MLS signed a three-year deal with NBC that will see regular-season MLS games return to English-language broadcast television for the first time since '08. NBC and MLS did not reveal financial terms of the deal, but sources say is worth $10M per year. The deal takes effect with the '12 MLS season. NBC picked up the package that currently is with Fox Soccer. Deal terms have 45 MLS games and four U.S. men's national soccer team games carried live on NBC and Versus, which will be renamed NBC Sports Network in January. "This is clearly another great moment for the sport of American soccer," MLS Commissioner Don Garber told THE DAILY. "NBC has a larger audience and a greater variety of platforms, with network, cable and digital." The deal runs through '14, which is when the ESPN and Univision media deals with MLS end. At that point, MLS most likely would go to market with two packages -- one English and one Spanish -- rather than three. Deal terms will have NBC broadcast two regular-season MLS games, two playoff games and two U.S. national team appearances. NBC's cable channel will carry 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and the other two national team matches. NBC picks up all digital rights to these games. All the telecasts will feature pre- and postgame coverage.
NHL RELATIONSHIP INFLUENCED DEAL: Garber said he was attracted by NBC's history of promoting properties, specifically pointing to the network's relationship with the NHL. "I've watched with envy what NBC has done for the NHL," he said. "We hope NBC can do for soccer what they've been able to do for hockey." Fox Soccer has carried MLS games since '03. Fox Soccer signed a one-year, $6.25M deal to carry MLS games this season. The channel was paying $3M per year prior to this season. "Although we're disappointed MLS chose to go in a different direction, we wish them well while Fox Soccer continues to support the sport's growth in the U.S. through our in-depth coverage showcasing the most revered leagues, teams, players and competitions from around the globe," said Fox Soccer Exec VP & GM David Nathanson. Garber praised Fox Soccer, saying it has "turned into a much more professionally produced cable network" under Nathanson. But he said he could not pass up the added reach that Versus (76 million homes) has over Fox Soccer (39 million homes).
The Izod IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway agreed to a six-year extension of their broadcast rights agreement with ESPN/ABC. The deal will see ABC broadcast the Indianapolis 500 and four IndyCar Series races annually through '18. ABC has televised the Indy 500 for 47 consecutive years. Financial terms of the agreement were not available, though sources familiar with the deal said it marks an increase over the $6M a year ESPN/ABC currently pay for the same rights. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, “This helps the viability of our long term plans. It gives us more of a solid foundation while helping our teams, our sponsors and our sports property grow.” ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski added, “We’ve had this relationship for 47 years. History is a huge part of this deal, and we want to continue that.” The deal ensures that IndyCar races will continue to air on broadcast television and be shown on two networks. Versus holds the cable rights to IndyCar for seven more years. ESPN/ABC and IndyCar have been in exclusive negotiations since the start of the year. The parties extended their exclusive negotiating window in June, allowing them to continue negotiating into July. They went on to close the deal early this week. Bernard: “The discussions went well and very smooth. They’ve been a partner for 47 years and they wanted to get a deal done, and we wanted to get one done, too.” ESPN has been transitioning many sports from broadcast television on ABC to cable on ESPN or ESPN2, but Sobieski said that keeping motorsports programming on ABC was important.
DETAILS OF THE DEAL: The deal will see ESPN create an in-car camera product for IndyCar Series races and make a live, in-car camera feed available on ESPN3. Initially, there will be at least six camera feeds available online, and Sobieski said that the number could be increased if there is sponsor interest in doing so. In addition, ESPN also retained international rights to the Indy 500 and IndyCar Series and committed to increase marketing and programming support of the race and series. The deal was negotiated by ESPN Exec VP/Programming John Wildhack with Sobieski and Bernard with Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Jeff Belskus and IMG Media Exec VP Barry Frank.
There is a possibility that the Notre Dame football team "will not be playing all its home games on NBC in upcoming seasons after 2011," according to Scott Pierce of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We're going to take a game or two and put it on Versus. ... What we really want to do is try to find stuff that can build up the cable channel. That's the key. That's where all the money is." Versus, which will be rebranded NBC Sports Channel in January, is available in about 76 million homes in August. That is comparable to ESPNU and 40 million home "fewer than the Fox broadcast network." The "thinking is that putting Notre Dame -- one of the biggest brands in college football -- on the Versus/NBC Sports Network will prompt people in those 40 million-plus homes to call their local cable systems and demand that it be added to the lineup." That would help NBC "close the gap with ESPN." Versus has had "limited success trying to challenge ESPN" since it was rebranded in '06 from Outdoor Life Network (SLTRIB.com, 8/9). An NBC spokesperson confirmed that all Notre Dame football games this season will air on NBC. The following chart offers a look at ratings for Notre Dame games on NBC since '02 (THE DAILY).
