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Volume 24 No. 156


ABC last night drew an 11.8 overnight rating for the Cavaliers' 30-point win over the Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That figure is down 14% from a 13.7 overnight for the same matchup last year (five-point differential), which aired on a Tuesday night. Through three games, the Finals has seen a 26.5 average point differential. The 11.8 is still good enough to mark ABC's third-best overnight for an NBA Finals Game 3 since ESPN acquired NBA rights before the '02-03 season. Last year's telecast remains the net's highest-rated Game 3, while the No. 2 game is a 12.4 overnight in '04 for Pistons-Lakers on a Thursday night. Last night's rating is up 15% from a 10.3 overnight for Spurs-Heat Game 3 in '14. The telecast last night peaked at a 13.4 rating from 10:00-10:15pm ET and is expected to give ABC a primetime win for the 51st straight time that an NBA Finals game has aired on the net. Cleveland-Akron led all markets with a 36.7 local rating, followed by S.F.-San Jose-Oakland with a 30.7 rating. Columbus (17.6), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (16.7) and San Antonio (16.2) rounded out the top five (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

BLOWOUTS AN ABERRATION, HOPEFULLY: Last night's game was the second straight Finals game determined by at least 30 points and the 32nd game this postseason to have at least a 15 point difference. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, "I don't know what’s going on. ... We've experienced more blowouts this playoffs than we ever have before, and I can't say I understand why." Silver: "We're not going to do anything about it now, but one of the things we do with our competition committee is we take data, we take analytics just like teams do and we look for trends. So I am sure once the season's over, it is something we'll look at. My sense is though that it is aberrational" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 6/9).

FROM DOWNTOWN, BANG! THE RINGER's Katie Baker profiled ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, who last week received a contract extension. This marks Breen's 11th NBA Finals, and "all of that national airtime is a cushy side-hustle compared to his true labor: being the man burdened with chronicling" the Knicks as their TV play-by-play man. Breen has been "calling Knicks games, first on the radio and now for the MSG Network," since '91. Both of his jobs are "high-wire acts: Being a national NBA broadcaster exposes one to all manner of scrutiny at particularly dramatic moments, while covering the Knicks every day involves avoiding getting fired while telling the truth about a team that has won one playoff series in 16 years." Meanwhile, ESPN's trio of Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson over the years has been, "at its best, illuminating and undermining, jaded and deeply felt, opinionated and deferential." The three "praise and they argue, they are charmed and they remain unconvinced, and -- when the game’s final minutes drag on for forever -- they conjure up small talk like well-meaning strangers." It is the "result of Breen’s early training: good radio that just happens to be on TV" (, 6/8).

CLOSER TO THE HEART: In Oakland, Chuck Barney profiled ESPN "Coordinating Producer Amina Hussein, who for the second straight year "finds herself working an NBA Finals that involves the Warriors -- the team she held close to her heart as a kid." She said, "I still have to pinch myself. To come back home again for the Finals is just a really amazing, exciting -- even surreal -- time for me." Barney noted before landing at ESPN, Hussein worked for S.F.-based KNBR-AM, "logging many hours at Warriors games." She now produces "NBA Countdown" for ESPN, as well as the halftime show. Hussein admits she "has some difficulty maintaining her 'journalistic integrity' during the NBA Finals and counts on her staff to keep her in check" (, 6/8). 

Bill Simmons' tenure at HBO will "formally begin" on June 22 with the launch of "Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons," which will initially feature "a mix of his hard takes and interviews," according to a cover story by Lacey Rose of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Simmons: "It'll be conversations about sports, culture and technology, and then me being a snarky asshole." But Rose notes the show's format is "subject to change, particularly as its host gets more comfortable with the role of television personality." The plan at launch is to "open with Simmons offering a hard angle on an of-the-moment sports or pop culture subject before moving on to the two interviews and a sign-off that he's keeping under wraps." The show's first interview segment will "feature two guests on a given topic," while the second will "focus on just one guest, ideally from the world of sports, tech or Hollywood." Simmons "envisions running each at about 10 to 12 minutes, though he intends to tape them much longer the day before in a bid to get the most out of his guests." Simmons had to "convince HBO to let him do the show taped rather than run it live and not in front of a studio audience." His argument "was simple: He's not a performer or a stand-up, and he'll be considerably more comfortable if it's just him and his guests, as it has been on his podcasts."

