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The NFL is rolling out an over-the-top service called "NFL Now," marking the league's latest content foray. The league is making a formal announcement this afternoon on the digital network that will debut this summer prior to the start of the '14 season. Through "NFL Now," the league will make highlights, news, features, archival material and on-demand programming available through computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and other streaming devices. No live games are planned for the venture, which will carry a high degree of personalization based on one's favorite NFL team. Similar to the recently announced WWE Network, "NFL Now" will carry a large amount of free content, but the league also plans a premium-level, paid content portion called "NFL Now Plus." The NFL is touting "NFL Now" is as the deepest level of access to on-demand league content anywhere. The league has returned to some of its biggest sponsors to aid with the creation of "NFL Now." Verizon will be a presenting sponsor and key distribution partner of the venture, while Microsoft will expand its rights as the official game console and tablet of the NFL. "NFL Now" will be folded into the NFL XBox console application that launched last year. Yahoo and Gillette have also joined as launch partners. Yahoo in particular will offer direct links to "NFL Now" and promote it through its online and mobile properties. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp led the announcement today in N.Y. The announcement represents a rare media appearance for Goodell during Super Bowl week outside of his customary state of the league address.
Lakers' game ratings on Time Warner Cable SportsNet have "declined 37.5% over the team's first 40 games versus the same period last season," according to Ben Bolch of the L.A. TIMES. Lakers games averaged a 2.72 local rating in L.A. over those games, down from a 4.35 at the same point last season. Meanwhile, the Clippers' TV ratings "also have dipped this season, though not as sharply." The team 1.28 local rating on FS Prime Ticket for the first 40 games was down 14.7% from a 1.5 rating. The "star power of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Clippers' Chris Paul -- and their absence -- has also been reflected in the ratings." In the six games Bryant has played this season, the Lakers "averaged a 3.57 rating on TWC." In the games Paul played "before sustaining a separated shoulder last month, the Clippers averaged a 1.39 rating." There "hasn't been much allure" for the Lakers this season, as the team "has played without Bryant and Steve Nash for most of the season." TWC execs "obviously were hoping for higher ratings" when they agreed to a 25-year, $5B deal with the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Clippers' ratings decline "seems puzzling given the team has a 33-15 record and is atop the Pacific Division." Clippers VP/Communications Seth Burton attributed the ratings drop "to several factors, including more early East Coast starts than usual at this point in the season and a handful of games being televised both locally and nationally" (L.A. TIMES, 1/30).
The Senators' 12-year TV deal with Bell Media "could be worth" up to C$400M, according to sources cited by Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. Coupled with the C$16M the team will receive from the new deal the NHL signed with Sportsnet, the Senators "could get" more than C$40M from broadcast revenues next season. Senators President Cyril Leeder "wouldn't confirm the numbers," but said that the Bell Media agreement is "the biggest financial deal in club history." Leeder: "It’s going to increase the value of the club for sure. That’s going to bode well for the future. It’s good for [Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk], the club, the fans and it just adds more value to the organization." Sources said that the Senators' annual payment "will escalate through the course of the agreement." TSN President Stewart Johnston said that the Senators "are an attractive option because their regional games include Eastern and Northern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and Newfoundland" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/30).
ON-ICE INVESTMENT? In Ottawa, James Bagnall writes the deals will "almost certainly allow Melnyk to close a long-running gap between the operation’s revenues and costs." Melnyk, since acquiring the team and arena in '03, "has suffered a cumulative cash drain" of US$110M. Melnyk said of the broadcast deals, "This puts us on a solid footing. We are going to be competitive in spending on players." However, Melnyk also "made it clear" that, despite the extra broadcasting revenues, he "does not intend to shell out the maximum permitted under salary cap rules." He said, "We’re still going to spend wisely" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/30).
Former Dolphins OT Jonathan Martin's full interview with Tony Dungy, which was yesterday teased on NBC's "Today" before airing in its entirety last night on NBCSN, was "disappointing in many regards, largely because of Martin's unwillingness to offer details" into the bullying allegations against teammate Richie Incognito and Dungy's "reluctance to ask key questions," according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. Dungy "never asked Martin who harassed him" besides C Mike Pouncey, "or who viciously attacked him." Dungy did ask three separate times whether Martin was friends with Incognito, but Martin "would not answer directly." Martin "seemed excessively cautious and scripted and less than convincing at times," and he "seemed most concerned with trying to sell himself to NFL teams" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/29). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes it was a "bad interview" by Dungy. While Dungy is "not an interviewer," he "didn't press Martin on key points -- why he couldn't tell teammates to stop, why didn't he go to [Dolphins coach] Joe Philbin, how much were his emotional problems playing into this?" Hyde: "Dungy did an awful job demanding Martin give some straight and detailed answers. That's a responsibility that fell on him as Martin talked for the first time" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/30). Meanwhile, blogger Ed Sherman wrote Dungy "might have been the wrong choice" to do the interview for NBC because he "serves on a special Miami committee to review the Dolphins standards of behavior and make recommendations in the wake of" the Martin-Incognito situation. Dungy was brought in by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and "will begin work on the committee when the NFL investigation is complete." Sherman: "If you follow the rules of journalism, Dungy probably shouldn't have been the person to do that interview" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 1/29).
