• TV Timeout: Google It

    CNBC's James Cramer discussed the report that Google is looking to acquire the rights to the NFL's Sunday ticket. He said, "I'd get rid of DirecTV tomorrow." Cramer: “This is remarkable if they'd be willing to do this because it would undercut everybody" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/21).  

    ON THE RECORD: ESPN’s Jayson Stark, on Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig’s relationship with media members: “He doesn’t understand what we do. He comes from a totally different world and a totally different place.” Stark added of the Dodgers reporters’ relationship with Puig, “I do know that the people that cover that team are worn out by it already” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN Radio, 8/20).

    THIS IS SPARTAN: Spartan Race Founder & CEO Joe DeSena, whose company has entered into partnerships with NBC and Reebok, said the brands "recognize that traditional sports are fun to watch.”  DeSena: “But people are not doing that on the weekends to stay in shape. People are actually going out and doing races like this and so NBC and Reebok want to be part of it" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 8/21).

    FANTASY WORLD: Model Brooklyn Decker said of her husband, FS1 host and former tennis player Andy Roddick’s love of fantasy sports, "He's using this new job as an excuse to do all sorts of fun things” ("Real Sports," HBO, 8/20).  

    Tags: DirecTV, NFL, NBC, Reebok, Los Angeles Dodgers, Fox
  • TV Timeout: Legacy Planning

    SI’s Elizabeth Newman on the legacy of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: “Go out on the street and mention his name to anyone, they're not going to think about all the good that he did for baseball, about how he increased the revenue by 400 percent, about interleague play, about the Wild Card. First and foremost they're going to say performance enhancing drugs, steroids, he turned a blind eye and now he’s trying to get back into everyone’s good graces” ("SI Now," SI.com, 8/16).

    : FS1’s "Fox Sports Live" co-host Jay Onrait opened yesterday’s show by saying, "We're Jay and Dan and we're full of probiotics thanks to our new friend, Erin Andrews." Andrews is an endorser for TruBiotics yogurt (THE DAILY).

    BACK AND FORTH: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said that the Raiders’ stadium situation is “such a mess in Northern California that it appears the Raiders move to Los Angeles is inevitable.” Cowherd added, “We’ve been hearing for years that L.A. is going to get another NFL team, they're going to. The NFL is a franchise business. … You don’t own a franchise business and have business in Jacksonville and Buffalo and not Los Angeles” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 8/19).

    THIS KISS: The AFL last week partnered with rock band Kiss and former AFL team owner Brett Bouchy to bring an expansion team to Southern California for the '14 season, with Kiss bassist Gene Simmons appearing on CNBC to discuss the partnership. Simmons said, "The most important thing to note for Los Angeles and the surrounding area is Los Angeles didn't have a football team. How insane was that?" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 8/20).

    Tags: AFL, MLB, NFL, Fox
  • TV Timeout: Fighting Words

    The Financial Times' Robert Armstrong on the CBS-Time Warner dispute: "Traditionally in these kinds of fights ... the content providers generally win, and they have been winning for some years now." Armstrong noted there are reports Time Warner is for sale and "consolidation among distributors will help those distributors negotiate more aggressively with the content producers" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 8/19).

    HEADBANGERS' BALL: Former NFL agent Leigh Steinberg, on former NFL Concussion Committee head Elliot Pellman allegedly downplaying the dangers of concussions with NFL players: “I don’t know how Dr. Pellman lives with himself. There’s a whole group of people who relied on his advice who have degraded lives today. He’s got that on his hands and his conscience” (“OTL,” ESPN, 8/18). 

    SHE'S GOT IT: Golf Channel's Curt Byrum said 17-year-old European golfer Charley Hull, who yesterday defeated former U.S. Women's Open champ Paula Creamer in Solheim Cup play, "has all of the tools to be a star on the LPGA Tour." The network's Judy Rankin on Team Europe's win: "I don’t think corporate Europe has embraced women’s golf like America has with the LPGA Tour. This will certainly help their cause" (Golf Channel, 8/18).

    TANGLED UP IN BLUE: Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said the Yankees are in "somewhat of a decaying state and they might not represent as appealing a long-term option" as they once did for soon-to-be free agent 2B Robinson Cano. Rosenthal: "The other change, and a big one, is that he has switched agents. ... If Jay Z wants to make a huge splash with Cano, and the Yankees aren't willing to give him a monster deal, you could have that opening for the Dodgers or another club. But the Dodgers are obviously the biggest threat" (“Yankees-Red Sox,” Fox, 8/17). Meanwhile, the N.Y. Times' William Rhoden said of the Dodgers' recent winning streak: "Baseball needed a story. They need this with everyday a new drug allegations" (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/18). 

