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Volume 24 No. 180

Media

The Univ. of Arkansas has agreed to a 10-year, $137M "multimedia rights extension with IMG College that will be among the most lucrative in the country," according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The $13.7M annual payout, beginning with the '18-19 academic year, will be a nearly 90% "increase over the previous deal," with $6M "earmarked for the installation" of WiFi at the school's football, basketball and baseball venues. The extension does "not include naming rights" to Arkansas' facilities, but the "investment into upgrading the technology inside the three main stadiums and arenas on campus was a focus." Arkansas is "deep into talks with technology company AmpThink to handle installation and connectivity, although the deal has not been finalized" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/14 issue). In Little Rock, Max Brantley noted Arkansas is "one of only 22 self-supporting athletic departments and it recently increased" the amount of its revenue it "contributes to general campus programs" from $2M to $3.5M. The extension is a "vote of confidence at a somewhat difficult time," with questions about the "surge of money from cable TV-related contracts" and a "dip in public interest in collegiate (sports) from overexposure and rising concern about injuries in football" (ARKTIMES.com, 8/14).

The Buccaneers during last night's episode of "Hard Knocks" showed the team cutting K Roberto Aguayo, one of the "most anticipated story lines 'Hard Knocks' has had in years," according to Tom Jones of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Aguayo was a second-round pick in '16 and struggled in his first year on the field, and his story was the "highlight of the second episode, which was much better than the first." Last night's episode "didn't disappoint," as it was "quickly paced, well filmed and expertly edited." The Aguayo story was "deftly directed and told." The episode "set up the competition between Aguayo and veteran Nick Folk early in the show." Then it "dramatically laid out Aguayo's failures (a missed field goal and an extra point) against the Bengals in Friday's preseason opener." What the show revealed, "thanks to a conversation" between GM Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter the day after the game, is Licht "wanted to release Aguayo after the game but decided to sleep on it." That conversation between Licht and Koetter was "frank and must-see TV as they decided they simply couldn't trust Aguayo any longer." While there were "no tears or raised voices, the scene was absolutely dramatic." It was "hard to watch, but as a viewer, you couldn't look away." All in all, it was "must-see TV, the kind of thing that 'Hard Knocks' is known for and the kind of thing that makes the series so good" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/16). "Hard Knocks" director Matt Dissinger, who has been with the show since '07, said of filming player cuts, "We try to maintain a respectful distance when doing it. Just as much as Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht hate cutting players, we hate shooting it. But it's unfortunately part of the business. ... It's part of camp, it's part of the reality of the NFL. ... We work really hard to get the audience invested in these guys and to really show a well-rounded portrait of who they are" (ESPN.com, 8/15).

CELEBRATION STATION? NFL.com's Dan Hanzus notes ref Ed Hochuli was at Bucs camp, "at least in part, to clarify what was permissible under the league's newly relaxed rules on player celebrations." That led to DT Gerald McCoy -- in a "performance that will surely garner 'Hard Knocks' MVP votes -- workshopping a series of uncomfortably erotic victory dances" (NFL.com, 8/16). The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones noted McCoy "tried to see just where that line was by twerking for Hochuli." Jones: "I don't know if it was enough to get a penalty, but I'm positive I don't need to see that again" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/16).

MUTE BUTTON AT THE READY: In N.Y., Drew Loftis noted Miko Grimes, the "outspoken wife" of Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes, dropped a "number of f-bombs and scatological references while playfully describing the relationship with her husband." But outside of the "blue language, there was no trash-talking of current teammates of coaches." Her "harshest critique was on plays that make minimal gains rather than individuals" (N.Y. POST, 8/16).

ESPN yesterday apologized after a player auction skit as part of its "Fantasy Sports Marathon" on Monday "drew criticism from some on social media, who said it resembled a slave auction," according to A.J. Perez of USA TODAY. While white players were "part of the draft, the footage of an auctioneer 'selling'" Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. "led to some on Twitter to voice their outrage." ESPN in a statement said, "Auction drafts are a common part of fantasy football, and ESPN’s segments replicated an auction draft with a diverse slate of top professional football players. Without that context, we understand the optics could be portrayed as offensive, and we apologize" (USA TODAY, 8/16). In N.Y., Mark Sanchez writes the entirety of the sketch "lasted less than 30 seconds, but the optics of the scene enraged many" (N.Y. POST, 8/16). In Charlotte, Langston Wertz Jr. writes auction drafts in fantasy football are "common, but seeing one like this, with the auctioneer holding a photo of the black players, attached to popsicle sticks, while selling them to a predominately white crowd was just...startling" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/16). Beckham yesterday tweeted that he was "speechless" after watching the ESPN segment. In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes Beckham was "not physically part of the bit." But his response "seemed to indicate he is equally as mortified as many are to see a white man auction a black man's services on a stage, in front of a predominantly white crowd, no less" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/16). In DC, Des Bieler noted other NFLers, such as Saints DE Cameron Jordan and Rams DE Dominique Easley, also "expressed dismay and confusion with ESPN’s staged auction" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/15).

