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Volume 24 No. 115


Fox drew a 3.6 overnight rating for yesterday's U.S. Open coverage from Erin Hills in Wisconsin, marking the golf major's second-lowest figure on record for a final round. The event saw Brooks Koepka secure his first major by four strokes over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama as the leaderboard lacked many big names in contention. The 3.6 is above only the 3.3 overnight that NBC drew in its last year with the event in '14, when Martin Kaymer took home the win by eight strokes in a wire-to-wire victory at Pinehurst. The telecast yesterday is down 5% from a 3.8 overnight last year, when Dustin Johnson won by three strokes at Oakmont. Fox in its debut with the U.S. Open in '15 at Chambers Bay drew a 4.8 overnight for Jordan Spieth's one-stroke win over Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. That event also aired from the West Coast, putting the finish at 10:45pm ET. Fox on Saturday drew a 2.6 overnight for third-round coverage from Erin Hills, marking the second-lowest Saturday rating for the event. It is above only the 2.5 from last year (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

SOLID JOB BY FOX BOOTH: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes lead Fox announcer Joe Buck "takes most of the criticism" from fans concerning Fox' coverage even though he is a "first-class pro, and his golf coverage is solid -- every bit as good as what Dan Hicks does for NBC and Jim Nantz does for CBS." Fox "doesn't have anyone as solid as NBC's Johnny Miller, but Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger are just as good as, say, CBS's Nick Faldo." NBC and CBS "do a better job covering golf than Fox," but to "dismiss Fox's coverage as bad is not fair." Jones: "Just because Fox might not do it as well as the other two networks doesn't mean the network does it poorly" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/19). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes Azinger "was the medalist" this weekend among Fox' voices, as he "kept it crisp and mostly candid." Buck, "departing from his NFL and MLB demeanor, scored by making his information concise, his presence modest" (N.Y. POST, 6/19). GOLF DIGEST's Alex Myers wrote Fox had a "pretty good week, but you can NOT misidentify the winner of the tournament's girlfriend," the "cardinal sin of broadcasting." Buck said the name of Koepka's "previous girlfriend, instead of Jena Sims" after he clinched the championship. Myers: "Ouch" (, 6/18). In DC, Scott Allen notes Buck's broadcasting partner, Brad Faxon, was "more up to date on Koepka’s love life and corrected the mistake moments later" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19). 

VISIBLE IMPROVEMENT:'s weekly roundtable discussed Fox' coverage, with's Michael Bamberger writing it is "getting better" in year three of its deal with the USGA. But John Wood, who caddies for Matt Kuchar, believes the cameramen "following the actual ball as it flies through the air for NBC and for CBS are just better." Fox "seems to depend an awful lot on Shot Tracer instead of seeing the ball land and roll out." Golf magazine's Josh Sens noted the shot tracers were "cool, when they worked."'s Jeff Ritter noted Fox has "some bells and whistles that are different from the other networks, and it's starting to work for them."'s Sean Zak noted Fox could "afford to go all-in on statistics, protracer, etc., since" the U.S. Open is "their crown jewel event of the season, but they have 100 percent paved the way for a better golf broadcast in that aspect." Each year of Fox "covering the Open will be a better year" (, 6/18).

COURSE MANAGEMENT: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann writes Fox has "taken pains in other sports ... to bring viewers closer to the action," but its "crew configuration at the U.S. Open prevented that." Too much of the action "was called from the 18th tower." The net needs to do a "better job of integrating its on-course reporters into its coverage." That would "bring more voices and a more conversational flow to the live shows and, more importantly, provide real-time information on course conditions and players' attitudes." The move also would "relieve Azinger and Brad Faxon of play-by-play duties." However, when viewers "did hear from on-course announcers, it too often was [Juli] Inkster, who's prone to saying cringe-worthy things" (, 6/19).

