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Volume 24 No. 157


ESPN college basketball analyst Bob Knight “most likely will not be retained by the network when his contract is up at the end of the season,” according to sources cited by Jason McIntyre of THE BIG LEAD. An ESPN spokesperson said “no decisions have been made” about Knight’s future. The spokesperson added that Knight has “a few games left in the regular season, perhaps an opening round NIT game, and the former coach will contribute to ESPN’s postseason coverage from the studio or perhaps on-site.” McIntyre noted Knight since joining ESPN in ’08 has “had an up-and-down tenure at the Worldwide Leader, and bottomed out this season with an embarrassing moment at Vanderbilt when he struggled to decipher the shot clock from the game clock, and announcer Rece Davis had to explain it to him.” Sources said that Knight “was a favorite” of Exec VP/Programming & Acquisitions Norby Williamson. After Williamson last year switched to a role more focused on handling relationships with leagues and negotiating media rights deals, many at the net “felt it was clear the mercurial Knight would slowly be phased out” (, 2/18). The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION wrote Knight “provided some genuinely useful insight from a coach's perspective,” and his “straight Xs-and-Os approach was a welcome change from the slobbering sycophants who dominate the hoops analyst lineup at ESPN.” But, “more and more, Knight has been having some cringe-worthy Senior Moments on air.” Listen to Knight call a game and “chances are there will be a few instances where it all seems to be moving too fast for him” (, 2/18).

TNT finished with a 4.6 U.S. rating and 8.0 million viewers for its telecast of the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, up 5% and 13%, respectively, from a 4.4 rating and 7.1 million viewers last year, when the event aired opposite the Academy Awards. The telecast peaked at a 5.0 rating from 9:30-9:45pm ET. TNT saw increases among adults 18-49 and 25-54, as well as among males 18-49 and 25-54. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale led all markets with a 12.6 local rating, followed by San Antonio (9.9) and Memphis (9.7). Host market Houston ranked sixth overall. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 1.9 overnight rating for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, marking the best overnight in the history of the event, which was first played in '04. The 1.9 overnight is up 6% from last year and up 12% from '11 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

New Orleans
Las Vegas

TIME FOR A DO-OVER? ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said he was "selling" the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, as there was “build-up” to a dunk and then the players “missed a million in a row.” Gutierrez: “The build-up for the disappointment kind of let you down.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said he has “never seen so many missed dunks in my entire life” during a contest. Paige: “It was a bad, bad dunk contest.” ESPN's Bomani Jones said the dunk contest was not entertaining because “it’s so hard to impress us now because we’ve seen so many.” Jones: “We’re at a crossroads in the whole contest” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/18). SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said the dunk contest “was absolutely boring.” SNY’s Robin Lundberg said, “Somebody should have jumped over a shark ... before dunking” ("The Wheelhouse," SNY, 2/18). NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle asked, “Can we now agree that the dunk contest has officially died a very slow death? ... The fact that LeBron had, I think, three better dunks in the game than anything I saw in the dunk contest itself is very telling" ("The Crossover," NBC Sports Network, 2/18). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the dunks were "really good, they were creative.” But he added, "The thing is, we’ve seen all the dunks and it’s not famous dunkers, it’s not the best players." Wilbon: "Just take the contest away for five years, let there be some clamor for it and bring it back. ... They have re-styled the dunk (contest) about 10 times the last 20 years. Let it go away for awhile.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the dunk contest “should be put in a time capsule with the Pro Bowl and shipped out to sea on the Carnival Triumph when they refit it.” Kornheiser: “It takes players you’ve never heard of and gives them too much time in the sun” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/18).

Cubs officials yesterday confirmed that the team "plans to begin renegotiating its broadcast rights agreement with WGN-TV, putting nearly half of its televised games in play after the 2014 season and opening the door to a potentially imminent payday that could help fund proposed Wrigley Field renovations," according to Robert Channick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The Cubs and WGN have a broadcast partnership that "dates to 1948." Due to rights deals with WGN and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the club "couldn't create their own cable channel until 2020." Sources estimate that those deals earn the club about $60M "in annual broadcast rights fees combined." The Cubs' deal with CSN Chicago "runs through 2019." The team gets about $20M million "to air 70 games each year on WGN." They have "decided to exercise a renegotiation option with the Tribune Co.-owned station, seeking to boost those revenues for the 2015 season and beyond." WGN will "have a chance to retain those rights, but other media players are likely to get a shot as well." Based on the $60M revenue fee for combined broadcast rights, the Cubs "get about $400,000 per game, far below the market value potentially set by the Dodgers." Under the Dodgers' new deal with Time Warner Cable, the club will be getting about $280M per year, or about $1.8M per game. For the Cubs, who are "looking to offset" a proposed $300M renovation of Wrigley Field "with some new outfield billboards, the broadcast rights issue is a significant opportunity" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/19).

The GUARDIAN's Christian Sylt noted F1 global TV audiences fell last year, driven down by a 34% drop -- or 25 million viewers -- in China, "where several Asian races clashed with other local sports events." Many F1 races in Asia and the Middle East took place during the evening "so that they are broadcast in the morning in the sport's traditional heartland of Europe." But competition with local sports events "fueled the fall in viewer numbers in China." F1's largest market remains Brazil, where viewing figures "accelerated 8.9% year on year." There "were also improvements" in Spain and Italy (GUARDIAN, 2/15).

EVEN STEPHEN: In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y. host Stephen A. Smith on Sunday "became very upset when a caller challenged the veracity of a recent trade rumor he reported exclusively." Instead of "treating the criticism for what it was," Smith "became irate." He said on-air, "I report stuff weeks in advance and get vilified for it. But when it comes to fruition, no one remembers they vilified me. I won’t tell you anything. I have nothing to prove. If you don’t like it, don’t watch me (on ESPN). I don’t have to do it (break stories). I have a radio show, a TV show and a column. I don’t need to do that." Raissman writes it is "never a good idea to threaten your audience, especially when you work for the No. 2 sports talk radio station in town." When you are "basically telling your bosses you are shutting down one part of your operation, well, that ain’t a good idea, either" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/19).

SKATE AMERICA: In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote NBC "did a competent job" with Sunday's "Hockey Day in America," which featured three games and nine hours of coverage across NBC and NBC Sports Network. The day began with a half-hour pregame show that "offered three features, two of which were excellent and one that was not only poorly produced but completely out of place" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/18).

CHARLESTON CHEW: TOM TAYLOR NOW writes, "Somebody on the South Carolina Board of sounds pretty sure that on March 4, the ESPN affiliation will transfer from Kirkman's 'Zone AM 910' WTMZ to sister WWIK, McClellanville." WTMZ will "stay all-sports and air programming from sources such as CBS Sports Radio Network, Fox Sports Radio and NBC Sports Radio Network" (TOM TAYLOR NOW, 2/19 issue).