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Volume 24 No. 179

Media

NFL Network has "suspended a trio of analysts," including Pro Football HOFer Marshall Faulk, after "allegations of sexual harassment by a former co-worker," according to Holman & Soshnick of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Faulk, along with analysts Heath Evans and Ike Taylor, "allegedly groped and made sexually explicit comments to female colleague Jami Cantor, ... a former wardrobe stylist" at the network. NFL Media Group VP/Communications Alex Riethmiller said that Faulk, Taylor and Evans have been "suspended from their duties pending an investigation into the allegations." The allegations by Cantor against the retired players and Eric Weinberger -- who is currently Bill Simmons Media Group President -- are "part of a lawsuit against NFL Enterprises" in L.A. Superior Court. Cantor said Weinberger sent “several nude pictures of himself and sexually explicit texts.” Faulk "would ask Cantor 'deeply personal and invasive questions' about her sex life and fondled her breasts and groped her behind." Cantor said that she "complained about the sexual advances" from the former players to NFL Dir of Media Talent Marc Watts, but he "did nothing" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/11). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez reports Cantor was "forced to work in the men's restroom during her tenure at NFL Network and alleged Warren Sapp," who was fired after a '15 arrest for "soliciting a prostitute, urinated in front of her." She "protested, but Sapp allegedly laughed off the incident" (USATODAY.com, 12/12). In N.Y., Kevin Draper reports Weinberger was suspended by Bill Simmons Media Group "as a result of allegations made about him." The allegations are the "latest in a string of bad news for the NFL" (NYTIMES.com, 12/12). ESPN's Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis were also listed in the complaint stemming from their time at NFL Net, and ESPN VP/Communications Josh Krulewitz confirmed neither will "appear on our networks" as an investigation proceeds. McNabb "co-hosts a show on ESPN Radio and also occasionally appears on 'First Take,' while Davis co-hosts a show on ESPN Radio" from L.A. (USATODAY.com, 12/12).

21st Century Fox and Disney are on a "glide path" for a Thursday deal announcement, according to sources cited by David Faber of CNBC.com. Disney became the "sole suitor after Comcast dropped its bid for the majority of Fox assets" yesterday. Current Fox shareholders would "get one share of the company that remains after the movie and television assets are sold, plus shares of Disney in a fixed exchange ratio" (CNBC.com, 12/12). Comcast yesterday said that it is "no longer pursuing an acquisition of several key media and entertainment assets" from Fox. Comcast in a statement said, "We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joe Flint cites sources as saying that FS1 "isn’t part of any deal with Disney" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/12). In L.A., Meg James reports a Disney-Fox deal could "prompt a brain drain" of high-level Fox execs in the coming months (L.A. TIMES, 12/12). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Jon Lafayette writes Disney will be "transforming the TV ecosystem, creating a new content giant -- based on DNA that’s very different from a vertically integrated behemoth like Comcast or the still-possible combination of AT&T and Time Warner." Lafayette: "One wonders where all of the smaller media companies fit in as they try to deal with not only Netflix, but Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple." Disney will "need vast amounts of content." Fox can "provide a lot of content with both a deep library of movies and TV shows" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 12/11 issue).

ESPN last night drew an 8.5 overnight rating for the Dolphins' 27-20 win over the Patriots on "MNF," down 7% from a 9.1 in Week 14 last year for Ravens-Patriots. That number last year was tied for the best "MNF" rating of the season to that point. Two years ago, ESPN drew an 8.7 overnight in Week 14 for Giants-Dolphins. While down from '16, last night's game is the third-highest-rated "MNF" telecast of the season for ESPN. Last night's game peaked at a 9.5 rating between 10:30-10:45pm ET. Boston led all local markets with a 31.8 rating (10.1 on ESPN, 18.9 on WCVB-ABC), while Miami-Ft. Lauderdale drew a 14.3 (5.9 on ESPN, 8.4 on WPLG-ABC) (Josh Carpenter, Assistant Editor).

WINTER WONDERLAND: SI.com's Richard Deitsch reviewed how CBS Sports covered Sunday's snowy Colts-Bills game in Buffalo, noting director Jim Cornell had a "distinct view." Cornell: "It was worse than what you saw on television. I directed another snow game, but nothing like this where you could not see a yard marker." Deitsch wrote Cornell, producer Sellers Shy, on-air announcers Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta and Steve Tasker -- and "particularly the camera operators working the game at New Era Field -- did a tremendous job providing viewers with terrific images given the lake-effect snow that hit Buffalo before game time." Cornell said that the overriding challenge for the entire day was whether the production group "would be able to see the field given the conditions." He said that at one point early in the game he "thought they might have to use the cart camera as the primary game camera." Tasker worked a snowy Bills-Browns game a few years ago in Cleveland and said that it was "very bad." However, he said that Sunday’s conditions were "much worse because it snowed throughout the entire game." Cornell said that Dedes and Archuleta "called most of the game off the monitors in the broadcast booth because looking down at the field was little help" (SI.com, 12/11).

