WWE's "SmackDown Live" is "being shopped to various networks" after NBCU "declined to re-up its deal" to keep it on USA Network, according to sources cited by Lesley Goldberg of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. NBCU is said to be "focusing on renewing its pact for WWE's 'Raw' ... and that deal is expected to close at as much as three times its current value." Sources said that Fox has been "speculated as a home for 'SmackDown.'" NBCU originally landed "SmackDown" in '10, when it reportedly paid $30M for the rights to the franchise. The show "began airing that year on Syfy," before moving full time to USA in January '16. It began airing live in May '16, "increasing the value for advertising during the wrestling show." The Tuesday night program still "boasts the sixth biggest audience" among original programs on cable TV (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 5/16).
ESPN's Holly Rowe has "never called a WNBA game," but that will change on May 20 when she "gets the play-by-play assignment" for ESPN2's season opener, according to Richard Deitsch of THE ATHLETIC. It is a "big game too -- a rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals" Lynx-Sparks. Rowe will "work alongside analysts Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson." ESPN "found itself with a play-by-play opening because Ryan Ruocco, the network’s lead WNBA voice, has a scheduling conflict on May 20." Knowing the net had to fill the spot, Rowe in March contacted ESPN Coordinating Producer for WNBA Rodney Vaughn to "tell him that she was interested." Rowe does have "women's college basketball play-by-play experience, but this will be the first pro game in any sport that she called" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/16).
TOGETHER AGAIN: In Philadelphia, Rob Tornoe noted ESPN's Kevin Negandhi and Sage Steele began hosting the 6:00pm edition of "SportsCenter" this week, and their relationship "goes back to their days covering" the Buccaneers and Univ. of Florida at network affiliates in Florida in the late '90s and early '00s. Negandhi said, “It’s been a crazy, upside-down year. To be part of all this is pretty amazing, and I consider myself very lucky.” Negandhi said of hosting a later edition of "SportsCenter" rather than a morning show, "The difference is you’re going to get a lot more context on how a particular shot was made, or why this defense was out there." He noted he "filled in at least two to three times a week for the last six to eight weeks while they were figuring out what they were doing with that slot, and we had plenty of highlights to talk about." Negandhi: "Our viewers are extremely bright. They want to see highlights and video, but they also want to see why this happened, and we get the chance to explain that, whether it’s through stats brought to us by our research team or (data firm) Second Spectrum, which lets us go deeper." He said of working with Steele, "I go back with Sage for 20 years. ... It’ll be like, 'All right, this is like we never missed a beat'" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/15).
THAT'S A STRETCH: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes there "simply has to be a better way to treat the audience" for ESPN's one-hour NBA Draft Lottery show, which aired on Tuesday. It is "hardly surprising ESPN would try to stretch a few minutes of actual information into an hour of television." Rosenthal wrote of ESPN, "The sixth round of the NFL draft was 'Hamilton' compared with what it staged Tuesday." While TBS "took a lot of flak for squandering the inherent drama of unveiling the bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March," ESPN's NBA Draft Lottery show, with "less information and half the time, proved it could have been worse" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/17).
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav yesterday said that U.S. pay TV's "reliance on full carriage of pricey sport channels was unsustainable and called for sports-free skinny bundles to reverse an industry decline." Zaslav said, "The U.S. is an overstuffed bubble and the consumer is deprived of an entry level bundle where they can get good entertainment. ... The U.S. has been overstuffed and overplayed with [retransmission consent fees] and sports, and a lot of people out there are saying enough, time's up" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 5/16).
HOT-LANTA: In Atlanta, Tim Tucker noted the Braves' local TV ratings "continue to improve as the team heads into the second quarter of the season in first place in the NL East." The Braves' series against the Marlins last week delivered the team's two highest ratings of the season in the Atlanta market -- 3.64 for Thursday's game on FS Southeast and 3.58 for Saturday's game on FS South. Through this past Sunday, the Braves are averaging a 2.61 rating in the Atlanta market, up 27% from the same point last year (MYAJC.com, 5/16).
YOU'RE LOOKING LIVE: DIGIDAY's Tim Peterson wrote the live video pendulum has "swung from Facebook back to YouTube." News publishers and gaming creators have "noticed a recent viewership surge for live videos on YouTube." Those parties seeing the trend have been "streaming live videos on YouTube for years and have not made any significant programming adjustments that would explain the uptick." Those parties noted that the viewership increases are "sizable enough to be noticeable, but not so significant as to be inexplicable." The explanation "seems to be simply that YouTube is tapping into a larger live audience at an opportune time" (DIGIDAY.com, 5/16).