The NFL decided yesterday not to move the Dec. 18 Patriots-Broncos game from CBS to NBC, and the Ravens-Chargers matchup "will remain the Sunday Night Football game for next Sunday," according to Shalise Manza Young of the BOSTON GLOBE. A decision usually is made 12 days "before the game on whether it will be flexed, but after a good deal of debate the NFL decided to extend the deadline for a decision" to yesterday afternoon. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "was fighting to keep the game on CBS" in part so the team would arrive home earlier in preparation for playing on a short week before its Dec. 24 game against the Dolphins (BOSTON.com, 12/7). But SI's Peter King reported Kraft "did not strongarm this game to stay off Sunday night" (TWITTER.com, 12/7). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reported CBS wanted to keep the game "for the appeal of Tim Tebow," and NBC eyed the game "for the same reasons." CBS protected Jets-Eagles instead of Patriots-Broncos, but the choice "was made much earlier in the season before Tebow had become an unlikely option-running phenomenon" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/8). On Long Island, Neil Best noted the flex schedule system "is designed to avoid stinkers on NBC, not necessarily give NBC the best game available." Best: "Ravens-Chargers is not a great matchup, but it sure beats some of the junk ESPN has been stuck with on Monday nights" (NEWSDAY, 12/8).
YOU BELONG IN THE CITY: ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky reported some a spot used during ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" prior to Chargers-Jaguars Monday night this week included "one of the Charlotte skyline and at least one scenic shot of Jacksonville that was outdated." An ESPN spokesperson said, "The Charlotte aerial was an inadvertent mistake. It should not have aired. We apologize that it was part of the telecast. The scenics of Jacksonville that were used during 'Monday Night Countdown' were shot the night of the previous MNF game there in late October. We did not have a crew shooting scenics Monday. There were no graphic or audio mentions indicating the shot was live, though we understand viewers may have been under this assumption” (ESPN.com, 12/6).
News Corp. President, COO & Deputy Chair Chase Carey yesterday hinted that his company "would oppose any push from pay-television providers to put sports channels on a specialty tier," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference in N.Y., Carey said that sports "is a 'product that is uniquely important to a large segment of customers' and that it is crucial that the industry 'respect the business models we built.'" When asked about the status of talks for a new TV deal with the NFL, Carey said, "The NFL is a fabulous franchise. ... Our goal is to continue to have it be a centerpiece." Carey also reiterated that News Corp. "should be paid more in monthly subscription fees from multichannel video programming distributors for its broadcast and cable channels." He said, "If ESPN is worth $4, then Fox is worth $5" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).
COSTS SOARING: In L.A., Meg James notes cable nets are "beginning to feel the pinch of dramatically higher programming costs." ESPN in '06 "spent $3.5 billion on programming for its flagship channel." Consulting firm SNL Kagan indicated that ESPN's content costs this year "have mushroomed to $5.2 billion -- a nearly 50% jump from five years ago." Meanwhile, programming expenses for TNT "have soared 55% since 2006 to $1.1 billion this year, propelled by sports rights fees for NBA and NCAA basketball as well as a lineup of original dramas." Programming expenses for Versus "have expanded 120% from 2006 levels, in large part because of a recent $200-million-a-year deal" with the NHL. ESPN's programming expenses "soon will soar even more." The net in two years will begin paying the NFL "$1.9 billion a year for professional football -- a 72% increase over the network's current fee." That is "part of the reason ESPN, with its pricey lineup of sports properties, has a lower cash flow margin of about 25%." The media industry "is bracing for the next big hit as CBS, Fox and NBC negotiate their new NFL deals" (L.A. TIMES, 12/8).
ESPN's John Skipper had strong comments yesterday for people who question the net's use of a recording from '03 of Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine's wife. Speaking at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in N.Y., Skipper said, “There were significant credibility issues with Bobby Davis. … We did not believe we could go forward with a story. We also made a decision not to go to the police. In light of the Penn State situation, it feels bad, and we’re cognizant of that. But we believe the guys who made the decisions … made the right decisions and that was the end of our obligation. I do not agree we acted inappropriately.” Skipper said he was not aware of the tape at the time. “It was never elevated above the journalists,” he said. Skipper also chafed at comments that ESPN was just as at fault as Penn State for allegedly “covering up” information. Skipper: “Penn State had a problem with their institution within their chain of command. This is not about something that happened at ESPN, this is not about someone at our end in our chain of command that was alleged of anything. … The perception that our actions are similar to Penn State’s is irresponsible" (THE DAILY).
REALITY-TV SEQUEL? FOXSPORTS.com’s Jason Whitlock writes the Fine investigation has "never been a search for the truth," as it has been an "ESPN-generated, reality-TV sequel to the real-life Jerry Sandusky-Penn State tragedy." ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard are "leading a public lynching of Fine’s reputation before there’s ever been anything remotely resembling a fair airing of the facts." Whitlock: "The Bernie Fine Media Circus is a really bad TV show. ... Is there a search for the truth by the media organizations with the deepest investments in the Bernie Fine Media Circus? I don’t think so" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/8).
The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin noted the NHL's conference realignment means fans will be able to see every team "play the locals on their home broadcaster." Also, the new "intra-conference playoff format will create a more equitable travel schedule for all teams, not simply Eastern teams whose limited travel gave them a huge advantage in the past." So in the first two playoff rounds Vancouver "wouldn’t be playing three times zones away in Detroit, or Edmonton would not have long trips to Nashville or St. Louis in the central time zone." The "downside for the seven Canadian teams is that they’re almost all in two divisions, meaning that while CBC and TSN will have plenty of domestic matchups in the early rounds the teams could wind up eliminating each other before we get to the Conference Finals" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/7).
NATIONAL BLACKOUT: In DC, Michael Lee noted the NBA's TV partners -- ABC, ESPN and TNT -- "didn't bother to schedule the Wizards for any games this season." The "snub is understandable and justified, considering the Wizards won just 23 games and didn’t prove to be primetime players last season." Even with a "potential star" in G John Wall and the slam-dunk champion runner-up JaVale McGee, the nets are "looking for more than a few highlights" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/7).
KICKING IT UP: The GUARDIAN's Matt Scott reports the accounts of England's FA "are set to be swelled by a minimum" of US$31M every year as "negotiations over its broadcast contracts enter their final stage." A two-year domestic contract has been agreed to with ITV, and it exceeds the US$62M-a-year "target set by the FA's commercial division." It is "expected that a new six-year deal with overseas broadcasters -- initially comprising all England and FA Cup matches between 2012 and 2014, before covering only England's friendly matches and the FA Cup through to 2018 -- will also raise in excess" of US$62M each year. The overseas figure currently "is a projection, since one territory remains to be completed." However, "having signed contracts on the lucrative European market, the FA is involved in negotiations only with the Asian broadcasters" (GUARDIAN, 12/8).