One of the biggest issues facing sports media companies these days is figuring out how to authenticate cable subscribers so they can watch content on broadband and mobile devices, ESPN President John Skipper told attendees at the "TV 3.0 presented by the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame" event in N.Y. yesterday. Skipper pointed to his company's WatchESPN app, which he described as easy to use once subscribers figure out the username and password they use with their cable provider. Skipper: "It's not as easy as we wish it was to authenticate. It's got to be easy. ... We can't ask people to take out the cable bill and figure out your number."
QUICK HITS: In a wide ranging interview with Broadcasting & Cable Editor Ben Grossman, Skipper spoke of the likelihood that a digital media company will make a big bet on sports, and said, "I don't think people are going to YouTube to watch the Yankees any time soon. ...I don't think Facebook or Google will be buying sports rights." On losing the World Cup to Fox Sports, Skipper quipped, "When it comes around in '18 and we don't have it, it will be painful." On whether the L.A. market can support five RSNs, Skipper said, "There's a lot of power in the Lakers and Angels. That is why those businesses can work." Asked to comment on Jets QB Tim Tebow, Skipper stated, "I'm John Skipper, not Skip Bayless."
NBC Sports Network earned a 1.4 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s Devils-Kings NHL Stanley Cup Final Game Four, down 13% from the same game in the Bruins-Canucks series last year. The game went up against TNT’s series-clinching Thunder-Spurs NBA Western Conference Finals Game Six, which earned a 7.1 overnight. Devils-Kings earned a 6.6 local rating in L.A., which is the highest local rating ever in the market for an NHL game on NBCSN. The game also led NBCSN to the No. 1 primetime ranking in L.A. for the night. N.Y. earned a 2.9 local rating for the game. Meanwhile, NBCSN’s Devils-Kings Game Three averaged 1.743 million viewers, down 37% from 2.757 million viewers for the comparable Bruins-Canucks game last year (THE DAILY).
STRATEGIC PLANNING: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir asks, "Why has [NBC Sports Network] clung to the two Stanley Cup finals games? ... The strategy is clear. If NBCSN is to move beyond its current 80 million subscribers -- at least 20 million fewer than ESPN or ESPN2 -- and increase its subscriber fees, it needs programming to justify those goals." The net has to "persuade any recalcitrant cable systems, satellite operators and telephone companies to put NBCSN on the broadest possible digital tiers to expand its audience." Olympic programming "will be on NBCSN, and any major sports properties that can be acquired (MLB or a future NFL package) will be used to seek more subscribers and higher revenue." But a little thought "has to go into finding NBCSN, which does not get a lot of respect, a remnant of contracts it signed when it was primarily a hunting and fishing channel." Comcast, which controls NBC, "naturally keeps NBCSN in a comfortable niche far from sports-channel Siberia" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/7).
HOMETOWN HERO: ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne noted Kings TV announcer Miller has been "the Kings' man for better or for worse." And like all "great broadcasters who stay with one franchise long enough to become a part of its soul, nothing much feels real unless he's on the call." Miller said, "I don't really like to do games where I'm not involved in who wins. I've done a few with ABC and ESPN where you're doing St. Louis and Chicago and you've got nothing invested in the outcome. I don't like that. I want to be involved. Yes, you have valleys and peaks, you have wins and losses, but you're involved in it. Being with one team, doing that one team's games, it always meant more to me." Miller said he is "proud of longevity with one organization." Miller: "I'm really proud to say 39 years and next year 40 years with the same team" (ESPNLA.com, 6/6). In L.A., Helene Elliott noted Miller's and Jim Fox' call of yesterday's Game Four was "piped throughout the arena at concession stands and in restrooms." It will be "recorded for possible future use on the team’s website or a commemorative DVD" (LATIMES.com, 6/6).
Twitter on Sunday "launches the first of what it calls an ‘enhanced live event experience’" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400, according to Jefferson Graham of USA TODAY. Twitter will “offer racing fans curated and algorithmic tweets at twitter.com/#nascar." The social media site has done similar work with TV shows like Fox’ “The X Factor” and other sporting events such as the Super Bowl “to enhance tweeting and viewing," but this is the “first time the company has devoted a specific area of its site to a live event.” Twitter VP/Media Chloe Sladden said that the experiment “could be a precursor to similar alliances in the future.” She added by working directly with NASCAR and TNT to curate tweets, “We can help surface the content faster.” Graham notes neither Twitter nor NASCAR “would discuss financial arrangements.” NASCAR VP/Digital Media Marc Jenkins said fans on Twitter looking for racing news would have needed “to follow every single driver and every single person in the industry to see it in their timelines.” But with the new Twitter/NASCAR alliance, he said the content “doesn’t get lost” (USA TODAY, 6/7).
