ESPN earned a 3.3 overnight Nielsen rating for the 9:00am-2:30pm ET window of the final round of the British Open yesterday, marking the net’s best figure since the event’s weekend rounds moved to cable TV in ’10. The telecast, which saw Ernie Els capture his first major victory since ’02 with a one stroke win over Adam Scott, is up 27% from a 2.6 overnight for the same window last year, when Darren Clarke won by three strokes over Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, and also a 27% gain compared to Louis Oosthuizen’s win by seven strokes over Lee Westwood in ’10. The final round in ’09, when it aired on ABC, earned a 3.9 overnight for Stewart Cink’s playoff win over Tom Watson. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 3.0 overnight for coverage of the third round on Saturday, up 58% from last year. The net’s second round coverage was up 50% and first round up 22% (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).FAUX PAS: GOLFDIGEST.com's John Strege wrote ESPN's Paul Azinger helped make the coverage "interesting, not necessarily for the right reasons." Azinger "might be the best analyst in golf, but he did not make a compelling case on his own behalf during one 30-minute stretch in the final round." He "erred on the rules, called those on Twitter a 'bunch of clowns,' then doubled down by taking to Twitter to say it again, while using the hastag: #ToDumbToKnowTheirClowns." Strege: "It is inadvisable to call others dumb while using 'to' instead of 'too' and 'their' instead of 'they're.'" When Tiger Woods was "stymied in a bunker at the sixth hole" during yesterday's final round, Azinger incorrectly explained a tournament rule on dropping a player's ball. He then took to Twitter and "cited a rules official for his error." Azinger tweeted, "Ask RNA official about unplayable in bunker. He gave me wrong answer. It's been addressed and fixed on air" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 7/22). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Scott Gleeson noted Azinger made an on-air apology Saturday "for accidentally having a smile on his face during an opening segment about the shootings in Aurora, Colo." ESPN's Mike Tirico "was talking about a ribbon on Brandt Snedeker's visor in a segue, but Azinger failed to transition" (USA TODAY, 7/21).
ESPN's Chris Fowler served as the main "SportsCenter" studio analyst this morning to discuss the NCAA's sanctions handed down to Penn State and its football program, a contrast to the net's decision to use analyst and former Penn State football player Matt Millen as its main voice following the release of the Freeh Report on July 12. SI.com's Richard Deitsch on Twitter wrote, "Chris Fowler is the first college football voice ESPN viewers get after the NCAA Penn State presser. Much, much better, ESPN. ... Producer leading SportsCenter's PSU coverage today is Michael Shiffman. Solid work so far and needed after Matt Millen-led fiasco." The Birmingham News' Jon Solomon: "Chris Fowler is providing really good perspective. Much better decision by ESPN than Matt Millen." The Omaha World-Herald's Samuel McKewon: "Good to see Chris Fowler working a little ESPN desk this morning after sanctions. They coulda used him a couple weeks ago." NFL Network's Albert Breer: "Enjoying Chris Fowler's perspective on all this -- Tremendous, keeping the victims primary when discussing Paterno's legacy." Meanwhile, Big Ten Network this morning aired NCAA President Mark Emmert's press conference live, as well as the Big Ten's separate press conference announcing additional sanctions against the school. Sporting News' Matt Hayes: "BTN doing a really nice job right now" (THE DAILY).
STRONG WORK: SI.com’s Deitsch wrote ESPN's Steve Bunin's work on "Outside The Lines" in discussing the Penn State scandal “has been strong, a thoughtful and direct interviewer whether dealing with the Paterno Family spokesperson or media opining on the Penn State story.” ESPN's Tom Rinaldi's interview with Jay Paterno following the release of the Freeh Report “is something ESPN management ought to show to staffers paid to conduct on-camera interviews.” His questions “were direct, his manner was firm but respectful, and it's really worth watching.” Rinaldi said, "What we wanted to ask (were) simple and straightforward questions to elicit the reaction of Jay Paterno on the findings of the Freeh Report and not to simply provide a venue -- although that is very important -- but to get some of the questions that we thought would naturally be in viewers' minds” (SI.com, 7/20).
Publisher Simon & Schuster is “backpedaling quickly in the final weeks before the publication of ‘Paterno,’ which has emerged as perhaps one of the most unfortunately timed books of 2012,” according to Julie Bosman of the N.Y. TIMES. The book will enter the market “at a moment when the name of Joe Paterno, the late Penn State coach, has gone from revered to radioactive.” Simon & Schuster “moved up the release date of the Paterno book from Father’s Day 2013 to August 2012.” The title was changed from “The Grand Experiment: The Life and Meaning of Joe Paterno,” to the more neutral “Paterno.” The publishing house is now “limiting interviews” with author Joe Posnanski and “scaling back a planned book tour.” Simon & Schuster Exec VP & Publisher Jonathan Karp said that the release of the Freeh Report “had complicated matters for the book.” Karp said, “It’s made people angrier at Joe Paterno. And that has made it a more difficult environment to publish a biography about Joe Paterno.” Simon & Schuster “acquired the book for a reported $750,000,” and Karp said that he “expected the company would print close to 75,000 copies.” If Simon & Schuster were “to lose close to $1 million on the book, it would be an unpleasant but not particularly significant sum for an imprint of its size.” Philadelphia-based Joseph Fox Bookshop Owner Michael Fox said of the book, “I just don’t want it on my shelf. It’s distasteful and it’s not up to date.” Bosman notes the book will get its “first airing in mid-August, when an excerpt is expected to run in the September issue of GQ.” The issue is set appear on newsstands in N.Y. and L.A. on Aug. 14 (N.Y. TIMES, 7/23).
