SEC Commissioner Mike Slive yesterday would not confirm that the conference "would join the Big Ten and Pac-12 with a dedicated cable channel," but did say it would make "a formal announcement within the next couple months, if not sooner," according to George Schroeder of USA TODAY. The SEC is "renegotiating its long-term rights deals with ESPN and CBS after Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league." Slive said, "We've been looking at all of our options since we added A&M and Missouri. As these conversations have evolved, we've now begun to focus clearly on what we think is the right way to go." Schroeder notes what form an SEC network "would take is unclear, though it likely would be a partnership of some sort with ESPN." SEC members would have to "relinquish their individual media rights deals for non-marquee football and men's basketball games." And like the Pac-12 and Big Ten, the SEC "must secure distribution beyond its regional footprint." Slive said, "All of those questions are questions that need to be answered before final decisions are made" (USA TODAY, 12/20).
Turner Sports yesterday announced that Isiah Thomas will join NBA TV as a studio analyst, making his debut during Friday's "AutoTrader.com Pre-Game Show." He will make several appearances on the net each month and will be a regular contributor to NBA.com (Turner Sports). In N.Y., Bob Raissman noted Thomas is making his second foray into TV, having appeared on NBC's NBA coverage after he left the Raptors in '98. Thomas "worked occasionally as a game analyst but was primarily used in the studio." His past performance “didn't exactly receive rave reviews,” as he was “stiff and didn't exactly offer incredible insight” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 12/19). AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Matt Yoder wrote, “Much like Matt Millen, it's tough to see Thomas have any great credibility with viewers thanks to his many jobs and high-profile failures in recent years. Yes, he's a Hall of Fame player, but can he get anyone watching to actually remember those days in analyzing the league and convince people he really does know something about basketball?” (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 12/19).
SI.com's Richard Deitsch yesterday named his best and worst media awards for '12, selecting a "group of people in television, radio, print and online who were newsworthy." Deitsch chose Fox' Joe Buck for his "Person of the Year." Buck is an "exceptional baseball announcer and he's improved yearly in football." Buck's skills were "most visible on Oct. 14 when he called an NFL game (49ers-Giants at Candlestick Park) in the afternoon and an MLB playoff game (Cardinals-Giants at AT&T Park) at night, a television stunt that promoted Fox Sports but also highlighted the broadcaster's unique versatility." Deitsch wrote, "Most impressively, Buck's performance came less than a year after a virus he contracted in the laryngeal nerve of his left vocal cord nearly cost him his career." Deitsch's "Announcing Team of the Year" went to NBC's "SNF" team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Michaels is a "fanatically prepared play-by-play maestro whose game calls are flawless," while Collinsworth is "sensational at foreshadowing the action." Deitsch also noted ESPN's NBA duo of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy and Fox' NFL tandem Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts "are both sensational teams that rated just a shade behind the top group." The "Best Game Analyst" award ended up in a tie between ESPN's Jay Bilas, Collinsworth and Fouts, while Deitsch tabbed ESPN's Doris Burke as '12's "Best Sideline Reporter." Deitsch wrote of Burke, "Retire the category now. A remarkable combination of editorial independence, professionalism and smarts" (SI.com, 12/19).
FoxSoccer.com completed the most-trafficked 12-month span in its history, generating an averaging of 2.6 million unique visitors per month between December '11 and November '12, according to data from comScore. The total is up 65% from the prior year. FoxSoccer.com additionally reached 3.625 million uniques in November, the site's largest total for any month not during a men's or women's World Cup. Fox Soccer is losing exclusive content rights to the EPL following NBC's recent rights deal, but retains exclusive U.S. digital highlight rights with the UEFA Champions League and CONCACAF, among others. "To get these numbers during the regular season we think speaks to the kind of investments we made and the momentum we're building," said Fox Soccer VP/Interactive Media Bhavesh Patel.