    ROLL THE CREDITS: ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, on Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss emphasizing that Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was hired by the late Dr. Jerry Buss: “If the Lakers had won the title this spring and the D'Antoni hire were viewed as a stroke of genius, I wonder if Jim Buss would've been so eager to deflect credit” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/18).

    Tags: MLB, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, LPGA, CBS, Time Warner
  • NBC Sports Up Bright And Early For Premier League Debut

    Five minutes before air, at 6:55 am at the NBC Sports Group studios in Stamford, Conn., coordinating producer Pierre Moossa (center) and staff prepared to launch the debut of the English Premier League on NBCSN.
    When Sam Flood got out of his car in the lot of the NBC Sports studios in Stamford, Conn., at 6:20 a.m. on Saturday, he made note of the abundance of filled parking spots around him.

    “The lot isn’t usually this crowded so early,” said Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports. “It’s an early day for the crew.”

    It was also a new era for NBC Sports, as the Premier League made its debut on Saturday on NBC and NBCSN. The network outbid incumbents Fox and ESPN (and all others) by committing $250 million for the rights to the next three seasons of what is arguably the top soccer league in the world.

    It was a good first day.

    “Premier League Live,” the network’s studio show with host Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, which launched NBCSN’s EPL coverage at 7 a.m. ET, was sharp and informative throughout the long day.

    NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood (left) and President of Programming Jon Miller watch as “Premier League Live” goes on air at 7 a.m.
    In Production Control Room 3, coordinating producer Pierre Moossa kept calm and ran a smooth ship. It’s not like Moossa, who also leads NBC’s MLS coverage, and his staffers were broadcasting their first day of soccer.

    About thirty seconds before going on air live, Moossa said flatly to everyone in the room and on head-set, “It’s a tradition for me at this point to tell you guys, ‘Let’s not suck.’”

    Prior to the Liverpool-Stoke City match at 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN carried the traditional singing at Anfield of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by the Liverpool supporters.

    “That’s how you want it to be,” Flood said as he stood in front of a bank of monitors in the control room. “We weren’t going to miss that.”

    The only time the staff seemed slightly harried was a few minutes before first kick of Liverpool-Stoke City, when the starting lineups for both clubs were hard to nail down. For a brief moment, workers were out of their chairs and talking above a whisper. The lineups were acquired just in time to be posted on screen.

    Jon Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports, proudly held up his phone while NBC Sports Live Extra, the network’s streaming product, played the Liverpool match.

    “Look at the clarity,” Miller said. “It’s no more than just a few seconds behind real time. Amazing.”

    When an NBCSN commercial for its broadcast later that night of the MLS match between New York and Philadelphia was the last spot run before NBCSN went live with its EPL coverage at 7 a.m., Miller said, “Those guys at MLS will get an enormous amount of love, as they should.”

    A crew of young production assistants logs every game in the Premier League so highlights can be prepared.
    When the MLS spot ran again, immediately after the first half of Liverpool-Stoke City, Miller said, “As we look to 2014 [when NBC’s agreement with MLS expires] and beyond, these are some of the things we’re prepared to do.”

    Miller seemed to want studio visitors to know that NBC had time for both the Premier League and Major League Soccer, but his joy over the new partnership with the EPL was evident.

    “The Premier League is great for TV because they’ve adopted the NFL scheduling format,” Miller said. “They play on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. You know when they’re playing. As a programmer, you love it.”

    Following Liverpool-Stoke City, NBCSN at 10 a.m. took viewers to coverage of Arensal vs. Aston Villa. Manchester United vs. Swansea City would follow at 12:30 p.m., on parent NBC. (That third match of the day ultimately would score an overnight rating of 0.8, the best overnight mark in U.S. history for an EPL opening-weekend match.)

    The live portion of the EPL day for NBC/NBCSN concluded at 3 p.m., but there was a little more work to be done before the crew departed two hours later. An introduction was taped for “Match of the Day,” which ran on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET. For this day, the match chosen to be re-broadcast was Liverpool’s victory over Stoke City.

    The first day of what will be at least a three-year partnership was in the books.

    Studio host Rebecca Lowe and analyst Robbie Earl take a  break as the Arsenal-Aston Villa match begins at 10 a.m.

