,058 Liga MX: Toluca-Club America12/5UniMas7:56-10:09pm0.91,717 MWC Championship: Fresno State-Utah State12/7CBS10:00pm-1:45am1.11,703 Golf: Northwestern Mutual World Challenge: First Round12/7NBC3:00-6:00pm1.21,703 Liga MX: Leon-Santos Laguna10/5Telem.10:00pm-12:03am0.81,468 "College Football Special"12/7CBS3:00-3:30pm0.91,367 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating: Japan12/8NBC12:00-2:00pm0.91,199 College Basketball: UCLA-Missouri12/7CBS12:30-3:00pm0.81,141 Skiing: Audi Birds of Prey: Men's Downhill12/8NBC2:00-3:00pm0.7925 Skiing: Audi Birds of Prey: Men's Super G12/7NBC2:00-3:00pm0.5742 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) "Monday Night Football": Saints-Seahawks12/2ESPN8:27-11:51pm9.715,500 "Thursday Night Football": Texans-Jaguars12/5NFLN8:30-11:49pm3.04,633 "Monday Night Countdown"12/2ESPN6:29-8:47pm1.82,584 College Basketball: North Carolina-Michigan State12/4ESPN9:05-11:21pm1.62,244 NBA: Heat-Bulls12/5TNT9:49pm-12:22am1.32,091 "Sunday NFL Countdown"12/8ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.42,026 MAC Championship: Bowling Green-Northern Illinois12/6ESPN28:00-11:37pm1.21,867 "Thursday Night Football Pre-Kick"12/5NFLN8:00-8:30pm1.11,861 "BCS Countdown"12/8ESPN8:30-9:01pm1.11,817 "College GameDay"12/7ESPN9:00am-12:00pm1.31,815