Pac-12 Enterprises and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) on Friday announced that they have reached a long-term agreement for carriage of the Pac-12 Networks. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Pac-12 Networks, consisting of one national net and six RSNs, will be available to NCTC participating members starting with their Aug. 15 launch. NCTC members also will have access to Pac-12 Networks live programming through various TV Everywhere platforms (Pac-12). CABLEFAX DAILY notes this is the programmer’s “1st announced agreement since the venture was announced last summer.” NCTC President & CEO Rich Fickle said, “The deal is structured so that there are some carriage commitments if you’re within that region that you have to carry the regional content, and you have options if you’re outside those regions.” He added, “It has a lot of flexibility for the carriage outside that home market" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/23). In L.A., Chris Foster wrote the trickle down for the new TV deal “is already being felt at UCLA.” Football coach Jim Mora received a five-year, $11.24M deal when he was hired but “could make another $750,000 per season in performance bonuses and a total of $700,000 over the life of his contract in retention bonuses.” Athletic department officials have “upped the ante for assistant coaches as well," with a payroll of $2.08M, up from $1.645M last season. The department expects UCLA to take in $17.6M this year "from television contracts, multimedia rights and apparel sales” (L.A. TIMES, 7/21).
ACROSS THE COAST: Meanwhile, the ACC Digital Network on Friday announced a new partner channel on YouTube, which will show 20 live events in Olympic sports beginning this fall. The deal marks the first official partnership between YouTube and a major collegiate conference to date (ACC).
NBC Sports Network has announced a deal to televise 14 CFL games in '12, including the CFL semifinals and the 100th edition of the Grey Cup (NBC Sports). YAHOO SPORTS' Andrew Bucholtz noted the deal with NBCSN follows the CFL's "parting of ways with the NFL Network." Bucholtz wrote, "When the details are examined, it seems the deal was worth the wait." Getting "anywhere on television in the U.S. is positive for the CFL," but landing on NBCSN "is even better." It is "arguably the most successful multi-sport channel outside of the ESPN family." Having the Grey Cup "shown live on a reasonably-prominent network is huge for the CFL." This "could be a big step for the CFL in establishing its brand further south of the border" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/20). In Toronto, Bob Mitchell noted the Grey Cup and playoffs "were shown last season on America ONE." The NFL Network "showed 38 CFL games last season but only a few were live" (TORONTO STAR, 7/20). In Edmonton, Chris O'Leary noted NBCSN "will carry nine CFL regular-season games this year, including six games involving the Edmonton Eskimos." Eskimos President & CEO Len Rhodes said, "(The deal) was for the league to get exposure south of the border and the fact that we got six out of nine, that's just remarkable" (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com, 7/20).
MLBAM said it has reached 5 million downloads of this year's version of its At Bat mobile application, extending a company record. MLBAM generated 3.9 million downloads of the '11 version of the app during all of last year, and 2.1 million downloads for the '10 version. MLBAM reached the current mark less than five months after the app's Feb. 29 release. The league's digital arm also said it has served more than 21 million live video streams through the mobile app so far this season on the iOS and Android platforms, up 24% from last year's full-season total of 17 million live video streams. The sharply heightened numbers are due in part to a new universal platform sales structure in which subscribers of MLBAM's MLB.TV out-of-market game package received the At Bat app for free, and a single purchase of the app covering both smartphones and tablets.
The first episode of "Sports Illustrated" is launching tomorrow on NBC Sports Network at 9:00pm ET, and the hour-long show will highlight four stories: Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy, MMA, open-water swimmer Alex Meyer and the '92 Dream Team scrimmage. This show is the first in the series, which will run at least five episodes, with three appearing on NBCSN and two on NBC. THE DAILY spoke with Time Inc. Exec VP & Sports Group President Mark Ford about what viewers can expect from the series.
Q: What can we expect from these shows?
Ford: Most sports media companies are about live games. What makes us unique is that we're all about the storytelling, the personalities in sports, the story behind the story, and deliver that through great writing and great photography. Now, we're taking that to television.
Q: It sounds like it will look a lot like ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and HBO's "Real Sports."
Ford: You never try to duplicate what someone else is doing. We have a lot of respect for HBO and "Real Sports." What we're going to do is what we do well. We're not patterning ourselves after anybody. We are patterning ourselves behind what our brand is about. We want to maintain that integrity. It won't be a documentary. It will be storytelling, and we hope it will be interesting and exciting. Everything I've seen to date looks pretty good.
Q: What is Sports Illustrated's TV strategy?
Ford: We have an overall strategy, which is not limited to delivering our storytelling through writers and photography through a print version. We do that online. TV is just another element of that story telling.
Q: Why did you choose to partner with NBC Sports Network on this show?
Ford: We're going to do the five shows with them. We're hopeful that this will extend on for years to come. What's different about this is that we have a partner that is really an equal partner in NBC Sports that really appreciates our brand. [NBC Sports President of Programming] Jon Miller and [NBC Sports Chair] Mark Lazarus really understand what's unique about Sports Illustrated. They've been a great partner to work with. They've been extremely respectful of our brand positioning and our editorial integrity. They let [SI Editor] Terry McDonell really be the executive producer.
Q: Why are you partnering with NBC when you have a sister company at Turner Sports that has sports? Why not go in house?
Ford: We're always talking to Turner. We have done deals with Turner in the past. We did a Swimsuit show with TNT. We've done segments on CNN over the years. I'm hopeful that there will be some other opportunities that we can work with Turner on. I'm not ruling out Turner. I have a lot of respect for [Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports] David Levy. We're always talking about where that opportunity is. We don't rule out any partner. We have other ideas in the pipeline around Sportsman of the Year. We don't have a situation where it's an exclusive partnership on TV. We love NBC. Maybe that will become a bigger deal. We don't exclude anybody from partnering. One of our strengths is that we can have this independence because we don't do live games.