Longtime Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker this morning indicated that he will be "cutting back on some of his road broadcasts" during the '14 season, according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Uecker has been calling games for the team since '71 and while he has had "some medical setbacks in recent years," including heart surgery in '10, he "never suggested he would cut back on his schedule" until today. Uecker, who made the announcement on WTMJ-AM, noted that he had been encouraged by Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio and others "to cut back a bit on his workload." He did not give specifics "about how many games he will cut back and there was no talk about who would fill in for him to do radio broadcasts with Joe Block." Uecker did say that he "still planned to do all the home games at Miller Park" (JSONLINE.com, 1/30).
In San Diego, John Maffei reports the Padres after seven seasons "are replacing radio play-by-play voice Andy Masur," whose contract was not renewed. Miami-based WINZ-AM host Jesse Agler will serve as Content Dir for the team, "as well as serving as a play-by-play voice" on XEPRS-AM. Padres analysts Ted Leitner and Bob Scanlan "will both return" for the '14 season. Padres Senior VP & CMO Wayne Partello said that Agler's "actual radio/TV role is still to be determined" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/30).
YOU'RE LOOKING LIVE: In West Palm Beach, Dave George cited sources as pointing to ESPN's Chris Fowler "possibly being given the play-calling gig" for ABC’s “Saturday Night Football." It is "not a comfortable topic" for current host Brent Musburger, who is "represented in negotiations by his sports agent brother, Todd." Brent Musburger said, “I assume there’s something going on between Todd and them. I don’t know how far along the network is or what’s going on. The network has been very nice to me. Whatever reasons they have, that’s their business, but I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be on someplace. I love doing it" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 1/29).
STAKING HIS CLAIM: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey noted ESPN broadcaster Jason Benetti has a "mild form of cerebral palsy, an impairment that hasn’t affected his rise through the ranks." He is "getting more and more assignments from ESPN, including a regular weekly gig on the network’s American Athletic Conference package." Benetti has the "kind of rich, booming voice that’s natural to the profession." Benetti said, "I have no ill effects of CP when it comes to my speech. All it really affects is my walk" (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 1/29).
NOT A BIG DEAL: SPORTS ON EARTH's Colin McGowan noted Saturday's BYU-Gonzaga men's basketball game game was called by ESPN's Beth Mowins and Kara Lawson, and there "exists a future, hopefully, where this isn't 'a thing' anymore." It is an "objectively good thing that ESPN is cool with occasionally assigning two competent female announcers to a men’s basketball game," and it is an "objectively bad thing, even if it’s not surprising, that some people are upset by it." What the "vexation over Mowins and Lawson calling the BYU-Gonzaga game demonstrates is that women are damned if they’re hot and damned if they’re not." All Mowins, Lawson and Fox' Erin Andrews "can do is be the best sportscasters they can be, in whichever way they see fit." There is "no way of infiltrating a man’s world that won’t draw ill-founded scrutiny" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/28).
NOTES: NUGGETS.com's Aaron Lopez noted former Nuggets GM & coach Dan Issel is filling in "as an analyst alongside play-by-play man Chris Marlowe" for two Nuggets games this week on the Altitude RSN. Issel worked last night's Bobcats-Nuggets game and will do so again tomorrow for Scott Hastings, who is "doing broadcast work as part of the Super Bowl coverage this week" (NUGGETS.com, 1/28)....In K.C., Jeff Rosen reported the K.C. Star has "hired a new Royals beat writer," bringing on Andy McCullough from the Newark Star-Ledger. McCullough "was the lead Yankees beat writer" in '13 and before that, "spent several seasons" as the paper's Mets reporter (KANSASCITY.com, 1/29).
NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp said that any potential additional Wild Card games "are not part of current TV contracts." AD AGE's Michael McCarthy noted that means the league's TV partners, "as well as possibly outsiders, might have a chance to bid" on the games. Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Lou D'Ermilio, when asked if the net would be interested in bidding, said, "Very interested." McCarthy wrote ESPN is "dying for an NFL playoff game," so "look for ESPN to be a strong bidder." TNT previously held NFL rights from '90-97 and "could be a player" (ADAGE.com, 1/28).
CASE OF THE MONDAYS: VARIETY's Whitney Friedlander noted scheduling conflicts "have spurred NBC to punt this year's Primetime Emmy Awards to a Monday night in late August rather than its traditional Sunday slot." NBC in recent years moved the Emmys to late August "because of its obligation" to "SNF" during the Emmys' traditional slot in September. NBC this year also "might have" an NFL preseason game to carry on Sunday, Aug. 24, and would also face competition from MTV's Video Music Awards (VARIETY.com, 1/28).
WANTING AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD: Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy on Tuesday indicated that the organization “needs a dedicated sports site to compete with ESPN, Fox and others when bidding for sports rights." That would allow Turner to "offer a full branding and revenue opportunity to be competitive.” Levy: “If they have sports destinations to monetize digital, you need it or you will have to bid less and lose rights.” He noted that Turner in return “can offer those people things they can’t do themselves.” Levy used comedy video website “Funny Or Die” as an example (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/28).