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Volume 20 No. 41


The Big 12’s pending media rights extension with ESPN is being patterned after the Pac-12’s TV rights deal, sources told SportsBusiness Journal last week.

That’s because the deal, which still is weeks away from being signed, is expected to have ESPN and Fox Sports sharing some broadcast and cable programming rights, like they do in the new agreement with the Pac-12. Currently, ESPN holds the broadcast rights for Big 12 games, and Fox Sports holds the cable rights for football.

The Big 12’s extension with ESPN would take the league’s partnership with the network to 2025. The two contracts combined would run concurrently for 13 more years and pay the conference a total of $2.5 billion. The breakdown works out to roughly $1.3 billion from ESPN and $1.2 billion from Fox.

Fox could pick up the rights to some Big 12 football games for its broadcast channel, while ESPN could wind up with cable rights that it could use for its channels.
If the new deal goes through as expected, Fox could pick up the rights to some football games for its broadcast channel, while ESPN could wind up with cable rights that it would use for its channels. One of the ESPN channels that could benefit is Longhorn Network, which thus far has been unable to cut carriage deals with the biggest cable operators and satellite companies in Texas.

A working relationship between ESPN and Fox is far from unprecedented. The two networks joined forces last year to negotiate a record $3 billion, 12-year deal with the Pac-12, which made them joint rights holders for the first time.

“It’s beyond two major networks. It’s really two major media companies with lots of networks and lots of platforms and a vast array of marketing assets,” said Chris Bevilacqua, the media consultant for the Pac-12 who engineered that conference’s joint deal with ESPN and Fox. “It’s terrific if you’re the property rights holder. Both networks have proved to be great producers, distributors and marketers, and they have significant investments in college sports. Between the two of them, it’s good for the overall industry to have all the assets of two of the biggest media companies in the world investing into your product.”

The pending deal also keeps competitor NBC Sports from gaining a foothold in the college sports marketplace. When they completed their Pac-12 deal, ESPN and Fox Sports executives were open about their willingness to partner in order to keep NBC Sports from getting the conference’s games.

If the Big 12 deal is signed, it will have the same effect.

The Big 12’s current contract with ESPN has four years left on it, but both sides didn’t want to wait it out. The conference, which has endured the upheaval of four schools leaving and two new schools joining in the last two years, looks forward to securing its financial future after it appeared that the conference might crumble. Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado joined the Pac-12 last year, and this year Texas A&M and Missouri are heading to the SEC, moves which left the conference on the verge of folding.

Instead, the Big 12 added Texas Christian and West Virginia to hold steady at 10 teams.

How a new media contract would affect the conference’s willingness to expand remains to be seen, but industry analysts said the Big 12 would be less likely to add more teams now that it has its primary revenue stream secured for the next 13 years.

The conference stands to make $2.5 billion over the next 13 years combined from both networks, which averages $192.3 million a year, or $19.23 million annually per school. That puts the Big 12 in the same range with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, both of which make close to $21 million a year for their schools through media deals.

The Pac-12 money is about to jump when its conference networks come online later this year.

Big 12 schools also have the potential to generate additional revenue because each one keeps the rights to at least one football game and multiple basketball games that they can monetize. For Texas, those games go on Longhorn Network, while other schools broadcast them online or on TV through syndication or pay-per-view.

The SEC’s current deal with ESPN annually pays its schools about $17 million each, while the ACC is at $13 million per school, but both conferences are in the midst of negotiating raises to account for expansion. The ACC is adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

Extending the Big 12’s deal not only secures the conference’s financial future, it should make its schools think twice before jumping to other leagues. The deal also would lock ESPN into a long-term partnership with the league and prevent the Big 12 from taking its rights to the open market, two aspects to the deal that carry significant value, industry sources say.

Others, however, have wondered why the conference would rush into a deal now. Chuck Neinas, the Big 12’s interim commissioner, is expected to be in office for three more months until a permanent replacement is hired, which has prompted industry experts to wonder why the conference would move forward in its talks with ESPN instead of waiting until a permanent commissioner is hired. Big 12 officials would not comment.

Doing its extension with ESPN now also might rob the conference of some important negotiating power. ESPN’s contract talks with the SEC and ACC could reset the market again if those numbers jump and meet or surpass Pac-12 money.

On the other hand, the Big 12 can rest somewhat easier knowing that it has gone from the verge of extinction to solid footing for the next 13 years.

