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Volume 24 No. 155


The IOC is “considering its options after failing to get what it considers fair value for Canadian TV rights to the next two Games from a combined Bell Media/CBC consortium,” according to Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. Sources said that “the initial offer bid was for less than half the previous amount” of the C$153M paid for the ‘10 Vancouver Games and ‘12 London Games, whereas the IOC “is looking for approximately” C$100M. The broadcasters said that they “remain in discussions and are waiting for the IOC to make the next move.” However, the IOC “waits for the networks to come back to the table with a better offer.” Compounding matters is “the question of whether NHL players will participate in Sochi.” CTV President of Sports & Exec VP/Programming Phil King said via e-mail, “It's a big issue for sure, but not the only one.” Dowbiggin reports logistics in Sochi, including “security and an eight-hour time difference to Toronto are other issues that have been raised.” Complicating matters further, the current Canadian consortium package “lost money in Vancouver and is expected to do so as well this summer in London.” Rogers Communications “declined to participate in the bidding” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/19). In Toronto, Rick Westhead cited two sources as saying that Bell/CBC "offered about $70 million for the Canadian rights to Sochi and Rio." The nets "asked the IOC for permission to submit two offers -- one with NHL players participating in Sochi and one without." However, IOC Dir of TV & Marketing Services Timo Lumme said that that "wasn't acceptable." Meanwhile, Rogers execs said that the company is "no longer interested in the Olympics" after losing money on Vancouver. Rogers Media President Keith Pelley: "It's a disciplined approach that allows us to pursue new opportunities to best serve our viewers, shareholders and advertisers" (TORONTO STAR, 1/17).

Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, AEG and CAA are "teaming up to launch a new pop culture cable channel," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Called AXS, the net is "envisioned to focus primarily on live programming aimed at entertainment aficionados." The channel "plans to cover show business on a 24/7 live basis." Cuban said, "The industry in Los Angeles is a sport." The net's flagship show is to be called "AXS Live," which Cuban described as a "'SportsCenter' for pop culture and music." The joint venture will be "rebranding Cuban's HDNet channel, creating a new network that is expected to debut as soon as late spring." Currently in "about 27 million homes," Cuban said that he thinks having the "weight of AEG behind the channel will boost its reach." He added that it will "take about six months to change HDNet to AXS." Flint noted AXS "seems aimed at competing primarily with E!" (, 1/18). Cuban said, "We’re going to be able to take what I had hoped to do with HDNet -- which was to be live, live, live -- and accelerate that considerably." Seacrest noted that "'music, live entertainment and live events' would be the base of the channel." Cuban would "not say whether he retained the majority ownership of HDNet." Execs said yesterday that AXS TV will take advantage of AEG's events and concert sites, "including the L.A. Live entertainment complex in Los Angeles and The O2 in London." Cuban said that some of the "existing programming on HDNet, including mixed martial arts matches and the newsmagazine 'Dan Rather Reports,' will remain in place on AXS TV" (, 1/18).

INSIDE ACCESS: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Melissa Grego noted production facilities at L.A. Live will "serve as a hub for much of the programming and most of the production will be based in Los Angeles." Cuban said that sales will be "based in Los Angeles and Dallas and operations will stay in Denver." AXS will "tap AEG assets to give viewers special inside access and perks like ticketing opportunities, premium seating, private viewing areas and food & beverage specials." Sports are "likely to maintain a place on the network -- particularly MMA, which has been a big part of HDNet." But as far as pursuing sports programming, AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that "'that is not the intention' and that the main idea is to pursue an 'underdeveloped' opportunity in live programming within the music and pop culture world" (, 1/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Lacey Rose cited a source as saying that the "venture between Cuban and the others is 'virtually' a 50-50 partnership" (, 1/18). DAILY VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein noted if they get it right, they will "forge a new variation in the business model of TV distribution." AXS will "look to position itself as an ESPN of pop culture," but E! and ESPN may "offer less of a comparison for AXS TV than MTV" (, 1/18).

ESPN's today debuts a site redesign, the first significant visual reworking of the Bill Simmons-led destination since its debut last June. Deputy Editor Dan Fierman said the shift was designed with an aim toward improving content discovery and showcasing major pieces on the site, as well as resolving various internal technical issues in the original design. The new look also removes the masthead from the main page. "As much as we loved the first design, it was a real struggle sometimes to showcase the big pieces, things we really wanted to make sure the readers saw," Fierman said. "The original look sort of seemed static, but in reality, things fell out of that main river really quickly. Having this more visual presentation is going to give us a much better platform going forward." The redesign project was led by Dir of Business Development David Cho.

ESPN2 has decided how it will revamp its afternoon lineup after Jim Rome signs off on his "Jim Rome Is Burning" show for the final time on Jan. 27. Starting Jan. 30, ESPN2 will expand its "Best of Mike & Mike" to 60 minutes and run it in the 2:00-3:00pm ET timeslot. The rest of ESPN2's lineup will include: "Best of First Take" at 3:30pm, followed by "Numbers Never Lie" at 4:00pm, "Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable" at 4:30pm and "SportsNation" at 5:00pm. "NASCAR Now" will take over the 3:00 pm timeslot when it returns for the start of the NASCAR season on Feb. 13. "Outside the Lines" will occupy the 3:00pm timeslot during the week of Jan. 30 and "The Best of First Take" will expand to an hour -- 3:00-4:00pm -- for the week of Feb. 6.

"Best of Mike and Mike" (expands by 30 minutes)
"NASCAR Now" (returns Feb. 13)
"Best of First Take"
"Numbers Never Lie"
"Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable"

In DC, Adam Kilgore notes this winter brought the "first 'reset period' in the Nationals’ contract with MASN, a window for the Nationals to renegotiate the rights fees they receive from MASN." To maximize their take, the Nationals "hired a high-powered media consultant to argue for what constitutes fair-market value fees." The results could "fundamentally change the scope of how the Nationals do business and spend to acquire players." A source said that the team "could hope to double or triple the $29 million they received from MASN in 2011" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/19).

STATISTICALLY OUTSPOKEN: In N.Y., Karen Crouse profiles Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee under the header, "Analyst Who Is Able To Back Up Opinions." Chamblee is an "unabashed admirer" of broadcaster Johnny Miller, and he has the "same style but, some argue, lacks his authority because he never won a major." On the set, Chamblee "does not appear easily flustered." He has a statistic "for every situation and an artist's way with words." Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said, "He’s able to paint these word pictures that just make you think. His Texas homespun slang is what makes it interesting. But what he’s saying at his heart is smart and very well thought out." Krouse writes Chamblee is "not afraid to place [Tiger] Woods, the engine that drives golf's popularity, in his crosshairs" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19).

: Comcast yesterday announced the start of another season of Celtics On Demand in partnership with the Celtics and Comcast SportsNet. The partnership will deliver Celtics fans coverage of the team, ranging from behind-the-scenes features to game replays. Fans will be able to tune into replays of Comcast SportsNet's Celtics game telecasts within four hours of the game's conclusion. Games are available On Demand for 24 hours (THE DAILY).

PAD-DING THE STATS: Bleacher Report has launched a version of its Team Stream mobile app for the iPad, as well as a tablet-optimized version of its site, representing its first dedicated entries into publishing for tablets. Bleacher Report now generates more than 30% of its overall traffic from mobile devices, up from 5% a year ago (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).