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Volume 24 No. 155
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On The Airwaves: The Sports Business Year In Media

Here are some of the highlights from all things media we have seen over the past year.

ESPN waited until December to scale back
its coverage around Tim Tebow 

CARRYING THE TORCH: NBC’s coverage of the London Games drew the net’s highest Olympic ratings in almost 20 years, averaging in 31.1 million viewers over 17 nights of tape-delayed coverage. That number was up 12% from Beijing four years ago and the highest since Atlanta hosted the event in ’96. Fueled in part by the exploits of Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and the rest of the U.S. swimming team, as well as the Fierce Five, more than 219 million viewers tuned in across the NBCUniversal's six networks that carried the two-week event.

EVERYBODY LOVES TIM: Throughout most of the year, it seemed like “SportsCenter” and other ESPN programs could not go 15 minutes without mentioning Jets QB Tim Tebow. Live training camp shots, televised birthday parties, entire debate shows centered around him -- you name it, the net had it. Forget the fact that Tebow has yet to sniff the Jets’ starting lineup. But as the year drew to a close, ESPN President John Skipper said enough was enough, telling producers to scale back their coverage of the NFL’s most famous backup.

SCORING BIG: It took nearly a decade, but NFL Network and Time Warner Cable finally agreed to a carriage deal in September. Some areas around the country did not get to enjoy it right away, though, as technical issues kept viewers from seeing the network or its “RedZone” channel when games began in Week 2 of the NFL season. The network’s expansion from seven to 13 Thursday night games “added impetus” to making a deal.

Andrews has expanded her role at Fox, working
NFL, MLB and college football broadcasts

LADIES FIRST: Erin Andrews, a fixture on ESPN’s college football and basketball coverage for nearly a decade, left the Worldwide Leader this summer for a high-profile gig with Fox. While she has appeared on the sidelines at MLB and NFL games, Andrews’ main responsibilities involved hosting Fox’ college football pregame show. Meanwhile, ESPN lost another of its marquee female personalities when Michelle Beadle joined NBC in time for the Olympics.

NEWS JUDGMENT: The Big Ten Network was roundly criticized for not airing former FBI Dir Louis Freeh’s press conference detailing the results of Penn State’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. The net issued a statement saying it “is not and was never intended to be a news organization.” But when the NCAA issued sanctions two weeks later, BTN devoted four hours of coverage to the news and BTN President Mark Silverman expressed regret for not showing the earlier press conference.

SERVING TOO MANY MASTERS? For all the benefits the Longhorn Network touted as bringing to Univ. of Texas athletics, football coach Mack Brown wondered aloud if he was spending precious time on air that could be used preparing for games. He also stressed concern that opponents may be gaining a competitive advantage from watching the network. Brown said, “There’s no question it takes away some of your time. And when you do a show, if your mind is somewhere else, you’re screwing that up, too.”

BLEACHER CREATURES: Turner Sports in August acquired Bleacher Report for an estimated $175M. The move strengthens Turner’s online presence after SI, the PGA Tour and NASCAR decided to take back more control of their websites. It also resulted in Bleacher Report gaining access to online highlights of Turner Sports content such as the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the NBA. The move is described as Time Warner taking steps to narrow the gap between itself and ESPN.

NEW ENGLISH CHANNEL: NBC finally landed another major property to draw viewers to its all-sports channel, as the peacock signed a multiyear deal for the U.S. EPL rights beginning with the ’13-14 season. NBC’s Mark Lazarus admitted the $80-85M annual price tag is steeper than what Fox and ESPN previously paid, but implied the move would pay off. The net does not plan on airing matches on tape-delay, but it will implement its Olympic strategy of putting games on multiple channels.