A "deepening dispute between the press and football’s governing bodies in the UK is threatening to disrupt media coverage" of the EPL, which is scheduled to kick off its '11-12 season this weekend, according to Salamander Davoudi of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Talks between the EPL, the Football League and News Media Coalition, a "trade body that represents newspapers and large news agencies, collapsed last week over a failure to agree on what rights reporters and photographers covering Premiership and Football League matches should have." The licensing agreement that "maps out which journalists can attend these matches and how and when they can report has expired." The leagues "have offered a temporary extension, but NMC has rejected the offer, claiming the agreement is too restrictive." A source indicated that newspapers "were not being given the full facts by the coalition." The source added, "The position over Twitter and social media has been totally misrepresented by NMC. Journalists will have greater freedom to tweet et cetera under the proposed new agreement." Davoudi notes newspaper coverage of games last weekend "was disrupted as journalists were shut out of football grounds." Subsequently, a "number of national newspapers scrapped their match reports or left out mentions of sponsors’ names." While some "smaller news agencies are thought to have accreditation for this weekend, larger agencies including Reuters and the Press Association hope to secure a last-minute deal but have already warned publishers that their coverage is likely to be disrupted" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/10).
IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE: MARKETING magazine's Alex Brownsell reported the EPL is planning to debut a U.K.-focused marketing campaign "to celebrate its heritage, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the league." The EPL is "plotting a series of promotions in the latter part" of the '11-12 season, and rather than "target international fans, in countries such as China and the US, the activity is expected to focus on football supporters" in the U.K. Activitity will be launched "in conjunction with the Premier League’s commercial partners," including title sponsor Barclays, Nike, Yahoo and EA Sports (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 8/9).
Fox has emerged as the "front runner for a UFC distribution deal," and an agreement "could be done by the end of the month," according to sources cited by Chad Dundas of ESPN.com. Fuel, one of Fox's cable networks, reportedly "would likely be the hub for UFC content and could be renamed and rebranded as such." UFC reportedly had been in talks for a broadcast deal with NBC that included a "takeover of the company's G4 network," but that "may not happen now." Dundas wrote the timing of the Fox-UFC speculation "is interesting" since the MMA organization announced last week that it "signed a two year deal with Fox Latin America" (ESPN.com, 8/5).
GETTING IN ON THE FIGHT? ProElite VP/Fight Operations T. Jay Thompson denied a report that the MMA organization was "close to signing a TV deal with Viacom to broadcast its events on CBS and Showtime in the near future." Thompson said, "There is absolutely no truth to the report that we are close to a deal with CBS and Showtime." He said that ProElite officials are "talking to 'everyone' in the TV world but stopped short at saying who was the frontrunner." The organization's Aug. 27 show will stream live on Sherdog.com, but Thompson hopes that "he will have a TV deal in place by the promotion's second show" (MMAFIGHTING.com, 8/9). In the original report, CAGEPOTATO.com's Mike Russell cited sources as saying that ProElite "is in the final stages of negotiations for a multi-year television deal with Viacom that will see its events broadcast on both Showtime and CBS starting in the first quarter of 2012." Russell noted Showtime's "current deals with Strikeforce and M-1 will soon be over, effectively clearing the way for ProElite’s shows to be broadcast on its networks" (CAGEPOTATO.com, 8/8).
SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: Spike TV's UFC 133 "Prelims Live" special on Saturday night earned 1.4 million viewers. In addition, the hour-long broadcast earned a 1.13 rating in the male 18-34 demographic, and a 0.9 among males 18-49 (SHERDOG.com, 8/9).
ESPN today announced that it has hired former coach Bill Parcells and Pro Football HOFer Jerry Rice as NFL analysts. Parcells will make regular "Sunday NFL Countdown" appearances, and contribute a pair of special programs: "Super Bowl Confidential" and "Draft Confidential." Those two "SportsCenter" specials will be similar to the 90-minute special he filmed for ESPN around April's NFL Draft. Parcells will make his latest ESPN debut next week on "Monday Night Countdown." Rice, as expected, joins ESPN as a contributor to its football programming, notably "NFL Live" and "Audibles" (THE DAILY). ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said that Parcells likely will be "primarily appearing on big-event coverage such as the playoffs and draft and making occasional regular-season appearances rather than taking on a weekly schedule" (USA TODAY, 8/10). Meanwhile, ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz confirmed that former NFLers Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks "won't be returning as football analysts at ESPN this season" (USATODAY.com, 8/10). OCTOBER SKY: Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Ian Poulter and Liang Wen-chong, the No. 1 golfer in China, will fly through seven Chinese cities in seven days for the Shui On Land China Golf Challenge from Oct. 10-16. The made-for-TV event will be broadcast globally on Golfing World and distributed internationally by IMG Media. The golfers will play 18 holes over the week, competing on two or three holes at each of eight different courses. The Shui On Land China Golf Challenge also features Pro-Ams, coaching clinics and publicity events (THE DAILY).
GRIN & BEAR IT: In DC, Tarik El-Bashir reported the Capitals have hired AHL Hershey Bears announcer John Walton as the NHL team's "new radio play-by-play voice." Walton replaces Steve Kolbe, "who is not being brought back after 14 seasons" with the Capitals. Kolbe "had been working on a year-to-year contract with the Caps but was informed in July that the team planned to open up the position to others." Walton said that he "interviewed for the position last week" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/9).
SHIPPING OUT OF BOSTON: In Boston, Chad Finn reported Jade McCarthy is leaving NESN "after less than two years." McCarthy, anchor of "NESN Daily," will return to Philadelphia, where she worked for WCAU-NBC before moving to Boston in '09. McCarthy is seven months pregnant, and sources said that her husband "recently got a job in Philadelphia and they decided to move before the birth of their child" (BOSTON.com, 8/9).