MAKING A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLE HILL? ESPN’s Will Cain said he does not believe the "criticism of the fantasy football auction draft was warranted in any way." Cain said, "If you are offended by that, you are addicted to being offended.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said, “We got Dave Roberts, our boss, who everybody respects. If you don't look him up, the brother's resume is impeccable, it speaks for himself. You got Rob King, who runs ‘SportsCenter,’ you got Leon Carter, the former editor of the New York Daily News, you have an abundance of African-Americans in this company, you have talent on-air like yours truly. All you had to do was ask, because I can assure you if somebody had told me that is the idea what we were doing, I would have said this is how it looks. This is how it is going to be embraced and stomached. You do not want to do that” ("First Take," ESPN, 8/16).

ESPN execs have "decided to implement a skinny Megacast" for the Thursday-night Ohio State-Indiana game on Aug. 31, the "opening broadcast of the college football season," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Along with the main broadcast airing on ESPN, there will be "six alternative presentations: a Coaches Film Room on ESPNews featuring former coaches Mack Brown, Mark Helfrich, and Gene Chizik, hosts Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill and the ESPN debut" of former LSU coach Les Miles. There will also be a "homers' broadcast" on ESPNU featuring Dan Dakich as the analyst for IU with play-by-play broadcaster Joe Tessitore. The Megacast will also include the "debut of an All-22 broadcast on ESPN" and a Skycam perspective and DataCenter presentation on ESPN3. ESPN will also "employ Command Center on ESPN Goal Line, which is a split-screen with simultaneous multiple camera views." The net will begin its pregame coverage from Bloomington starting at 4:00pm on ESPN. An episode of "College GameDay" starts at 6:00pm, the "first time the traveling road show" has been at IU. ESPN said that IU is the "69th different school" to host "GameDay" and Bloomington is the "80th different city" to host the show. Meanwhile, ESPN will "not opt for Megacast coverage for Alabama-Florida State on Saturday Sept. 2." ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for College Football Ed Placey said that a Saturday regular-season game "poses specific challenges." Placey: "It would be difficult to pull off the MegaCast production on a regular season Saturday that has a full slate of games across our networks throughout the day" (SI.com, 8/15).

BUSY START: In Columbus, Bill Rabinowitz noted ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit will broadcast three college football games in five days, an "unprecedented test for him." Herbstreit will call OSU-IU then will "fly to Atlanta" for Alabama-FSU at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He will "stay in town for the Tennessee-Georgia Tech game two days later." Herbstreit: "I’ve never done three games in five days. You always want to be ultra-prepared. That’s always been my style. With that in mind, I’ve got a lot of work to do" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/14). Herbstreit said that he is "looking forward to being part of the popular show’s first-ever visit to Bloomington." Herbstreit: "It’s very rare to have a game of this magnitude on opening night, a huge conference game with Ohio State against Indiana in the same division" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/14).

The yearlong decline in digital sports media consumption continued in July as the category entered the heart of the slower summer period. Monthly multiplatform data from comScore showed the sports category posted a total audience of 171.5 million, down 1.3% from June and down 2.7% from July '16. The average sports consumption of 85.8 minutes per user was also down 2.8% from June and down 17% from last July. ESPN led all sports entities in reach for the 11th straight month and the 40th time in the last 41 months with a reach total 72.6 million unique visitors, the lowest figure to lead the category in two years and down slightly from its June total of 73.6 million uniques. MLB broke ESPN’s leadership hold on average user consumption, topping the sports category in July with a figure of 56.5 minutes per user.

RANK
SITE
UNIQUES (000)
1
ESPN
72,626
2
Fox Sports-SI Group-Perform Media*
49,441
3
Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network**
48,161
4
Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network***
45,164
5
SB Nation
42,962
6
USA Today Sports Media Group^
42,804
7
CBS Sports^^
40,847
8
MLB
36,474
9
NFL Internet Group
22,016
10
Minute Media#
18,829
11
MSN Sports
15,699
12
Active.com sites
11,691
13
Deadspin.com
9,348
14
Complex Sports
8,812
15
NHL Network
6,526
RANK
SITE
TOTAL TIME SPENT (MINUTES)
1
ESPN
4.037 billion
2
Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network**
2.087 billion
3
MLB
2.062 billion
4
Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network***
953 million
5
CBS Sports^^
643 million
6
Fox Sports-SI Group-Perform Media*
624 million
7
USA Today Sports Media Group^
402 million
8
NFL Internet Group
351 million
9
SB Nation
304 million
10
Minute Media#
154 million

NOTES: * = Includes 120 Sports, National Football Post, The FanSided Network, and Sporting News. ** = Includes Rivals.com, The Vertical, The PostGame.com, Rotoworld and FanDuel. *** = Includes NBA.com, NCAA.com and WNBA.com. ^ = Includes 81 local Gannett-owned newspaper sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV sites, USA Today High School Sports, The Big Lead and For The Win. ^^ = Includes 247Sports.com, MaxPreps, and Scout Media. # = Includes The Spun.

