NBC’s Bob Costas this morning appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show” and discussed the halftime essay he delivered during Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game that touched on the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide and gun control. Costas said during the first quarter of the game, NBC Producer Sam Flood "told me exactly what it was we were going to do." The "Football Night In America" pregame show "concentrated only on the tragedy in Kansas City ... and then Sam told me that I would have about a minute and 15 seconds to address this in some way.” Costas said at that point, there had “been a day of reactions, some of them well thought out and some less so, on the various NFL programs. So I was thinking, ‘How can I come at this from a different angle?’" He said, “What I was trying to say was that if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we could begin to talk about and think about. The problem was that I didn't have enough time to get to many of them and … I left it open to too much misinterpretation.” He noted a "discussion should ensue within sports about the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence ... issues that should be discussed if we're looking for some kind of elusive perspective after an event like this” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 12/4). In St. Louis, Joe Holleman reports Costas “knew he would catch grief from those who oppose stricter controls on firearm ownership.” Costas said, “I knew there would be a reaction to that, and I am not dismayed by that at all.” But he added that he “wasn’t necessarily calling for tighter gun controls and pointed out that he was highlighting a writer’s commentary on the country’s ‘gun culture'” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/4).
SPORTS NOT IMMUNE FROM WORLD PROBLEMS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Costas years ago "figured his audience had the depth and capacity to handle opinions on issues not entirely sports-related," including those "touching the world of sports, which is comprised of everyday people." That is "totally lost on those now calling for Costas to be fired.” To call for his dismissal "by hiding behind the transparent argument that he should not have taken an advocacy stance during a football telecast is totally disingenuous.” Costas' critics would have “more credibility if they just came out and said Costas should be fired because he’s pro-gun control.” Raissman: “Would they rather have Costas try and bury the story like CBS’ ‘The NFL Today’ did?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, "Sometimes things happen, no matter whether they happen in entertainment or sports, that lead to serious conversation, and if people can’t respect difference of opinion around that conversation, then we’ve got another additional problem” (“PTI,” ESPN, 12/3). But the NATIONAL REVIEW's Rich Lowry writes Costas is “an extraordinary and justly acclaimed broadcaster, who apparently hasn't spared a moment’s reflection to the long-running argument over guns in our society” (NATIONALREVIEW.com, 12/4).
While NFL Network's decision to add five more "Thursday Night Football" telecasts this season is "paying off for itself," a report from investment research firm Sanford Bernstein says the additional games are "hurting the big four broadcast networks," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Primetime ratings for the four broadcast nets this TV season “are down about 8% in the key adults 18-49 demographic.” Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger “attributes 25% of that drop to the NFL Network's Thursday games.” Juenger yesterday released a report that called the NFL a "frenemy" to the broadcast nets. Flint notes NFLN has “grown and even though it is still not as widely distributed as a typical broadcast channel, its Thursday games have on occasion gotten more viewers than NBC's Thursday lineup.” Thursday is “one of the most important nights for the television industry because advertisers, particularly movie studios and car companies, like to spend heavily there in advance of the weekend.” Juenger estimates that NFLN “gets about $20 million in commercial dollars per game or $140 million for its whole season.” Given that football's audience is “primarily men, the network most likely feeling the sting is ESPN.” Juenger: “The NFL Network effectively added a significant supply of available advertising impressions against the same target audience, in the same programming environment, as ESPN” (L.A. TIMES, 12/4).
EASTERN FRONT: ESPN earned an 11.6 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s Giants-Redskins “MNF” telecast, which is tied with Bears-Cowboys in Week 4 as the best “MNF” overnight this season to date. Giants-Redskins is up 68% from a 6.9 overnight for Chargers-Jaguars in Week 13 last year. Last night's telecast peaked at a 13.0 rating from 9:30-9:45pm ET. In DC, the game earned a 20.9 local rating on ESPN and a 10.3 rating on WDCA-Ind. In N.Y., the game earned an 11.9 rating on ESPN and a 6.9 rating on WWOR-Ind (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).