THROWING ON THE RUN: In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes like previous agreements with Amazon, Twitter and Yahoo, the NFL's new Verizon agreement illustrates the league’s "proclivity to push the envelope to broaden its reach, especially among younger viewers, who may not have a pay television subscription, even if it means potentially angering its television partners as they approach the start of negotiations for new deals." NFL Exec VP/Media Hans Schroeder said, "This is a very complementary way of growing, engaging and reaching younger fans that will ultimately become longer term viewers" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/12). In L.A., Stephen Battaglio writes Verizon's deal is a "taste of the kind of competition" the TV nets and ESPN will have when their current deals with the NFL are up for renewal in '22 (L.A. TIMES, 12/12).

BEAR MARKET: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal notes the Bears have generated "improved year-to-year local TV ratings" so far this season. The team has a better than 7% increase in its ratings locally "compared to the same point last season, with three games remaining" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/12). Meanwhile, Rosenthal notes Fathom Evens is presenting the Bears documentary "'85: The Greatest Team In Football History" on Jan. 29, the night after the Pro Bowl, at "more than 200 movie theaters nationwide." The one-night showing is "just the latest attempt to capitalize on the continued fascination" with former Bears coach Buddy Ryan, former NFLer William "The Fridge" Perry, Pro Football HOFers Mike Ditka and Walter Payton and the "rest of the one-time, one-title juggernaut" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/12).

The 76ers are on a four-game losing streak, but the team's "woes aren’t stopping ESPN from going all-in with an ambitious plan" to cover them from "morning to night" ahead of their Friday matchup with the Thunder, according to Rob Tornoe of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. That game airs on ESPN at 7:00pm ET, and there is a plan to cover the Sixers on Friday across all ESPN properties, from "Golic & Wingo" and "First Take" in the morning to "The Ryen Russillo Show" and "SC6" in the evening, with a "healthy dose of Snapchat and Twitter thrown in." It is the "brainchild" of ESPN Senior VP/Production & Remote Events Mark Gross. Gross said that he "hatched the idea back in the preseason" during conversations with NBA Entertainment Senior VP/Original Production Dion Cocoros, and sees the daylong plan as a "way to experiment with the network’s NBA coverage." Gross: "I hope to give people a sense of what it’s like on game day for the Sixers, from morning to noon to right before tipoff. Maybe it turns into a nice little franchise for us and the league, and it’s something we trying to do annually or a couple times a year." ESPN "isn’t just planning on producing the typical three-to-five minute segments that normally air on the network’s shows." Gross said that he is "looking for bits that might make interesting 20-to-30 second elements, such as shooting b-roll footage of Sixers head coach Brett Brown’s 4 a.m. run ahead of home games and covering the team’s Thursday practice." Other highlights of the coverage will include ESPN's Doris Burke sitting down for "one-on-one interviews" with Sixers G Ben Simmons and President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo. Also, Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil is "appearing for an interview" on Russillo's show on ESPN Radio (PHILLY.com, 12/11).

Top Rank Chair Bob Arum said ESPN's four-year deal with the promotion to televise boxing on a regular basis "will raise all boats." Arum: "As we move away from total dependence on premium television ... the sport will be greatly enhanced." Asked if Top Rank wants to launch its own OTT service, Arum said, "Yes. We’re not giving up linear, but gradually you will see a shift to direct-to-consumer product from us" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 12/11 issue).

BACK TO WORK: On Long Island, Neil Best notes NBC NHL analyst Ed Olczyk last week "appeared in NBCSN’s hockey studio" for his "first work trip to the East Coast" since he was diagnosed with colon cancer in mid-summer. Olczyk has "worked several games over the past two months" for NBCSN and the Blackhawks’ local broadcasts on WGN-TV during his "off weeks between chemotherapy." The studio assignment was "another test of his stamina because of the travel" (NEWSDAY, 12/9).

NEW GIG: ESPN.com's Jacob Wolf cited sources as saying that Activision Blizzard is "working on a deal" to sign esports commentator Auguste "Semmler" Massonnat for its Overwatch League. Semmler would start around the Jan. 10 launch of the regular season of the OWL. The commitment to Blizzard and Overwatch "would limit the amount of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events that Semmler would be able to participate in due to scheduling overlap." Sources also said that Semmler is "expected to join without longtime casting partners Anders Blume or Jason 'Moses' O'Toole," who will both remain calling CS:GO events (ESPN.com, 12/9).