    Tags: Media, Leagues and Governing Bodies
  • Einhorn Sees Unification Of Leagues As Selig's Biggest Accomplishment

    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has frequently cited labor peace as his foremost accomplishment in nearly 21 years in the post. Drug reform has been prominent in recent years. Others near to him have pointed to improved competitive balance, increased revenue sharing, the expanded playoff format, and ballpark development as hallmarks of his tenure.

    Chicago White Sox Vice Chairman Eddie Einhorn has a different opinion on Selig. Einhorn, who along with partner Jerry Reinsdorf rank among the longest-tenured MLB team owners, believes the dissolution of the American and National leagues as separate business entities is “undoubtedly the biggest thing that Bud has done.” In 2000, Selig led the administrative consolidation of the two leagues, ending nearly a century of the AL and NL as separate units.

    “Before he did that, it was just very, very difficult to get anything done,” Einhorn said. “If the AL wanted to do something, the NL would block it and vice versa. It was a huge step toward our getting on the same page together.”

    Tags: MLB, Chicago White Sox
  • N.C. State AD Debbie Yow Meets With SBJ/SBD Staff

    N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow
    N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow and Chris Boyer, senior associate AD for external operations, stopped by the offices of SportsBusiness Journal/Daily this afternoon and met with members of the editorial staff for a wide-ranging discussion regarding collegiate athletics.

    Tags: Colleges
  • Miss Sprint Cup Dishes On Fan Interaction, Contenders Live Event

    Coon's duties include interacting with fans and maintaining social media presence

    The three Miss Sprint Cups are part of a mascot program unique to major sports in several ways. Not only do they bear the name of a sponsor rather than a team or school, they also speak on camera, conduct interviews and generally help NASCAR fans connect to the sport. Kim Coon is one part of this triumvirate, joining Jaclyn Roney and Brooke Werner. She found time earlier this week to discuss her role within NASCAR and the upcoming Contenders Live event sponsored by Toyota and Sprint Sept. 12 at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

    Kim, with three Miss Sprint Cups, how many of you are at any given race?

    Two Miss Sprint Cups are at every race, with the exception of big races like the Daytona 500 or Sprint All-Star Race, where all three of us are present. We sometimes get there as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, but usually Thursday, and we’ll be at the track all weekend long. A lot of people recognize us in victory lane with the driver, but what they don’t realize is that our jobs are so much more than that. We’re out at the track every weekend at the Sprint Unlimited Experience interacting with fans. Then we’re doing stuff in the garage and the pit for our Facebook and Twitter, and then doing additional appearances for sponsors and NASCAR throughout the year.

    Q: How much interaction do you have with people at Sprint?

     A lot, actually. Our team is made up of not only people from Sprint, but also from Octagon. It helps that the Sprint Cup Series goes to Kansas twice a year. So we get to go to a market where our parent company is headquartered, and we get to go to the executive business center and go through all the latest and greatest in phones and devices. They do a great employee event where we bring about 5,000 employees to the track for the race. So there is a lot of synergy with Sprint as our parent company. We are also backing not only NASCAR’s green initiatives, but Sprint’s green initiatives, like the phone buy-back program.

     How does the Miss Sprint Cup Twitter feed work? Does that rotate among the three of you?

     Yes, it rotates among all of us. Not only are we tweeting live from the track each weekend, the fans following us are going to get inside information. So, when I was in Indy, we took a picture with the pagoda, and then we cover qualifying and pit road during pre-race. In addition to that, we do things like cookie giveaways or promoting Sprint initiatives. We want to make sure we’re not going large stretches without an update. But the sport lends itself to a lot of action, a lot of news, so sometimes we even have to restrain ourselves not to send too many tweets.

     What will your role be at NASCAR Contenders Live?

     It’s kind of similar to NASCAR After The Lap when the Sprint Cup Series has wrapped up, but here you’re getting the drivers before they step on the track to go after that championship. So there’s a lot of banter, I don’t want to say smack talk, because it’s fun. And fans who go to the event get to ask questions as well. So there are a lot of different elements that we provide fans. Not only are they getting entertainment, watching their favorite drivers up there, but they get the opportunity to enter a sweepstakes (for a '14 Toyota Tundra CrewMax). Brooke and I will be in Chicago, and I’m sure Jaclyn will be watching because it is streaming live on NASCAR.com. I actually have a part in the event on stage. It will be hosted by Nicole Briscoe, who will do a good job of keeping the boys in line.

     Any memorable moments from last year's event?