The college marketplace promises to be busy this year. In addition to the talks between ESPN and the SEC and ACC, the Big East will be in the market for a new contract as well. The Mountain West and Conference USA also are in the process of determining how they could merge their two leagues, and that too could present the opportunity to renegotiate their media contracts.

Current college television deals
BIG TEN $1 billion/10 years 2007-2008 through 2016-17 ESPN/ABC June 2006
  $72 million*/6 years 2011-12 through 2016-17 CBS June 2011
  $2.8 billion/25 years 2007-2008 through 2031-32 Big Ten Network August 2006
Notes: With the addition last year of former Big 12 member Nebraska, there are 12 schools in the Big Ten. Big Ten Network debuted in 2007. The conference and News Corp. jointly own the network and share expenses.
BIG EAST $200 million/6 years 2007-2008 through 2012-13 ESPN/ABC August 2006
Note: Pitt and Syracuse will be moving to the ACC, and West Virginia is leaving to join the Big 12. In response, the Big East will add Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, Southern Methodist and Temple.
SEC $2.25 billion/15 years 2009-10 through 2023-24 ESPN/ABC August 2008
  $825 million/15 years 2009-10 through 2023-24 CBS
August 2008
Note: Missouri and Texas A&M will join the conference later this year, giving it 14 members.
ACC $1.86 billion/12 years 2011-12 through 2022-23 ESPN/ABC, ACC Network/Raycom May 2010
Note: Pitt and Syracuse will join the ACC, giving it 14 members.
BIG 12 $1.17 billion/13 years 2012-13 through 2024-25 Fox March 2011
  $1.3 billion/13 years 2012-13 through 2024-25 ESPN/ABC March 2012
  $78 million/4 years 2008-09 through 2011-12 FSN April 2007
Note: Last year the conference lost Colorado and Nebraska, reducing it to 10 members, and this year it will lose Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. In response, it has added Texas Christian and West Virginia, keeping it at 10 members.
PAC-12 $3 billion/12 years 2011-12 through 2022-23 ESPN and Fox May 2011
Note: Former Big 12 member Colorado and former Mountain West member Utah became the 11th and 12th members of the conference last year.
* Basketball only     Sources: Conference Form 990s filed with the IRS; conference officials

Radio broadcasts of the NCAA tournament are running on more than 500 stations nationally, as well as on new online and mobile streaming outlets, in the event’s first year on the Dial Global network.

Westwood One, which has owned the NCAA’s radio rights since 2003, merged with Dial Global, an audio programming and distribution company, in October. That put the NCAA’s radio rights for the first time in the hands of Dial Global, which has pushed to drive the tournament into more audio outlets that will drive up the audience.

“What we’re seeing is that advertisers want that multichannel distribution,” said Roby Wiener, executive vice president for corporate branding at Dial Global. “They’re on TV, they’re online, they’re activating on-site, and they want that radio extension, too.”

Dial Global’s radio broadcasts of every NCAA tournament game will be distributed via more than 500 radio stations, a slight increase over last year; March Madness Live;; and Slacker, a mobile app on multiple networks. The same audio broadcast goes to all of those outlets.

The audio broadcast on March Madness Live will be free, whereas the video broadcast requires authentication or a $3.99 fee.

Dial Global does not require a fee from radio stations to carry the games. It gives the stations six to eight minutes of advertising time per game, or about a quarter of the inventory, while Dial Global keeps the rest for its national advertisers.

About half of the NCAA’s 14 corporate champions and partners are advertising on the audio broadcast. Dial Global said that retail, automotive, automotive aftermarket, and tool and home improvement have been the best-selling categories.

“Dial Global built its name on being a strong independent supplier of this kind of programming and Westwood One brought the play-by-play experience and talent,” Wiener said.

The tag on the games is “Westwood One Sports on the Dial Global network,” but the Westwood One name is expected to be phased out over time, putting future product under the Dial Global brand.

Wiener and Michael Schreck, vice president of sports sales and marketing, said NCAA sales received a boost from research done during the Super Bowl last month. Edison Media Research showed that 23 million listeners heard the Super Bowl on one of Dial Global’s outlets.

“That type of research really helps show the value to advertisers,” Schreck said.

In what appears to be a response to Time Warner Cable’s plans to launch a Spanish-language regional sports network in Los Angeles, Fox Sports will make many of its Angels, Dodgers and Clippers games available in Spanish starting this season.

Fox Sports is negotiating with local cable operators to carry those Spanish-language games on a basic tier. Prime Ticket and FS West would keep their regular channel positions on Los Angeles-area cable systems. The cable operators would simply find an overflow channel where they would put the Spanish-language games.

