In Austin, Kirk Bohls notes ESPN "remains fully committed to the Longhorn Network." ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus said, "Disappointed is not the right word. Texas has been a great partner and has been very patient. There's no question we're committed to it. We're going to take stock of where we are and figure out what the keys are necessary to unlock it. As soon as we get the first deal (with a national distributor), I think it will take off and snowball." He added, "Over 20 years, we'll make a lot of money. Nobody's pushing the panic button" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/9).
THE WAITING GAME: In Portland, Mike Tokito noted because TNT's coverage of the Heat-Hawks game Thursday night went to triple overtime, the net was unable to switch over to Lakers-Trail Blazers until the teams "had completed a spirited first half." NBA Digital Senior VP & GM and Turner Sports VP/Strategy, Marketing & Programming Christina Miller said, "The Hawks-Heat triple-overtime game was an exciting national telecast. This was not a regional telecast and we would not leave our first game until its conclusion." Asked if Turner "considered making the Blazers-Lakers game available on another Turner network," PR Manager Tom Caraccioli said that Turner's other networks "had commitments to program they could not break" (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/7).
PAYING TO WATCH THEM PLAY: DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry noted with a "flurry of new TV contracts enriching the National Football League to the tune of roughly $5 billion annually once they kick in ... somebody's going to have to pay the freight on all this." Broadcast nets will "no longer be content to view sports as loss leaders -- the kind of must-have commodity they're willing to take a financial bath on to maintain circulation." They are going to "want to offset their investment, either through sweetened retransmission fees from cable and satellite operators or altered agreements with affiliated stations." Meanwhile, cable channels and systems -- "especially ESPN, but also entities like Fox and Time Warner Cable -- have rolled the dice on sports as the best hedge against the worst possibilities of a digital future." The prospect of "rising cable bills has simultaneously renewed talk of establishing pay tiers and a la carte pricing -- both of which would require fans to ante up directly for the sports they crave" (VARIETY.com, 1/7).
MAKING A SWITCH FOR HD: UFC President Dana White said that “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” will air on Fuel TV. White: "All this unique content that we're doing in these other parts of the world, Fuel TV is going to take." He added, "If you're a UFC fan, you really love your UFC, it's impossible not to have Fuel. What happens is, UFC fans have to make hard decisions, and they want it in HD and cable doesn't have it in HD you're gonna have to switch to DirecTV, or Comcast is going to have to carry it" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/7).