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Time Warner Cable on Thursday "lowered its revenue projections" for '14 because of its "inability to distribute SportsNet LA, the new TV home" of the Dodgers, according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. TWC CFO Artie Minson on a conference call said, "Assume we do not sign affiliate agreements for the Dodger Network this year." The company said that it was "lowering its revenue projection growth for the year from 4.5% to as low as 3.5%," with operating income projections lowered to 3.15-4.75% from 5-6%. The unit that houses SportsNet LA saw its operating costs jump 56% in Q2, while profit for the unit dropped 26% to $173M (L.A. TIMES, 8/1). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ramachandran & Calia noted TWC's "big bet" on the RSN was clouding the company's results. Higher programming costs "associated with the network lifted operating costs and damped profits." TWC "cut profit and revenue growth guidance for the year, citing revenue shortfalls related to SportsNet LA." The network "has become a focal point of complaints about rising sports programming costs" (WSJ.com, 7/31). TWC said that it "lost a net 152,000 residential video subscribers in the April to June period compared to the first quarter of the year" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/1).
INTERVENTION A NON-STARTER? An L.A. TIMES editorial stated it is "understandable that frustrated fans would hope the government could sweep in and solve" the SportsNet LA carriage standoff. But unless the FCC "discovers that Time Warner Cable is competing unfairly in violation of federal law, there will be little it can do." The real problem here "is stratospheric pricing," as TWC paid $8.35B for the Dodgers' media rights. All of these "high-stakes sales are predicated on the idea that sports TV is so lucrative that the sky is the limit in terms of what the TV rights are worth." Well, TWC "may have just hit the sky." If the company "has to lower its price to other providers, it may go back to the Dodgers to renegotiate its deal." The Dodgers "should be concerned." Their deal "won't seem so great if Dodgers fans turn away from the team because the games aren't being aired on TV -- or if they have to pay significant increases in their cable fees to watch" (L.A. TIMES, 7/31). TWC this week agreed to let an arbitrator determine a fair price for the RSN, and in L.A., David Lazarus writes TWC's "kumbaya gambit shows that the company knows its previous take-it-leave-it stance on SportsNet LA was a non-starter with the rest of the pay-TV industry." It also underlines that the dispute over the Dodgers channel "could be a turning point for an industry that has long gouged consumers by charging them for dozens if not hundreds of channels they never watch." Although an a la carte system is "still probably a long way off, breaking off sports channels from current programming packages would be a big step in the right direction." SNL Kagan Research Dir Derek Baine said that sports channels "account for about 37% of the average pay-TV bill" (L.A. TIMES, 8/1).
NFL SUNDAY TICKET UPDATE: CABLEFAX DAILY reports DirecTV is "confident that it will renew the NFL Sunday Ticket rights deal." DirecTV Chair & CEO Mike White, citing good progress, said that parties "are now sorting through digital rights issues such as selling Sunday Ticket to non-DirecTV subs" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/1). THE STREET's Jason Notte wrote under the header, "The NFL Needs To Punt Sunday Ticket Away From DirecTV" (THESTREET.com, 7/31).
Both MASN and the Nationals have filed preservation rights petitions with a N.Y. court designed to either vacate or confirm a recent, private MLB arbitration ruling favoring the Nationals in their ongoing media rights disputes, several industry sources said. Those motions had to be made within 30 days of the June 30 decision, enabling either party to go to court later if so chooses, and both sides are awaiting a judge’s ruling for how long it is allowed to continue negotiating privately before a formal suit must be brought forward. Those negotiations in the multiyear dispute have now reached a more heightened state, sources said, as MLB is particularly loathe to avoid a public suit. But the Orioles dispute the ruling for the Nationals on two primary fronts. First, the three-owner panel that rendered the decision is not a neutral third party, as is required in typical arbitration, but rather members of MLB that are a party to its agreement with the Orioles and also include owners of the Rays and Pirates that are two of the industry’s largest revenue-sharing recipients. Additional TV rights revenue for the Nationals would be taxed at a 34% rate for revenue-sharing purposes, as is typical MLB practice. Second, the Orioles contend the award for the Nationals would violate the terms of the ’05 settlement agreement with baseball that allowed the relocation of the Expos to DC, and neutralize much of the uneven profit distribution for the Orioles that represents the heart of its compensation for the relocation. The Nationals, conversely, are seeking a rights deal that would exceed $100M annually, well beyond its current local TV revenues, and bring the club much more in line with current market conditions and lucrative local team deals signed elsewhere in the league. The Orioles have long contended the clubs’ fees should be determined by the strict use of a 18-year-old league TV formula developed by Colorado-based Bortz Media & Sports Group, a consultant long employed by MLB, for use by teams with equity interests in their own television partners.
NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE: Even as the precursors to potential court proceedings have been filed, negotiations among the entities continue, and sources said some type of conclusion could occur within a matter of days. The Orioles, Nationals and MLB all declined to comment beyond previously issued public statements. The league earlier this week said while some legal maneuvering has taken place, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "remains hopeful the parties can reach an agreement in an amicable manner.”
The launch of the SEC Network is a "mere two weeks away," and everyone at Auburn Univ.'s new network bureau room studio is "in a hurry to cap preparations and end the construction," according to Brandon Marcello of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. When the SEC Network launches Aug. 14, each school is "expected to be ready to broadcast live interviews from its 'bureau rooms.'" At Auburn, three control rooms are "expected to be operational by Nov. 1." Auburn Assistant AD/PR Cassie Arner said, "It's been a mad rush." Auburn has spent nearly $5M on the project, which is "believed to be one of the highest totals among the 14 SEC schools." Auburn also is "one of several schools that had to practically start from scratch with its broadcast infrastructure." Construction is expected to "stretch through the fall as the school leans on a lone control room inside Jordan-Hare Stadium during the first few months" of the SEC Network's existence. Auburn AD Jay Jacobs: "We had to dip into our savings a little bit to pay for that, but it's all good. We know it's a tremendous investment, but we expect it to be a pretty good return on that investment." ESPN Associate Dir of Remote Production Operations Rex Arends said that "only Florida has completed construction and Alabama and Arkansas are nearing the end." Arends: "This was a really tight time frame for everybody." Arends, who has traveled across the SEC on 165 flights over the last 12 months, earlier this spring "gave Auburn's crew a thumbs up." Auburn had one "broadcast-ready camera in May 2013, and has since purchased nine high-definition Hitachi cameras for live events, including several $100,000 camera lenses." War Eagle Productions now "houses 15 cameras capable of producing live and taped content meeting ESPN's standards" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 8/1).
COMING TO YOUR CITY: In Alabama, Matt Maddux notes the SEC Network's production team was on the Mercer Univ. campus earlier this week to "shoot the opening scenes" of "SEC Nation," the network's new traveling pregame show. Show producer Joe Disney said that he chose Mercer as the filming location because it "wouldn't have been fair had they gone to one of the conference's schools." The opening scenes will "feature Robert Randolph and the Family Band, one snare drummer from each schools' marching band and a host of fans representing each university" (HUNTSVILLE TIMES, 8/1).
WWE on Thusday announced that it will cut 7% of its workforce as “part of a push to increase profitability,” according to Brian Dowling of the HARTFORD COURANT. The job reductions would “affect roughly 53 of the 762 positions the company said it had in February” (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/1). Also on Thursday, WWE announced as part of its Q2 earnings that its subscriber total for its over-the-top digital venture WWE Network has reached 700,000 subscribers. The total represents a minimal increase from the 667,287 subscribers WWE disclosed in early April, just six weeks into the service's availability. The most recent quarter also included a heavy amount of subscriber churn as it gained a gross addition of 161,000 subscribers, but ended the period with only the net add of less than 33,000 subscribers. As part of the earnings report, WWE also announced a series of changes to WWE Network including new int'l availability to more than 170 countries and territories beginning next month. There is a new 10-year deal with Rogers Communications in Canada that will see the network offered as a traditional a la carte pay TV channel and a new pricing plan that includes a $19.99 per month plan with no minimum commitment. The original offer of $9.99 per month with a minimum six-month commitment remains in effect. "We think that (700,000 subscriber level) is a very strong base to build from," said WWE Chair & CEO Vince McMahon. At presstime, WWE stock was trading at $12.39 per share, down 0.7% from the close of business on Thursday, and still well below a peak of more than $31 hit in March (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
In N.Y., Phil Mushnick examines the role of ESPN in the controversy surrounding Stephen A. Smith's comments on domestic violence. Smith was "guilty of rotten, even revolting on-the-spot spewing," yet "how does ESPN escape its own planned, similarly rotten judgments?" ESPN "recruits the worst acts in sports." ESPN also has "enthusiastically selected the most vulgar, women-objectifying, women-trashing rappers to serve as special guests and honored cross-promoters" on "First Take" (N.Y. POST, 8/1). In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes, "Let's put 'First Take' on the sidelines." The show "attracts viewers the way car accidents do, but should ESPN risk its credibility five days a week for a few ratings points?" The sports world can "survive without Skip Bayless" (Albany TIMES UNION, 8/1). In Boston, Chad Finn writes Smith "faced some small consequences" for his comments. But "how could he ever have said such a thing in the first place, under any circumstances?" Finn writes though he finds Smith an "entertaining personality," he "still can't understand how those words ever escaped his mouth, genuine apology or not" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/1).