“We think this is a significant audience, and we think we can deliver a really compelling product to that audience,” said Jeff Krolik, FSN’s executive vice president.

Krolik said FSN’s move is not a response to Time Warner’s pending network launch.

“We’ve been doing Spanish-language games for two years,” he said, referencing the handful of Dodgers and Angels games that Fox Sports has produced in Spanish. “We’re not in the business of reacting to anyone else.” The plan calls for Fox Sports to carry more than 100 Angels, Dodgers and Clippers games in Spanish in the first year and more than 150 games in the second year. This includes play-by-play, graphics and player interviews.

Fox Sports wouldn’t charge more for the programming. Sources say it appears Time Warner Cable and Cox are likely to carry it in Los Angeles. Fox is planning to roll out a similar Spanish-language offering in San Diego this season with Padres and Clippers games. Eventually, it hopes to carry Spanish-language games on its regional sports networks in Texas and Florida, as well.

Time Warner Cable is in the process of launching two regional sports networks in Los Angeles around the Lakers — one in English and one in Spanish. Sources have said that Time Warner Cable is asking for a license fee of about $3.50 per subscriber per month for the two channels.

Tiger vs. Phil. The Young Guns. Failure followed by redemption.

All of the PGA Tour’s best story lines have played out through the first quarter of the season, and the TV ratings show it.
The tour’s final-round average of 3.0 on CBS and NBC is the highest through the first seven tournaments on network TV since it drew a 3.1 for those same tournaments in 2007. The other three tournaments thus far have been on Golf Channel.

Those final-round numbers are up 36 percent over last year’s final-round rating of a 2.1. That’s an average of 4.5 million viewers for final-round action this year, compared with 3.3 million viewers last year.

With another stellar viewership week at Doral for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the tour has enjoyed six straight weeks of double-digit increases for final-round coverage over last year. And last year’s numbers were up over 2010.

It’s just the kind of start the tour and its network partners hoped for on the heels of an extension — negotiated last summer — that takes their deal to 2021.

“It’s been a tremendous run,” said Rick Anderson, the tour’s executive vice president for television. “We’ve had some incredibly compelling competition through the first several weeks of the season. Think about it: We had the titans of our game, Tiger and Phil, battling it out at Pebble Beach, one of the iconic courses that we play. It’s been quite a start to the season and it’s resonating with viewers.”

Very simply, the tour’s best players are playing well and that’s apparently resonating with viewers. The three players considered most capable of putting fans in front of TV screens — Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy — have either won or contended in the last five events on CBS or NBC. And in some cases, they’ve been going head-to-head for the title or playing in the same final-round group.

“The personalities and the nature of the competition is certainly a primary factor,” said Joe Zajac, vice president/group director at Team Epic, which represents FedEx and Avis among its golf clients. “When you’re able to get Tiger, Phil and Rory all contending, that’s what will drive golf to the masses and you start to see the numbers jump.”

Two of the biggest breakout stars from last year, McIlroy, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Bill Haas also are backing up their big wins from 2011 with strong starts in 2012. McIlroy, last year’s runaway U.S. Open champ, won the Honda Classic and finished runner-up at the Accenture Match Play, while Haas, last year’s FedEx Cup champion, took the Northern Trust Open in a playoff against Mickelson.

That action on the course continues to mimic the marketing theme that the tour unveiled last year with its “New Breed vs. The Establishment” brand campaign.

“If we made it up, we couldn’t deliver more compelling competition that translates into good ratings,” Anderson said with a laugh.

CBS and NBC aren’t the only networks benefiting from the increased viewership. Golf Channel is seeing results as well.

The network’s lead-in coverage on Saturdays and Sundays is up 50 percent this year with an average 0.9 rating. The final-round lead-in coverage at Pebble Beach drew a 2.1 rating (2.34 million viewers), making it the most-watched PGA Tour telecast ever on Golf Channel.

Golf Channel’s early round coverage on Thursdays and Fridays is up 15 percent through the first 10 tournaments.

“The tour is off to a tremendous start,” said Golf Channel President Mike McCarley. “We had the most-watched year in the history of the Golf Channel in 2011 and so far in 2012 we’re pacing well ahead of that record. Every week, it seems that fans are able to follow new, dramatic story lines and nearly every week some new ratings milestone is being reached.”

