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ESPN is getting into the Sunday afternoon NFL business this season, thanks to deals ESPN Radio cut with five NFL teams.
The Dolphins, Giants, Jets, Patriots and Steelers sold their out-of-market radio rights to ESPN, essentially allowing
ESPN’s terrestrial radio network to carry those games nationally. ESPN Radio now can broadcast Sunday afternoon games involving those teams anywhere outside of their home markets.
Financial terms of the multiyear deals are not known, but this marks the first time ESPN will broadcast Sunday afternoon NFL games on any platform. The rights are for radio only; no digital rights are involved with the deal, meaning that ESPN can’t stream the games.
ESPN Radio listeners outside of the Jets’ and Patriots’ markets will hear the teams’ games.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
ESPN will produce one or two games a week nationally through these deals. It will not run the out-of-market games alongside in-market games. “We cannot air in a market where there is an existing game in that market,” McCarthy said. “If the Redskins are playing in Washington at 1 p.m., and we have a 4 p.m. game, we can air at 4 p.m. We can’t air at 1 p.m. It’s kind of a gentleman’s agreement. We’re not going to go head-to-head with an existing NFL club.”
Dial Global, formerly known as Westwood One, holds the NFL’s national radio rights to the prime-time package and the postseason through 2017. Dial Global also holds out-of-market radio rights for several teams, as does Compass Media Networks and Sports USA Radio.
These radio broadcasters need permission from both competing teams to syndicate the game. If ESPN has the Giants and Compass has the Cowboys, neither can broadcast the game without the consent of the other team. That means that the radio networks have to work out some kind of deal so one or both can broadcast the game, or neither can broadcast the game.
The ESPN move is significant as it announces the media company’s entrance into the NFL’s radio play-by-play marketplace, and ESPN’s executives say they will be looking to pick up the out-of-market rights for more teams.
“We’re in this for the long term,” said Traug Keller, ESPN’s senior vice president, production business divisions. “We want to stay in the business. We think NFL content is an important part of our play-by-play package. The longer the better.”
ESPN’s package of play-by-play rights includes long-term deals for MLB, NBA and BCS games as well as the World Cup.
ESPN hasn’t decided who will call these games yet, but said NFL analysts Herm Edwards, Bill Polian and Damien Woody would be involved in the broadcasts. Ad sales will be sold around these specific games; ESPN does not plan to package it with other NFL programming, McCarthy said.
ESPN credited its existing relationships with the teams for its ability to cut these deals. “We have a very good relationship with the Kraft Sports Group up in Boston with ESPNBoston.com, and with the Jets we have the local rights in New York,” Keller said. “Pre-existing relationships helped.”
Sports Illustrated will expand its presence in live online video with a new daily talk show, “SI Now,” beginning June 3 on SI.com.
The half-hour program will air at 1 p.m. ET and be hosted by Maggie Gray, SI’s video anchor. “SI Now” expands on more sporadic efforts in live digital video, including preview shows for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and NFL draft, and specials produced in conjunction with SI’s annual swimsuit issue.
Content will be a mix of news and commentary, and feature SI writers and invited newsmakers. The show, however, will not delve heavily into tactical, X’s-and-O’s breakdown of games, and remain more issues-oriented. With the live video program, SI.com also deepens its competition with its key digital sports rivals, including ESPN, Yahoo and Fox.
“This is a natural evolution for us,” said Ian Orefice, Time Inc. News and Sports executive producer. “We need to find more ways to connect with viewers on a live basis, so the question is really, ‘Why shouldn’t we do this?’ We understand it’s a crowded space, but just like the magazine and website, we’ll have a distinctive voice and perspective.”
“SI Now” will originate from New York in a new studio developed in the Time-Life Building. The show will also occasionally shoot on location, such as at the U.S. Open next month in Ardmore, Pa.
Ford has signed on as the exclusive sponsor of “SI Now,” with the term extending through November, the initial commitment for the program. At that time, SI executives will determine future steps for “SI Now.”
“SI Now” will be available on-demand in addition to the live daily airings. Other on-demand content produced by SI’s 3-year-old video unit includes its original Web series last year, “Underdogs,” chronicling against-the-odds stories in high school sports.
Sporting News Media this summer will release a series of digital video programming initiatives, representing the first major content step for the company since the recent creation of a joint venture between American City Business Journals and Perform Group.
The company will develop “Hot Reads with Troy Aikman” featuring the hall of fame quarterback; “Fantasy Source Waiver Wire Watch”; “’Round the Track with Bob Pockrass” covering NASCAR; “First & 10 with Matt Hayes,” covering college football; and “Hot Corner with Anthony Witrado,” featuring a sabermetrics-influenced look at baseball.
In addition to being available at SportingNews.com, the original video content will be part of Sporting News Media’s syndicated ePlayer, which helped the company lead the entire sports category in comScore’s digital video metrics during April. The ePlayer aggregates game highlights from nearly every major sports property, including the four major U.S. pro leagues, and distributes the content to hundreds of news outlets.
“We’re taking a different approach with this content by putting it next to our highlights and into a much broader distribution platform within ePlayer,” said Juan Delgado, Sporting News Media managing director. “By putting all this material together and taking a big step beyond just the game highlights into analysis and thought leadership, it becomes a much more compelling proposition for both users and advertisers.”
In March, Perform struck a deal with ACBJ to become the majority owner of Sporting News Media, with ACBJ retaining a 35 percent share in a deal that values the new venture at $200 million. ACBJ is the parent company of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.
Additionally, Sporting News Media has hired Rich Routman as its new chief revenue officer. Formerly a senior executive with Silver Chalice New Media, XOS Digital and Collective Images, Routman will start July 1 and lead the company’s sales efforts. Before the ACBJ alignment, Perform had been partnered with Silver Chalice on the Season digital advertising network.