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CSN Houston will be rebranded as Root Sports Houston "under a plan that will convert the financially troubled Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership into a new company co-owned by AT&T and DirecTV Sports Networks,” according to a front-page piece by David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. DirecTV, which is in the process of merging with AT&T, operates Root Sports affiliates in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Denver. The network name change, as well as new carriage agreements, "could take effect as soon as Oct. 5, the date of the Rockets’ first preseason game.” While the Astros and Rockets would “no longer be co-owners” of the net, the teams “may be on the verge of renewing acquaintances with hundreds of thousands of DirecTV and AT&T U-verse subscribers who have not seen an Astros or Rockets game on CSN Houston in two seasons.” Astros General Counsel Giles Kibbe said, “If this plan is approved, it will provide certainty and rights fees that we have not had in the past two years, and it will provide carriage for our fans to see games throughout the market.” Barron notes the teams “estimate that adding DirecTV and U-verse will double market penetration and triple the network’s revenue from monthly subscriber fees.” Comcast is “expected to object to several aspects of the reorganization plan” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/8).
MASN on Thursday successfully petitioned to the New York State Supreme Court to obtain a temporary restraining order against MLB, the Nationals and Commissioner Bud Selig to prevent a recent arbitration award for the Nationals in their ongoing TV dispute from taking effect. A hearing on MASN's bid for a permanent injunction to have the award for the Nationals vacated will be heard on Aug. 18 in N.Y. The legal filing and the granting of a temporary injunction brings the long-running battle over the Nationals' local TV rights fees to a heightened stage and directly defies fervent efforts by Selig, who has threatened sanctions against both the Nationals and Orioles, to keep the conflict out of the courts. MASN, majority owned by the Orioles and Owner Peter Angelos, in its filing to the court called the arbitration award for the Nationals the result of a "corrupted and biased process that failed to honor … the substantive and procedural requirements set forth in the arbitration clause in a settlement agreement among the parties." Judge Lawrence Marks also denied a bid by MLB to seal the case, meaning documents from the proceedings will be part of the public record.
RHETORIC HEATING UP: The MASN petition offers a stinging attack on MLB's internal efforts to settle the matter, saying those efforts were doomed from the start and that the RSN’s viability would be threatened by an arbitration ruling favoring the Nationals. MASN called the three-person Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee that MLB enlisted to arbitrate the dispute -- which involved execs from the Mets, Rays and Pirates -- and its resulting proceedings a "sham," as the Rays and Pirates are two of the industry's largest recipients of revenue sharing and any increased rights fees for the Nationals would be taxed at a 34% rate for revenue sharing. MASN also obtained an affidavit from Media & Sports Group, a consultant long employed by MLB, for use by teams with equity interests in their own TV partners. The affidavit reads in part that the panel "employed assumptions and approaches so far outside the norms of accepted economic standards that the resulting valuation of the Nationals' telecast rights is illegitimate and unreliable." The Nationals received slightly more than $40M in local rights last year, according to industry sources, while the club is seeking more than $100M annually. The arbitration panel is believed to have set the initial yearly figure for the Nationals at about $60M. By terms of the '05 relocation agreement, MASN must pay the Orioles the same rights fees as it pays the Nationals.
DirecTV's new deal to carry ESPN's SEC Network "isn't sitting well" with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, as the Pac-12 Networks are "still not carried by the satellite broadcaster," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Scott said, "It appears this is an example of DirecTV being willing only to deal with big conglomerates who have muscle and leverage beyond the interest of consumers." He is hopeful that if AT&T "closes on its deal to acquire DirecTV, it will ultimately be good for the Pac-12 Networks." Flint noted the net is currently carried by Time Warner Cable, Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse, making it "available in over 60 million homes." AT&T also is a conference sponsor. DirecTV "is the big holdout, and that is unlikely to change this season." Charter Communications also "does not carry Pac-12" (LATIMES.com, 8/7). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes what makes the SEC Net "easier to agree upon is a business model that charges different fees for those inside the region of the 14 schools and less for those outside it." The conference-owned Pac-12 Net, which has "one national channel and seven regionals, doesn’t do it that way, and it hasn’t penetrated DirecTV territory since giving preferential treatment to the rival Dish Network just before its launch" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/8).
ESPN has suspended Dan Le Batard from both his television and radio shows until Monday because it is "upset that his radio show purchased several billboards that will be displayed for a month in the Cleveland/Akron area coinciding with" LeBron James’ return, according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. The billboards "show the two NBA championship rings that James won with the Heat and say, 'You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami.'" The message was a "jab at the fact James did not thank Heat fans" after he announced his return to the Cavaliers. ESPN said in a statement, "His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance." Jackson notes Le Batard's radio show "initially considered buying full-page ads with the same message, but newspapers in Cleveland and Akron rejected the ads before they officially were submitted." Maureen Lesourd, the GM of WAXY-FM, the flagship for Le Batard's national ESPN Radio show, had "no role in the suspension but declined to say if it was unwarranted." Jackson notes WAXY has a "deal to renew" its ESPN Radio affiliation, which is set to expire next month, and it "wants to do nothing to jeopardize that" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/8).
Golf Channel will bring a $1M on-course studio to next week's PGA Tour Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, and it will "serve as the main studio during the tournament, instead of switching back and forth from the course to the Golf Channel studios in Orlando," according to John Dell of the WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL. It is the "first time since Wyndham Worldwide became the title sponsor" in '07 that the channel will be "broadcasting exclusively from Sedgefield." The studio will be the "site for live shows before play begins, as well as for post-round coverage." The Wyndham is the final regular-season PGA Tour event before the start of the FedExCup Playoffs. The studio will have "space for seating for 20 VIP Wyndham guests." Fans can also "win tickets to the shows by registering at the Wyndham's Worldwide's 'Key to Wyn' exhibition near the practice putting green" as well as a "Tropical Wear contest" being held Aug. 16 (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 8/7).
