Univ. of Kansas Athletics and ESPN have agreed to a seven-year deal for the school's national Tier-3 rights, starting with the '13-14 academic year. In what is being called one of the largest deals to date for ESPN3, the online service will annually carry a minimum of 70 live events distributed nationally. KU recently announced a deal with Time Warner Cable for 50 telecasts on K.C.-based Metro Sports. ESPN3 will deliver those 50 events nationally outside the K.C. market, plus a minimum of 20 exclusive contests (ESPN). In Kansas, Matt Tait noted while the new deals with ESPN and TWC will "put KU athletics in more homes than Texas’ more highly publicized Longhorn Network, they leave in question the availability of six early-season men’s basketball games that KU fans across Kansas have become accustomed to seeing: two exhibition games and four regular-season, non-conference games." Fans without TWC or ESPN3 may "miss those six games." Even those who "have the subscription-based ESPN Full Court service, which only includes regular-season college basketball contests, will miss the two exhibition games." All other games will "be unaffected" (LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD, 6/26). KU Associate AD/Public Affairs Jim Marchiony said that the school was "still working on the details for markets outside of Kansas City, including Wichita." KU officials previously said that all KU basketball games would "be available state-wide." In K.C., Rustin Dodd notes KU "joins Texas as the only Big 12 school with a third-tier rights agreement with ESPN" (K.C. STAR, 6/26). In Topeka, Kevin Haskin wrote, "On the road? Plan on moving? This package could really help you stay connected with the Jayhawks. ... Downloading is quite easy for some who constantly watch events on their phones, tablets, laptops and televisions" (CJONLINE.com, 6/25).
DOES DEAL SIGNAL REALIGNMENT'S RENEWAL? SI.com's Andy Staples wrote KU's deal with ESPN and the "next few like it should give us a much better idea about the next step for college sports at large." Staples predicts there will "be another wave of realignment," and the ACC's agreement to a Grant of Rights for the remainder of its media rights deal with ESPN "merely pressed the pause button." The recent "wave of realignment was defined by cable subscriber fees and new markets." Staples: "What will define the next one? We're about to find out." If deals like KU's "are a hit" and ESPN execs "decide the future will be piped through a router and not a cable box, then they have the infrastructure in place to become their own distributor" (SI.com, 6/25). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd writes under the header, "Kansas Quietly Monetizes The Last Valuable Piece Of College Sports TV." Dodd: "This KU deal is similar to the Longhorn Network except, in this case, there is no mewling about availability, distribution or clearance. it can be argued at this moment those six Kansas men's basketball games and one football game are the most valuable pieces of college programming available until the Big Ten's current contract runs out in 2016" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/26).
MSG Network and the YES Network have “landed the regional cable sports rights" to Syracuse Univ. football and men's basketball, according to Brent Axe of the Syracuse POST-STANDARD. New York's regional Time Warner Cable SportsChannel networks, which previously held SU's regional cable TV rights, is now “at the back of the line in terms of how SU football and men's basketball games are distributed.” ESPN gets “first choice of games and will select what they determine to be the most attractive matchups.” Once ESPN has “made its pick for their entire family of networks and for their online channel ESPN3, the next in line is Raycom Sports,” which distributes games via the ACC Network. Through Raycom's deal with MSG and YES, the nets are now “second in line.” Meanwhile, CNY Central “recently acquired the local ‘over the air rights’ offered by Raycom.” TWC has been a “major sponsor of SU athletics in recent years and has used the fact that certain games and SU-related programming could be seen only on TWCSC as a selling point to customers.” The networks "may still air some Syracuse football and men's basketball games not picked up by ESPN or Raycom." A Time Warner spokesperson said that the nets will “continue to air Syracuse-related programming, including coaches shows, pre- and post-game shows and play-by-play of other Syracuse University sports.” The spokesperson also pointed out that MSG and YES "both are available on Time Warner Cable” (SYRACUSE.com, 6/25).
The six games of the Blackhawks-Bruins NHL Stanley Cup Final averaged a 3.3 final rating and 5.8 million viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Network, marking the most-watched Final since at least ’94. The six games, three of which went to OT, were also up 83% and 91%, respectively, from a 1.8 rating and 3.0 million viewers for the six-game Kings-Devils series last year. For 84 telecasts across NBC, NBCSN and CNBC, the NHL Playoffs averaged 1.5 million viewers, marking the most-viewed postseason since ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox averaged 1.5 million viewers in ’97. The ’13 postseason also is up 18% from last year. NBCSN had three of its five most-viewed NHL telecasts ever during the ’13 playoffs, including its two games during the Final. The markets of Boston, Detroit, L.A., Minneapolis, N.Y. and Pittsburgh each posted record ratings on NBC or NBCSN during the Playoffs.