Former MLBer Jim Deshaies yesterday was “the surprise choice as the Cubs' new TV analyst,” receiving a “four-year deal to replace Bob Brenly alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper,” according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Deshaies has “some big shoes to fill in the Cubs' broadcast booth, after Steve Stone and Brenly endeared themselves to fans over the years with their blunt criticism of players and the team itself.” Deshaies, who will be introduced tomorrow at a news conference at Wrigley Field, is a “former Astros pitcher who spent the last 16 years in Houston's TV booth.” Sources said that he “signed a four-year contract worth in excess of $2 million.” A source added that the Astros “never were really competitive with their offer," believing Deshaies' ties to the organization "would keep him from leaving.” Former Cubs P Dan Plesac, ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe, Fox' Eric Karros and CSN Chicago's Todd Hollandsworth were “among the candidates considered for the Cubs' opening," along with Nationals 3B Mark DeRosa, who is "undecided as to whether to continue playing.” WGN Dir of Productions Bob Vorwald “interviewed the candidates along with” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney. Vorwald said that Deshaies' “lack of Cubs ties was not a factor in the search” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/4). MLB.com’s Alyson Footer wrote Deshaies was “considered by some as a long shot to land the job, only because it was widely assumed WGN preferred to have a former Cub as its color commentator (although Brenly had no previous history with the Cubs, either)” (MLB.com, 12/3).
LOST TREASURE: Deshaies said that the Astros “made a multi-year offer for him to remain in Houston.” In Houston, David Barron wrote it is Deshaies’ “combination of dry wit and baseball acumen that Astros fans will miss.” Deshaies’ departure “comes at a time of unprecedented upheaval for Astros broadcasting.” The club’s games will “move next year to Comcast SportsNet Houston after being on Fox Sports Houston and its predecessor networks” since ‘83. Both of the team's radio analyst positions "are vacant with Milo Hamilton’s retirement from full-time announcing and the decision not to retain announcers Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond.” However, Deshaies said that his decision had “nothing to do with the widespread changes that have taken place" under Owner Astros Jim Crane. Deshaies said that “the fact that one of his children attends law school at the University of Illinois contributed to his decision” (CHRON.com, 12/3).
RESERVE YOUR JUDGMENT: ESPN CHICAGO’s Jesse Rogers wrote Cubs fans should “give Deshaies time in the booth, before deciding if it’s a good hire or not.” Already some fans are “reacting negatively because he isn't a former Cubs player.” Rogers: “All things being equal -- and they weren't -- it would be understandable for a former Cub to be a frontrunner for the job." But no one "on the short list had the broadcast resume Deshaies has." Maybe a "charismatic Karros or DeRosa would have been fine but Deshaies is the better bet.” The Deshaies hiring “lacks the buzz the Cubs so desperately need these days, but the hiring of a broadcaster shouldn't be the place a team finds its energy” (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 12/3).
Comcast SportsNet Houston is “still working on distribution” for Rockets games, according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. CSN Houston is “available in about 40 percent of the 2.2 million TV households in the 20-county Houston designated market area," meaning a majority of area viewers are “in the dark on Rockets game nights.” CSN Houston is “believed to be seeking $3.40 per month per subscriber.” CSN Houston President & GM Matt Hutchings and Exec Producer & VP/Production Murphy Brown remained "as stymied as viewers by distribution delays.” Through 15 games, Rockets games are averaging 0.95 local rating in Houston, "which equals about 21,050 households,” down from a 1.45 rating for the first 15 games on FS Houston last season. Despite the drop, CSN Houston officials said that the audience “reflects higher viewership among those who have access to CSN Houston.” The net also has “gained traction for its three nightly newscasts and its pregame and postgame shows, all of which offer more detail than Fox provided." Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures co-Founder & CEO Chris Bevilacqua said, “To have 40 percent when you launch is pretty good. I think it will eventually lead to where most regional sports networks are, which is full distribution in their home territory. I suspect the same will happen in Houston. It’s too early to compromise. These companies (producers and distributors) do a lot of business with each other. That’s why these things tend to get worked out” (CHRON.com, 11/30).
Time Warner Cable President, Chair & CEO Glenn Britt yesterday “warned entertainment companies that he plans to take a ‘hard look’ at programming contracts and may drop TV channels that ‘cost too much relative to the value of the service,’” according to Ramachandran & Stewart of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. TWC and several other pay-TV distributors have “recently complained vocally about the rising fees that entertainment companies, especially those with valuable sports programming, are charging to carry their channels.” Britt said that since ‘08 TWC’s programming costs “have gone up more than 30%, while the prices it charges video customers have only increased 15%.” Britt: "We've accumulated networks that hardly anybody watches.” Britt also “expressed frustration at programmers who think that full distribution across cable platforms is a ‘birthright’” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/4).
POWER OF SPORTS: In L.A., Flint & James wrote under the header, “Rising Sports Programming Costs Could Have Consumers Crying Foul.” Cox Senior VP/Content Acquisition Bob Wilson “estimated that sports account for more than 50% of the bill for the provider's Southern California subscribers even though just 15% to 20% are regular watchers” (L.A. TIMES, 12/2).