ESPN2 drew 862,000 viewers for the MLS All-Stars’ win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, marking the game’s best audience since ’04, when it drew 1.07 million viewers on ABC. The telecast on Wednesday outdrew both MLS ASGs featuring Manchester United in ’11 (781,000 viewers) and ’10 (714,000 viewers). Last year’s game featuring AS Roma drew 319,000 viewers, while the ’12 match against Chelsea drew 530,000 viewers. Meanwhile, UniMas drew another 410,000 viewers for the match, for a combined audience of 1.27 million viewers. That figure is the second-best for the MLS ASG all-time, behind only ’11, which drew 1.45 million viewers.MLS ALL-STAR GAME AUDIENCE TRENDYEARNETWORKOPPONENTVIEWERS (000)'14ESPN2Bayern Munich862'13ESPN2AS Roma319'12ESPN2Chelsea530'11ESPN2Manchester United781'10ESPN2Manchester United714'09ESPN2Everton484'08ESPNWest Ham United537
NOTES: Fox drew 726,000 viewers for the ManU-Real Madrid match as part of the Guinness Int’l Champions Cup last Saturday, up from the net’s 555,000 viewers for ManU-AS Roma on July 26. Last year, Fox had only one ICC match, drawing 990,000 viewers for Real Madrid-Everton….FS West on Thursday night once again drew a season-best audience for an Angels game. The finale of the Freeway Series drew a 4.74 local rating in L.A., compared to a 1.0 on SportsNet LA (home to the Dodgers).
The charts below list final ratings and viewership from recent sports telecasts.
Pro Football HOF Game: Giants-Bills8/3NBC8:10-11:00pm5.28,530 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Final Round8/3CBS2:00-7:07pm2.53,680 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Third Round8/2CBS2:00-6:00pm1.62,184 "ESPN Sports Saturday"8/2ABC4:00-6:00pm0.5737 Guinness Int'l Champions Cup:
Manchester United-Real Madrid8/2Fox4:00-6:00pm0.5726
Breeders' Cup Challenge: Whitney Handicap8/2NBC5:00-6:30pm0.5705 "PGA Tour 2014: Playing With A Purpose"8/2CBS1:00-2:00pm0.5702 Soccer friendly: Chivas de Guadalajara-Bayern Munich7/31UniMas7:55-10:06pm0.4674 "Kurt Busch 36"8/3NBC5:30-6:00pm0.4639 Liga MX: Cruz Azul-Veracruz8/2Univision5:55-8:00pm0.3567 "PGA Championship Preview: This Is Major"8/3CBS1:00-2:00pm0.4565 World of X Games: ASP Surfing8/2ABC3:00-4:00pm0.3461 "Red Bull: Project Acheron: Patagonia"8/3NBC3:00-4:00pm0.3461 "Global Rallycross: Season Review"8/3NBC4:00-5:30pm0.3457 MLS: Galaxy-Timbers8/2NBC3:00-5:00pm0.3409 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS
NASCAR Sprint Cup: GoBowling.com 400 (Pocono)8/3ESPN12:47-4:30pm2.84,374 MLB: Yankees-Red Sox8/3ESPN8:00-11:53pm1.52,243 "NASCAR Countdown"8/3ESPN12:00-12:47pm1.01,436 NASCAR Nationwide Series: U.S. Cellular 250 (Iowa)8/2ESPN8:00-10:30pm0.81,338 Team USA Basketball exhibition8/1ESPN9:00-10:48pm0.71,061 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Final Round8/3Golf12:00-1:30pm0.6848 Boxing: Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves/
Sergey Kovalev-Blake Caparello8/2HBO9:46pm-12:21am0.6824
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Third Round8/2Golf12:00-1:30pm0.6807 NHRA Mello Yello Series:
O'Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals (Seattle)8/3ESPN27:00-10:00pm0.4729
Pro Football HOF Induction Ceremony8/2ESPN2
In L.A. Meg James notes CBS reported 7% lower Q2 profit than last year, as net income of $439M was down from $472M in Q2 '13. Contributing to CBS' lower revenue was a "shift of the semifinals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament to the Turner networks," which is owned by Time Warner. CBS will "broadcast NFL games on Thursday nights this fall, which should help boost revenue" (L.A. TIMES, 8/8).
FINE TUNED: In Boston, Chad Finn notes WBZ-CBS' broadcast of the Patriots' preseason game Thursday "felt more familiar and standard than it did a season ago." The Patriots and Kraft Sports Productions last year took an "unusual approach to adding some flavor to preseason broadcasts" and stressing a more conversational tone in the booth. Thursday's game "felt like a standard NFL broadcast for the most part, though the conversational aspect was more prominent in the second half" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/8).
BIRD IS THE WORD: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes Tim McCarver has "been a monumental addition to Cardinals telecasts this season" on FS Midwest. He has "elevated" the games to a "level they never had attained" in the 18 seasons FS Midwest has had the broadcast rights. He also has "energized play-by-play announcer Dan McLaughlin." It is "not ranting and raving from McCarver, just even-handed commentary" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/8).
WE GOT THE BEAT: Jorge Castillo has been named the new Wizards beat writer for the Washington Post. Michael Lee, who previously covered the beat, is "still around," but he is now the Post's "national NBA writer" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/7).