DirecTV Exec VP & CFO Pat Doyle yesterday said that "if the price tag went too high in the next rights deal negotiations, DirecTV would consider striking a non-exclusive deal with the NFL or possibly even [drop]" the NFL Sunday Ticket package, according to Georg Szalai of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Doyle spoke at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Florida and addressed the future of Sunday Ticket "amid rising sports costs" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 3/6). The company's current deal with the NFL is for four years and $4B. It expires after the '14 season (THE DAILY). CABLEFAX DAILY notes if the "price is right," the provider "will renew." However, Doyle said, "We're not necessarily concerned about going to nonexclusive, it it's structured properly. Our goal would always be to keep it exclusive if we can" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 3/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Josh Katzowitz noted if DirecTV "declines to sign a deal, you can be sure there will be a way for you to see every single NFL game on Sunday afternoon regardless" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/6). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Shalini Ramachandran notes Cablevision, Verizon FiOS and DirecTV all have "added sports-channel surcharges on their cable packages over the past 12 months, but have all said the fees only partially cover the cost of the sports programming." DirecTV's sports surcharge was "instituted last summer and isn't included in the 4.5% average rate increase the company instituted for this year" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/7). MEDIA POST's Wayne Friedman noted DirecTV has been "experimenting with a surcharge to customers when it comes to regional sports channels." Doyle said, "We have been surprised with the reaction, which has been pretty mild" (MEDIAPOST.com, 3/6).
ESPN sideline reporter Jenn Brown "has left" the net, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Brown joined ESPN fulltime in February '10 and "eventually morphed into a high-profile assignment on the sidelines for ESPN's Thursday Night college football primetime telecast." At the time, ESPN execs were "clearly positioning her as a replacement for Erin Andrews should Andrews depart from the network." Last year, Samantha Ponder was "given the Thursday Night assignment as well as a role on College GameDay." Brown worked last season "on ESPN's Saturday noon game." Brown "first joined ESPN as a freelance correspondent" in '06 (SI.com, 3/6).
ON HIS WAY BACK? Recent reports have broadcaster Keith Olbermann interested in returning to ESPN, and THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre cited sources as saying that it "wasn't a give-me-a-job plea from Olbermann." Sources said that ESPN President John Skipper wants Olbermann "back, and they’re very likely going to get him -- as early as late-May." A recent story in the N.Y. Times about Olbermann returning to the net "wasn’t a test balloon from Skipper to his employees to see if a revolt would happen -- although many privately expressed their dismay to me -- it was a test balloon with Disney executives." Ultimately, they will "determine whether or not Olbermann goes back to ESPN." Competition in the sports space "is suddenly fierce, with NBC and Fox constantly making moves on ESPN talent." If ESPN "doesn’t hire Olbermann, someone else eventually would." However, a Fox Sports source said that it will "never happen, given his history with Rupert Murdoch" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 3/6).
FACING THE CRITICS: In L.A., Daniel Miller reported Disney Chair & CEO Robert Iger "faced tough questioning about alleged liberal bias" at ABC News and ESPN during the company's annual meeting in Phoenix yesterday. Iger "conceded that 'over time, we have been guilty of making mistakes,' while declining to address specific instances of bias." Iger said, "We have at times either presented the news in slightly inaccurate ways through mistakes or in ways that we weren’t necessarily proud of. But I firmly stand behind the integrity of our news organizations" (L.A. TIMES, 3/7).
The Big Ten and Learfield Sports today launch a new mobile app specifically for the upcoming Big Ten tournament. “Big Ten Connect” will be a stand-alone app for the tournament that provides subscribers with live radio broadcasts of every game of the tournament, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, Twitter coverage and photo galleries. The tournament runs March 14-17. The app, available for iPhone and Android devices, costs $0.99 from the iTunes App Store and Google Play. LG is sponsoring the app. Learfield Chief Content Officer Joe Ferreira said the app will provide “a second-screen experience that allows fans to follow and connect" with the tournament. Learfield is the multimedia rights holder for the Big Ten. “Big Ten Connect” represents the first product launch by Learfield’s new digital division, with help on streaming radio broadcasts from Compass Media Networks and app development from NeuLion (Michael Smith, Staff Writer).
ON THE GO: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Chris Herring asked Knicks G J.R. Smith which app he used the most for his job. Smith said, "The [NBA] League Pass app. I'm using that almost every day, because it helps me keep up with all the teams, and lets me watch all my friends who are in the league. So that's the one that has the most to do with work, I guess." Herring asked which app was his guilty pleasure. Smith: "I'd say the (PGA Tour) app for golf. That's my buddy right there. I always want to know what's going on in the golf world. So that's an everyday thing, too" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/7)
Former NFLer Hunter Hillenmeyer is “putting the finishing touches on a mobile app expected to launch by mid-April that will give fans opportunities to play athletes head-to-head in video games using systems such as PS3 and Xbox,” according to Brad Biggs of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. It is believed to be the “first such major platform dedicated to connecting players with fans.” Hillenmeyer co-founded the company OverDog and said that “more than 100 athletes from a wide range of sports are in place for the launch.” Games available will include “Madden, FIFA, NBA2K, Call of Duty and HALO.” Hillenmeyer said, “Say for instance [Bears LB Lance Briggs] wants to play. He will pull out his phone, go to the mobile app, and say, ‘I want to challenge my fans in Halo on Xbox.’ He hits challenge and then any fan who has the OverDog app would get a notification, ‘Lance is going to play Halo, are you interested?’” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/6).
In N.Y., Amy Chozick reported Time Warner yesterday "announced it would spin off its Time Inc. magazine unit into a separate, publicly traded company, a move that will allow the media conglomerate to focus entirely on its cable television and film businesses.” The announcement came hours after Time Warner and Meredith Corp. “ended negotiations on a proposal that would have joined in a separate company many Time Inc. titles with magazines published by Meredith.” The deal “fell apart in part because of Time Warner’s concern over the fate of four of Time Inc.’s famous but struggling magazines -- Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money” (NYTIMES.com, 3/6). In N.Y., Keith Kelly writes the hiring of Time Inc. CEO Laura Lang “proved disastrous.” Sources said that Time Warner Chair & CEO Jeff Bewkes “grew impatient with publishing because he had lost confidence in her ability to turn it around" (N.Y. POST, 3/7).
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith wrote in a memo yesterday that city officials “can’t force Time Warner to broadcast Padres games or require it give cable companies that carry the games access to infrastructure.” But Goldsmith wrote an organized effort by Time Warner Cable customers “could do wonders.” In San Diego, Matthew Hall notes Goldsmith’s involvement "comes a few days after” San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and City Council member Sherri Lightner sent letters to TWC execs in N.Y. “urging them to end the impasse before it stretches into a second year” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/7).
MEDIA HIRES: In Houston, David Barron reported CBS Radio’s new program director for KILT-AM and KIKK-AM is Ryan McCredden, who previously “worked for four years with CBS Radio in Dallas.” He also was exec producer for the Texas Rangers Radio Network (CHRON.com, 3/6)....In Cincinnati, C. Trent Rosecrans noted he has “joined the team” at the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he will serve as a Reds beat writer alongside John Fay (CINCINNATI.com, 3/6)....The N.Y. Times promoted Metro Reporter Sam Dolnick to Deputy Sports Editor (THE DAILY).