In L.A., Broderick Turner writes Shaquille O'Neal has "fit in just fine" with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson on TNT's "Inside The NBA." O'Neal said, "I'm loving this, brother. I work with the best people, Ernie, Chuck, Kenny. This is not like having a real job. It's like hanging out with your friends." Turner notes Johnson has to "try to control O'Neal, Barkley and Smith." Johnson said, laughing, "I'm the lion tamer. I've been doing this for 22 years and I still love doing this" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).
SKY HIGH DEAL: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds reported DirecTV-owned Root Sports and the Big Sky Conference are "nearing a deal for a new multiyear programming renewal." Sources said that the agreement "could be announced as soon as early this week." The pact is "expected to encompass Big Sky men's basketball, football and other athletic events." The deal will also "grant Big Sky territorial media rights throughout Alaska," which could be "a useful property in Root Sports Northwest's battle with GCI, Alaska's top MSO" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 1/16 issue).
GIVE IT AWAY? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja reported the EPL "may have to give away its television rights for free to build its fanbase in China." Super Sports Media "pays the league for rights, then sells the matches ... to regional free-to-air broadcasters, which cover areas containing about one-third of China’s 1.3 billion people." While that is an "improvement from the 30,000 who subscribed to see games two years ago, the league is considering how to strengthen its position when the current deal expires after next season." TNS/CSM Media Research Asia Dir of Sport & Media Pierre Justo said that "only state-owned CCTV can broadcast sports nationwide, and it won’t overpay" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/15).
PROVING IT CARES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick wrote if NBC and the newly renamed NBC Sports Network “want to be taken seriously as an NHL network, they have to grow up, demonstrate that they know and care about the game above and beyond serving drooling knuckleheads.” There is “little doubt that NBC, even in the throes of a concussion epidemic that has cost the NHL so much talent, still is trying to push the game on the omnipotent young male demographic -- excite the vulnerable -- by emphasizing a great game’s most violent, brutal, Brotherhood of Cavemen-certified moments” (N.Y. POST, 1/15).
CLIMBING THE RANKS: Sportsman Channel's distribution passed the 30 million HH mark, with newest Nielsen numbers putting it at 31.1 million. Network execs credit the decision of several distributors to move it from a sports tier to digital basic as one of the main reasons for the new growth (THE DAILY).