Dave Goucher will serve as the Golden Knights' play-by-play announcer this season on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, joined by color commentator Shane Hnidy. The team has also hired Dan D’Uva as radio play-by-play man for Fox Sports affiliate KRLV-AM. Goucher had been the Bruins' radio play-by-play man since '00, while Hnidy was the Jets' color commentator on TSN since '11. D'Uva has been the radio and TV play-by-play voice of the AHL Syracuse Crunch since '12 (Golden Knights). Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz said that the team "received about 200 applications for the radio job." He added that the team "wanted someone who was not only talented but who was a good fit for the culture of the fledgling team and might be a part of it for many years." Bubolz said that D'Uva "came highly recommended" by Crunch Owner Howard Dolgon, Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik and NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick (SYRACUSE.com, 8/15). 

BIG SHOES TO FILL: In Boston, Chad Finn wrote Goucher with the Bruins "quickly formed effortless chemistry with color analyst Bob Beers" and had a "knack for hitting the right notes in the biggest moments." During the '14 and '15 seasons, Goucher was the TV play-by-play announcer for NBCSN covering Hockey East games. CBS Boston VP/Programming Mike Thomas said that WBZ-FM will "conduct a national search for a new play-by-play voice." Thomas added that the goal is to have Goucher’s replacement "in place alongside Beers for the start of the regular season" (BOSTONGLOBE.com, 8/15). In Winnipeg, Mike Sawatzky wrote Hnidy's replacement "wasn't immediately known, but it is believed three members of the TSN stable, analysts Ray Ferraro, Jamie McLennan and David Poulin, could join the Jets TV broadcasts on a rotating basis." In addition, former Jets analyst Mike Johnson and former NHLer Trevor Kidd could also "be candidates for the position." Kidd worked on "pre- and post-game segments" on Jets broadcasts last season (WINNIPEGFREEPRESS.com, 8/15).

Joe Gibbs Racing is launching a weekly series on Facebook’s new Watch short-form video series platform, becoming what is believed to be the only motorsports outfit involved with the outlet’s soft launch. JGR is currently producing the series, “Joe Gibbs Racing on the Job,” which highlights the stories of surprising or interesting positions among JGR’s 600 employees. The race team is targeting 15 episodes a season along with other supporting content like blooper reels. JGR’s sponsors have the opportunity to get involved in the five- to seven-minute episodes, as exemplified by an episode being shot now on a tire changer who uses Dewalt tools in the episode. JGR Digital Marketing Dir Bryan Cook said Facebook offered the opportunity to the team and was open to what JGR wanted to do as long as it was in episodic form. The first episode had 140,000 views in the first 24 hours after it launched. Cook said, “NASCAR is a unique world where not everyone might understand what goes into it, so my approach was, ‘Well, this is going to reach people who probably aren’t going to on their own just find auto racing and NASCAR, so how do we interest them?’ … There’s just a lot that goes into NASCAR that people don’t realize the level of detail behind, so that’s the route we took.” Facebook late last week started rolling out the Watch feature, which Facebook is hoping will help it become more of a leader in video to rival the likes of YouTube. Content creators will keep 55% of revenue around the series while Facebook gets the remaining 45%.

Showtime is "suing to stop more than 40 websites from airing an unauthorized stream" of the Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight, according to Ashley Cullins of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Attorney Dennis Wilson said the sites are "all currently formatted as Mayweather v. McGregor blogs populated with articles that are stuffed with keywords related to the fight." Showtime argued that because of this strategy "several of the potentially infringing sites appear in the top Google search results." Showtime said that it expects the sites to be "populated with links to sites offering the live stream right before the fight is broadcast." The network is "asking the court for an injunction to stop defendants and any of their partners or licensees from making the fight available for viewing or transferring their websites to another registrant or registrar." Mayweather's '15 defeat of Manny Pacquiao "prompted a similar suit." Showtime and HBO "sued for 'anticipated' copyright infringement -- and the court granted a temporary injunction" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/15). YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole noted UFC COO Lawrence Epstein believes that the fight could be the "most pirated pay-per-view event ever." The signal that night could be "stolen more than 1 million times." Sources said that if anything, Epstein is "being conservative." Mark Taffet Media President Mark Taffet, a former HBO Sports Senior VP, expects the fight will post "enormous sales." But he "isn’t of the mind that the theft will be as damaging to the promotion as many others believe." Taffet said that part of the reason for that is the "viewing experience in many cases isn’t as good as the legal stream will be" (SPORTS.YAHOO..com, 8/11).