BRANCHING OUT: Sources said that HBO is paying Simmons between $7-9M, a "nice boost" from the $5M he "made at ESPN." Additionally, HBO "would agree to be a minority investor" in the Bill Simmons Media Group (BSMG), which includes his podcast network and The Ringer, a web site that launched last week. Simmons for the time being has "taken no other outside investment, using what insiders describe as seven-figure revenue generated primarily by sponsorship and branding deals to help fund The Ringer side of the enterprise." Looking ahead, he and BSMG President Eric Weinberger "won't rule out taking on additional investors." Meanwhile, Simmons in the interview continued to bash his former employer. He said of ESPN, "They've now gotten rid of everybody who is a little off the beaten path. Ask yourself this: 'Who would work there that you respect right now?'" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/17 issue).

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Simmons on his Instagram page yesterday posted an apology for his comments about ESPN. Simmons in part wrote, "I feel terrible that one particular quote came out in a way that didn’t portray how I actually feel about the dozens of people that passed through my life when I worked there (many of whom are still there). It’s 100 percent my fault -- I’m sure I was trying to make some larger point and screwed it up because I suck at giving interviews. ... My apologies for being a jackass" (THE DAILY).

Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod yesterday appeared on West Virginia-based WRVC-FM's "First Sentry Banks Sportsline" to discuss the conference's new TV deal. MacLeod said, "Getting back with ESPN is big. ... Then the new partner with beIN Sports is intriguing as this is their first college partner. I think that we can get some good exposure there as well, so we are pleased overall." Show co-host Woody Woodrum said, "The bottom line on this package is probably the hardest part for many schools to accept because .... it looks like about $900,000 less per school." MacLeod, "You’re trying to get me fired up right off the bat, aren’t you?" Woodrum, "The bottom line is the bottom line, and it has been hard enough for schools like Marshall to make the bottom line as it was. Now they’ve got to find a million more somewhere to make this up." MacLeod said, "It’s been a frustrating couple of days. ... Everything you read out there is not exactly true. Did the money go down? There’s no question. Are we frustrated? There’s no question. That’s why we signed two-year deals, so we could get back out into the market and hopefully things improve and do some other work. ... We’ve hired a chief revenue officer to sell sponsorships. Our conference has never had that."

WHAT DID THE FOX SAY? MacLeod said of not being able to reach a deal with Fox Sports, "Fox was waiting for the Big Ten and were not sure what all they could commit to anyone else before they did that deal, but they certainly requested some nontraditional dates and our presidents and ADs have been firmly against Tuesday/Wednesday-type games. But Thursday/Friday are kind of becoming traditional these days." She added of the C-USA digital network, "Our contracts are not in place with the two entities we are working with on this, so I can’t really get into specifics, but ... we’re doing a new website specifically for the digital network, and the vision is to have it be one-stop shopping" ("First Sentry Banks Sportsline," WRVC-FM, 6/8).

BAD TIMING: SB NATION's Nicolas Lewis noted each C-USA school will "be getting 18% of the revenue they got in the last couple of years," an "astronomical collapse in revenue." That could be "especially difficult for a school like Old Dominion, one of the CUSA programs that waited a year to implement cost of attendance stipends." C-USA "waited until the end of their existing contracts with Fox Sports and CBS Sports to renegotiate and wound up doing so in a time when the value of cable television to their viewer base has dropped off a cliff." C-USA is now "hovering" in between the MAC and Sun Belt for one more year, after which the MAC "will leave them in the dust" with its new TV deal (, 6/8). In West Virginia, Chuck Landon writes everyone was "expecting the television revenue to diminish because this was the first contract C-USA was negotiating since the split in FBS programs created the Power Five and Group of Five." The conference's TV revenue was expected to drop, but what was not expected was a "plummet into a financial abyss" with what is "arguably the worst television contract in the history" of D-I athletics (Huntington HERALD-DISPATCH, 6/9).

IT WAS ALL A DREAM ABOUT TENNESSEE: Middle Tennessee State AD Chris Massaro said that the C-USA school will indeed "have to do belt-tightening in its athletics department" following the drop in TV revenue. While Massaro said that he is "confident sponsorships and bowl performance could help mitigate" MTSU's $900,000 drop in TV revenue, he clarified that he "understands the realities of the situation." Massaro: "It is concerning." Massaro said that MTSU's athletics department will "take a look at its budget in the fall but that it's likely the department will see cuts." In Tennessee, Aldo Amato notes accounts reportedly "have been frozen" for all C-USA employees at the conference's office HQ in Irving, Texas (Murfreesboro DAILY NEWS JOURNAL, 6/9). 