BIRD ON THE COURSE: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote the LPGA yesterday unveiled its "new caddie bibs, featuring the handles of every player who has a Twitter account." The bibs will be worn by players at this week's at the Wegman's LPGA Championship. Golfer Suzann Pettersen said, "It's about time. It's almost so simple" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/6).
GOLF WORLD’s Chris Millard writes NBC Associate Producer Gil Capps is the net's “ace off the bench” for golf coverage, backing up broadcasters Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller as “scorer, statistician, researcher, fact-checker, writer and overall editorial conscience of the broadcast.” Given his “vital role in NBC’s standout coverage, Capps is arguably the least-known important figure in golf television.” As much as 90% of his material "never makes it on air.” Miller and Hicks “have come to rely heavily on Capps’ highly specialized golf knowledge (he doesn’t work other sports) and his timing.” Hicks said of Capps' preparation for the upcoming U.S. Open, “He’s kind of like a player who puts a real premium on the big events. You really have to be extra-prepared in the big ones, and Gil comes to play the Open. He’s ready” (GOLF WORLD, 6/11 issue).
TAYLOR-MADE: Former NFLer Jason Taylor is joining ESPN as a studio analyst. He will contribute to “NFL Live,” “NFL32” and “SportsCenter,” as well as “Sunday NFL Countdown” and “Monday Night Countdown.” Taylor will also make regular appearances on ESPN Radio (ESPN). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin wrote if ESPN “wants to manufacture some drama,” it could pair Taylor up with analyst and former Dolphins coach Bill Parcells. Taylor and Parcells “feuded almost immediately after Parcells took over the team in late 2007” (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 6/6).
STRAIGHT A’s: In S.F., Susan Slusser cites sources as saying that former MLBer Scott Hatteberg will “replace Ray Fosse for 20 games” as the A's analyst on Comcast SportsNet California. Sources said that Hatteberg’s “first stint” begins June 15. Hatteberg currently serves as A's Special Assistant to Baseball Operations (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/7).
BACK ON THE AIR? In Ft. Lauderdale, Nick Sortal noted radio host Sid Rosenberg is “one negotiation away from being back on air.” WMEN-AM GM Steve Lapa said Rosenberg, who was fired from WQAM-AM April 7 after being charged with DUI, would take over the 6:00-10:00am ET shift "as soon as we get an OK" from Rosenberg's former station. Lapa said that Rosenberg has “bought out his non-compete clause with WQAM, which expires in August,” but hinted that WQAM is “worried about what Rosenberg may say about the station once he sits down at the microphone” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 6/6).
NBA Digital yesterday announced plans to televise a newly created awards program, the NBA Social Media Awards, on June 20 on NBA TV. The event, to be hosted by by former NBAer Rick Fox, TNT's Shaquille O'Neal and Slam magazine's Lang Whitaker, will recognize achievement in several facets of social media, including the player who best utilized the space, the player with the most shared highlight and the team with the highest percentage increase in fans and followers. Starting yesterday and ending June 18, fans are able to vote on the awards at NBA.com/sma. The June 20 televised event will compete against the NHL Awards in Las Vegas scheduled for the same evening (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
TIME FOR A CHANGE:In Chicago, Paul Banks wrote Comcast SportsNet’s “Chicago Tribune Live” is in “dire need of formatting overhaul.” Banks: “Basically, [its] all middle-aged white male panel is like an inferior stock portfolio -- no diversification. Between the host, usual special guests and regular panel, the show has a very narrow demographic.” The program “could be so much more, and they could start by having more gender, racial and age equality among their guests” (CHICAGONOW.com, 6/5).
OLYMPIC STREAM: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes YouTube will stream “2,200 hours of live Olympic coverage free to 64 countries and territories in Asia and Africa at youtube.com/olympic during the Summer Games in London, which start July 27.” The digital rights in those countries “were available to YouTube because they had not been previously sold by the International Olympic Committee to broadcasters carrying the Olympics.” YouTube and the IOC have “what is largely a revenue-sharing deal” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/7).
OH, CANADA: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Etan Vlessing noted Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium “plans coverage on four screens and a record 5,500 hours of programming” for the Games. Bell Media-predecessor CTVglobemedia and Rogers “secured the rights” to the Vancouver and London Olympics for a record $153M. Then there is “another 704 hours of French language coverage on the RDS and V channels.” The consortium also plans “another 223 hours of multi-language coverage on the OMNI and ATN channels” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 6/6).