Farmers Insurance Open
Note: Tearful Kyle Stanley melts down to lose a seven-stroke lead in the final round.
Jan. 29 CBS 1.8 -48.6% Brandt Snedeker
Waste Management Phoenix Open*
Note: After his epic fail at Torrey Pines, Stanley surges from eight shots back for a resounding feel-good win.
Feb. 5 CBS 2.0 +11.1% Kyle Stanley
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Note: Mickelson's final-round charge outshines Tiger Woods, who slumps to the finish with a 75.
Feb. 12 CBS 4.9 +113.0% Phil Mickelson
Northern Trust Open
Note: Mickelson's stunning 25-foot birdie forces a playoff, but the FedEx Cup champ wins with an electrifying 43-footer.
Feb. 19 CBS 4.2 +82.6% Bill Haas
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Note: Mahan exorcises Ryder Cup ghosts by staring down Rory McIlroy in the championship match.
Feb. 26 NBC 2.3 +35.3% Hunter Mahan
Honda Classic
Note: In another case of redemption, the Irishman wins to take over the world's No. 1 ranking despite Woods' closing 62.
March 4 NBC 2.8 +64.7% Rory McIlroy
WGC-Cadillac Championship**
Note: The Englishman outduels McIlroy and long-hitting Bubba Watson to conquer Doral.
March 11 NBC 3.0 +30.4% Justin Rose
* 2011 final round concluded on Monday on Golf Channel due to weather.
** Woods withdrew 11 holes into the final round and was 10 shots back of the lead.
Compiled by Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily
Source: Nielsen

TV networks have found their fountain of youth: It’s live sports. And it delivers young demos filled with the kind of people who, when they typically watch television, DVR past the commercials. But not with live sports.

SportsBusiness Journal looked at the average age for select championship events over the last four years and found that almost all league championships fell within the 25-54 demographic. The ability to pull in that younger audience is, arguably, the primary reason why sports rights cost so much.

“Anyone who is not in the target demo for most ad buys is pretty much ignored,” said Ed Desser, president of Desser Sports Media.

The data provides a snapshot at which leagues skew younger and which ones skew older (see chart). League sources point out that the average age of viewers for their respective championships represents one factor among many that they study in an attempt to attract a younger audience.

“The sweet spot for advertisers is in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos,” said Chris Russo, a former NFL executive and the outgoing CEO of Big Lead Sports. “It’s always good to have the bulk of your audience in that category.”

For the major sports championships in the U.S., only the Masters and the Indianapolis 500 have average TV audiences that fell outside of that demographic in 2011. Last year, CBS’s coverage of the Masters drew an average audience that was 56.4 years old; ABC’s coverage of the Indy 500 was 55.4 years old.

“That’s really not surprising to me,” said sports media consultant Neal Pilson. “Golf traditionally skews older. And the Masters has become an efficient buy for advertisers targeting 56-year-olds.”

At the other end of the spectrum is MLS Cup, which had an average audience that was 39 years old in 2011, and the NBA Finals, which had an average audience that was 40.6 years old. The Super Bowl had the third-youngest audience among major sports events last year at 42.5.

“The NBA has to be happy with that number,” Pilson said.

Not surprisingly, the Winter and Summer X Games have the youngest average audience among the events tracked, at 34 and 33 years old, respectively.

But even older-trending sports events, like the World Series, can attract an audience that advertisers want to reach, Pilson said.

“In sports, age demos are important but not the sole driver of advertisers’ decisions,” Pilson said.

In 2011, the World Series’ average age was 52.5, older than the BCS, Stanley Cup Final and NCAA men’s basketball championship. But the World Series’ demos leaned heavily toward well-educated men who make a lot of money. Viewers who make more than $125,000 per year are 25 percent more likely than the total population to watch the World Series, according to data from Fox. Most importantly to advertisers, they watch the games live.

Still, MLB has made moves to try and lower the average age of its fan base. That’s one of the reasons why it created the MLB Fan Cave last season in New York City. The league found that the average Fan Cave “fan” was just 30 years old.

“You’re always trying to grow your audience long term and create new fans,” Desser said. “The most efficient way to attract new fans is to turn them onto your sport when they’re kids.”