In DC, Dan Steinberg noted there likely will be a Wild Card berth and/or an NFC East division title "on the line when the Redskins host the Cowboys in Week 17," and "many of us have assumed that game was destined for Sunday Night Football on NBC." However, Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "is apparently unconvinced." Jones said, "Right now, it's scheduled to be played as (scheduled), and I'm doubtful that one will be changed." Steinberg noted Fox and CBS are "not allowed to 'protect' any Week 17 games, and while the league consults with the networks, the final decision is made in the NFL offices." The league in the past has "attempted to announce the Week 17 primetime selection early enough for NBC to promote that matchup during its Week 16 broadcast" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/19).
SUPER STREAM: The NFL yesterday announced that coverage of CBS' Super Bowl XLVII and NBC's Pro Bowl and Wild Card playoff games will be streamed live online and on mobile phones, in part through NFL Mobile from Verizon. NFL.com and CBSSports.com will stream the Super Bowl, and NBC's three games will be streamed on NFL.com and NBCSports.com. Complementing that stream will be extra features such as camera angles and in-game highlights. Last year's first live stream of a Super Bowl in the U.S. drew 2.1 million users (NFL).
GREEN SCREEN: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reported the first production of NFL films, entitled "They Call It Pro Football," was among 25 films "chosen for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry." The registry was "created in 1989," and the clip of the film "carries images of Lambeau Field and some sideline chatter from Packers' running back Paul Hornung." Other films with a sports connection among the 25 chosen were "The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight" (1897) and "A League of Their Own" (1992) (JSONLINE.com, 12/19).
SI.com's Jon Wertheim reported following the U.S. Open's switch to a Monday men's final starting next year, CBS "will get a seven-figure fee reduction ... because of the switched slots and lower ratings." The men's final is "now being held at a time when half of America is still at work. And most of Europe is asleep." CBS' U.S. Open deal expires in '14, but "we know these contracts can be broken early." ESPN "may take over under a 'first ball to last ball' marketing plan." In that case, the men's final "won't be Monday, as ESPN, of course, has rights to Monday Night Football and won't cannibalize prime programming." It might move to a "Wimbledon-style format whereby Super Saturday dies and it simply becomes the day of the women's final." The "other possibility I hear: Fox takes over the network contract and is more amenable to a men's final in Monday prime time" (SI.com, 12/19).
MOTOWN MISSTEP: In Detroit, Tony Paul writes Tigers fans were "none too pleased" that both FS Detroit and MLB Network decided not to air Monday's press conference announcing the new contract for P Anibal Sanchez. A live feed "wasn't available," because the press conference took place at Comerica Park's Tiger Club -- "where all Tigers offseason press conferences take place" -- instead of the normal media room. MLB Net did "get its hands on footage later in the day, and showed it." But FS Detroit said that it "did not have the necessary equipment available at that time to do a live feed" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/20).
SKY NET: USA TODAY's Jim Michaels reports after "rapidly expanding the number of drones around the world, the Air Force is reaching out to ESPN and other experts in video analysis to keep up with the flood of footage the unmanned aircraft are transmitting." Air Force officials "met with ESPN to learn how it handles a huge volume of video feeds." The Air Force said that the visit "did not lead to any technological breakthroughs, but helped develop training and expertise" (USA TODAY, 12/20).
STARTING ANEW: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted Washington Post columnist John Feinstein is "being used as a holiday-time fill-in on" WJFK-FM. Station Program Dir Chris Kinard said, "Since he’s in the CBS family and already a regular guest on The Fan, it’s a great opportunity for us to have a quality host help us with vacation fill-in, and a great opportunity for John to get ready for the launch of his new, national show" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/19)....In Ft. Lauderdale, Keven Lerner noted former NFLer Joe Rose has "signed a three-year contract extension" with WQAM-AM. His show "airs weekday mornings" from 6am-10am ET (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 12/17)....Lerner in a separate piece reported NHL Panthers announcer Steve Goldstein and local radio host Jeff DeForrest "are launching a new morning show" on WINZ-AM weekdays from 6:00-10:00am ET (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 12/19).