IOC Finance Commission Chair Richard Carrion yesterday said that the IOC “plans to sell the next set of lucrative U.S. Olympic television rights by mid-June, with networks given the option of bidding on two or four games,” according to Stephen Wilson of the AP. The IOC traditionally awards the rights for two Olympics at a time, but networks “have expressed interest in the possibility of a four-games deal this time.” Carrion said that he “expects three networks to compete for the contract and that the winning fee will surpass the $2 billion that NBC paid for the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.” He said that he has “held preliminary talks with all interested U.S. networks and the bidding contract documents are being finalized.” The networks will then be invited to the IOC’s HQs in Lausanne, Switzerland, “to make presentations and offer sealed bids.” Carrion: "I would suspect it'll happen in the second part of June." He added that the “goal is to have the deal completed before the IOC meeting in early July in Durban, South Africa.” Carrion declined to say which networks are likely to make bids, but Wilson noted “the contenders are widely expected to include incumbent NBC, ESPN and Fox.” Carrion said that the bidders “will sign a document ahead of the auction that ensures a level playing field.” TV rights fees “provide the bulk of the IOC's revenue, with the U.S. share accounting for more than half the total.” Meanwhile, Carrion praised the USOC for its “concerted effort to improve relations with the IOC and negotiate a new revenue-sharing agreement.” Carrion: "I would say it's a new page" (AP, 4/6).
Dish's decision to drop the RSN
TWIN BILL: In Minneapolis, Neal Justin reports Dish subscribers are "closer to seeing" today's scheduled Twins-Yankees game. Dish is "among four cable and satellite providers who have only agreed to televise 105 of the 150 games" airing on FS North this season. However, FS North GM Mike Dimond said that talks "have become 'positive' with Dish." Around 37% of homes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market are affected by the lack of carriage, but Dimond noted that the number "drops to about 21 percent" if Dish and FS North reach an agreement (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/7).
WWE Chair & CEO Vince McMahon “plans to go on a spending spree to acquire media assets that could expand WWE's business beyond the ring,” according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. McMahon said that in particular, WWE is “targeting companies involved in production, live entertainment and branding.” McMahon: "To me, it is anything that is out there. We can take on a ton of debt." Flint reports WWE is “moving ahead with long-talked-about plans to create its own cable network for its vast library of wrestling fare.” The company has been “meeting with distributors including Verizon and hopes to get a channel launched” in ‘12. McMahon also “wants to start marketing WWE's expertise in producing live events.” The moves come as WWE “looks to rebound from a tough end to 2010 that saw attendance at its events and pay-per-view revenue both drop 15% in the fourth quarter.” Flint notes this is “not the first time WWE has tried to expand beyond its core,” as it partnered with NBC to launch the XFL and had a restaurant in Times Square that “flopped.” McMahon said that he has “learned his lesson from those follies and will stick to the entertainment business.” Some analysts “wonder whether WWE wants to grow to position itself for an eventual sale.” There are “very few independent programmers left, and with its healthy balance sheet WWE might be attractive to one of the bigger media companies.” Meanwhile, WWE will “no longer stand for World Wrestling Entertainment,” as it will “just be WWE, plain and simple” (L.A. TIMES, 4/7).
ESPN earned a 2.4 U.S. rating and 3.831 million viewers for Tuesday's Texas A&M-Notre Dame NCAA women's basketball national championship game, up 4.3% and 8.5%, respectively, from a 2.3 rating and 3.531 million viewers for last year's title game between UConn and Stanford (THE DAILY).
BACK FOR ANOTHER GO-ROUND: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan cites sources as saying that Lakers TV analyst Stu Lantz is "expected to return for a 25th season." Joel Meyers, Lantz' broadcast partner since '05, "will not be back after this season." Lakers radio announcer Spero Dedes is replacing Meyers, and he "will be the third TV voice of the Lakers since Chick Hearn died" in August '02. Paul Sunderland "had the job for three seasons, followed by Meyers." Bresnahan notes Dedes is in his sixth season as Lakers radio announcer (L.A. TIMES, 4/7).
GOING SOLO: In Minneapolis, Kent Youngblood notes T'Wolves and WNBA Lynx radio announcer Alan Horton is "finishing up his fourth season" in the role and his "second doing it alone." Horton said that "at least half of the teams in the league have a single announcer at least part of the time," but he is the "only guy who does radio for both the NBA and WNBA teams in a market." Youngblood notes Horton "doesn't have a catch phrase and doesn't want one." Youngblood: "He believes in contrast and the creative use of silence. His volume knob does not go to 11" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/7).
SUCCESSFUL AT BAT: In N.Y., Bob Tedeschi reviews the MLB.com At Bat 11 mobile application and writes it "includes a handful of slick new features." The app "outdoes the previous versions in various ways, depending on what device you use and where you use it." Android users "get the biggest upgrade, in that the app finally displays live video" and "all season they can watch one free game daily." At Bat users with Apple and Android phones also "can create a home page that displays important information about their favorite team." Meanwhile, At Bat is "much better than last year" for fans at ballparks "thanks to a new set of features meant specifically for them." The At the Ballpark feature provides Apple users with "detailed maps of the site, video highlights and, depending on the ballpark, discounts on concessions." Tedeschi writes of At Bat, "Avid baseball fans who own an iPad, and who skip this app, are making a mistake." Tedeschi also reviews the iPad-only app Pennant, and notes it "offers a batter-by-batter recap of every Major League Baseball game played from 1952 to 2010, along with great graphics" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/7).