NHL STANLEY CUP FINAL AUDIENCE TREND (NBC/NBC SPORTS NETWORK)
CLINCHER: Monday night’s clinching Game 6 on NBC finished with a 4.7 rating and 8.2 million viewers, marking the second-best Game 6 viewership since ’94. The audience also marked NBC's third-best NHL game audience since it acquired TV rights prior to the '05-06 season. NBC finished second in primetime on Monday behind Game 6, with CBS winning the night behind the premiere of "Under the Dome." In Canada, another 3.4 million viewers watched Game 6 on the CBC. Across all of North America, Game 6 was watched by 12.3 million viewers across the CBC, NBC and French-language RDS in Canada.
MOST-VIEWED NHL GAMES IN THE U.S. SINCE '06 (ALL NBC)
The "optimism around college baseball’s TV potential stems largely from the results produced" during the College World Series, which since '07 has seen viewership range "between 1.1 million and 1.9 million on ESPN," according to Matthew Harris of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. ESPN2 in that time frame "posted averages between 770,000 and 1 million viewers." The format of the CWS "certainly plays to the network’s advantage." For the first four days of the tournament, ESPN "gets two games -- one in the afternoon and one at night." Holding the championship series on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday "ensures it doesn’t compete head to head" with Wimbledon or the Stanley Cup Final. However, questions "arise over what role the network might play in shaping the event." The NCAA in the past two years has "discussed the possibility of altering the NCAA tournament’s format, adding a 32-team round at campus sites with best-of-three series to replace the traditional regional stage." Moving forward, college baseball "figures prominently into ESPN’s plans, including 270 live games and branded showcases" such as ACC Monday and the SEC Game of the Week. Conferences are "eager to use baseball as another avenue to access TV revenue, and follow the CWS’ method of using the exposure to drive attendance on campus." How the SEC Network handles college baseball "will offer an insight into whether the sport -- outrageously popular at LSU, Mississippi State and Arkansas -- appears as a leading candidate." SEC Network Senior Programming Dir Chris Turner said, "What is happening on national networks will not change moving forward. We’re simply migrating some content over and boosting our inventory as it expands for the SEC Network" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 6/23).
ESPN The Magazine announced the 21 athletes who will appear in this year's edition of its "Body Issue," with volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings to “appear in photos shot both before and after" the birth of her daughter, and Golf HOFer Gary Player becoming "the oldest person to appear” in the issue, according to Chuck Schilken of the L.A. TIMES. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who will appear along with teammate TE Vernon Davis, said that he is “looking forward to revealing even more of his famous body art.” The fifth annual issue is “set to hit newsstands July 12” (LATIMES.com, 6/25).
ESPN THE MAGAZINE BODY ISSUE ATHLETES
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
Tennis player Agnieszka Radwanska
Volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings
Tennis player John Isner
Golf HOFer Gary Player
UFC fighter Miesha Tate
49ers TE Vernon Davis
Soccer player Sydney Leroux
NHRA driver Courtney Force
Golfer Carly Booth
Wizards G John Wall
Snowboarder Elena Hight
Nuggets F Kenneth Faried
Rock climber Chris Sharma
Mets P Matt Harvey
Rock climber Daila Ojeda
Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton
Boxer Marlen Esparza
WNBA Sky F Swin Cash
Motocross rider Tara Gieger
Maple Leafs LW Joffrey Lupul
UNDERNEATH IT ALL:Tate said that posing for the magazine "wasn't a decision she took lightly.” Tate: “I was a little nervous when they first approached me. It really took some quality group decision making for me to do it. ... I'm proud of my physique. I work really hard, and I felt like that was a very appropriate way to kind of show it and to be able to look back on it one day and say, 'You know, that was me when I was young.'” She added, “My goal is to be respected first and foremost as an athlete. However, I don't see any problem with a woman embracing her beauty” (USA TODAY, 6/26). Harvey said, "It was definitely kind of nerve-wracking at first. I've never been fully nude in front of random people like that before, especially with a camera around. But now it's all done with. It was a fun experience. It's going to be a cool issue” (ESPNNY.com, 6/25). In N.Y., Kristie Ackert reports Harvey “did the photo shoot two weeks ago in a hotel conference room.” He indicated that "there was not full nudity" in his photos. Harvey said, “Obviously the idea of catching a lot of (grief) from teammates and people like that was in the back of my mind, but it was something I felt was a good opportunity and a fun thing to do" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/26).
PLAY ON, PLAYER: Golf Channel’sLara Baldeserra noted the 77-year-old Player has been "dedicated to fitness and health since before it was popular,” and he is "showing off his decades of hard work" by appearing in the magazine (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 6/25).ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "We should all be in the shape that he’s in right now, and he’s 30-something years older than I am” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 6/26). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said it was "inspirational" that Player would "have the confidence to go and pose nude." But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "You and I have seen 77-year-old naked men in the steam room at country clubs, and even in the fog it's awful. We just don't want to see it" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/25).