SBJ/April 22-28, 2013/Media

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  • It’s always tee time somewhere: Golf Channel will begin streaming entire channel this week

    Editor's note: This story is updated from the print edition.

    Golf Channel will start streaming its entire channel on Wednesday, through a series of TV Everywhere deals it cut with six distributors.

    Live tournament coverage and other features will be available on mobile devices as well as via broadband.
    Authenticated customers of Cablevision, Comcast, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Dish Network and FiOS will be able to watch a live stream of the channel via broadband or mobile connections. Executives hope to get other distributors on board in the next six months.

    Just last week, the NBC Sports Group announced that NBC Sports Network would live-stream many of its events. Because of some rights issues, the entire NBC Sports Network channel will not be live-streamed.

    Golf Channel’s streams will be helped by the channel’s live tournament coverage, executives say. European tournaments generally are carried in the morning, and U.S. tournaments are carried in the afternoon. NBC Sports Group, which owns Golf Channel, acquired the PGA Tour’s TV Everywhere rights in 2011, when it signed its most recent media rights deal.

    “When our viewers are in the office and don’t have access to TVs, TV Everywhere can let them watch,” Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said.

    TV Everywhere has had a lot of hype over the past four years, but television executives have started to voice their frustrations about the slow take-up rate among consumers and the lack of universal participation among TV networks.
    Golf Channel executives say these types of TV Everywhere deals are important to distributors, who believe that providing content on multiple devices will keep subscribers from cutting the cord.

    NBC executives also believe that TV Everywhere will take off eventually, particularly when more high-quality content is available and authentication is easier. Executives with NBC Sports Group, which owns Golf Channel, say their TV Everywhere experience with the London Olympics persuaded them to expand it to their U.S. TV channels.

    NBC Sports Group authenticated 10 million devices during the Olympics, which was double the amount that the group was expecting, according to Rick Cordella, NBC Sports Group’s senior vice president and general manager of digital media. Golf Channel will use the same authentication process NBC used in London.

    One of the best streaming results in London came from women’s soccer, when 1.47 million users live streamed an Olympic women’s soccer match, Cordella said.

    “We know that people will actually go and authenticate,” Cordella said. “People are willing to authenticate for really good content.”

    Another Olympics example: NBC executives also believe that linear TV live streaming will help the linear channel’s TV ratings.

    “The more content we put on these platforms, the more people will watch the linear channel,” Cordella said.

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  • Uncertainty over NFL draft picks adds suspense, but may hurt show’s ratings

    With no big names in this year’s NFL draft, there may be more suspense in the selections than ever for viewers, but analysts expect television ratings to take a hit.

    Last year, 8.1 million people watched to see quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III taken No. 1 and No. 2 overall in prime time on ESPN and the NFL Network. But football talent experts say that there are no quarterbacks of the caliber of Luck or Griffin in this year’s draft and that the first overall pick, as well as the composition of the entire first round, is up in the air.

    NFL Network is expanding its coverage of team decision-makers before and after they make a pick.
    AP IMAGES
    “All our data and research tells us major sports names and personalities engage our audience, create interest and … drive up ratings,” said Neal Pilson, sports television consultant and former president of CBS Sports, via email. “Uncertainty over unknowns is not a recipe for strong ratings.”

    Ed Desser, president of Desser Sports Media, agreed. There are three main constituencies that watch the NFL draft, he said: hard-core NFL fans, hard-core college football fans and casual fans. The difference between an average rating and a big rating is the casual fan. “I would expect the lack of names to have a deleterious effect,” Desser said.

    ESPN and the NFL Network will broadcast the first round of the draft starting at 8 p.m. ET Thursday. Rounds two and three will be broadcast starting at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday on the NFL Network and ESPN and rounds four through seven will start at noon ET Saturday on the NFL Network and ESPN. ESPN2 will take over for the latter part of Friday and Saturday coverage.

    The NFL began broadcasting the first round of the draft on Thursday night in prime time in 2010, and the number of viewers of that round shot to 8.3 million from 6.3 million the year before, when the draft began on Saturday afternoon.

    Officials from both the NFL Network and ESPN declined to make any rating predictions or projections for this year’s draft

    “On our end, we are embracing the uncertainty, and I think it makes for an intriguing broadcast,” said Charlie Yook, NFL Network coordinating producer and lead producer for draft coverage.

    Yook noted that the ratings for the NFL Network’s coverage of the NFL Combine were up this year over last year, despite the lack of big-name players.

    One thing NFL Network is expanding this year is its coverage of NFL club decision-makers before and after they make a pick. There will be coverage of at least 15 clubs, up from 12 last year, Yook said.

    ESPN, meanwhile, will have cameras at about 20 NFL draft prospects’ homes, said Seth Markman, ESPN senior coordinating producer and the lead producer on the draft. In addition, there will be 23 prospects at the draft in New York.

    Still, Markman said, it is possible the network will not be able to cover every top draft pick. “We might have kids in the green room after the first day, and I think there are some kids who will be in their living rooms that will get picked higher than we thought, because it is so wide open.”

