MSG Network’s carriage deal with Time Warner Cable "expires at the end of this year," and sources said that the two sides "have had productive talks so far and have traded proposals" for a new agreement, according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sports media veterans "are keeping an eye on these talks, which will mark Time Warner Cable’s first RSN renewal since it jumped into the NBA rights game in a big way earlier this year by picking up the Lakers’ local rights." Ourand notes now that the net is "a player in local NBA rights, it will be interesting to see how Time Warner Cable handles negotiations for the local rights holder of the Knicks, which is as dominant a basketball brand in New York as the Lakers are in Los Angeles." SNL Kagan figures indicate that distributors collectively "pay less for MSG Network and MSG Plus ($4.91 per subscriber per month) than they do for a combined rate of New York’s other two regional sports networks" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/28 issue).
NBC will use Arlo White to handle play-by-play for its MLS telecasts, with his first telecast on the net set for March 11. A formal announcement will be made this afternoon. White had been the main local voice for MLS Sounders games after working for BBC Radio Sport for nine years. The Sounders let White out of his contract to accept the NBC gig. "I also want to sincerely thank the Seattle Sounders FC ownership for making Arlo available, so he can be the MLS voice for the NBC Sports Group to a national audience," NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network Exec Producer Sam Flood said in a prepared release. NBC said other on-air talent for its MLS telecasts will be announced later (John Ourand, THE DAILY). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Ryan Yoder wrote White, a U.K. native, "has that classic English soccer prose combined with American enthusiasm that even the great Gus Johnson would be proud to hear." Yoder: "White may not be a well-known name ... but the prediction is that he will soon climb the ranks to join the likes of Ian Darke in terms of popularity amongst American viewers" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 11/29).
The Epic Poker League, a startup series of tournaments led by longtime industry exec Jeffrey Pollack, has signed content partnerships with the USA Today Sports Media Group and online sports hub Big Lead Sports. The pacts will allow for wider distribution of the Global Poker Index, Epic Poker's new weekly rankings of the top 300 live tournament poker players. In addition, Epic Poker will be the exclusive provider of poker news and information for Big Lead Sports, including a blog from Annie Duke, Epic Poker Commissioner and a '11 Poker HOF nominee, and video segments from league events. "This is an important part of an overall effort to not only build the Epic Poker brand but to position poker for a mass audience," said Pollack, Exec Chair for Epic Poker and its parent company, Federated Sports + Gaming. "We believe presenting poker as a professional endeavor in part through points of content, like you would any other major sport, is a key step." Financial terms were not disclosed, but each of the parties will be selling sponsorships against the exclusive content. Pollack struck the USA Today deal with USA Today Sports Media Group President Tom Beusse and USA Today Sports VP & GM Ross Schaufelberger, his former partners in the late '90s online venture Broadband Sports.
SI’s Richard Deitsch examined new Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer's tenure at ESPN and asked, “What did Meyer owe ESPN viewers during his 10-month broadcasting tenure? I'd argue much more than he ultimately gave them.” His representatives “were clearly negotiating with Ohio State for a couple of weeks," as an Ohio State blog "reported as early as Nov. 17 that Meyer had agreed to deal.” Deitsch: “Where I have an objection with ESPN management is this: If you sense or know your broadcaster is negotiating with a university or pro team, why not pull that person from the airwaves during the time he or she is negotiating.” Clearly, the broadcaster's first priority “is no longer the viewer or the network.” In Meyer's case, “we are also talking about an analyst with less than a year's tenure.” ESPN has “plenty of college football talent without him.” ESPN Exec VP/Production Norby Williamson said of hiring Meyer, "I think it was successful. In the year that he was here, he made us better” (SI.com, 11/29).
POPULARITY CONTEST: WFLX-Fox in West Palm Beach will televise Broncos-Vikings at 1:00pm ET Sunday. The matchup “ordinarily would not be a big draw on television, but with Tebow quarterbacking the suddenly streaking Broncos, there should be plenty of interest.” The game “will go head-to-head with the Dolphins' home game against Oakland,” which is scheduled to be televised by CBS, “assuming the Dolphins sell (or give away) enough tickets to avoid a local blackout” (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 11/29).
WINTER BASEBALL COVERAGE: ESPN will cover the '11 MLB Winter Meetings with a daily set of programs from Monday through Thursday, including on-site talent including Karl Ravech, Steve Berthiaume, John Kruk and Chris Singleton. In addition to regular coverage on ESPN, ESPNews will carry "SportsCenter Special at the Winter Meetings" every night at 6:00 pm. Plus, ESPN2 will carry "Baseball Tonight" telecasts, generally at midnight every day during the week (John Ourand, THE DAILY).