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Dodgers execs have "reached agreement with MLB about how much television revenue the team would share with the league" from Time Warner Cable SportsNet L.A., according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. The Dodgers also have "hired on-air talent" for their new RSN, including former players Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra. MLB approval for the channel, which launches Feb. 25, has yet to be publicly announced. Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said that the channel plans to air all Dodgers Spring Training games, every regular-season game not picked up by national broadcasters and programs "featuring player profiles and behind-the-scenes activities." Kasten said that while SportsNet L.A. does not carry the Dodgers' name, there "are no plans for other sports -- or any other programming -- on the channel." Kasten: "For the first time ever, there is going to be a Dodger-only channel with Dodger-only content 24-7." Guggenheim President & Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly said that the new channel "will use the Dodgers' interlocking 'LA' logo." Kasten said that the Dodgers and TWC "plan to air 75 games in Spanish this season -- on a separate channel -- with the goal of airing all games in Spanish in future seasons" (LATIMES.com, 1/16).
GOLD RUSH, OR FOOL'S GOLD? SPORTS ON EARTH's Jack Moore wrote the past three years "have been the perfect time to strike and renegotiate a huge windfall" for an MLB franchise. The multi-billion dollar TV deals negotiated by the Dodgers, Angels, Rangers and now Phillies "have all occurred" since '10. But the "big question ... is when this bubble will burst." If teams like the Astros and Padres "are already having issues getting cable providers to pay carriage fees, what will the market look like in five years when the Brewers, Royals, Pirates and Cardinals can finally renegotiate their TV deals?" This "sounds like a question the fan who only cares about results on the field can ignore, but massive competitive balance implications rest on its answer." In leagues like MLB, "where players have free agency, studies have shown nothing -- not a salary cap , not player drafts -- leads to more competitive balance than more revenue sharing." While MLB's revenue-sharing program "will throw some of the new TV money down to the smaller market, late-negotiating clubs, it might not be enough to offset the growing gap in gross rights fee revenue and the non-shared money coming from club-owned equity stakes" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/16).
Bids for the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" package are due Friday, and sources said ABC is planning to bid on the games, potentially marking the return of NFL action to the Disney-owned network for the first time since Super Bowl XL in February '06. All of the network partners are expected to submit bids: ESPN, which would put the game on ABC; CBS; Fox; and NBC. Turner Sports also is expected to bid on the package for one of its networks, but it is considered a long shot since the NFL is looking to expand the Thursday night games onto a broadcast network. Smaller broadcast networks like The CW (co-owned by CBS and Time Warner) and MyNetwork (owned by Fox) are not expected to bid, sources said. There had been speculation that CBS and Turner could use The CW in a joint bid or Fox could use MyNetwork in its bid. The available package will only be one year, and games likely will be simulcast on NFL Network. It is the inclusion of ABC in the bidding process that is, perhaps, the most surprising development. Since its last "MNF" regular-season telecast in '05, Disney aggressively has been migrating sports content from ABC to ESPN. ABC carries some NBA games, NASCAR races and has had success with its Saturday night college football package. Sources said ABC execs, including Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney and ESPN President John Skipper, are interested in picking up an NFL package as a way to create parity with the other broadcast networks, all of whom carry highly rated NFL games. NBC's "SNF" is the top-rated primetime series on television. The quality of the Thursday night matchups generally is the weakest among all of the NFL's TV partners. That is not expected to change. In its proposal that it sent to the networks last week, the NFL said it still plans to use the package to ensure that all teams have at least one Thursday matchup during the season (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
DIGITAL WATCH: CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin notes the Thursday package "could be the first time a digital player like a Google, YouTube or a Netflix" offers a bid. He asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if they have "enough of a market in terms of addressable audience that they are a real competitor." Sorkin: "Not just in terms of dollars that they can bring the NFL, but in terms of what they can do for the presence of the league." Goodell said the league is in "active discussions" with bidders and noted, "Some of those digital opportunities we think really do have the capability of doing this now." However, he said, "What we believe is our most successful business model is being on free television to the broadest possible audience, and that's where we've made our mark. We're the only league to have all of our games on broadcast television in the local markets, and we think that's really valuable to us. We want to be available to the widest spectrum of audience and most importantly, the casual fans so they know where to get us at all times" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 1/17).
JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG? CSNBAYAREA.com's Andy Dolich said with the NFL shopping its Thursday night TV package, there ultimately could be a "five- or six-day week for NFL broadcasts, and we're pushing it to different platforms." Dolich: "The NFL needs to feed this beast, and that is the revenue that they generate each year. They couldn't be in a better position." Dolich noted the NFL wanting to sign only a one-year deal for this package "gives them the opportunity to see what happens after they get out of the starting gate" ("Yahoo SportsTalk Live," CSN Bay Area, 1/16). Goodell said, "One of the things we work very hard at is trying to give the fans more because every time we do give them more football, they say, 'Well, give me more.' But we don't want to reach that point of saturation where people say, 'It's not special anymore.' One of the things that makes the NFL so special is that every one of our events is special and unique" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 1/17).
The ratings for CBS' broadcast of the Patriots-Broncos AFC Championship Game at 3:00pm ET on Sunday are "all but assured of dwarfing those from the regular-season matchup, even without the prime-time window," according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. No one with a "genuine interest in football will be checking out early this time around." The game features two "legend-in-their-own-time quarterbacks" in the Broncos' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady, and a game with "such high stakes, is one to be savored." While a Manning-Brady matchup "would seem to make more sense as Sunday’s prime-time game" than the 49ers-Seahawks NFC Championship Game, it is "the matinee because the start times of the conference finals are set before the participants are determined." But it is "not as if Fox has an unappealing matchup in the NFC Championship." The first of two games between the 49ers and Seahawks aired on NBC on Sept. 15 and "drew 20.5 million viewers, making it the 29th most-watched program this fall." The second game between the teams, a Fox telecast Dec. 8, was "the eighth most-watched program with 27.6 million viewers." It will be "interesting to see what all four teams do Sunday." It is "hard to imagine a more compelling NFL final four," and when it is "all over, the ratings once again will confirm the massive interest" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17).
EAST COAST BIAS? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Friday morning, and CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin said there is a "view in the ratings advertising world that you can't let the Patriots lose because you need an East Coast team in the Super Bowl." Goodell laughed out loud and replied, "No, I think we have four great teams, teams that all deserve to be there. They all have national followings and I think that's the great thing about the NFL. It's a national sport." Sorkin asked, "You don't sit around and think that there's certain combinations that will do better on TV than others?" Goodell: "There might be, but the reality of it is our sport is national and we like to see the best teams win. The games that are most competitive actually draw the most viewers. So the best teams playing each other will likely draw the best ratings." Goodell added, "I'll let you in on a secret. I always root for the team that's behind because we really love the close games" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 1/17).
TAKING A REST: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports former CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf is "gearing up for a reconstructive back operation that is set for Feb. 5 -- three days after the Super Bowl." Dierdorf yesterday said, "It’s a major surgery, six or seven hours." Caesar notes Dierdorf's back problems have been "so troublesome that he said they are a major reason he retired from his role as CBS’ No. 2 NFL game analyst after 15 seasons." Dierdorf said that it will be "several months before he will be able to resume activities such as playing golf," but the surgery "won’t deter him from pursuing a spot on radio." He emphasized that he has "retired from network television, not broadcasting in general." CBS is "interested in adding" Dierdorf to its national sports radio network. Dierdorf, who has lived in the St. Louis area since his playing days, said that he has "had a couple feelers from local stations." He said, "I don’t see myself doing a daily show now. But if the right situation develops I could be interested in something" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/17). Meanwhile, in San Diego, John Maffei wrote under the header, "Dierdorf Goes Out With Class." Dierdorf "wasn't only good at both" playing and broadcasting, he is a HOFer in those roles. Dierdorf had "a relaxed, humorous style" on TV, and "maybe because he was an offensive lineman, he had a little different twist on the game." He "bowed out gracefully on his final game" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 1/14).