BACK TO YOU IN THE BOOTH: In New York, Eric Reinhardt reported Triple-A Int'l League Syracuse Chiefs radio play-by-play man Jason Benetti "has accepted a similar position with WestwoodOne Sports." Benetti will "broadcast both college football and basketball" to a national audience (CNYBJ.com, 7/30). In Memphis, Michael Cohen noted EPL club Everton G Tim Howard "will be analyzing games in his own league" again this season for NBCSN. Howard's analyst role "will be created around his day job in goal for Everton." Bringing back Howard is a "smart attempt" by NBCSN to "continue growing the game of soccer" within the U.S. (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 7/31).
ACCORDING TO JIM: In California, Michael Lev writes while Jim Nantz' "new fall schedule -- featuring a full season of 'Thursday Night Football' games and a bunch of Sunday assignments -- might seem daunting to some, it’s a challenge the longtime CBS broadcaster embraces." Nantz said, “I don’t know how the rhythm and flow of this is going to feel, to be honest. I’ll figure it out, though.” This is Nantz’ 30th year with CBS, and he said he has "never seen this network get behind anything more" than "TNF." Making things "more complicated" for Nantz is he and wife Courtney "had a daughter in mid-March." But 4-month-old Finley "is a good traveler, and she and Courtney frequently will accompany Nantz" on the road (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/1).
IT'S TIME FOR DODGER BASEBALL! In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully "will never understand what he means to you." He will "not appreciate how he seems like part of your family." After "all these years ... he truly seems embarrassed by attention." Scully: "In all honesty, I don't ever feel I've done anything. ... I agree with everyone else. It's a long time to be working at one job -- with no advancement. I feel blessed." But Dilbeck wrote, "The true blessing, of course, has been ours." One "sad summer the announcement will be that he's not coming back for another year," and when that day "does come, maybe the saddest part will be knowing that despite all the love he's been showered with, he still will not quite grasp how he touched us on a personal level" (L.A. TIMES, 7/31).
ESPN finished with a 3.4 rating and 5.2 million viewers for its final telecast of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Sunday, down from a 3.6 rating and 5.46 million viewers last year. The figure is the second lowest for ESPN since it began airing the race in '07, behind only the '12 race, which went head-to-head with the London Olympics. NBC will again air the Brickyard 400 next year.NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES BRICKYARD 400 AUDIENCE TRENDYEARNETRATINGVIEWERS (000)YEARNETRATINGVIEWERS (000)'14ESPN3.45,196'03NBC6.09,690'13ESPN3.65,460'02NBC6.310,18312*ESPN3.35,055'01NBC6.29,657'11ESPN4.06,377'00ABC3.74,958'10ESPN3.65,709'99ABC4.66,919'09ESPN4.16,487'98ABC4.15,450'08ESPN4.36,668'97ABC5.37,737'07ESPN4.26,574'96ABC4.35,809'06NBC5.58,645'95**ABC4.35,707'05NBC6.29,510'94ABC5.78,136'04NBC6.19,315
CHART NOTES: Event aired on a Saturday afternoon from '94-'00. * = Aired up against London Olympics. ** = Saturday telecast rained out, with ABC showing previous year's race. Race aired on ESPN on Sunday, earning 3.858 million viewers.