Where have all the young men gone?
The average age of viewers across sports' top properties in the last four years
Year NBA Finals
World Series (Fox) Stanley Cup Final
Super Bowl
(Fox, CBS,
NBC, Fox)
mls cup
(ESPN, espn, espn, ABC)
Daytona 500 (Fox) Indy 500 (ABC)
2011 40.6 52.5 45.8 42.5 39.0 50.2 55.4
2010 40.7 52.6 44.9 43.0 38.0 49.7 55.4
2009 40.6 49.9 41.2 42.4 33.0 48.2 54.4
2008 41.9 50.6 41.5 42.3 39.0 47.4 51.9
Year The Masters (CBS) BCS
(ESPN, ABC, Fox, Fox)
NCAA Men's
Championship (CBS)
Summer Olympics in prime time (NBC) winter Olympics in prime time (NBC, NBC,
Summer X Games
Winter X Games (ESPN)
2011 56.4 45.3 47.0 48.0 (2008) 53.0 (2010) 33.0 34.0
2010 57.0 46.8 48.4 47.0 (2004) 51.0 (2006) 27.0 36.3
2009 56.0 46.5 46.9 45.0 (2000) 48.0 (2002) 31.2 35.8
2008 56.1 47.6 46.8 42.0 (1996) 48.0 (1998) 33.0 34.6
Compiled by Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily      Source: Nielsen

John Ourand
There’s a cliché in sports TV that everyone hates announcers when their team is losing.

That’s not the case in Baltimore, where Orioles fans have suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons and see a 15th losing year sitting on the horizon. Telecasts of Orioles games on MASN are among the best in MLB thanks in large part to the regional sports network’s broadcast team of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer.

That cliché almost certainly won’t hold true in New York this season, either, where the Mets are predicted to struggle. As the expected losses pile up, SNY’s broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez will be called on to keep the telecasts lively and fun.

I called Curt Gowdy Jr. — the executive who put together SNY’s much-praised broadcast team — and asked what he looks for when he chooses announcers and why some announcers are able to excel when the teams they cover lose so much. Gowdy cited a number of reasons, but they all came back to his philosophy of the “three E’s.”

“I want our announcers to educate our viewers, enlighten them and entertain them,” he said. “That’s what Gary, Keith and Ron do best.”

Gowdy believes much of a booth’s popularity comes from preparation and repetition. Announcers who are in the booth for most games are better able to develop connections with viewers, he said, than ones who work half the games or less.

“Viewers want to feel like they know their broadcast team,” Gowdy said. “When they consistently see their broadcast team every single day, there’s a closeness, there’s an affinity, there’s a real feeling of trust among them.”

Since its start in 2006, SNY’s Mets booth has become one of the best in baseball, best known for the way it calls games, blending analysis with storytelling and banter. When Gowdy assembled SNY’s booth, he looked first for a strong play-by-play announcer — which he found in Cohen. “Gary Cohen is meticulous in his preparation,” Gowdy said. “He’s a guy who’s able to be the quarterback in the booth to engage his analysts.”

Gowdy then took a chance on Hernandez and Darling. He saw potential in both former players: Hernandez, who had done a few Mets games on MSG Network, and Darling, who had a forgettable year covering the Nationals on MASN in what was his first full-time job in the broadcast booth. The former Mets teammates gave the booth what Gowdy called “instant chemistry.” During his career, Hernandez was a Gold Glove fielder and had a big bat; Darling, a Yale grad, was an effective pitcher.

“You automatically have two analysts who are able to bring in different viewpoints about the game of baseball,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy rounded it out with Kevin Burkhardt, a sideline reporter who has a bigger role than most sideline reporters in that he often appears in the booth.

So, what other local baseball booths does Gowdy enjoy?

• Thorne and Palmer, MASN: “Gary has a lot of experience in baseball play-by-play, and Jim Palmer, as a Hall of Fame pitcher, has a lot of insightful analysis.”

Brian Anderson, FS Wisconsin: “He’s easy to listen to, and he sticks to the nuts and bolts of broadcasting a game. He engages his analyst as well.”

Vin Scully, Prime Ticket/KCAL-TV: “Talk about a storyteller. Any young play-by-play person who wants to be able to tell a story should listen to Vin Scully.”

Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, CSN Bay Area: “They are well-prepared and disciplined. They are entertaining. They’ve got a great grasp on the history of [the Giants].”

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, NESN: “They really play to that New England audience. Jerry, growing up there, is a big plus, in my opinion. Don gives you all of the true fundamentals that you need. They also have a lot of fun together. I like that about their broadcast team."

Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, CSN Chicago, WGN: “Bob Brenly has a wealth of knowledge. Len is quick witted.”
Added Gowdy: “All these guys also understand the importance of letting a telecast breathe.”

And that’s especially important if, or when, those losses start adding up.

John Ourand can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.