GREEN GIANT TASK: In Texas, Brett Vito notes C-USA TV revenue will fall from about $1.1M per school to $200,000 per school next year, which is a "big chunk of change for a school" like North Texas. UNT "receives a lot more money than it used to from student fees, but a big chunk of those funds are tied up paying off Apogee Stadium." Donations are an option, but UNT "tapped into its key donors recently to build Apogee and a host of other facilities." The question UNT's new AD will face is "where to turn in order to make up for what will almost certainly be a pretty significant drop in television revenue at a time when attendance has either fallen dramatically (men's basketball) or has not grown as quickly as hoped (football) in key revenue sports that bolster the bottom line" (DENTON RECORD-CHRONICLE, 6/9).

Bleacher Report is "one of the hottest sports sites for millennials, attracting tens of millions unique visitors a month," according to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla. Bleacher Report co-Founder & CEO Dave Finocchio said the site has "really become the social voice of sports in the United States over the last couple of years." Finocchio: "The real transition we’ve gone through in this industry where people are watching the ‘SportsCenter’ less and less in that demo, and they’re really using the mobile phone as their No. 1 consumption device. So our plans mostly revolve around mobile and mostly revolve around creating content around the most shareable moments." He added the site is "focused on the creating the best possible experience for sports fans, specifically on mobile and on social channels." Finocchio also said being owned by a large media company, Turner, has "made us better" and it has "gone incredibly well."  Finocchio: "As part of our Turner relationship, we’ve been able to get access to rights for the NBA, for Major League Baseball, for March Madness, for other sporting events, and as a result we can use highlights and we can use different types of footage that we wouldn’t have been able to use if we were an independent company. We’ve become the official sports brand of CNN, and so our Turner relationship has just opened a lot of doors for us and allowed us to grow our brand much faster than we ever could have on our own" ("Squawk Alley," CNBC, 6/8).

Georgia Tech yesterday announced that broadcaster Brandon Gaudin will leave the school after three seasons for several new opportunities. He will become play-by-play voice for EA Sports' "Madden NFL" franchise, replacing Jim Nantz. Gaudin also will join the Big Ten Network as a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and baseball. He also has been named lead college football play-by-play announcer for Westwood One Sports and will call occasional NFL games for the radio network. He will continue to call men's college basketball for Westwood One as well (Georgia Tech). In Indianapolis, Matthew VanTryon notes NFL Network and Fox Sports analyst Charles Davis "will handle color commentary" on the '17 edition of "Madden." Davis replaces Phil Simms on the game. Gaudin, who handled play-by-play duties for Butler men's hoops from '10-13, said of working on the game at EA's Orlando studios, "It became a tough thing to keep under the radar. It was hard to keep it from the masses. ‘You’re going to Orlando again? What, do you have a girlfriend down there or something?’ That was the harder part to keep quiet” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/9). 

In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes FS1's "Copa Tonight" studio show "is a complete disaster." The program "has a similar format to successful wrapup shows" produced for the most recent FIFA World Cups, but former U.S. men's national team player Alexi Lalas is "more cheerleader than analyst." If Fox thinks commentator Fernando Fiore "will attract Latino viewers, it should think again." Fiore "wasn't taken seriously when he hosted Spanish-language programs and he won't be taken seriously now." Fiore "appears to have minimal knowledge of the sport" (L.A. TIMES, 6/9).

SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE: THE BIG LEAD's Ryan Glasspiegel noted Joe Schad's contract "was not renewed at ESPN." He has been at the net since '05, and his last day "was this past Sunday." Schad said that "he was not offered a new contract at a lesser rate." Schad: "It was a great 11 years at ESPN. It was a great platform, the brightest light. I’m really proud of some of the work I did." Though he "declines to specify who, Schad says he is in talks with various web, print, and television outlets about what comes next." Before joining ESPN, Schad "covered the Dolphins for the Palm Beach Post." Schad: "There’s a part of me that thinks maybe it’s a good time to return to the NFL" (, 6/8).

COVERING THE CREAMSICLE: Jenna Laine has joined ESPN as an NFL Nation team reporter, covering the Buccaneers. She has spent the past three years at WHBO-AM in Tampa, hosting "Sports Talk Florida Live" and providing coverage of the Bucs for (ESPN).