Ken Brown's "Brownie Points" segments highlight specific areas of the course
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU? USA TODAY's Luke Kerr-Dineen wrote Fox' coverage has "been much improved since its error-prone debut at Chambers Bay" in '15, and "one element that has helped in that regard are Ken Brown’s 'Brownie Points' segments." The "best thing about the segments is how simple they are." Brown will "highlight a particular area of the course and explain it, usually through the form of a prop." His personality is "infectious, which give the spots a fast-paced and dynamic feel" (, 6/17). GOLFWEEK's Kaufmann wrote it is "hard to overstate how good" Brown is on TV, as it "seems effortless" for him. Kaufmann: "I look forward to his segments not just because I learn from them -- whether he’s discussing the bunkers, the fescue or the architecture -- but I also laugh at them. That’s a powerful combination." However, the question still looms as to how long Fox is "going to continue the failed Holly Sonders Experiment." She is "just not cut out for the job" of a golf anchor. She "lacks an easy manner on camera, she’s not spontaneous, and she’s not amusing." Kaufmann: "Remove Holly and put someone in that job who can call up the proper graphic" (, 6/16). 

: The POST's Mushnick noted during Thursday's coverage as Jonathan Randolph made a 70-foot putt, a "graphic in the upper right read, 'FOX/USGA LIVE.'” But "with the ball about four feet from the hole," Azinger "shouted the punch line: 'I don’t think we’d be showing it unless it goes in!'” He "simply was providing a voiceover of what he knew and we could surmise already had happened." But it was a "great moment in modern TV." Azinger, a "trained professional golfer, not a trained broadcast journalist, provided a national audience with a clear and even comically spoken truth that essentially served to mock the dishonest practices of 'live' TV coverage" (N.Y. POST, 6/18).

FINISHING NOTES: GOLFWEEK's Geoff Shackelford wrote the USGA "still doesn’t do [a] good trophy ceremony." USGA President Diana Murphy "nailed all of her lines but Curtis Strange kept checking his notes in an awkward interview with Koepka." It was "all set to a smattering of bored spectators in the background lining the practice putting green" (, 6/18). Meanwhile, GOLF DIGEST's Myers asked, "Where are all these bird noises coming from? There aren't even trees at Erin Hills!" Myers was "straining to hear Patrick Reed's post-round interview over the chirping of a blue jay" (, 6/17). 

The NFL has "hired Bruin Sports Capital and British advertising company WPP to help it grow the over-the-top NFL Game Pass service" in Europe, according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Until last year, the NFL "managed its European Game Pass service in-house" from L.A. For a "cost of around $200 per season (different markets had different pricing), the league packaged U.S. content into a European service." This fall, Game Pass will start to roll out a service "tailored for different European markets -- both through on-screen statistics and marketing campaigns." Through relationships with Bruin and WPP, Italy-based Deltatre will "handle the technical operations of NFL Game Pass in 61 European countries and territories." Sports marketing agency Two Circles "will market the service." Prices are "likely to continue to vary across the different European markets." One of the reasons the NFL "opted to do this deal was the opportunity to reach deeper into specific markets." Terms of the deal will have Bruin and WPP "jointly forming a London-based company to manage the service." In the next several weeks, Bruin will "announce a CEO and executive for the stand-alone company." Bruin CEO George Pyne "predicted that Game Pass would see significant growth" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/19 issue).

MOVING FORWARD: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman cites sources as saying that the Game Pass venture will "require at least" a $10M investment to "get off the ground, not including marketing." The parties "will share profits from the venture." Last season, Europe "represented roughly 55% of the NFL’s Game Pass subscribers outside the U.S." England and Germany are the "two leading markets." Execs involved in the transaction "believe the revenue Game Pass produces can triple in the coming years." The NFL in May announced that U.K.-based Perform Group "would handle Game Pass sales outside the U.S. and Europe" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/19). 