    Markman spoke last week after emerging from a pre-draft strategy meeting with ESPN broadcasters Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden, Chris Berman and Adam Schefter. “We were talking about players, and we were talking about kids being picked No. 2 or 20th,” Markman said.

    Both Markman and Yook said that although there is no standout player in this year’s draft, there are players sports fans are interested in, including quarterbacks Matt Barkley from USC and Geno Smith from West Virginia. Additionally, Yook noted, non-sports fans know about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, because of mainstream coverage of his being the victim of a hoax involving a girlfriend who didn’t exist. Te’o is not one of the 23 players who have committed to come to the draft, but Markman said ESPN was “working on” trying to get a camera on Te’o.

    Asked whether NFL Network was trying to get a camera on Te’o for the draft as well, Yook said, “I think everyone on planet Earth is trying to.”

    Tom Condon, CAA Football co-head and Te’o’s agent, said via text message, “Manti will watch with family members.”

    Gil Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys head of personnel and current NFL.com writer, decides which players are invited to the draft every year. He said last week he hoped all 23 players he invited would be drafted in the first round but said he asked some players to stay over and attend the draft Friday if they were not picked in the first round on Thursday night.

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  • For Nantz, unusual situations at big events came in threes

    John Ourand
    Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

    Before the Masters started, CBS’s lead announcer, Jim Nantz, had a feeling something unusual would happen during the golf tournament.

    A little more than two months earlier, Nantz was broadcasting the Super Bowl when the Superdome’s lights went out early in the second half. Just two weeks earlier, Nantz was on play-by-play for the NCAA tournament Elite Eight game when Louisville’s Kevin Ware broke his leg, one of the most gruesome on-air injuries to be shown on sports TV.

    Nantz says he was prepared for the chaos that ensued Friday night and Saturday morning of Masters week when Tiger Woods, golf’s biggest TV draw, faced the possibility of disqualification.

    “I could feel it coming. I told people that something unusual was going to happen at the Masters,” Nantz said. “There was not a doubt in my mind, coming off the blackout and the Kevin Ware injury. … It was bound to happen.”

    I caught up with Nantz last week and asked him to talk about how he handled these events that spilled away from the field of play. A longer version of the interview will be available in SportsBusiness Daily this week.

    THE SUPER BOWL BLACKOUT: CBS has been criticized for its performance during the blackout, when the network’s sideline reporters struggled to provide news about what had happened and when power would be restored. All power in the broadcast booth was out, too, so Nantz did not know what was going out over CBS’s air. But he got ahold of producer Lance Barrow via cell phone and offered to help report the news.

    Nantz (center) was prepared to bail out of the broadcast booth to get the Superdome story.
    Photo by: CBS
    “That’s what I’m trained to do: I’m trained to cover events on the fly. Whether it’s news or sports, I’m ready to do it,” Nantz said. “I told Lance, ‘Look, I can jump over the front of the desk here. It’s not a far drop into the seats in front of me. I can hang onto the ledge and drop down 10 feet or so and I can safely then run down through the stairs and go down two or three levels and get onto the field.’”

    Barrow told Nantz to stay in the booth, which is where CBS needed him to be once power was restored.

    “I look back on it now and I just wish I could have helped out,” Nantz said. “There was nothing I could do.”

    KEVIN WARE’S INJURY: Nantz did not see Ware’s injury because he was watching the shot from Duke’s Tyler Thornton go through the basket. It wasn’t until producer Mark Wolff warned him of the gruesomeness of the injury that Nantz realized what had happened.

    Nantz recalled reacting after the first replay by uttering, “Oh, Lord.”

    “That’s not like me to say something like that on-air,” he said. “That was just my reaction. My heart went out to the kid.”

    After the second replay, Wolff told Nantz that CBS would not broadcast it again. During the nearly 10-minute delay that followed, while trainers and doctors tended to Ware on court, Nantz was uncharacteristically quiet.

    “Instincts just take over,” he said. “I never felt any urge to open my mouth. I never felt compelled to try and add a narrative to it. It’s a visual medium to begin with. … Sometimes it’s much more important what you don’t say versus what you do say. I couldn’t even tell you how long we remained silent, but it felt like the right thing to do.”

    TIGER WOODS’ ILLEGAL DROP: It was close to 10 p.m. Friday night, and Nantz and David Feherty were just about finished taping the late-night Masters highlights show for CBS when producer Bob Mansbach saw tweets suggesting that Woods might be disqualified from the Masters the next day. The two had only a 45-second closing segment left to tape, but the breaking news seemed big enough that they retaped the show. “We handled it like a news story,” Nantz said.

    Masters officials made the decision to penalize Woods two strokes rather than disqualifying him on Saturday morning. CBS continued to treat it like a news story during its Saturday broadcast, eschewing its normal Masters opening tease by going straight to Nantz, who ad libbed for five minutes talking about the rules violation and the little-known rule that kept Woods in the tournament. That led to an on-air interview with Fred Ridley, the chairman of the competition committee at Augusta.

    “There were some really firm questions that had to be asked there,” Nantz said. “I felt that interview was tough, hard-hitting and fair.”

    John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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