FIGHT NIGHTS: “UFC on Fox 12” drew 2.49 million viewers on Saturday night, which featured Robbie Lawler’s win over Matt Brown in the main event. That audience is up 4% from 2.38 million viewers for the UFC primetime telecast on Fox last July, which featured Demetrious Johnson’s win over John Moraga. Saturday’s telecast also is down slightly from 2.53 million viewers for Travis Browne’s win over Fabricio Werdum in April. After 12 primetime UFC telecasts, Fox is averaging 3.31 million viewers. Fox also averaged 1.3 million viewers for the broadcast net’s first-ever UFC prelims on Saturday night (6:00-8:00pm ET). The telecast featured four fights. Last July’s prelims aired on FX and drew 904,000 viewers. Meanwhile, Spike TV drew 582,000 viewers for its Bellator MMA Summer Series telecast last Friday night, down from 679,000 viewers for the same event in July ‘13, which aired on a Wednesday night.AUDIENCE FOR UFC ON FOX PRIMETIME TELECASTS#DATE
HEADLINE FIGHTRATINGVIEWERS (000)111/12/11 Junior Dos Santos-Cain Velasquez*3.15,67521/28/12 Rashad Evans-Phil Davis2.64,66135/5/12 Nate Diaz-Jim Miller1.52,41848/4/12 Shogun Rua-Brandon Vera1.42,436512/8/12 Benson Henderson-Nate Diaz2.54,39261/26/13 Demetrious Johnson-John Dodson2.44,21974/20/13 Benson Henderson-Gilbert Melendez2.23,74287/27/13 Demetrious Johnson-John Moraga1.52,384912/14/13 Demetrious Johnson-Joseph Benavidez1.72,836101/25/14 Benson Henderson-Josh Thomson1.93,169114/19/14 Travis Browne-Fabricio Werdum1.62,529127/25/14 Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown1.52,487
CHART NOTE: * = Telecast was only one hour. Subsequent telecasts were at least two hours.
NOTES: NBCSN finished with 288,000 viewers for the cable net's live coverage of the Tour de France this year, up slightly from 287,000 viewers last year....NFL Network has averaged 58,765 viewers for its "NFL AM" show during the first six months of '14, up 10% from the same period in '13....Comcast SportsNet Houston drew a 0.0 local rating for A's-Astros on Wednesday, marking the third time in the RSN's two years of existence that the net has registered that figure for an Astros game....NBCSN drew 171,000 viewers for the season premiere of "Shark Hunters" on Wednesday, up 49% from last year's premier. The audience was just short of Syfy's 3.9 million viewers on the same night for the premiere of "Sharknado 2: The Second One."
The charts below list final ratings from recent sports telecasts.
"UFC on Fox 12": Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown7/26Fox8:03-10:31pm1.52,487 PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Final Round7/27CBS3:00-6:00pm1.62,314 PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Third Round7/26CBS3:00-6:00pm0.91,378 "UFC on Fox 12": Prelims7/26Fox6:07-8:03pm0.81,300 Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Monmouth Park7/27NBC5:00-6:00pm0.7995 Liga MX: Club America-Tijuana7/26Univision5:55-8:03pm0.6942 "ESPN Sports Saturday"7/26ABC4:00-6:00pm0.2710 Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball7/26NBC4:30-6:00pm0.5648 Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball7/27NBC3:30-5:00pm0.5627 "World of X Games: Women of Action"7/26ABC3:00-4:00pm0.2627 Guinness Int'l Champions Cup:
Manchester United-AS Roma7/26Fox4:00-6:07pm0.4555
Red Bull Hare Scramble7/26NBC3:00-4:30pm0.4508 "Road to the PGA Championship"7/27CBS2:00-3:00pm0.3508 Liga MX: Santos Laguna-Cruz Azul7/25Azateca10:26pm-12:34pm0.2402 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing7/26CBS2:00-3:00pm0.2383 Tour de France review show7/27NBC2:00-3:30pm0.3377 Liga MX: Pachuca-Monterrey7/26Telemundo9:00-11:08pm0.2310 Global Rallycross7/26NBC2:00-3:00pm0.2288 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Crown Royal 400 (Indianapolis)7/27ESPN1:00-4:15pm3.45,196 MLB: Dodgers-Giants7/27ESPN8:00-11:22pm1.52,347 NASCAR Nationwide Series: Lilly Diabetes 250 (Indianapolis)7/26ESPN4:30-7:00pm1.31,988 "NASCAR Countdown"7/27ESPN12:00-1:00pm1.31,889 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying (Indianapolis)7/26ESPN2:00-3:30pm0.71,078 "NASCAR Countdown"7/26ESPN4:00-4:30pm0.71,022 NHRA Mello Yello Series qualifying (Sonoma)7/26ESPN7:00-8:02pm0.71,018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series:
1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic (Eldora)7/23FS18:58-11:00pm0.6873
MLB: Rangers-Yankees7/21ESPN7:00-10:43pm0.6826 Bellator 122: Brandon Halsey-Brett Cooper7/25Spike8:59-11:04pm0.4582