COSTLY CHANNELS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Tom Gara cites data from SNL Kagan showing estimated annual affiliate revenue for various cable channels in '11, comprised of the “total fees charged, divided by the number of houses who actually watch the channel.” There is a “disparity, even among the top 20: ESPN, the number one, earns more than five times as much per household as the Style Network at number 20.” SNL Kagan Senior Analyst Derek Blaine “thinks the channels that will face the toughest negotiations will be those attracting premium fees alongside relatively small audiences and no major media group backing them up.” Examples in the top 20 “include soccer station GolTV” (WSJ.com, 12/3).
TOP 20 CABLE NETWORKS IN TERMS OF
AFFILIATE REVENUE, DIVIDED BY DAILY VIEWERSHIP
SI's selection of Heat F LeBron James as its '12 Sportsman of the Year has drawn a lot of reaction -- both positive and negative -- since it was announced yesterday morning. SI's Lee Jenkins, who wrote the magazine's accompanying story on James, said he was “reluctant at first” to agree with the selection of James because it "seemed too fast, too soon from ‘The Decision.'" However, Jenkins added, “He has said and done pretty much all of the right things over the past 12-15 months, and I think you’ve got to give him a nod for that.” Jenkins: "As far as his year, it was historic." SI’s Jim Trotter said, “This award was as much about him maturing and learning humility than it was what he accomplished on the court” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 12/3). SI’s Chris Mannix said James “was the perfect choice because nobody’s had a better individual year than LeBron James, both on and in some ways off the court.” James was named NBA MVP, won his first NBA championship and a second Olympic Gold Medal. He also “cleaned up his image over this past year." Mannix: "He’s not the same jackass that he was.” NBC Sports Network’s Erik Kuselias said, “I don’t even think it’s close.” He said of James, “He was A-Rod before this year. He was kind of that guy who couldn’t get it done in a big spot” ("NBC Sports Talk," NBCSN, 12/3). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “It could have been Usain Bolt, but I’m good with LeBron. I think he’s a clear choice actually” (“PTI,” ESPN, 12/3).
OTHER CHOICES: NBCSN’s Ross Tucker said he was thinking “outside the box” and that British distance runner Mo Farah should have been Sportsman of the Year because he won two Olympic Gold Medals “in his home country, that’s very hard to do.” SI’s Pete Thamel said South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius should have been selected because “he transcended sport by doing what he did and appearing in the Olympics." Thamel: "I think that’s what sportsmanship should be about, not LeBron James not saying anything dumb for a year” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBCSN, 12/3).
Universal Sports yesterday announced that it will move its production and broadcast operations from Southern California to Denver. The move, which will take place next year, will see Universal Sports use Comcast Media Center (CMC) for studio production facilities, distribution and other services. Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, has a minority stake in Universal Sports. The state of Colorado is giving Universal Sports a grant under its Film Incentive program for the move. The cable channel, which has been based in Southern California since its inception in '06, claims it will create 44 new jobs in Colorado. The Southern California production operation currently has approximately 100 employees. About half of them will relocate to Colorado. Universal Sports will keep its marketing, digital and administrative staff of approximately 30 people in L.A.
Orioles attorney Alan Rifkin and Owner Peter Angelos yesterday said that “reports of a possible MASN sale are inaccurate.” Rifkin: “There has been no contact. There has been no offer. There has been no discussion of it. MASN is not for sale." In Baltimore, Chris Korman notes the original report in this week's SportsBusiness Journal noted Fox and Comcast have had negotiations with Angelos “about acquiring his majority share of the television network and the rights to both Orioles and Nationals games” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 12/3). PASSPORT REQUIRED: In London, Paul Kelso notes the EPL "secured a deal" to show matches on cruise ships and airplanes. The deal with IMG Worldwide will “mean games already broadcast in more than 200 countries worldwide are screened on select airlines and shipping lines using technology not available when the last TV deal was struck three years ago.” IMG in a release said that matches "would be shown live and in highlights on the Sport 24 channel on specially-equipped Lufthansa and Gulf Air planes as well as Norwegian Cruise Liners, and that discussions were taking place with a number of other airlines and cruise liner companies" (London TELEGRAPH, 12/4). AM I HOT OR NOT? ADWEEK named ESPN as its “Hottest Sports Network” for ’12. The publication also named Golf Digest its “Best Publication For The Sports Nut” (ADWEEK, 12/3 issue).