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The NFL is requiring that the winning bidder of its Thursday night game package simulcast the games on NFL Network, according to several sources. The NFL included the surprising language in the proposal that it sent to TV networks last week, specifying that the winning bidder's live linear feed "will be simulcast by NFL Network." Whether the TV networks could choose to omit that language when they make their bids is unclear, but TV industry sources said the networks expect the NFL to push to have the games also air on NFL Network. One of the reasons the NFL is making this package available is to fulfill a desire to extend the reach of its "Thursday Night Football" franchise. By airing its games on two different networks, the league would achieve its goal. By mandating a simulcast, the league almost certainly would have to accept less rights-fee money than it would have received with a straight package. Industry sources over the last few days were surprised by the league's demand and were looking into how much they would have to offer with that stipulation. Other details also began to emerge from the proposal, which the NFL sent to all network partners and Turner Sports. One element creating buzz is the fact that the NFL told networks they could make multiple proposals for any games from Week 2 through Week 16, except for the Opening Night and Thanksgiving night Thursday games. Originally, it was believed that the networks only would bid on an early season package of games. For example, a network could bid for a package of five, eight or 13 games at any point in the season. NFL Network needs to retain a certain number of games to keep its current affiliate fee rate at around $1.20 per subscriber per month (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
BETTER GAMES NEEDED: In L.A., Joe Flint writes if the NFL "does go forward and get a new TV partner, it will have to put more enticing games on Thursday night than what it has offered the NFL Network." Not only are there "concerns about the quality of play on Thursday." But since the NFL "has said every team ideally will only play once on Thursday, coming up with compelling matches has also been a challenge and the ratings have often reflected that." At the same time, the league "has to be careful that it doesn't deprive Fox, CBS and NBC -- its biggest customers -- of too many big ticket games or there could be blowback" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).
Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten "isn't worried about the distribution prospects" for Time Warner Cable SportsNet L.A., which is set to launch on Feb. 25, according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Kasten said, "These things always get worked out." Flint reports TWC is "expected to start pitching it to other area distributors in the coming weeks." The cost to carry the channel is "expected to be $4 to $5 per subscriber per month in the first season with the price going up over the course of the contract." TWC "will probably face pushback from DirecTV and Cox, particularly because both are already paying a similar amount to carry the cable operator's SportsNet channel," which holds rights to Lakers games. Even if TWC "doesn't sign up all the distributors, the Dodgers will still get paid." According to a clause in the TWC deal, the operator is "on the hook to cover the fees from other distributors who don't sign on to carry the channel." This means that if Dish Network does not sign on to carry the channel, TWC "will pay the subscription fees until a deal is reached with the satellite broadcaster." Guggenheim President & Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly said that while the Dodgers own the channel, the name "was a Time Warner Cable decision" (L.A. TIMES, 1/16).
NBC and Facebook are expanding their partnership around the Olympics during the Sochi Games. For the first time, NBC plans to make video content available on its NBC Olympics Facebook page. The broadcaster will post NBC Olympics features on Facebook, beginning today with the story of speedskater J.R. Celski’s friendship with rapper Macklemore. In addition to the videos, NBC Olympics will make commentator and Gold Medal-winning figure skater Sarah Hughes available to answer questions on Facebook during the Games. The net will promote that opportunity during its broadcasts of the Games. Facebook also will be integrated into NBC’s primetime broadcasts. Facebook VP/Partnerships & Operations Justin Osofsky said the company has invested heavily since the '12 London Games to develop a new system for tracking and analyzing Facebook users’ posts about events. It will provide that analysis to NBC to incorporate into its broadcasts. During London, NBC devoted segments to a “Talk Meter” that highlighted what Olympics-related news people were discussing on Facebook. NBC and Facebook have not determined if a similar recurring segment will occur during Sochi, but NBC has committed to using its Olympic broadcasts “to ignite the Olympic conversation and engagement on Facebook,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said. Osofsky said, “We’re excited to partner with NBC and the Olympics. Our partnership in 2012 was a great first step.”
CSNCHICAGO.com's Patrick Mooney cited sources as saying that the Cubs "are in talks with Fox about their broadcasting future, working on a deal that would end the WGN connection that built the team's national brand and potentially lay the groundwork" for a second RSN in Chicago. The Cubs "are locked into WGN for one more season, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago has exclusive cable rights" through '19. One concept "being discussed is a bridge deal that would put X-number of games on a local Fox affiliate during that five-year window, before taking the full schedule to a new channel" in '20 (CSNCHICAGO.com, 1/13).
MICKEY BLUE EYES: In Philadelphia, Bob Brookover reports former MLBer and current Triple-A Int'l League Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Mickey Morandini last week "was contacted by Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia to see whether he would be interested in the role of color analyst" for Phillies broadcasts. Sources said that CSN Philly also "has been in contact with Ricky Bottalico, Kevin Stocker, and Mitch Williams." Both ESPN's John Kruk and former MLBer Brad Lidge publicly have said that they "were contacted but not interested." Chris Coste, Doug Glanville and Ben Davis also "have been mentioned as candidates" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/16).
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: WEEI-FM's Kirk Minihane wrote the "issue of conflict of interest" has come up around the fact that Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks and NESN Red Sox reporter Jenny Dell have acknowledged they are in a relationship and are living together. There is "no way NESN can bring her back in her current position" covering the team after the pair disclosed the relationship. There also is "no way NESN's coverage of the Red Sox can be taken seriously if Dell is allowed to return to that position," as the "already blurred lines will permanently be crossed" (WEEI.com, 1/14).
PRIMETIME PLAYERS: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale noted the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals and Yankees "will be shown three times on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball in the season's first four months." The Dodgers "will be on the first two broadcasts." The Red Sox on April 20 host the Orioles, "just a little more than one year after the Boston Marathon bombings" (USA TODAY, 1/15).