Top Rank Boxing and ESPN have been "engaged in talks for months on a new deal that will see Top Rank's best and brightest stars" featured on the net, according to sources cited by Mike Coppinger of RING TV. It is unclear whether some fights "will be telecast on ABC," but sources "suggested it's a possibility." The first fight as part of the deal would be the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn bout on July 1 in Brisbane, Australia, which ESPN has announced will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The "second show is slated for Aug. 5 and could feature" the Vasyl Lomachenko-Orlando Salido rematch. Sources said that HBO "offered an undisclosed license fee for the rights to televise" Pacquiao-Horn but was "turned down" by Top Rank. ESPN is "expected to have approval over matchups, much the way HBO and Showtime retains quality control." The series is expected to bring around "seven shows to ESPN/ABC this year, with a minimum of 18 more coming" in '18. It is unknown whether Top Rank is "permanently severing ties" with HBO after more than 35 years. Top Rank Chair Bob Arum "has bristled at HBO's lack of dates for years." Also as part of the ESPN deal, Top Rank is expected to "roll out an over-the-top network ... where fans will have digital access to the company's massive fights library." ESPN would "kick in its massive library of classic fights" for the unnamed OTT network (, 6/17).'s Brian Campbell noted unlike ESPN's current deal with Golden Boy Promotions, which "largely broadcasts young prospects in showcase bouts, the Top Rank deal would feature highly competitive title fights typically seen" on HBO (, 6/18).

BACK TO BASICS:'s Dan Rafael notes Pacquiao's fight against Horn will be the first time he will compete "live on basic cable and is his first non pay-per-view fight since he knocked out Hector Velazquez on HBO" in '05. Joe Tessitore, Teddy Atlas and Timothy Bradley Jr. "will call the fight from ringside." ESPN's coverage of the fight "will begin June 30" with the weigh-in presented during the 7:00pm ET "SportsCenter." Beginning next week, there will be "several classic Pacquiao fights ... available on demand and streaming via the ESPN App"  (, 6/19).

MMA fans are "soon going to get MLB-style stats illustrating just how tough the fighters are," as UFC and owner WME-IMG have outlined a new plan to "grow a data business -- and possibly gaming" -- alongside the sport, according to Claire Atkinson of the N.Y. POST. WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel explained how the "pop culture juggernaut is aiming to build a data business in part by placing sensors on gloves, on shorts and in the arena." UFC President Dana White said, "We're working on a lot of stats." Emanuel: "We're going to start creating videos from it that will be shareable with emojis. We're about six months away from that." Meanwhile, Atkinson notes Fox Sports' TV rights for UFC expire in '18. Emanuel said, "We have an exclusive (negotiating) window from July to September. Fox has been incredible partners for us. ... We'll see what happens, hopefully everything goes well" (N.Y. POST, 6/19). Emanuel said that his focus now is "going direct-to-consumer and getting into the data business." Emanuel: "Data is like oil. ... The next couple of years, we're going to start laying it out, how to go to the consumer with what you have and once you have the data on the consumer, we're a very good position" (N.Y. POST, 6/19). 

JUMPING ON BOARD?'s Richard Deitsch wrote it is going to be "interesting to see how much" Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor talk "extends beyond this fight and onto UFC as a whole because it's a larger tell on longterm UFC interest." Deitsch: "From talking to some ESPN-ers in-house, I'd put the company's interest in a UFC media rights deal at around 30% but that could fluctuate given whatever packaging, pricing and the scope of rights UFC brings to market." It is a "much more important property for Fox Sports to retain." Deitsch writes he would be "stunned if they don't ride Mayweather-McGregor on its platforms nearly every day until Aug. 26" (, 6/19).

Dodgers broadcasts continue to "go unseen by the majority of their fans," and there is "no end in sight to the dispute between DirecTV and Charter Communications, which inherited the mess when it bought Time Warner Cable," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. SportsNet LA, now in its fourth season without major distribution in the L.A. market, has been "unavailable in millions of homes in Southern California that don’t have" TWC's Spectrum service. The average SportsNet LA broadcast this season has "attracted 79,000 households." The 10-game KTLA-CW package "averaged 378,000 households, including the SportsNet LA viewers -- an audience almost five times as large as the one for games aired only on the Dodgers’ channel." The team in '13 "averaged 154,000 households per game" in their last year on Prime Ticket, a channel "available on all major cable and satellite systems in Southern California." The average this year "reflects a 49% drop, but that’s up from the average of 57,000 households two years ago." The Dodgers despite playing in the second-largest market in the U.S. "ranked 15th among the 29 U.S. teams in the number of households that viewed games" last season, directly behind the smaller-market Pirates and Orioles. The Yankees and Mets "led the way, each with an average audience close to three times larger than what the Dodgers had." Meanwhile, Angels games air on FS West, and they "still attract fewer viewers than the Dodgers" at an average of 47,000 households this year (L.A. TIMES, 6/18).