ESPN has averaged 1.37 million viewers for its men’s college basketball games through Jan. 9, up 25% from the same period last year. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU also have combined to average 413,000 viewers for 249 men’s games to date this season, up 4%. Michigan State-Kentucky on Nov. 12 remains ESPN’s top college basketball audience this season to date with 4.0 million viewers, also marking the net’s second-best non-conference game ever (ESPN).
MX MARKS THE SPOT: Univision Deportes Network’s Liga MX telecasts saw viewership grow 25% in ’13, while sister station UniMas saw viewership grow 16%. Univision Deportes also was the No. 1 Spanish-language sports network in primetime in ’13 (Univision).
The charts below list final ratings from recent sports telecasts.
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) AFC Divisional Playoff: Chargers-Broncos1/12CBS4:40-7:59pm23.141,211 NFC Divisional Playoff: 49ers-Panthers1/12Fox1:00-4:45pm19.933,300 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots-Colts1/11CBS8:15-11:28pm17.831,694 NFC Divisional Playoff: Saints-Seahawks1/11Fox4:30-7:45pm18.131,100 "The NFL Today"1/12CBS4:00-4:40pm9.516,178 "The NFL Today"1/11CBS7:30-8:12pm6.311,014 "Fox NFL Special"1/11Fox3:30-4:30pm4.8n/a "Fox NFL Sunday"1/12Fox12:00-1:00pm4.3n/a U.S. Figure Skating Championships1/11NBC8:00-11:00pm2.74,183 U.S. Figure Skating Championships1/11NBC3:00-6:00pm1.52,208 U.S. Figure Skating Championships1/12NBC3:00-5:00pm1.42,075 "NFL Game Changers"1/11CBS2:30-3:30pm1.11,638 College Basketball: Kentucky-Vanderbilt1/11CBS3:30-6:00pm0.91,390 College Basketball: Iowa-Ohio State1/12CBS1:30-4:00pm0.91,285 EPL: Manchester United-Swansea City1/11NBC12:30-3:00pm0.71,101 Liga MX: Chivas de Guadalajara-Chiapas1/12UniMas5:50-8:00pm0.5886 Liga MX: Cruz Azul-Santos Laguna1/11Univision5:55-8:00pm0.4752 "World of X Games: 2014 Snowboard Preview"1/11ABC3:00-4:00pm0.5747 Liga MX: Tijuana-Club America1/10Azateca10:27pm-12:40am0.4729 "ESPN Sports Saturday"1/11ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5722 USSA: Sprint U.S. Grand Prix1/12NBC1:00-3:00pm0.5657 Liga MX: Leon-Atlas1/11Telemundo9:00-11:01pm0.3647 "PGA Tour 2014"1/12NBC12:30-1:00pm0.3385 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) BCS National Championship: Florida State-Auburn1/6ESPN8:30pm-12:10am14.425,572 NBA: Heat-Knicks1/9TNT8:16-10:43pm2.03,144 "College GameDay"1/6ESPN6:00-8:00pm1.62,634 NBA: Heat-Nets1/10ESPN8:04-11:12pm1.62,485 College Basketball: Ohio State-Michigan State1/7ESPN9:02-11:27pm1.52,305 "Sunday NFL Countdown"1/12ESPN10:00am-1:00pm1.31,783 NBA: Thunder-Nuggets1/9TNT10:43pm-1:15am1.21,709 College Basketball: North Carolina-Syracuse1/11ESPN12:00-1:49pm1.21,704 NBA: Lakers-Clippers1/10ESPN11:12pm-1:15am1.11,524 College Basketball: Kansas State-Kansas1/11ESPN2:03-4:04pm1.01,390