Comcast SportsNet Houston “paid for a half-page advertisement” that appeared in last Sunday’s Houston Chronicle in which network President & GM Matt Hutchings wanted to “address impatient viewers,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Hutchings wrote, “Along with the Rockets and the Astros, we at NBC Sports are hard at work negotiating with additional cable, satellite and other providers. We recognize negotiations are taking longer than anyone would like.” Barron noted the name Comcast SportsNet, which “precedes Comcast’s acquisition of a majority interest in NBC Universal, has led many people to presume that NBC is trying to squeeze out other providers in an effort to force viewers to switch to Comcast cable.” But company officials “insist this is not the case; thus, the NBC reference.” Hutchings’ letter also “asked fans to use social media and the company’s website to let carriers know they want access to CSN Houston.” CSN Houston is carried on Comcast, Phonoscope and a “handful of other providers,” but the net has “not been able to reach deals with Verizon or AT&T, DirecTV or Dish.” Meanwhile, it is “amusing to note that AT&T is advertising its U-verse service during Rockets games on CSN Houston.” Barron: “The irony of the matter, of course, is that if you sign up with U-verse, you won’t be able, at least for the moment, to watch Rockets games any more” (CHRON.com, 11/5).
IF A TREE FALLS....: Barron yesterday noted it is “pretty clear” from the CSN Houston ratings that the “lack of availability on satellite and telco carriers and some cable systems is taking a serious bite out of the audience" for Rockets games. The Rockets-Hawks game on Friday “averaged a 1.0 Nielsen rating, which equates to about 22,500 households, for the entire market of 2.2 million TV households.” CSN Houston is “available in an estimated 40 percent of the market.” Meanwhile, the Heat-Knicks game Friday on ESPN, which “has full satellite and cable carriage, averaged a 1.4 household rating in Houston, or about 30,500 households" (CHRON.com, 11/6).
Rumors at ESPN.com are “packaged into a key product behind the Insider pay wall called Rumor Central,” and the name alone “presents a significant conflict to an organization that wants to be indispensable and highly profitable, yet above the scrum that passes for sports journalism in this digital era,” according to Kelly McBride in the latest entry of ESPN's Poynter Review Project. Where a “completely high-minded news organization would wait to see which rumors grow into something more, and a tabloid would dive in without compunction, ESPN straddles the line, serving up a serious helping of rumors, yet staying away from the most shaky, most sordid whispers.” Insider Deputy Editor Daniel Kaufman said, “Part of ESPN's mission is to serve sports fans wherever they are. RC serves that mission by engaging in sometimes dicey conversations in a way that is clearly labeled as different than news.” The NFL Rumor Central blog “generates between 50,000 and 100,000 page views a day (among paid users).” Kaufman said, “We know we are operating in a gray space here.” McBride noted RC “strives to deliver rumors plus context.” The editors are “always trying to tap into ESPN’s vast array of experts to answer these questions: What does it mean? What’s the potential impact?” ESPN “mostly tries to stay out of the muck.” It is “easier to describe what doesn’t go into RC than what does.” Sexual exploits of professional athletes and “immature rants of college recruits are examples of the kind of material RC avoids.” Much of what gets reported “isn’t really a rumor at all.” In sports journalism, the rumor label “gets slapped onto a lot of content because that’s what the audience is primed to consume.” Some examples of “what passes for rumors on ESPN” include expert analysis, mere observation, well-sourced, on-the-record information, anonymously sourced information, information reported by a competitor and actual rumors.
TOE THE LINE: ESPN is “trying to be both: the upstanding, uber-professional sports newsroom, and the gritty know-it-all gossip-monger.” The company “clearly wants to be on higher ground than sites such as The Big Lead or Deadspin, which famously published Brett Favre’s alleged sexting pictures.” Kaufman said, “We don’t go trolling for comments in chatrooms. We are trying to leverage the expertise that we have.” But RC is “an example of how ESPN brushes up against that boundary of ethical behavior, crosses it ever so slightly, then justifies it by trying to bring virtue to an inherently dishonorable pursuit.” McBride: “It hurts the brand by reinforcing the perception that ethics don’t matter to ESPN when there is money to be made. Kaufman’s clear-eyed explanation of the balance he and his staff walk every day is somewhat reassuring. But mere thoughtfulness isn’t enough to declare something journalistically sound.” Hard-core sports fans have “demonstrated a willingness to consume every type of suspect information,” and ESPN “figures out a way to serve them what they want, whether it’s journalism or not” (ESPN.com, 11/6).
Startup social media aggregator Fancloud.com has signed a partnership deal to become part of Fox Sports' Yardbarker network of sites. The California-based Fancloud.com compiles and curates tweets and sports news articles from more than 2,500 sources, and will supply content to Fox' Scout.com destination that is planning to rebrand to FSN. Fancloud.com also is planning an entry into a Bleacher Report-style original content model buttressed by user submissions. Under a new publishing model being developed by Fancloud.com, users will pay $50 for a lifetime pass for the ability to be published on the site and get syndicated within the Yardbarker network. Fancloud.com then will award equity in a new publishing subsidiary to 16 top-performing writers in 0.25% increments over the course of the next year, capping at a total distribution of 49%. "We're obviously encouraged by the Bleacher Report model and what they sold for (to Turner), but we want to take the model and allow top writers to share in that," said Fancloud.com CEO Terence Gelke. Fancloud.com carries a current valuation of $1M after an initial seed funding round.
With TNT's Charles Barkley saying he is not sure how much longer he wants to remain a TV studio analyst, ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "“Charles likes challenges but I hope that there’s something else coming in the broadcast business that will challenge Charles because this business needs him.” Wilbon: "Post-John Madden is the most important single voice in sports broadcasting today.” ESPN's Tony Kornheiser added, “Without question, most popular, most important" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/6). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "He's making millions upon millions of dollars for laughing on television and ... busting with his boys. Why wouldn't you want to do that the remainder of your life?” ("Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 11/6).
ON THE EDIT ROOM FLOOR: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers during his weekly radio show on WAUK-AM Milwaukee admitted that he was “startled by his nearly 12-minute segment,” which aired Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” In Green Bay, Weston Hodkiewicz noted what Rodgers found “most disappointing was how the program chose to not include hardly any footage from his MACC Fund event in May that they’d followed him to.” Rodgers said, “I just felt like the editing of the piece could have been done in a way that was maybe a lot more respectful of myself. If I’m sensitive about anything throughout the whole process, they come to the MACC Fund event in May, which is very important to me and even more important considering the two boys that we lost this year to cancer” (GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.com, 11/6).
COMING TO YOU LIVE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Etan Vlessing reported the CBC “has chosen former MTV Canada production head Mark McInnis and Chris Irwin to mastermind its 2014 Olympic Winter Games coverage.” McInnis comes over to the CBC “from rival broadcaster Bell Media, where he was vp of production for the Much/MTV group of cable channels.” He will produce “live event programming for the CBC's TV network to get Canadians ready for the 2014 Oympics.” Irwin, who “helped stickhandle the CBC's Olympic coverage between 1996 and 2008, will oversee live programming during the Sochi Games” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/6).