USA Swimming has secured NBC Sports-owned Playmaker Media to power streaming and video-on-demand for its new NBC Swimming Productions, a startup content marketing initiative from the NGB. In choosing Playmaker over other streamers such as NeuLion or BAM Tech, USA Swimming further committed to its all-in relationship with NBC, which holds Olympic rights through '32 and recently signed a deal with the NGB for broadcast rights to domestic events through '24. USA Swimming Productions is an attempt by the NGB to create more digital inventory for sponsors and connect with its grassroots fans and members. “In general, what we’re really seeing is a really large connecting of the dots on a strategic level for distributing content in collaboration with NBC,” USA Swimming CMO Matt Farrell said. “This is the technology that runs through a lot of that on the digital side.” It is the first NGB deal for Playmaker, which also powers the IOC’s Olympic Channel OTT offering.

The number of fantasy sports participants in the U.S. and Canada is up to 59.3 million, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, a 3% increase from last year as the business shows signs of resurgent growth following a period of legal and legislative turbulence for daily fantasy sports. The new research, developed with Ipsos Public Affairs and slated to be unveiled tomorrow at the FSTA’s summer conference in N.Y., improves from a 1% increase in participation between ’15 and ’16, but remains below double-digit percentage annual growth seen for much of the past decade. Fantasy football, the largest single driver of the fantasy sports business, actually declined for the third time in four years and is now played by 66% of the overall fantasy sports audience. However, that decrease was more than compensated for by steady growth in fantasy baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer. Fantasy baseball in particular is now played by 49% of all participants, up from 40% last year and 33% in ’13. That comes as shorter, more accessible forms of play have become more prevalent. The average number of fantasy teams owned by a typical player is now 9.7, up from 7.0 last year and more than twice the 4.7 teams owned on average from ’13. As in prior years, the Ipsos research founds that fantasy sports participants also had higher levels of average income and education than the general population. The research estimated the total size of the fantasy sports market at $7.2B, not counting league dues circulated within private leagues.

SPORTING NEWS' Michael McCarthy cited sources as saying that Jesse Palmer has "agreed to remain with ESPN after being hotly pursued by Fox Sports." Sources said that the college football analyst "signed a seven-figure, multiyear contract to remain" with the net, where his previous deal was "set to expire in July." Sources added that Palmer, the lead analyst for ESPN's SEC Network, will "no longer call games; instead, he is expected to move into the studio full time for halftime and postgame coverage during Saturday games." That will "enable him to work out" of N.Y., where he "serves as a special contributor" for ABC's "GMA." Palmer will "continue to serve in that role under a separate deal" (, 6/19).

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK:'s John Tomase noted Roger Clemens on Friday night joined WEEI's Tim Neverett during the Red Sox-Astros broadcast, and the former MLBer "delivered some legitimately unique insights." This was "thanks in no small part to Neverett, who wisely set Clemens up and then got out of the way" (, 6/16). In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote Clemens has been "embraced by the Red Sox again and it appears that before long he'll have his No. 21 retired" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/17).

GO GET 'EM JUNIOR: In San Diego, Dennis Lin noted former MLBer Tony Gwynn Jr. on Friday "called a game on the three-year anniversary of his father's passing." It was his "first broadcast of a Padres road game." This spring, he "joined the Padres’ broadcast crew," and he "knew all along he would be on the road for this series." Gwynn: "I really enjoy the radio. ... It’s a little more natural for me. It’s just like having a conversation about what you’re watching" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/17).