     The coolest part was they had me down amongst the fans and would throw it to me to get fan questions. Just seeing the excitement, them getting to ask their driver a question was very cool, and something that doesn’t often happen for fans.

    Tags: Sprint, NASCAR, Toyota, Octagon
  • Futbol Fiesta Draws Engaged Crowds for Mexico Friendly

    My first visit earlier this week to a Mexican men’s national team “home” match on U.S. soil was an eye-opener.

    On Wednesday at MetLife Stadium, the energy in the stands during Mexico’s 4-1 “friendly” match win over Ivory Coast wasn’t really a big surprise. Many people around the game of soccer have told me that the fans of Mexico are among the loudest and most invested in sports played anywhere. But what I saw at Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation space — known as Soccer Celebration at big MLS and U.S. Soccer Federation events — impressed me. It’s why companies make multimillion-dollar deals with Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm, which represents the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol (FMF), to connect with the Mexican national team’s fans.

    At Futbol Fiesta, in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium, there were big crowds and long lines at every sponsor’s station.

    At Futbol Fiesta, the sponsor activation zone, Castrol personalized T-shirts with fans' "Brazilian" names. For example, Luke becomes "Lucao."
    At Castrol’s booth, fans could give their names and have them converted to the Brazilian equivalent nicknames — like Kaka, or Ronaldinho. They also could get a Castrol-branded green T-shirt with the number 14 (for the 2014 World Cup) and the nickname on the back.

    Coca-Cola hosted what was essentially a house party, with one man and a trio of women leading a large, raucous gathering in dancing and cheers for the FMF. Coke soccer balls were thrown or kicked into the crowd. At the adjacent tent of Powerade, fans took penalty kicks on a goaltender on a video screen. The line to have your picture taken with a model representing Makita power tools also was long.

    In contrast, when I attended the 2012 MLS Cup in Los Angeles in December and the 2013 MLS All-Star Game two weeks ago in Kansas City, the crowds at SUM’s Soccer Celebrations were plentiful, but the fans were not nearly as engaged in the sponsor activations. In New Jersey, the sponsors had little trouble enticing fans to hand over their email addresses in order to enter raffles or spin a wheel to win prizes.

    Coke drew a large and loud crowd at Futbol Fiesta.
    Inside the stadium, in the midfield luxury suite that was converted into a broadcast booth for ESPN2, play-by-play announcer Fernando Palomo and analyst Alejandro Moreno seemed amused by this novice’s fascination with the passion at Futbol Fiesta three hours before the match and the loud roars as the Mexican team took the field for warmups an hour before it. Palomo and Moreno call El Tri’s matches in English for ESPN, which bought the rights in January and also telecasts Mexican League games in English.

    “Everywhere we go to call these matches, the crowds are big,” said Moreno, a former Venezuelan national team player who also played more than 200 matches in MLS. “None of it is a surprise to me.”

    Attendance for the Mexico-Ivory Coast match was announced as 35,671, which to my eyes was a generous calculation. MetLife Stadium has a capacity of 82,000 and the stands appeared to be, at most, one-third full. But on this night, that’s a minor quibble. It was easy to see on Wednesday that, for the FMF and Soccer United Marketing, business was good.

    Tags: Soccer, MLS
  • TV Timeout: Misery Loves Company

    FS1 host Regis Philbin appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” last night to discuss the debut of the network and his new show “Crown Goes Wild.” Philbin said he grew up playing “baseball and a little football” in the Bronx and that he is a Yankees fan. Host John Oliver noted that he is a Mets fan because “as a British person I associate sport with misery” (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central, 8/14).

    TOO THE RACES: ESPN's Tony Reali said the PGA Tour has "officially banned" the caddie races at TPC Scottsdale because "according to a Tour executive, the caddies were at risk for injury and some felt like they were being turned into a carnival act." ESPN's Pablo Torre said as "far as being a carnival goes, the decorum train kind of left the station when it was called the Waste Management Open so let's stop and talk about that reputation there. Also, do we really need less athletic activity in golf?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14).

    CUBBY HOLE: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said of his impression of Wrigley Field, “The stadium does need upgrades because free agents aren’t going to go to places that don’t have the appropriate batting cages in the tunnel and you don’t want to play for a team where your stadium, which you play at 81 times a year minimum, is the worst stadium luxury-wise. Players are spoiled and pampered and the free agents are going to take that into consideration” (“The Herd,” ESPN Radio, 8/14).

    WINTER CHILL: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert discussed the controversy surrounding Russia’s anti-gay laws and the ’14 Winter Games. He said, “The International Olympic Committee has bravely stood up to (Russian President Vladimir Putin) and said, ‘Whatever you want Vlad.’” Colbert: “The IOC is just asking gay athletes to knock it off for a couple of weeks. … But to be safe, I think they should bring the Olympics back to its Greek roots when nothing gay ever happened" (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 8/14).

  • Top Minor League Markets: Additional Observations

    SportsBusiness Journal this week unveiled our biennial ranking of the country’s Top Minor League Markets. In a project that considered more than 225 communities, more than 400 teams and close to 50 leagues, there are plenty of things that stood out. Following are some additional observations from research director David Broughton, who spearheaded the project, beyond what’s available in this week’s print issue.

    Highway to highs
    If a fan were to embark on a coast-to-coast minor league sports road trip along Interstate 90, traveling from Seattle to Boston, that fan would be able to hit a number of our top-ranked markets: Spokane, Wash. (No. 9); Sioux Falls, S.D. (10); Toledo, Ohio (1); Rochester, N.Y. (2); Syracuse, N.Y. (6); and Springfield, Mass. (5).

    Upstate New York

    The continued presence of No. 2 Rochester, No. 6 Syracuse and No. 23 Binghamton near the top of our rankings belies much of upstate New York’s minor league sports scene during the years that we have researched for this study.

    Small-town baseball has been hit the hardest. Following the 2009 season, for example, Oneonta (No. 207) saw its New York-Penn League Oneonta Tigers move to Norwich, Conn., after nearly half a century in town. Two hours to the west, Elmira (No. 99) had fielded a pro team dating to 1923, serving as an affiliate for 14 different MLB clubs between 1923 and 1995. After averaging 1,200 fans per game in 2005, the Can-Am League Elmira Pioneers, who had spent a decade in independent leagues, folded. In Albany (No. 107), Heritage Park had a similar, albeit shorter, minor league baseball history. The state’s capital served as home for the Eastern League’s (AA) Oakland A’s affiliate from 1982-84 and for the New York Yankees’ farm club for 1985-94 before the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs folded after playing eight seasons in independent leagues.

    Syracuse and Rochester have not been immune to challenges, as each has seen an indoor football team come and go. The struggles continue for the area, as well, as the ECHL Elmira Jackals have seen their attendance fall by one-third over the past three seasons, and the NYPL Jammers in Jamestown (No. 63) are expected to relocate to a new ballpark in Morgantown, W.Va., after the 2014 season.

    Former af2 markets

    Several markets were negatively affected when the af2 disbanded in 2009, including three former top-10 markets. The Quad City Steamwheelers (for Davenport, Iowa-Moline, Ill., ranked No. 48 this year) were a charter member of the af2 and played their home games at iWireless Center in Moline, Ill. The team averaged more than 6,000 fans per game throughout the first half of its existence and was still among the league’s top draws in its final years. The market ranked No. 6 in our 2007 survey.

    Boise, Idaho (No. 116) was No. 7 in that 2007 study, and the Boise Burn added nearly 40,000 fans during its four-year tenure to the market’s annual attendance total.

    Similarly, Peoria, Ill. (No. 55) was No. 6 in our 2009 study, having hosted an indoor football team for a decade prior to the Peoria Pirates’ 2009 demise.

    Two developing markets

    • On Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, plans were announced in May to build a $36 million, 7,000-seat minor league ballpark financed largely from BP oil spill settlement funds. The effort to bring baseball to the Biloxi, Miss., market (No. 164) is being led by baseball veteran Ken Young. The team would be located within a two-hour drive of the Southern League (A) Mobile Bay Bears and Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The market also has one of the smallest income bases in our study, and attendance for the SPHL Mississippi Surge, the area’s only team, has fallen in each of the past four seasons.

    • Residents of El Paso, Texas (No. 148), voted this spring in favor of a hotel tax increase to help pay for a $50 million ballpark to host the San Diego Padres’ Pacific Coast League (AAA) affiliate. Plans call for the now-Tucson (Ariz.) Padres to move to El Paso for the 2014 season. Groundbreaking happened this spring, and construction is scheduled to be completed in time for Opening Day next season. The American Association (Ind.) El Paso Diablos began playing in the market in 1962.

    Tags: UPS, Baseball, MLB, And 1, New York Yankees, Football, ECHL, CHL, Finance, San Diego Padres
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